You may not know this, but since 1999, Nissan has been attached to French automaker Renault in the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Together, they’ve become the fourth-largest automaker in the world, and also one of the most unique. Unlike many of the automotive titans, the Alliance is a cross-shareholding agreement, so while the two are closely tied together, they’re still their own separate companies. As a result, Renault and Nissan are more flexible than the competition, and can still work with other automakers on new projects when the need arises, like when the Alliance needs help breaking into segments it hasn’t has much luck in.
Take the small luxury crossover segment, for example: Nissan’s premium brand Infiniti has been expanding its footprint into segments, and the company didn’t want to waste time with an also-ran model that takes a generation or two to become competitive. So it paired with a company that knows a thing or two about luxury – Mercedes-Benz – and developed its new crossover, the QX30.
But here’s the kicker: The new-for-2016 QX30 shares its Mercedes A-Class platform with the Mercedes GLA, one of the most popular small luxury crossovers on the market. So while you may not know it to look at them, there are some pretty strong similarities between the young upstart and the old stalwart. So where does Mercedes end and Infiniti begin? More importantly, which model outperforms the other with much of the same hardware? That’s what we’ll be looking for when we pit these brothers from another mother against each other in the latest installment of Buy This, Not That.
Tale of the tape
Unveiled at the 2015 Los Angeles International Auto Show, the Infiniti QX30 is a tall, rugged little crossover that is hitting dealerships right around Labor Day. There are three versions, which Infiniti believes should be enough to keep its customers happy: the QX30, QX30 Sport, and QX30 AWD, with different trim levels for each. A more car-like hatch, the Q30, was slated to come to the U.S. along with the crossover, but Infiniti believes that this trio along with a host of options will provide something for everybody.
The base QX30 starts at $29,950, the more rugged AWD (with all-wheel drive, obviously) starts at $34,400, and the Sport, which sits a bit lower and is more car-like, will start at $38,500. Inside, all models are available with leather and Infiniti’s InTouch navigation system, and can be optioned with no fewer than 10 different tech and trim packages.
But if we drew a Venn diagram of the Infiniti and Mercedes, there would be a huge overlap. Same 106.3-inch wheelbase, much of the interior (albeit with a few changes), same seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and the same 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four, which pumps out the same 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. But you might not know it to look at the two; the GLA’s body is softer and less sculpted than the QX30’s, but still manages to look both sporty and luxurious. And at $32,850 and up, it has a pricier entrance fee.
Inside, the GLA looks like a Mercedes should, even if fit-and-finish and material quality aren’t quite up to Mercedes caliber. There’s seating for four, but the tapered roofline compromises rear headroom for taller passengers, and limits cargo space out back. But all told, the Mercedes’s good looks and peppy performance (zero to 60 in around six seconds, 130 mile per hour top speed) make up for a lot of its shortcomings.
While the GLA’s charms outweigh its flaws, overall they can’t outdo its newer platform-mate. The QX30 wears Infiniti’s latest styling language beautifully, the brand’s interior upgrades are much needed and appreciated, and with a base price at around $30K, and a ceiling somewhere in the high 40s, it undercuts both the entry-level and range-topping GLA models by thousands. If you’re looking for a small, sporty compact luxury crossover with Mercedes-proven mechanicals for a great price, skip past the three-pointed star dealership and give the QX30 a look.