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2017 Infiniti QX30 First Drive

On Monday, July 18th, 2016

If you’ve heard anything before about this car, the 2017Infiniti QX30, it probably has to do with its corporate parents, an odd couple if there ever was one. Renault-Nissan, Infiniti’s corporate overlords, inked a deal withMercedes-Benz to share some mechanical components and platforms. That deal put a new, very modern 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four under the hood of the Q50 and was the genesis of what you’re looking at here.

2017 Infiniti QX30

What are you looking at here? We drove this car in 2015, when it was called a Q30 – originally it was going to be the lower-riding counterpart to the slightly jacked-up QX30. Then Infiniti decided it’d make more sense to sell all variants of this vehicle as CUVs in the US, so we have three slightly different flavors of the QX30 instead. There’s the normal version, the Sport which is 0.6 inches lower, and the AWD which is 1.2 inches higher. Infiniti brought us to Seattle to sample the Sport and AWD flavors on a semi-circumnavigation of the Puget Sound. It didn’t rain a drop, thanks for asking, but it was sunny and mild the whole time.

It’s easy to make the QX30 sound more confusing than it actually is. This is essentially a Mercedes-Benz GLA250 with full exterior styling and partial interior design by Infiniti, built in the UK alongside several otherNissans. The powertrain and chassis, including the optional AWD system, were all “co-developed” with partner Daimler, with final calibration and tuning by Infiniti engineers.

Here’s another way of explaining it: Infiniti needs an entry-level car to appeal to new premium car shoppers, and the QX30 is the prescription. It’s a hatchback that’s been given the mildest of CUV treatments and a lot of marketing descriptors. That’s because hatchbacks are sales death in America. In Europe, they’ll see right through the CUV posturing and realize it’s just a hatchback offered in three different suspension heights. Whatever you call it to make it palatable to Americans, it’s a useful little vehicle.

This car is mechanically identical to the Q30, so there are some things we can gloss over. Both are powered by a transversely-mounted 2.0-liter Mercedes inline-four. It’s a turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline engine, and it sure feels like one. It sounds like a rock tumbler full of nickels and runs out of breath at about 5,000 RPM.

Among its Japanese competition, there are not many small and premium CUVs to be had, and maybe that’s where Infiniti has the greatest room for conquest. It’s far, far more entertaining than the aging Lexus CT Hybrid, cheaper than the larger Lexus NX, and considerably more stylish than the Acura RDX and its chrome beak. In this corner of the market, it’s Infiniti’s game to lose.

It doesn’t seem like it should matter what we call the QX30, or who built what portion of the vehicle. It’s a mashup, sure, but not a disharmonious one because of it, so what does it matter? I think the QX30’s mixed parentage shouldn’t – not because I love the powertrain or the complicated exterior styling, because I don’t – but because it’s an interesting choice rather than an obvious one. Infiniti has cast a line into the pond, and we’re just as anxious as anyone to see if consumers respond to the bait.

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