What’s Hot: Crisp handling, sumptuous cabin and beautiful ride.
What’s Not: Lame ‘sound’, not quite convinced of the steer-by-wire feel.
X-FACTOR: Pound for pound, the 2.0 turbo is arguably the best of the Q50 range. It is not as rapid as the hybrid V6, but is certainly brisk, and has a substantial price advantage.
Vehicle style: Premium mid-sized saloon
Price: $50,900 to $60,500 (drive-away pricing at bottom of review)
Engine/trans: 155kW/350Nm 2.0 litre turbo | 7spd sports auto
Fuel consumption listed: 7.3 l/100km | tested: 8.4 l/100km
What does Infiniti have to do to get traction here? Does it not have enough models, or too few dealers?
Whatever, with the arrival earlier this year of the appealing Q50, it has enough of a footprint in its range to expect to be doing better.
The Q50, in particular, we like.
Sized right, and priced competitively in its premium segment, it has a lot going for it.
And now, with the arrival of the 2.0 litre turbo version, there is even more to recommend it. This is a very good engine in a sumptuously trimmed premium package.
It steers well - perhaps best of the Q50 range thanks to a little less weight in the nose - and is very comfortable on road.
Beginning at around $50k, which has it sliding under the $51,990 price of the 2.2 diesel, and, more importantly, sliding in under the Luxury Car Tax, the Infiniti Q50 2.0 litre turbo offers a lot of car for the money.
Others in the Infiniti range may seem queer vegetables - the QX70 is a good drive but has a screwy nose, and the Q70 looks too much like a sock filled with spuds - but the Q50 has appealing sporting lines and a lean, purposeful on-road stance.
It also carries a sense of quality and attention to detail that is quite satisfying from the wheel.
This drive of the new 2.0 turbo addition to the range has confirmed our view of the Q50. This is a much better car than the market currently realises.
- Leather appointed seats with powered adjustment, driver’s memory settings
- Smart-key entry and push-button ignition
- Dual touchscreen displays with DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity
- Satellite navigation with traffic alerts,
- Reversing camera
- Climate control air-conditioning
- LED headlights with LED daytime lamps
- Tyre pressure monitoring
Q50 S adds:
- ‘Direct-Adaptive’ steering and paddle shifters
- electric sunroof
- Bose 14-speaker audio
- Active Lane Control
Q50 S Premium adds:
- Surround-view camera
- Radar cruise control and distance alert
- Forward collision avoidance with emergency braking,
- Lane departure alert and prevention, plus blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Active high beams
The interior of the Q50 is a ‘known quantity’. Infiniti, like Lexus, crafts a quality interior - even the entry level GT model is superbly finished.
There is an attention to detail and a feel of quality to all surfaces that underscores a sense of ‘first class travel’, reinforced by a snug, serene isolation from road and wind noise.
The feel at the wheel is good. The electrically-adjustable wheel and electric seats (8-way in the GT, 10-way in S and S Premium) makes it easy to get comfortably set for enthusiastic driving.
There is a ‘cold metal’ feel to the brushed metal surfaces, and the leather trim is soft and cosseting.
The leather seats are wider and more generously padded than the equivalent entry-level BMW 3 Series, but the Infiniti feels more like a US interior than a European one.
In other words, it doesn’t have quite the economy of line and elegance of its European competitors.
That said, the twin screens of the centre stack, the cockpit arrangement wrapping around the driver, and the sports styling of the instrument binnacle look good and work well.
It is easy to find your way around and it captures the ‘sporting saloon’ feel.
The 'In Touch' smartphone functionality (with app-style icons) and connectivity features of the lower screen are smart touches and the DAB+ digital radio, with Bluetooth, audio streaming and six-speaker audio in the entry model GT is crisp and clear.
Move up a peg to the S and S Premium models and there’s a Bose sound system taking care of things.
All up, whether in the GT model, S or S Premium, there is a pervasive sense of quality and craftsmanship to the interior that sets the Infiniti a rung-above its closest premium price competitors.
ON THE ROAD
- 2.0 litre turbo: 155kW/350Nm
- 7-spd sports automatic
- Steer-by-wire ‘Direct Adaptive’ technology (S and S Premium)
- Double wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear
- 17-inch alloys (GT); 18-inch alloys (S and S Premium)
This model release, the Q50 2.0T, is all about the engine.
