There’s something eerie about ripping around Southern California in a car as quiet as the Infiniti Q60. The 400-horsepower Red Sport variant of the new coupe has all the performance boxes ticked — twin-turbo V6 with a responsive, speed-optimized turbocharger; tunable steer-by-wire that tightens up for precise handling; a digitally controlled suspension that keeps the car nice and flat in hard cornering — yet there’s barely any sound surging from the exhaust. It’s there, but it’s not the celebrated (and these days usually enhanced) bit of automotive yodeling you expect from a sport coupe.

In fact, it feels very much like an electric car does: powerful, yet unstrained. In some ways, that’s a bummer — engine acoustics are fun and just obnoxious enough to make you feel like you’re getting away with something. On the other hand, it can be distinctly more pleasurable to slip through the hills around San Diego, where I tested the car, like a ninja rather than a galloping marauder. Infiniti clearly decided not to enhance the sound, either artificially or through any particularly aggressive exhaust tweaks. In fact, there’s no mention of exhaust notes anywhere in the 57-page PowerPoint that Infiniti rolled out to media at the car’s launch.

2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport AWD Specs:
q60-red-sport-coupe-gear-patrol-badge
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 7-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive
Horsepower: 400
Torque: 250 lb-ft
Curb Weight: 3,862 pounds
MPG: 20/27, city/highway
MSRP: $53,300 (starting)

I’m okay with that. For a car as elegant and shapely as the $53,300 Q60, with its terrific new design that smooths out the sweeping flourishes of previous Infinitis, a little bit of aural modesty rings true to the mission. It’s not a car for track studs and wannabes, but for enthusiast drivers who want performance without making a big stink about it. The Q60 delivers, with its immediately responsive, lightweight new engine and its taut steering and a re-tuned and feedback-rich version of the digital Direct Adaptive Steering system that debuted in the Q50. That technology — an industry first — is truly next-level hardware, using electronic signals to steer the car and provide feedback in the opposite direction. It eliminates fatigue-inducing vibration and dials out knocks and bumps. When I asked Infiniti engineer Mineki Iwaki if the mechanical backup had ever been deployed in either the system’s decade-long development or in actual road use after release, the answer was a confident, barely perceptible shake of the head. No.

With its terrific new design that smooths out the sweeping flourishes of previous Infinitis, a little bit of aural modesty rings true to the mission.

Direct Adaptive Steering is a huge, largely unsung feather in Infiniti’s cap. The system has no equal, anywhere, and it enhances the ride much like the subdued acoustics do — everything is smooth, unflustered, and quietly powerful. It’s a pleasure to drive, even if it doesn’t grab you by the throat like the top trim levels of the Lexus RC or the Audi A5.

The market for machines like this is microscopic — just five percent within a broader, SUV- and sedan-dominated luxury market — but it’s still obsessively pursued by manufacturers, Infiniti included. That’s because these cars are design and performance playgrounds. Infiniti’s spin on this concept is both bold and typically humble, and they could very well end up sneaking in a surprise winner in this tight and highly competitive contest.