First drive: 2014 Infiniti Q50 in the UAE
Clearly, Infiniti is still in the start-up phase. Despite having started right after Lexus a quarter of a century ago, they’re still doing things a start-up would, such as continually changing the plan to keep going. They started off back then with nameplates like the Q45 and the J35, none of which survived beyond the early 2000s. Their flagship switched from a full-size sedan to a Nissan-based full-size SUV, the QX56. And most recently, they decided to dump all their old nameplates that were just beginning to gain traction, such as the G37 and the FX50, in favour of a Q-based naming convention that no one has quite figured out yet. Still, whatever the future holds for them, their all-new 2014 Q50 sedan is supposed to offer a taste of what’s to come for the entire line-up. And from what we saw, the future is looking good.
The Infiniti Q50 is a good-looking car, perfectly proportioned and aggressively styled, although not necessarily a head-turner. There are several trim levels — the base Q50, the mid-level Q50 Premium and the sporty Q50 S, all with a 3.7-litre V6, and the top-spec Q50 S Hybrid, with a 3.5-litre V6 boosted by an electric motor. Apparently the base version is not offered in the UAE and possibly a few other GCC markets as well.
Visually, there’s not a whole lot separating the three trims, with the “S” models gaining 19-inch wheels over the “Premium” version’s 17-inchers, as well as sportier front bumper and seats, sport suspension and a few other trim bits.
Inside, there’s an abundance of soft-touch trim, more so than any similarly-priced Lexus, and the padded leatherette inserts complement the leather seats well. Space in the back has definitely improved over the G37. A new piece of tech 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 the same method to get Google Maps data for more detailed navigation. And we always liked Infiniti’s four-camera “around-view” parking aid.
We drove the Q50 S Hybrid first, on a small moderate-speed loop at the Dubai Autodrome. Its 294 hp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is backed up by a 67 hp electric motor to make a combined 350 hp, while combined peak torque is a massive 536 Nm at only 1470 rpm, giving the car a nice initial kick from idle. Thankfully, it also comes with a proper 7-speed automatic instead of the CVT that Lexus is saddled with.
Weighing in at around 100 kg more than the regular Q50 due to the extra battery hardware, the Hybrid certainly felt planted around sharp corners, although it could partly be due to the weight of three passengers as well. We managed to slightly swing out the rear in hard lane-change manoeuvres as well, with the ESP catching the slide cleanly in sport mode rather than just cutting the power. It was also easy to make the tyres squeal earlier than expected on some corners, so the grip limits seem to be reachable for drivers of our non-rally-champion skill level.
The fully-electric drive-by-wire steering, essentially set up like a video game with no direct connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels, is hard to fault when comparing it to new BMWs and Porsches. None of these cars offer a lot of feedback any more, 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.
Hitting the highway, we drove both the Q50 Premium and the Q50 S, powered by a 326 hp 3.7-litre V6 with 361 Nm of torque at 5200 rpm. As such, the power build-up is more linear in these cars, but they still feel plenty quick as the rev-counter approaches redline. We assume they handle as well as the Hybrid, because we didn’t get any corners to try out on our convoy route. They ride just fine, maybe the Q50 S being a smidge more firm than the base Q50 Premium, while wind and road noises are kept at bay fairly well. 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.
So is the re-re-reimagined Infiniti a good car? It’s a great car actually, based on first impressions. They’ve largely eliminated the criticisms we had with the G37. But will they finally crack the market that’s dominated by the Germans, with the British, Americans and Japanese already fighting for the scraps more successfully than Nissan’s luxury division? Only time will tell.
For detailed UAE/KSA prices and specs, visit the Infiniti buyer guide.