INFINITI Q50 REVIEW
What’s Hot: Potent V6 hybrid, lean thirst, crisp handling and beautiful ride
What’s Not: Heavy-handed interior styling, uninvolving ‘sound’, overactive traction control
X-FACTOR: Try it and it will impress, no risk, but with so few dealers the Q50 will always be for an exclusive few.
Vehicle style: Premium mid-sized saloon
Price: From $51,900 (2.2d GT) to $73,900 (S Premium AWD)
Engine/transmission: 125kW/400Nm 2.2 diesel, 268kW/546Nm 3.5 V6 petrol hybrid | 7spd automatic
2.2d (listed) 5.2 l/100km; (tested) 8.5 l/100km
3.5 Hybrid RWD (listed) 6.8 l/100km; (tested) 8.3 l/100km
3.5 Hybrid AWD (listed) 7.2 l/100km; (tested) 8.6 l/100km
Can this be the one? Does Infiniti finally have the car that is going to put the brand on the map?
This, the all-new mid-sized Q50, is a fine car. It’s what we’ve been waiting for from Infiniti, and it has nailed it.
Under the bonnet, the Q50 has got the firepower to match them toe-to-toe. Add a sumptuous premium interior to go with it, and there's suddenly a new contender in town.
After a day in the saddle, and after giving the 2.2 litre diesel and 3.6 litre hybrid petrol variants a thorough workout, we’re convinced of this new one from Infiniti.
The V6 hybrid is particularly impressive. It’s fast - you’d expect no less from a premium sporting saloon - and abstemious, it drank less than the diesel on this test, and it’s beautifully trimmed and comfortable on-road.
So how many boxes does that leave still to tick? Not many; maybe dealership presence and ease of servicing will linger as question marks.
The Q50 is also sized right and looks sharp 'in the metal'. The long drooping nose, cab-back cabin and hipped haunches give it a stronger sporting aesthetic than is obvious in photos.
It’s not known for the beauty of its lines, Infiniti, but this one works. More to the point, it goes.
Sure, there are some compromises to be found, but we’re impressed with the Q50. Especially the V6 Hybrid.
If you can find your way to an Infiniti showroom, we think you will be too.
As interiors go, this isn’t half bad. With sumptuous, softly textured leather trim and an ‘engineered’ look to the polished metal highlights, few could argue with the premium quality feel.
A let down however is the heavy-handed curved theme dominating the dash. Infiniti calls it a "double wave", but it looks more down-market and lacks the restrained elegance of its European competitors.
That said, we like the twin screens of the centre stack and the styling and functionality of the console and instrument binnacle.
It looks sharp and it works well; particularly the flush look and 'In Touch' smartphone functionality (with app-style icons) and connectivity features of the lower screen.
The neatly-stitched leather seats are generously padded and very comfortable front and rear. (And the long raking rear door provides superb unimpeded vision from the rear seats.)
In every model, front seats are heated and electrically adjustable - 8-way in the GT, 10-way in all other models - as is the rake and reach adjustable steering wheel.
A nice touch, also for all models, is that the driver's seat moves down and the wheel lifts automatically to aid entry and exit.
The DAB+ digital radio, with Bluetooth, audio streaming and six-speaker audio in the entry model GT is crisp and clear; but move up a peg to the S and S Premium models and the clarity and imaging of the Bose audio (with Advanced Staging Technology, whatever that is) is exemplary.
So, yes, while the Q50 lacks a little for style, this is a very smart interior: quiet, comfortable, loaded with features and beautifully finished.
ON THE ROAD
Prepare for a surprise when you get behind the wheel. Big news with the Q50 is the ‘Direct Adaptive’ electric steering on S models and S Premium. (The GT makes do with hydraulic electric power steering.)
Not electrically-assisted, “electric”, drive by wire, steer by wire - a world first for a production car. There is a mechanical system there for emergencies, but it is fully disengaged (via an electric clutch) when the ignition is turned on.
This is the future, all-electric steering. It’s spooky, but it works.
There are three touch-screen selectable ratio settings, Sport, Standard and Eco, plus a Personal setting allowing a mix ‘n match.
Sport is very direct, but uncomfortably heavy (and wearing after a while). Eco is simply too flabby by my reckoning, and Standard about right most of the time.
