– Strong V6 engine
– Cabin space and features
– Ride and handling
– Average steering feedback
– Unusual multimedia setup
– Fuel-efficiency versus rivals
It’s been a long road for Infiniti. Starting life a quarter of a century ago as the luxury arm of mainstream Nissan, the brand hasn’t quite achieved the same level of popularity as Lexus, largely due to a limited model range. However, Infiniti has been churning out a variety of more desirable models over the past decade, starting off with the Infiniti G35 sports sedan. That car evolved into the G37 in its second generation, while still garnering rave reviews. Its third generation saw a name change, following a recent brand-wide sweep that saw all Infiniti models start with the letter Q, and the G’s all-new successor is therefore known as the Q50.
The Infiniti Q50 is a strikingly good-looking car. It’s flawless in its styling, but it also lacks that “it” factor that would make it identifiable by even non-enthusiast bystanders. However, if that’s none of your concern, you can enjoy looking at its bladed 19-inch alloys, proper dual exhaust tips and that funky chrome C-pillar, the latter being Infiniti’s most distinctive corporate styling feature. The Q50 competes with German compact offerings, but manages to look more like a well-proportioned midsizer due to its slightly longer-than-average length.
Inside, there is the familiar Infiniti look, always hinting at its Nissan roots with little details such as the fonts on buttons and some of the textures. However, again there is nothing to complain about. There’s generous use of soft-touch surfaces, aluminium trim and stitched leather spread about, more so than, say, the Lexus IS 350.
Space is abundant, especially in the back. While the front employs well-bolstered power-adjustable seats, the rear bench can seat adults almost as comfortably as a larger BMW 5-Series, although the middle passenger will have the rear a/c vents between his legs. There’s enough cup-holders and door pockets for four, and the boot also has pretty good volume.
Infiniti’s latest infotainment system includes a multimedia touchscreen that uses a second touchscreen below it to act as a control panel with icons. The screens support swiping and pinching, but are still a bit clunky to use, and some features such as Facebook status and email readouts using your mobile data package are a bit overkill. Interestingly, you can even connect and get Google Maps data for more detailed navigation. Thankfully, there are still physical buttons for a/c controls and basic stereo functions. There is even a rotary dial just aft of the gear-shifter to control the same screen, in case you prefer the physical touch.
Other available tech on the Infiniti Q50 include the four-camera “around-view” parking aid, adaptive cruise control, strong dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, smart key, memory front seats, good stereo and all the usual luxury features, although the “regular”sunroof may not satisfy those who prefer a panoramic glass roof. Safety features include a full set of airbags, ABS, ESP, tyre-pressure monitor and more, including an optional system that hits the brakes for you if it detects a potential crash.
In this top-spec Q50 S, the engine on offer is Nissan’s corporate 3.7-litre V6, mated to a 7-speed automatic and rear-wheel-drive, making 326 hp at 7000 rpm and 366 Nm of torque at 5200 rpm. It’s a very strong engine, with good low-end torque and linear power delivery. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 6 seconds flat. It sounds gruff at full throttle, but no one will ever say the exhaust note is boring. The gearbox plays well with the engine too, smooth and decisive for the most part, even if not as quick as a dual-clutch setup, but with none of the random jerkiness of the latter either. This is probably the best remaining naturally-aspirated sports sedan around in its segment, as the Germans have moved on to turbo power.
The handling is pretty darn good. The Q50 runs through curves with a neutral demeanour, apparently kept in line by something called “active trace control” that attempts to make cornering tighter, understeering only on very sharp turns taken too quickly. It is generally hard to break traction on the corners due to the sticky 245/40 tyres, but pump the throttle with ESP off, and when the rising revs finally overwhelm the rear tyres, it’s possible to have fun with tail-out antics that are easily controllable, thanks to a balanced chassis and responsive well-weighted steering. That’s remarkable, considering the nature of the steering.
The fully-electric drive-by-wire adaptive steering, essentially set up like a video game with no direct connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels, is hard to fault compared to mechanical systems with the power-steering bit being electric only. None of these cars offer a lot of feedback, so it’s on par with its rivals, and the Infiniti is possibly more impressive because it fakes that mild feedback rather convincingly. It can also be set up to be soft or firm, or even dial out too much steering vibration. For example, driving over gravel does not cause the wheel to shake at all. There is still a mechanical setup that only engages in case the electronic system fails completely.
The ride comfort is fine as well, maybe the sport-tuned Q50 S suspension being a smidge more firm than the base Q50 Premium we drove before, while wind and road noises are kept at bay fairly well. Fuel economy clocked in at 14.5 litres/100 km with occassionally brisk driving, which is a bit on the high side. The gearbox tuning is smart enough to leave it to its own devices, while the brake pedal finally has some weight to it, unlike past Infinitis we’ve driven.
Honestly speaking, we’ve been ignoring Infiniti for a while now, as their sporty line-up has remained pretty much the same as five years ago, save for the all-new Q50. We drove this new sedan briefly at its launch two years ago in a severely limited setting, so we didn’t think much of it. Then we got to drive it again recently around an autocross track at an event, with a stint alongside none other than former F1 driver David Coulthard showing us the course, where the Q50 proved to be impressive. And now, having finally tried it on the streets of Dubai on our own terms, we are certain about one thing — this car belongs on our recommended list, even though it’s going to be changed again for late 2016 with new turbo engines and such.
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