Unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show last fall, the all-new 2017 Infiniti QX30 is positioned as the new entry level model in the luxury brand’s portfolio. Effectively a bridge vehicle, it’s aimed at grabbing a piece of the burgeoning compact luxury crossover market while conquesting new buyers. Developed in concert with Daimler, the QX30 shares a good deal of its basic platform and powertrain with the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. However Infiniti put its own spin on the vehicle’s exterior styling, chassis tuning and interior detailing.

We got our first chance to spend time behind the wheel of a QX30 last week and checked out both front-drive and all-wheel drive variants around Seattle and the Puget Sound area. The route’s selection of freeways, state roads and meandering two-lane tarmac provided a good feel for what this upscale 5-passenger crossover has to offer relative to rivals like the Audi Q3BMW X1,Lexus NX200t and Mercedes-Benz GLA250.

A trio of trim grades

The new QX30 will be available in here starting next month in three basic versions, each with a selection of trims/options/packages to complement its bold exterior. Anchoring the lineup is a front-drive QX30 in Base, Luxury and Premium guise. Next up is the FWD-only QX30 Sport followed by the range-topping QX30 AWD in Luxury or Premium spec. Each boasts distinct fascia treatments and other cosmetic touches that better define its persona as well as individual chassis/steering settings. Our time was divided between QX30 Sport and QX30 AWD examples -- the latter of which is expected to account for over half of the vehicle’s initial sales.

All QX30’s share the same Mercedes-sourced 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s backed by a paddle-shift 7-speed dual clutch automatic, and while not the most potent engine in this class, it does provide smooth and solid acceleration regardless of how many wheels are being driven. The engine also features a relatively seamless defeatable Start-Stop system to help save fuel (final EPA numbers for all models are pending) along with button-selectable Eco/Sport/Manual mode settings that modify throttle mapping and shift points.

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Infiniti tuned the QX30’s front-strut/rear-multilink suspension to be a bit tauter overall than its GLA 250 cousin with ride height on the Sport and AWD models dropped by 0.6 inch and raised by 1.2 inches, respectively, above the baseline QX30 spec. Beyond even-stiffer chassis bits and 235/45 summer tires on 19-inch aluminum wheels in place of the 18-inch 235/50 all-season rubber used on other QX30 models, the Sport also boasts a quicker (14.4:1 vs 16.0:1) steering ratio and cross-drilled front brake rotors. Collectively, the upgrades do add more cornering confidence and enthusiast appeal. However, even the Premium-spec QX30 AWD proved both comfortable and well-controlled when the going did get twisty. For better or for worse from an NVH standpoint, all versions of this new Infiniti are fitted with run-flat tires.

Interior recast to Infiniti's image

Like its exterior, the QX30’s well-finished and generously equipped cabin has a look and feel of its own that set it apart from the GLA-Class. Unique model-specific cosmetic and functional touches distinguish individual family members. Premium cloth in the Base QX30 gives way to standard or available leather and wood accents in Sport and AWD variants, respectively, with the Sport model getting a flat-bottom version of the multifunction steering wheel and an even-more-supportive iteration of the unique Spinal Support front seats – Infiniti’s take on Nissan’s Zero Gravity buckets – found in all models. While not quite as desirable a perch, the 60/40 split rear bench has sufficient head room and leg room to accommodate a pair of average-sized adults in reasonable comfort and lowering the seatbacks to their near-flat configuration virtually doubles the 19.2 cu. ft. capacity of the QX30’s cargo bay.

In addition to its Infiniti-design multifunction controller on the console, the QX30 introduces the latest version of the Infiniti InTouch infotainment system with a single, 7.0-inch high-res screen and voice recognition plus touch/swipe control capability. Complementing a full range of typical power assists, all QX30s also come with dual-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, RearView Monitor and a trio of 12V powerpoints. While the Sport and Premium trims step up from a 6-speaker audio system with dual USB ports to a 10-speaker Bose sound system, no QX30 variant supports either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

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The new QX30 also offers an impressive selection of extras highlighted by a Technology Package that brings blind spot and lane departure Warning, forward emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam lights. Optional Intelligent Park Assist and a 360-degree Around View Monitor are standard on the QX30 Sport. Other key extras include an LED Package with LED headlamps, active front lighting and LED ambient interior lights as well as navigation and a Panoramic Moonroof – both of which also are part of the QX30 Sport.

Infiniti has wisely chosen to leverage the generous feature set and engaging dynamic character of its new compact luxury crossover with fairly aggressive pricing compared to other players. The base 2017 QX30 starts at $30,900 including destination, the Sport opens at $39,450 and the QX30 AWD at $38,650. Loading up either front-drive model can push its total to just over $43,000 while a maxed-out AWD variant can command close to $45,500. Although admittedly late to the party, there’s no question the QX30 definitely has plenty of substance to match its style.

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