It provides reasonably ‘lifelike’ feedback through the wheel while automatically compensating for small directional instabilities and surface irregularities.
After a series of high speed lashes on a closed mountain road, we found the best setting was a combination of Sport (for its increased ‘rack’ speed) combined with Standard for its better 'weighting'.
Compared nose-to-tail with the hydraulic sytem in the GT, the difference in performance - in rapid directional changes - is starkly evident.
The electric system is significantly faster. In fact, when showing the Q50 the whip, until you re-adjust to its speed and accuracy, you’ll find yourself ‘tipping in’ a little too eagerly.
We are not fully convinced of its feel generally - it’s too much like a block of wood in Sport - but it adds a layer of driving refinement and is effortlessly comfortable in normal driving and less-focussed settings.
Across the board, the handling of the Q50 is impressive.
When things are ratcheted up however for a squirt through a set of bends, the dual character of the Q50 emerges.
While it is softer down below and has a longer-travel feel from its double wishbone front end than the 3 Series or A4, and rebounds more on sudden hollows, it sits impressively flat when cornering ‘at the limit’.
Seb Vettel was involved in testing in setting up the Q50's suspension tuning according to Infiniti, Buemi too. Whomever, and with how much involvement aside, the Q50 feels well-controlled when really pushed.
Even the entry model 2.2d diesel (sourced from Daimler AG).
Thanks to the 400Nm it puts under the toe, it is deceptively quick and, though there is a little lag at lower revs, quite nicely tractable.
(The sound it makes though, even when stretched to the redline, is gravelly and uninteresting, which is a disappointment.)
The V6 petrol Hybrid is far the better choice.
With 268kW and 546Nm to call on (50kW and 290Nm tipped in by the electric motor), it's an eager and robust unit, despite also producing a weedy uninteresting sound at the twin tail-pipes.
It pulls like a train when asked (0-100km/h in the mid-5s), and, for our test at least, bettered the diesel for fuel consumption when shown the same stretch of road and the same heavy foot.
What we particularly liked - it intrigued us in fact - was the way the V6 turns silently off at highway speeds. If load drops, it leaves just the electric motor to do the work and sometimes for long stretches at a time. (And absolutely undetectable when re-firing.)
The only downside on-road is the heavy-handed traction control. In Sport, it is smart enough to give the back end a bit of latitude - you can bring the tail around quite readily - but 'jumps' heavily on things should the front end begin to break.
When it intervenes, it leaves nothing under the toe while it gathers things up. BMW and Mercedes in particular get this balance in the handling better.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: The Q50 is of course 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 among a host of premium safety features.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Yes, Infiniti’s new Q50 premium saloon, is a convincing car.
The diesel perhaps a little less so than the V6 Hybrid, but each capable and appealing machinery.
And here’s the problem: this car is good enough to sell well; good enough - you'd have to think - to bring a whole lot of new buyers into Infiniti showrooms.
That simple fact exposes a perfect Catch 22 for Infiniti: it has eff-all showrooms.
The question then becomes, how far will you travel to check one out? Because let me tell you, this new Infiniti Q50 is worth a fair old trip...
If you’ve been looking at the 3 Series, Audi A4 or Lexus IS, and you’re looking for ‘bang for your buck’, you now need to factor in one more.
Infiniti has a lot of car to show you if you’re prepared to cast a discerning eye its direction.
We think you will discover something surprising: that, with this Q50, with these features and this performance – diesel and V6 Hybrid – Infiniti has quite possibly hatched the best buy of the moment in the premium sector.
All things considered, for what it does and how well it does it, it’s the one I’d lean to at the dollars asked. That very impressive V6 Hybrid most particularly.
- Q50 GT - 2.2 diesel - $51,900 ($56,809 drive-away) ($55,900 drive-away through Feb-Apr).
- Q50 S - 2.2 diesel - $57,900 ($64,197 drive-away)
- Q50 S - 3.5 Hybrid - $67,900 ($74,597 drive-away)
- Q50 S Premium - 2.2 diesel - $61,900 ($68,397 drive-away)
- Q50 S Premium AWD - 3.5 Hybrid - $73,900 ($81,787 drive-away)