Stickshift should be listed as an endangered species, along with African rhinos and black-footed ferrets. With modern automatic transmissions become so much more sophisticated and fuel efficient, and enhanced with such things as paddle shifters, manual transmissions are rapidly going the way of ignition points.
Call me old school, but I fundamentally prefer cars with three pedals, especially those cars with sporty ambitions. But it’s so rare that a premium car comes to me for testing with anything other than some kind of high-tech automatic.
So it was with pleasure that I recently spent time in the Infiniti Q60S 6MT convertible. That’s because 6MT stands for 6-speed manual transmission, which certainly boosted my appreciation of this car. The crisp shifting and close-ratio gearing provided the sensations of a proper little sports car, the Infiniti feeling like a premium version of its less-pricey sibling, Nissan 370Z, with which it has much in common.
For those uninitiated in Infiniti’s new nomenclature that started with its 2014 models, the car names are all now based on the letter Q. The Q60 was formerly known as the compact G37 coupe or convertible. Q50 now designates the former G sedan. There’s also a Q70 that used to be the midsize M sedan.
For its SUVs, Infiniti adds an X, so that now there are (in ascending order of size) the QX50, formerly EX; QX60, which was JX; QX70, the former MX; and the QX80, which had been the QX.
Styling and interior for the new Q60 convertible is essentially unchanged from last year’s G37, with a retractable hardtop that quickly folds itself into the trunk with the push of a button. The Infiniti works well for the hedonist enjoyment of top-down driving. Wind buffeting is well-controlled, while the aggressive note from the twin exhaust tips provides an appropriate soundtrack.
Top up, the Q60 becomes a tight, well-proportioned coupe with scarcely a hint that it’s a convertible, other than the seams on the roof. The only real downside to the hardtop-convertible setup is when the top is nestled in the trunk, it takes up most of the cargo space. So if you’re grocery shopping or toting your luggage, you’ll need to put the top up. And while the X60 is rated as a four seater, the rear seat is fairly useless unless everyone on board is diminutive.
The Q60S is geared toward the enthusiast driver, available only with manual transmission and loaded up with standard performance and technology upgrades. For the regular Q60, which comes with a 7-speed automatic, those upgrades are available by adding the optional Sports Package.
Among the standard upgrades on the Q60S: sport-tuned suspension, quicker steering ratio, more-powerful brakes with four pistons up front and larger rotors all around, wide 19-inch rims shod with low-profile performance tires, power front sport seats and aluminum pedals.
One key piece missing from the Q60S was the superb rev-matching option of the manual-transmission 370Z, which electronically performs heel-and-toe downshifts like a pro. Why the higher-end Q60S was not so equipped seemed like an oversight.
On the road, the rear-wheel-drive Q60S shows off its sports credentials with balanced handling finesse from its firmed-up suspension, although the ride might seem buffeting to those accustomed to cushier luxury cars. A quick romp on a winding back road was enjoyably brisk, and demonstrated that the Q60S can keep up with the luxury/compact competition from BMW and Lexus.
The manual transmission helps get the most out of the 325 horsepower from Nissan’s stalwart 3.7-liter V6, with its peak coming on at a lofty 7,000 rpm. The maximum-torque rating is a modest 267 pound-feet at 5,200, which also requires keeping the revs up. Launches from a standstill are modest for this hefty convertible, with a curb-weight rating of 4,149 pounds, according to Infiniti.
But the engine feels powerful enough once under way, with enough pull for digging out of curves with a sharp downshift. This is when the V6’s high-revving character shines. The exhaust roar sounds particularly tasty as the RPM climb. Although in the higher revs, there is some harshness that may seem inappropriate for a car at this luxury level.
Fuel economy falls in the moderate range, at 16 city, 24 highway and 19 combined, according to the EPA.
The Q60S comes fully equipped with an impressive array of technology and entertainment gear, as befitting a car from a luxury brand. These include a premium navigation system with traffic, weather and Zagat restaurant guide; a rich-sounding Bose Open Air audio system with 11 speakers, including those in the front headrests; Bluetooth; Homelink; rearview monitor and sonar; and an Infiniti voice-recognition system that operates many of the features.
The luxury interior is simple but attractive, styled in leather with aluminum trim. The sport seats are supportive and hold you in place during spirited cornering.
The Q60s 6MT comes only one way, loaded up with all the premium features included.
Pricing is right up there at $52,750, plus $905 shipping, though that’s pretty much in the ballpark for this class of sports/luxury compact.