Producing 155kW @ 5500rpm and 350Nm @ 1250rpm-3500rpm, it’s an understressed and effortless unit.
And, in keeping with most in the premium segment, the Q50 drives through the rear wheels (although, in modern cars, it’s increasingly difficult to pick).
Working with a sports seven-speed automatic transmission, the Q50 2.0T has ample torque and power and feels lively enough on the road.
With the S and S Premium, you can take matters in hand and use the paddle shifters at the wheel to hustle things along; for the GT, you’re limited to changing manually via a plus-minus plane at the gearshift (hardly a burden, though the paddles are handier).
Whichever model you’re driving, the Q50 2.0T has no trouble getting ‘out and around’ if needing to overtake quickly, and is untroubled by hills.
What is it with Japanese and Korean car companies? They know how to engineer a satisfying burble at the exhaust, so why don’t they do it?
For me, the sound a car makes is a large part of the enjoyment of the drive.
All that aside, the story of the Q50 range is its ground-breaking ‘steer-by-wire’ technology.
While the less-expensive GT makes do with hydraulic electric power-steering, the S and S Premium models come with Infiniti’s ‘Direct Adaptive’ (DA) electric steering.
Via a clutch on the steering column, it disengages the mechanical connection to the steering rack when the ignition is on (but will re-engage automatically in emergencies).
And the wheels are steered and controlled by electric motors and computer, responding to what the driver is doing at the wheel.
There are three selectable ratio settings for all models, Sport, Standard and Eco; the S and S Premium models allow a mix-‘n-match personal setting.
And, in answer to the inevitable question, yes it works.
With a computer generated road-feel transferred through the wheel, it feels much like a mechanical steering connection.
When driving, the system automatically compensates and corrects for all those small steering corrections we would otherwise do as a driver (with a conventional mechanical system) over surface irregularities.
We put it through a slalom, pitting the conventional ‘hydraulic electric’ GT against the DA ‘drive-by-wire’ system in the S and S Premium.
The difference, especially in ‘Sport’ mode, is astonishing. Turn-in, in particular, is perhaps 10 or 15 percent sharper. It is immediately noticeable, to the extent where the tendency on the first run is to oversteer.
We found this at launch: until you adjust to the sharpened rack-speed, you’ll find yourself ‘tipping in’ a little too eagerly.
Also, as we found at launch, we are not fully convinced of the feel of the electric system - good though it is.
It is alert, but not alive, if that makes sense. It is certainly close, but Infiniti hasn’t quite bridged the slight sense of disconnection in this system, as compared to a better conventional sports steering. (Like in an A 45 AMG, or BMW’s 4 Series.)
The handling generally of the Q50 though is very good - just right for the executive saloon market.
It is compliant enough to offer a really comfortable ride even over secondary road-surfaces, but sits flat when cornering and is more than capable of a rapid point-to-point belt around a winding road.
It is certainly softer down below and with a longer-travel feel to its double wishbone front-end than the 3 Series or A4, but would not be shamed in a shootout and is perhaps a little more suited to rougher Australian roads.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: The Q50 is fully-featured with ABS, adjustable speed limiter, rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, ISOFIX mounting points, front to rear curtain airbags, side airbags, driver and passenger airbags.
And, in S and S Premium models, distance control assist, and blind spot monitoring, lane departure alert and rear cross-traffic alert (among a number of premium safety features).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 3.5
It might not be ‘the best’ in the premium sector, but Infiniti’s Q50 makes a compelling case.
For its price, feature list, comfort, and for the way it drives, it is certainly among the best buys in the premium sector.
We would recommend a close look.
In particular, this new 20T model packages a lot of quality engineering into a very affordable premium package.
If you’ve been considering a BMW 3 Series, Merc C-Class, Audi A4 or Lexus IS, Infiniti has a lot of car to show you in its appealing Q50 range.
- Q50 2.0T GT - $50,900 plus on-roads ($55,900 drive-away)
- Q50 2.0T S - $56,900 ($63,147)
- Q50 2.0T S Premium - $60,500 ($67,347)
- Q50 2.2d GT - $51,900 ($56,809)
- Q50 2.2d S - $57,900 ($64,197)
- Q50 2.2d S Premium - $61,900 ($68,397)
- Q50 Hybrid S - $67,900 ($74,597)
- Q50 S Premium AWD - $73,900 ($81,787)