The partnership between Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Renault-Nissan dates back to 2010, but one of the first vehicles to be born of that relationship is just about to hit dealer showrooms: the 2017 Infiniti QX30. The QX30 is based on the Mercedes-Benz GLA, which arrived for the 2015 model year. The two share engines and architecture, but they look very different. Here are eight ways Infiniti turned the GLA into the QX30.
Unique exterior styling. It may be related to the Mercedes-Benz GLA, but you wouldn't know it from looking at it. The QX30 features a sporty take on the brand's styling language, with a bold version of the double-arch grille, "crescent-cut" rear pillars, and flowing, organic character lines along the sides. We think it looks bolder than the Mercedes, especially the lower riding Sport model.
An Infiniti interior. Like the exterior, the interior gets its own design. It features an asymmetrical dash with a stitched hood over the instrument panel. Supple Nappa leather upholstery is available, and so is real wood trim. While Mercedes is known for some of the finest interiors on the market, the GLA's cabin smacks of cost cutting. The QX30's interior is better appointed.
Infiniti infotainment. The 2017 QX30 is the first Infiniti with a single-screen version of company's new InTouch infotainment system. It features a 7-inch touchscreen, and controls can be chosen by a rotary dial on the center console. The layout is similar to Mercedes' COMAND system, but this one is all Infiniti.
Spinal Support seats. Infiniti's Spinal Support seats are shaped based on studies of the human body's neutral posture. They more evenly distribute body pressure, reduce downward pressure on the pelvis and torso, and Infiniti says they reduce fatigue by 30 percent. We do find them comfortably, and better than most of today's seats, including those in the GLA.
Sportier suspension tuning. Infiniti engineers started with the Mercedes components and modified them to make the QX30 drive like an Infiniti, which is to say sportier. The shocks, springs, and bushings are all tuned for sportier dynamics. With 6.1 inches of ground clearance, the Sport model sits 0.6-inch lower than the base model, and its springs are 7 percent stiffer. The base model has 6.7 inches of ground clearance and the QX30 AWD, the only model with all-wheel drive, has 7.9 inches of clearance, compared to 8.0 inches for the GLA, which comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Steering. Infiniti says the steering, which is the same electric power steering system used in the GLA, is tuned differently for a sportier feel. The Sport and base models have the same 14.4:1 ratio as the GLA, but the AWD model has a slower 16:1 ratio. There isn't much real-world difference in the steering, but the Infiniti version feels a bit more direct.
More aggressive transmission programming. The QX30 uses the same 7-speed dual-clutch transmission as the GLA, but Infiniti has tuned it to be more aggressive yet still smooth. It features Sport, Eco, and Manual modes. The Sport mode is quite aggressive, holding gears longer and making throttle tip-in more immediate. The Eco mode is somewhat relaxed. We'd like a Normal mode in between the two.
A bit more cargo space. The QX30 joins a relatively new class of luxury subcompact crossovers that includes the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. The small footprint gives it a somewhat tight backseat and a small cargo area. However, by reshaping that cargo hold, Infiniti was able to carve out two extra cubic feet of space behind the rear seats for a total of 19.2 cubic feet. Those seats also fold down to make the rear cargo area more useful.