First drive: 2017 Infiniti Q50 S Red Sport 400 in the UAE
Infiniti raised a few eyebrows when they suddenly launched a 400 hp version of the Infiniti Q50. Featuring an all-new turbocharged motor, the Japanese premium carmaker finally had something to brag about when pitched against the Germans, all of whom have had boosted engines for a decade already. We were invited to try out the Infiniti Q50 S Red Sport 400, as it’s called, at the Dubai Autodrome for the GCC launch.
The Q50 with the ‘S’ bumpers and larger wheels looks great as always. The problem here is that the Red Sport looks exactly like the outgoing Q50 S with the 326 hp 3.7-litre V6, right down to the alloys. The only difference is literally just the replacement of the “3.7” fender badges to “3.0T” ones. To make matters even less visually-enticing for the 400 hp Red Sport, the Q50 S now also comes with a 300 hp tune of the 3.0-litre turbo engine. The only visual difference between the 300 hp and 400 hp models is that the latter gets a red ‘S’ badge on the boot-lid instead of a silver one.
Inside, it’s exactly the same as the old model as well, so you can read about the cabin tech and practicality in our full road test of the outgoing Infiniti Q50 S.
We initially drove the Red Sport around a tight autocross course where it wasn’t particularly impressive, mostly because the ESP kept kicking in rather jarringly on every turn, even in Sport Plus mode. While we didn’t get the opportunity here, we’ve driven the previous model with the ESP fully off on a similar course last year, and it was much more fun and easily controllable drifting around corners.
We then moved on to the ‘Club’ circuit of the Dubai Autodrome, where we got to push the Red Sport harder at full track speeds.
The problem with driving on track is that the sense of speed is far less than on the street. It felt like the car had a hundred horses less in terms of acceleration, although a quick look at the speedo showed we were probably hitting 100 kph in around 5 seconds from standstill in one of the track activities. It was even reaching around 200 kph on the main straight of the track.
Maybe the luxury-car sound-proofing and smooth-shifting 7-speed automatic were dumbing down the track experience, but one thing we can say with surety is that the chassis tuning is excellent.
We were throwing the car into corners while braking, and the car took the mild oversteer in stride and kept on turning. In reducing-radius corners, the encroaching tyre squeal at the limit made it sound like understeer was creeping in, but as we slowly laid on the power on the second half of the curve, the car just kept on turning harder and harder.
The brakes were also great at hauling the car down cleanly from 200 kph. The steering is responsive, but there’s no real steering feel to speak of on the smooth track. The steer-by-wire system — where the steering wheel controls the front wheels via electrical signals rather than a physical connection — would be the culprit as it intentionally filters out bumps on the road.
The previous Infiniti Q50 S ended up on our recommended list after we brought one in for a proper road test, as the car never showed its true potential on the track. The Red Sport is a similar affair, as we didn’t really feel the extra horsepower on our brief stint at the Autodrome. But we suspect it is probably a better car than its outgoing twin.
For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Infiniti buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique H. Chowdhury and Infiniti.