This Infiniti Flagship Sedan Could Make Tons Of Cash In China

Infiniti is investing big in China. With sales up 130% this year, China is already the luxury automaker’s second-largest market after the US.

A big engine is essential for American muscle-car enthusiasts, and automakers who cater to that crowd know this. The Chinese luxury-car buyer is equally enamoured by a large back seat. And Infiniti has taken this to heart.

Since its debut in China last year, the brand’s flagship Q70 sedan has been available solely in a long-wheelbase version, priced at about $US68,000. “Long wheelbase” simply means that the car has been stretched a bit, to add space in the back seat and to equip the vehicle for limousine lite duty.

Infiniti might be struggling to define itself — or redefine itself — in the US, where it’s supposed to be going up against luxury sedans from Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Audi, and, to a lesser degree, Cadillac and Acura. The whole long-wheelbase thing isn’t as important in the US, however, where affluent drivers prefer to drive themselves. If they want more room, they buy a high-end SUV.

China is obviously a different story, and it’s to Infiniti’s competitive credit that it’s successfully established itself there. Its long-wheelbase cars are important to the carmaker’s ongoing strategy in China. The bottom line is that variant could help Infiniti makes a lot of money in the Middle Kingdom.

The current Q70 (formerly known as the M37/56 — Infiniti recently revamped their naming scheme) has been around since 2009 and was growing a bit long in the tooth. So for 2015, Infiniti has given the model a refresh, a common practice in the auto industry that’s one notch below a full redesign.

In the U.S., the Q70 will be available in both long- and short-wheelbase models, along with the choice of a V6 or V8. Like the smaller Q50, the Q70 looks to offer great bang for the buck. With a starting price just under $US50,000 for the short-wheelbase V6 and just over $US51,000 for the base Q70L, there are few flagship sedans on the market that can rival the Infiniti in value.

Recently, I sampled a couple variations of Infiniti’s updated Q70/Q70L around the winding country roads of southern New York.

Here’s how it went:

For the 2015 model year, Infiniti gave the Q70 a visual update. The 2015 version (right) got a larger Q50-style front grill and headlight design.

The results are impressive. The front end looks aggressive, but blends effortlessly into the curvaceous body.

I spent most of my time behind the wheel of a long-wheelbase Q7 0L, which is powered by a 3.7 liter 330hp V6. This engine is shared with the musclebound Nissan 370Z sports car.

Even with the extra 5.9 inches of length and 5.6 inches of rear legroom, the Q70L handled twists and turns with confidence.

The Q70's 7-speed automatic transmission is smooth and efficient.

But there are paddle shifters, for drivers who want to be connected to the driving experience.

Massive vented front disc brakes supply ample stopping power.

Unfortunately, the Q70s sporty demeanor can also be a liability. For a luxury sedan, the handling is too twitchy.

Road noise from the car's low-profile tires proved to be more than a little intrusive.

That said, the cabin is a very pleasant place to be.

The controls are intuitive and well placed. The infotainment system, although a bit dated, is easy to use.

Interior accents, such as this strip of Japanese ash, bring a definite touch of class.

As for the all-important back seat of the Q70L, it's nearly as spacious as the much more expensive Mercedes S-Class. Unfortunately, due to a lack of headroom, rear passengers have neither a panoramic roof nor reclining seats.

What the Q70 lacks in the back seats, it more than makes up for in driving tech.

Like the Q50, Infiniti has loaded up its flagship with everything from predictive forward collision warning to bird's-eye view cameras to Bose active noise cancelling. That's a lot of technology!

I exited the V6 Q7 0L and got behind the wheel of a V8 Q70S -- the hot rod of the Q clan.

The Q70S is powered by a massive 5.6-liter direct-injected V8 that produces 420 hp.

But the big V8 didn't snap back my head when accelerating. It really didn't make the Q70S feel much faster than its V6-powered siblings.

Infiniti even offers an hybrid model that shares a powerful 360hp drivetrain with the Q50.

Ultimately, the Q70 and Q70L's shortcomings prevent them from being true segment leaders. Still, the car has a lot going for it -- at a very reasonable price for this genre of automobile. For both Chinese and American buyers seeking to break with the status quo, the Q70/Q70L is worth a look.

Here's a spacious sedan that costs a bit more...

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