INFINITI HAS ADDED TWO NEW MODELS TO ITS Q50 RANGE, EACH WITH TWIN-TURBO POWER NESTLED UNDER THE BONNET. The top dog, the Q50 'Red Sport', comes packing no less than 298kW and 475Nm - those are the kind of numbers to get even the German premium power-trio to sit up and take notice.
The big boost in performance comes courtesy of a new V6 engine lurking beneath the bonnets of the Q50 3.0t Sport Premium and Q50 3.0t Red Sport. Each are twin-turbocharged, but offered in two outputs - 224kW and 400Nm for the Sport, and 298kW and 475Nm for the Red Sport.
But the prestige segment is no easy field of battle. The question is: can Infiniti make an impact in a sport sedan market so tightly held by BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz? We set out to find out.
Vehicle Style: Prestige medium sedan
Price: $69,900 - $79,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: Sport Premium 224kW/400Nm 3.0 litre 6cyl turbo petrol, Red Sport 298kW/475Nm 3.0 litre 6cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.3 l/100km | Tested: 10.2 l/100km (Red Sport)
The model range for the Infiniti Q50 grows to seven variants with the addition of the turbocharged V6 models. The newcomers are perched at the top of the Q50 range, sitting above the four-cylinder petrol and diesel models, and the V6 petrol hybrid.
The new variants come in Sport Premium trim, and the more powerful (and newly added) Red Sport trim. The feature lists and specifications of the two are identical, save for the Red Sport’s more potent engine.
Pricing is sharp at a whisker under $70k for the Sport Premium and under $80k for the Red Sport - a considerable saving on similar 'Germans' but with a big caveat, that being "reputation" and "badge power".
- Standard Equipment: leather seat trim, power adjusbale front seats and steering cloumn, sunroof, keyless entry and start, 5.0-inch TFT instrument cluster display, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers.
- Infotainment: Dual screen infotainment featuring 8.0-inch display and 7.0-inch touchscreen, 14-speaker Bose audio, interior noise cancelling, DAB+ radio, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and Aux inputs.
- Cargo Volume: 500 litres
If the engine under the bonnet touts some of the highest outputs in its class, you might expect the interior to echo a 'hi-po' theme, right? Well, not according to the Infiniti playbook.
Inside the twin turbo V6 Q50 both models carry over the same interior as the four-cylinder and hybrid S Premium models, with little sign of sporting intent save for alloy pedals, and “sport-styled” front seats.
Perhaps excusable in the low-output car, but for the Red Sport, you’d figure on at least something 'blood' coloured somewhere, but interior choices are limited to only Graphite (black) or Stone (almost white).
That oversight aside, this is a superbly crafted interior.
Everywhere the fit and finish is first class, and the quality of the materials and surfaces distinctly upmarket. Plushly padded front seats that are comfortable over long distances and inviting to sink into, provide lateral support in all the right places and add to a sense of premium exclusivity.
It’s also as roomy as any of its competitors, and features power adjustment for the front seats and steering wheel, adjustable thigh support, and a nicely balanced driving position - not too low, but not too upright.
Ther are no changes to Infiniti’s dual-screen interior command centre, which places information on a screen high in the dash, with control inputs, and supplementary info supplied by a lower touchscreen.
ON THE ROAD
- Sport Premium: 224kW/400Nm 3.0 litre twin turbo V6
- Red Sport: 298kW/475Nm 3.0 litre twin turbo high-output V6
- Transmission: Seven-speed hydraulic automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Four-piston calipers, 355mm front discs, two-piston calipers, 350mm rear discs
- Steering: Direct Adaptive Steering, electrically assisted and controlled
No question, in terms of model spread, price and performance, the Infiniti Q50 range lines up nicely against its premium European competitors.
It's also helped by a wide engine range encompassing four-cylinder petrol and diesel, and six-cylinder hybrid models.
The hybrid model, with a focus on performance rather than efficiency is certainly competent, but this new two-pronged turbo V6 pair gives the Q50 range the artillery to go head-to-head with the powerful German sixes.
While the 'low output' version makes healthy enough numbers, 224kW and 400Nm isn't to be sneezed at, the 298kW and 475Nm of the high output Red Sport version - courtesy of a few small hardware changes - is an impressive set of vital statistics.
