When you think of prestige vehicles in Australia, what springs to mind? At a guess I’d say you’re probably already conjuring up something German. If I asked you to think of a better value solution you might think Lexus.
Despite a long history in overseas markets, and a false start here back in the late 1990's, Infiniti is still relatively unknown to Australian buyers. Nissan's luxury arm is starting to make some headway in changing that and its twin-turbocharged V6 Q50 3.0t is the kind of car that could sway buyers wanting big horsepower for a price that rivals more pedestrian Euro sedans.
But is value the right lure for prestige buyers in lieu of badge cachet? That’s a tough call but if owning something a little different is a top priority then the Infiniti Q50 might be just the thing.
Vehicle Style: Prestige medium sedan
Price: $69,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 224kW/400Nm 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.2 l/100km | Tested: 12.0 l/100km
As a range, the Infiniti Q50 line-up has nearly all bases covered. There’s efficient turbo four-cylinder engines fuelled by petrol and diesel, a performance-oriented yet fuel efficient V6 hybrid, as well as two variants of the twin turbo V6, the mid-grade S Premium tested here and the more powerful Red Sport that we’ve analysed previously.
The styling is fairly unique for the segment, with Infiniti trying its best to forge its own clear identity, but the tell-tale touches that differentiate models are mostly missing, meaning the 3.0t S Premium could be mistaken for a cheaper, slower model.
Technology is a big deal for Infiniti too, with plenty of electronic goodies covering infotainment, safety, and steering - making it an early adopters dream.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, power adjustable front seats and steering column, 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 upper and 7.0-inch lower touchscreens, 14-speaker Bose audio, interior noise cancelling, DAB+ radio, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and Aux inputs.
- Options Fitted: Stone leather trim (no cost option)
- Cargo Volume: 500 litres expandable via 60:40 split fold rear seats
While the engine might be one of the most powerful at this price point, the Q50 S Premium hasn’t been configured as a performance car on the inside with comfort and luxury prioritised over sporting overtures.
That means big comfy armchairs up front instead of grippy hard-surfaced bucket seats, and to be honest that’s not such a bad thing. The optional Stone trim of our test car might not be the most serviceable choice, but black leather is also available.
Somewhat unusually, the Q50 provides infotainment via a pair of touchscreens, with a 7.0-inch display taking care of most control functions, and a higher-placed 8.0-inch screen capable of further controls, but used primarily as a display.
The system perhaps isn’t the most intuitive to use, and there’s also a secondary rotary controller on the centre console adding yet another layer of control. On the move it isn’t the easiest system to navigate and the fingerprint magnet lower screen provides too many menu options on the fly.
Rear seat passengers are unlikely to complain about the amount of available space with a decent amount of legroom, and a soft and inviting rear bench. Headroom in the rear takes a cut thanks to the standard sunroof, but all but the tallest passengers should find the rear seat accommodating.
Boot space is rated at 500 litres, making it generously sized in its segment, but the space narrows greatly between the rear wheels, and while the boot is deep, the load lip is higher which could be an issue for some buyers.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 224kW/400Nm 3.0 litre twin turbo V6
- Transmission: Seven-speed 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
If you were looking to spend $70k on a Mercedes-Benz you’d get a four cylinder C 250 with 155kW, and at BMW you’ll pay $70-something for a 185kW 330i - again with only four-cylinders. At Infiniti that same outlay will get you a 3.0 litre twin turbo V6 with 224kW and 400Nm.
But the Q50 3.0t S Premium isn’t necessarily about speed or knife-edge performance - this is a car that follows the American concept of prestige motoring, packing a big engine into a comfortable and premium package.
Yes the twin turbo engine can be viciously quick if you really hunt performance, but most of the time it’s simply effortlessly brisk, moving the Q50 about with grace - smooth, quiet, with a powerful reserve to call on should you require for overtaking.
The adaptive suspension is slightly firm and cleverly able to cope well with big hits like speed bumps and potholes, but over smaller high-amplitude bumps the ride becomes frustratingly firm, jiggling the cabin uncomfortably.
The steering also tend towards ‘American’ in the way it feels, with a super-light steering and minimal feedback, a result of Infiniti’s world-first Direct Adaptive Steering system - a high tech solution that directs the front wheels electronically instead of via a traditional mechanical linkage.
The system is now in its second generation, and is far improved compared to its predecessor but keen drivers will baulk at its remote feel. Conversely less demanding motorists are sure to love the isolated feel and minimal road intrusion fed through the wheel.
The Q50 S Premium also falls prey to overbearing safety systems that can interrupt the car’s driving flow. With all systems fully engaged the Q50 becomes hesitant of vehicles in front or beside it, sensing surrounding traffic as a potential hazard and reducing power or even braking to avoid collisions that may never happen.
Once again, the systems at play will only ever upset keen drivers, and they do work quite effectively at keeping the Q50 safe and sound, even if drivers that think they know better might disagree. Thankfully the off switch is easily accessible via the steering wheel.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars - the Q50 range 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
Servicing: The Q50 range features 12 month/15,000km service intervals (whichever occurs first), with capped price servicing available though Infiniti's autorised service network.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Lexus provides the closest competition, with similarl Japanese heritage and a relatable value pricing position compared to the Q50 range. A bold new face and huge new infotainment screen also helps the IS range stand out from the pack.
With a beautifully minimalist interior that conveys a sense of modern quality, and impressive driving dynamics the Audi A4 is hard to go past, though unlike the single-spec Infiniti a trip through the A4’s options list can be an expensive exercise.
Having entered the segment as a relative newcomer the Jaguar XE brings British luxury to a new breed of buyers and melds traditional craftsmanship with modern British design. A delight to drive, and a great way to stand out from the pack.
After years as the unofficial segment benchmark the BMW 3 Series wears its sport sedan tag with pride, looking and feeling more premium than ever before and allowing buyers to choose between a more luxury or sporting feel depending on their individual preference.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Value - yes value - is the Q50 3.0t S Premium’s biggest calling card, but is value really the point to push in the prestige market? Until the Infiniti brand becomes a household name in Australia it’ll have to make do.
But huge numbers of buyers in dressed up C-Class and 3 Series sedans prove that value isn’t the only appealing factor, with badge-honour ruling supreme. Perhaps there’s space for Infiniti to pick up the kinds of buyers exiting the Ford Falcon G6E and Holden Calais, but the battle for prestige buyers might be more difficult.
Does that make the Q50 3.0t a poor choice in the segment? Far from it. A high quality interior with plenty of space and plenty of tech is just right for the medium prestige class but until Infiniti picks up on the nuances of fine-handling or taps into its available performance the brand may struggle against better-known offerings.
MORE: Infiniti News and Reviews
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