Infiniti made a technical masterpiece when it upgraded the old G37 for the, combining next generation steering with an efficient drivetrain and useful cabin tech features. So I was disappointed to see the newly named Q70 sedan, which received only a few upgrades over its predecessor, the .
The most notable changes for the Q70 over the M are a new long-wheelbase model, a hybrid drivetrain option and online destination search integrated with navigation.
Like its predecessor, the Q70 comes with two engine options, a 3.7-liter V-6 and a 5.6-liter V-8, neither representing significant efficiency or power improvements. The more intriguing engine option is the hybrid, with the same drivetrain as the Q50 Hybrid. Infiniti also makes all-wheel drive an option in the lineup.
A base Q70 model with the V-6 engine goes for $49,850, but the example I drove was the Q70 5.6 L AWD, using the V-8 engine driving all four wheels and having a stretched body, which goes for $67,050 before options. Neither the long wheelbase nor V-8 options are available in the UK or Australia, which have base prices for the Q70 3.7 at £40,565 and AU$68,900.
Bigger is better
Infiniti's M model was its flagship sedan, but it lacked the presence and size to compete with other large sedans such as theand . Even Hyundai one-upped it with the . The long-wheelbase Q70 seems like an attempt to compete in that larger sedan category. The Q70 L is about 6 inches longer than the standard model and, more importantly, gains 5.5 inches of legroom in the back seat. Rear-seat passengers are treated to a big seating area with plenty of space to stretch out their legs.
All that space is a fine thing, but the rear area of the Q70 L lacks much in the way of amenities. There are no tray tables to set down a laptop, no dedicated audio system controls for the car's entertainment system, not even a USB port or a 12-volt power point. This is a bare-bones first-class compartment.
A nice detail carried over from the M to the Q70 L is the white ash wood trim, making a stylish background for the infotainment controls. Unlike the new dual-screen interface in the Q50, the Q70 L gets Infiniti's old infotainment system. And by old I mean this system goes back about five years. The interface is intuitive to use, but Infiniti scatters the buttons a little too freely. Navigation and car information functions sit near a jog dial, while audio source buttons form a row lower on the center stack. Meanwhile, the hands-free phone buttons sit on the steering wheel.
Really showing its age, the voice command system prompted me for each part of a street address, making destination entry very tedious. Likewise, traffic integrated with the navigation system only covers highways, and not the more extensive surface street coverage offered by other systems.
After seeing the same old maps and destination interface in the navigation system, I was surprised to find a new destination option, Connected Search. This feature made use of the car's own data connection, letting me type any search term and fairly quickly returning an appropriate list of results.
The Q70 L also makes use of this data connection for telematics, letting an owner see the car's location on a map and check its status with a smartphone app.
Where the Q70 L's infotainment falls behind is with app integration, lacking even Pandora. Instead, audio sources remain conventional, with a CD player, Bluetooth streaming, satellite radio and a USB port for iOS devices and drives. Music plays through a Bose 16-speaker surround-sound system, which includes speakers mounted in the shoulders of the front seats. I don't particularly like surround sound for music playback, but this system sounded very good, with the extra speakers adding subtle depth.
The car's LCD got taken over by a surround-view camera when I put the Q70 L in reverse, or pressed the camera button on the dashboard. This camera system has long been one of Infiniti's strengths, and is a boon when parking or maneuvering this long sedan around obstacles. Along with curbside views, the camera shows a front view and includes trajectory lines for the rear view.
Infiniti rounds out the tech with lane departure warning, a blind-spot monitor and adaptive cruise control, which are very useful, but the most innovative and annoying feature is Distance Control Assist (DCA). This system, off by default, automatically brought the Q70 L to a stop about half a car length behind stopped traffic in slow, city driving conditions. I occasionally found myself fighting this system when I wanted to tuck in a bit closer in traffic, as it attempts to maintain a more cautious distance. And after it brings the Q70 L to a stop, it waits a second then lets off the brakes, beeping to let me know I should take over. I don't understand why Infiniti didn't program it to hold on the brake until I tapped the accelerator.
I mentioned the Q70 L's 5.6-liter V-8 engine. Mated to a standard seven-speed automatic transmission, it creates 416 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque. However, those big numbers belie the sluggish experience from behind the wheel. A drive selector dial let me switch the car to one of three modes: Eco, Standard and Sport. As for throttle response, these ranged from frustrating to adequate.
For maximum annoyance, I put the car in Eco mode, turned on DCA and then drove around in urban traffic. The big Q70 L barely moved off the line and the accelerator fought me all the way. When I needed a quick burst of speed to cut into another lane, the car waited a few seconds too long then heaved itself forward. I can't imagine I was really saving any gasoline, as I jammed the accelerator to the floor in order to negotiate traffic.
Standard mode was a little better, but not by much. The transmission was still loathe to kick-down when I needed to accelerate. The seven speed's gear changes were far too noticeable for the luxury experience a long wheelbase vehicle should offer.
After some days testing the Q70 L's different drive modes, I left the dial in Sport. Here, the car felt normal, ready to give me the power I knew lurked under the hood. Testing the acceleration on a clear straight in Sport mode, I experienced the only bit of excitement it had to offer. I could hear the engine ticking high as the transmission finally let the engine rev above 4,000, each gear change making a jolt as the car picked up speed.
Although the steering wheel tuning felt good for a car of this size, making maneuvering easy, I wasn't impressed by the ride quality. It felt fine on smooth pavement, but the Q70 L's fixed suspension became too bumpy when the road got rough. To really compete in the luxury class, Infiniti needs to fit this car with some sort of adaptive suspension, as the ride becomes uncomfortable in less-than-ideal conditions.
Fuel economy comes in at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, pretty average numbers for this size of engine. With a good percentage of freeway miles included in my driving course, I came in at 19.9 mpg. The rear-wheel-drive model adds about 1 mpg to the fuel economy.
The feature updates between the old M56 and the 2015 Infiniti Q70 L barely justify the name change. Design, drivetrain, assistance features and cabin electronics differ little from the previous model. These cabin electronics were pretty impressive five years ago, but have fallen behind the competition. However, if the Q50 model is any indication, Infiniti has some cutting-edge tech waiting for the next model update.
While trying to improve fuel economy from a big V-8 is admirable, Infiniti's Eco mode focuses too much on driver behavior rather than making the car run more efficiently. In both transmission and throttle programming, the Q70 L needs some serious refinement to be an adequate driver.
Mostly what I see with this car is a number of missed opportunities that I hope Infiniti will address with a major model update. An air or adaptive suspension is pretty much required for big luxury vehicles. The Q70 L's fixed suspension just can't deliver the ride quality expected from this type of sedan. Likewise, the rear cabin is spacious, but it offers none of the amenities a passenger should expect. In particular, Infiniti should be looking at integrating infotainment and personal electronics integration between rear and front seat areas.
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|Model||2015 Infiniti Q70|
|Trim||5.6 L AWD|
|Powertrain||5.6-liter V-8 engine, seven speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||16 mpg city/23 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||19.9 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Bose 16-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, automated traffic braking, blind-spot monitor, surround view camera|
|Price as tested||$75,155|