Can Infiniti's open-top make it big in the UK market? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Although based on Nissan 370Z underpinnings, the Infiniti Q60 Convertible is a very different proposition. Larger and more refined, it's aiming to attract customers who would otherwise choose a BMW 4 Series Convertible or an Audi A5 Cabriolet with its generous specification and relative exclusivity. 320PS and a rear-wheel-drive chassis will not be without their appeal either.
People who drive convertible cars tend to think a little bit differently from the average motorist. They might well be more interested in a car as an experience and a style statement rather than just a means of getting from home to work. They're also likely to be unafraid of standing out from the crowd. In fact, some attention of the right kind is probably far from unwanted by individuals who crave a cabriolet. Infiniti is hoping that the adventurous spirit of the UK's drop-top drivers will extend to them considering a car from a brand they may never have heard of. Infiniti is Nissan's luxury car arm and the Q60 Convertible is one of the models tasked with gaining it a foothold in Europe. It's sold as a less obvious option to those considering a BMW 4 Series Convertible or the Audi A5 Cabriolet.
The Q60 has somewhat unlikely roots being based on a stretched version of the Nissan 370Z chassis. It also uses a de-tuned version of the 3.7-litre V6 engine found in Nissan's hardcore sportster. That's the extent of the similarities, however, as the Q60 is no track day tearaway. It's a considerably larger car with a focus that's more on comfort and refinement, although it can still turn in some lively performance figures thanks to its 320PS powerplant. The 0-62mph sprint takes 6.4s and top speed is limited to 155mph. With rear-wheel-drive and 320PS, at least some fun is certain to be on the agenda. Compared to the coupe, the convertible Q60 has modified rear suspension to help cope with the extra weight of the three-piece folding hood and a wider track to enhance road-holding. The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual but the optional seven-speed ASC automatic is sure to be popular with its magnesium paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
Design and Build
The task of integrating a folding hard-top roof into a sleek, well-proportioned bodyshell is one of the toughest that can confront a modern car designer this side of removing a polo-necked jumper without dislodging a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles. It's hats off to Infiniti's pen men, though, because the curvy Q60 looks good with the hood up or down. The transition from coupe to convertible takes 25 seconds and can be performed from inside the car or by pressing a button located on the door handle. The three-piece hood disappears into the boot where it limits the available 366-litre luggage space to a modest 70-litres and the car's practicality is further limited by rear seats that aren't particularly generous. The cabin of premium convertible cars is a vital area for it's here where owners must be reminded that the premium they've paid over more proletarian models has been worthwhile. As you'd expect from a Japanese brand, the build quality is hard to criticise but there are lots of buttons cluttering up the fascia and the cohesion of design that the leading brands achieve isn't quite there. Infiniti makes a valiant attempt at compensating for any shortcomings with a lengthy equipment list.
Market and Model
The previous two trim levels laid on for G37 Convertible customers have been rounded up to the one all-singing, all-dancing GT Premium for this Q60 version. Standard stuff includes full leather trim, heated front seats, Bi-Xenon cornering headlights, speed-sensitive power steering, electric front seats, parking sensors with a rear-view camera, I-Key smart entry, a six CD stereo, Bluetooth connectivity and 19" alloy wheels. Then there's the 30Gb hard disc navigation system with DVD playback and a touch screen display, air-conditioned seats and a 13-speaker BOSE stereo. Forging a niche in the premium convertible market will not be an easy task for the Q60 Convertible but Infiniti's success in the US where it launched back in 1989 gives reason for optimism. The core rivals for the car will be convertibles based on the compact executive platforms of BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. With only a relatively powerful V6 petrol engine to offer, the car is forced to compete at the upper end of this segment and Infiniti will be banking on its generous standard specifications providing an edge over the more recognisable alternatives.
Cost of Ownership
The big V6 in the Q60 Convertible returns around 26mpg on the combined cycle, with accompanying CO2 emissions at 264g/km. This equates to hefty running costs which might be a deterrent to some. Residual values will be a major determining factor in the Q60's fortunes in the UK and it may take a while before the market settles on how it's going to value Infiniti products in comparison to rivals.
Infiniti won't be a name that's at the top of the list for many premium convertible buyers but those willing to consider something a little out of the ordinary could find that the Q60 Convertible fits the bill. The pricing looks equivalent to some very talented rivals but Infiniti will point to the detailed standard specification of its car. You certainly do get a lot of kit for the money but only time will tell if that's enough.