That puts the big-gun six in the Q50 ahead of the 240kW BMW 340i and 270kW Mercedes-AMG C 43 for power, and ahead of the BMW’s 450Nm, but behind the AMG’s 520Nm.
Taking that urge to the pavement is a conventional rear-wheel drive set-up, with a seven-speed automatic taking care of shifting duties.
Starting out in the 224kW car (you can pick it by the silver S on its rump) the Q50 certainly feels strong. On road it is easily swift enough for confident overtaking with a solid mid-range torque boost providing fuss-free bursts of speed.
Technically competent, yes, though not as exciting as we’d hoped.
Jumping into the 298kW Red Sport version revealed a much swifter car and one that can gather pace in racecar-like rush. But, disappointingly, as strong as the engine is, it lacks the drama and noise that we expect - and buyers will likely expect.
It falls short of the sporting feel of the German sports sedan contenders.
It lacks that heart-racing throttle-body growl and there's little to compensate from the exhaust. In fact, while noise levels generally are low, helped by Active Noise Cancellation, the times that it can be heard are lacking in involvement. Should a performance car sound like a performance car? We think so.
The same can be said for the handling. The Q50 is predictable, and certainly rapid and stable on winding roads (and in steady rain), but the conversation between "driver and car" is lacking - in the feel of the steering and suspension - and there’s little incentive to push over an exciting road course.
Part of that can be sheeted home to Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS), now into its second iteration. It's a complete by-wire steering system that removes the physical connection between the front wheels and the steering column.
DAS is now a more natural feeling system than the first attempt, and able to filter-out road imperfections, assist with straight tracking, and can be tailored for different weighting to the steering feel and rack speed.
For all of those technical points though, the system puts a layer of insulation between the driver and the road, and while it is improved, there’s still a video-game feel to steering the Q50.
Similarly the Dynamic Digital Suspension, exclusive to the turbo-six models, doesn’t do the Q50 any favours. Even on smooth tarmac the Q50 fidgets over the smallest imperfections, never settling and feeling truly comfortable to make the Q50 a cornering natural.
Though it may be packed with an impressive array of acronyms, the Q50 fails to deliver where it matters most for a sports sedan. The on-road feel misses the brief and the engines - potent as they are - fail to excite where they should be utterly thrilling.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.76 out of 37 possible points from crash test data obtained by Euro NCAP in 2014.
Safety Features: Six airbags (dual front, front side, and curtain) front seatbelt pretensioners with load-limiters, intelligent cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear park sensors, 360 degree camera, lane departure warning and prevention, forward emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, tyre pressure monitoring, and ISOFIX child seat anchorage points.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Four years/unlimited kilometres
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The BMW 340i provides a finely balanced chassis, sweet inline six-cylinder engine, and an interior that can be optioned to emphasise its luxury or sports leaning. The Mercedes-AMG C 43 provides access to the hallowed AMG family, with a menacing look and feel, a glorious soundtrack and potent performance.
But the Infiniti has both whipped for price.
New segment challenger, the Jaguar XE, could be the segment leader for agility - particularly in the powerful XE S and its lusty supercharged V6. Australian buyers are yet to be see the Audi S4, but it will be here soon, bringing all-wheel-drive and Audi’s high-tech interior.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The cabin technology and plush interior of the Infiniti Q50 are right on the mark when it comes to luxury appeal. But, arguably, these potent twin-turbo V6 twins are not aiming for old-world comfort.
Their schtick is 'sports sedan performance', and they have the on-paper specs to back it up. The Infiniti Q50 Red Sport, in particular, is designed to entice buyers who might otherwise be looking in the direction of Germany.
Certainly, with pricing starting below $80k, the Q50 Red Sport outguns the BMW 340i and saves a considerable sum of money at the same time.
But, the money aside, the BMW or the Mercedes-AMG C43 have more to offer for on-road capability and sporting feel, as well as for the badge appeal.
Certainly, the basics are in place for a decent sporting sedan, this one though just misses the mark.
The next generation car may be the monster Infiniti needs if it's going to shake-up this segment. Getting some noise into those pipes is a good place to start.
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