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Infiniti Q50 Review: 2014 Hybrid S Premium AWD Photo:
 
 
What's Hot
Refinement, on-road agility, sport-saloon performance with a frugal thirst
What's Not
Unusual 'steer by wire' steering feel, tiny boot (compromised by the battery).
X-Factor
The Q50 S Hybrid is a bit of a sleeper: it's sportier than it looks, but without the thirst.
Tony O'Kane | Oct, 10 2014 | 2 Comments

Vehicle Style: Medium luxury sedan
Price: $73,400

Engine/trans: 268kW/546Nm 3.5 petrol 6cyl, electric motor | 7spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.2 l/100km | tested: 7.8 l/100km

 

OVERVIEW

With a little help from Formula 1 and Le Mans, the word “hybrid” is starting to shake its stigma as the preserve of hypermiling killjoys.

Slowly, but steadily, it's becoming a synonym for performance.

And much of that change is occuring in the luxury segment. While Lexus' hybrid focus is still on economy, BMW's 3 Series ActiveHybrid shows that “hybrid” and “performance” are not mutually exclusive.

Infiniti's own interpretation of a petrol-electric performance sedan is the Q50 Hybrid, and though there's no exciting 'R', 'GT' or 'Eau Rouge' suffix, it's got stats that should elevate your heartrate.

How does 5.4 seconds from zero to 100km/h sound? What about a top speed of 250km/h? How about achieving both in a car that consumes, on average, just 7.2 l/100km?

Of course, cars are about more than just raw numbers, so we took the range-topping Q50 Hybrid S Premium AWD for a week-long spin to check out its credentials.

 

THE INTERIOR

  • 10-way adjustable front seats, heated steering wheel, active cruise control, trip computer, front and rear parking sensors, around-view camera, power-adjustable steering column, dual-zone climate control with air purifier, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps.
  • Infotainment: 8” and 7” dual-LCD touchscreen displays with sat-nav, Bose premium audio system, digital radio tuner, active noise cancellation, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, two USB audio inputs.
  • Boot capacity: 400 litres. No seats-down capability or ski port/passthrough.

Here's where the Q50 may win or lose hearts. Its interior is less organically-inspired than the bigger Q70 (a good thing in our opinion), but the design still lacks the simple elegance of its German rivals

The double-decker infotainment screens look futuristic though, and the smartphone-like interface is easy to come to grips with.

And, as far as comfort is concerned, the Q50 earns a big tick.

The 10-way adjustable heated front seats hold the body perfectly, and the electrically-adjustable steering column allows you to tailor the driving position to your tastes.

The back seat is just as nice, though the Q50’s rear bench is not for the long-limbed.

Material quality is superb, really, both in the leather and plastics used.

White leather and carpets certainly wouldn’t be our choice when speccing a Q50, but thankfully black upholstery is also available.

However, considering rival Lexus has four interior colour-schemes available (never mind the broader choices in the German competitors), the Infiniti’s range of colours is pretty limited.

Thanks to the lithium-ion battery, the boot measures just 400 litres and there’s no ability to fold down the rear seats. It’s a big handicap for a large sedan, and greatly limits its luggage-carrying capability.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • 268kW/546Nm naturally-aspirated 3.5 litre V6, electric drive motor
  • Lithium-ion battery pack, boot-mounted.
  • 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters, all-wheel drive
  • Multi-link front and rear suspension
  • Electric power steering, multi-mode

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With a combined system output (that is, the petrol engine and electric motor working at their maximum) of 268kW and 546Nm, the Q50 Hybrid is no slouch when the right pedal is floored.

The exhaust note is unispiring, but the numbers speak for themselves.

The RWD Q50 Hybrid dashes to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds, the slightly heavier AWD model is fractionally slower at 5.4 seconds.

And the acceleration is not only forceful, it’s nearly seamless.

The electric motor fills in the low-down torque hole of the naturally-aspirated 3.5 litre V6, and the seven-speed automatic smoothly shifts from gear to gear.

The Q50 Hybrid AWD’s chassis composure is also commendable, with good turn-in response and resistance to body roll.

However, the extra front-end weight of the AWD model also brings with it a greater degree of understeer in hard cornering.

The trade-off though is more grip in wet conditions, and in the soggy Melbourne weather we experienced during the loan that was handy.

The steering divides the TMR office.

One staffer could barely tell that the steer-by-wire hardware didn’t actually have a mechanical link to the front wheels (it’s all achieved by sensors and servos), while others dislike the artificial feel.

It’s not without some virtues though. Switching between the different drive modes - Sport, Standard or Eco - produces a change in rack ratios, either sharpening up or slowing down steering response.

The Q50 Hybrid’s green side is just as much a key part of the driving experience as its impressive performance.

The start-stop function re-lights the engine instantly and with minimal vibration, and if you’re gentle with the accelerator there’s enough juice in the lithium-ion battery pack to accelerate to 60km/h without using a drop of fuel.

Impressiveley, the Q50 Hybrid can even cruise at 100km/h on electric-only power, if only for a kilometre or so.

After a week at the helm, our average consumption of 7.8 l/100km was remarkably close to the factory claim of 7.2 l/100km. A good result for a large luxury sedan weighing over 1.8 tonne.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.76 out of 37 possible points.

Safety features: ABS, EBD, traction control, stability control, brake assist, anti-collision system, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking.

Six airbags are standard (front, front side, full-length curtain) and two ISOFIX child seat anchorages are fitted to the rear bench.

 

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

As far as segment competitors with a hybrid option are concerned, the Infiniti Q50 is not without a good number of rivals. In terms of price and capability, the Mercedes-Benz C300 hybrid is its closest competitor.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

For its raw numbers and high level of equipment, the Infiniti Q50 S Premium Hybrid AWD provides good value for money.

It’s a sharp looker too; for those wanting something styled a little different to the usual 'midsize luxury sedan' options, the Q50 is a fine car with its own individual stamp.

Personally, the steering doesn’t tickle my fancy. It’s a complex solution to a simple problem, and one that robs the Q50 of steering feel, without much additional benefit to compensate.

Most won’t even notice it, but considering the rest of the chassis is so good, it’s a bit of a letdown.

But overall, we like it. Hybrid thirst with sports sedan performance, served alongside a fair whack of luxury - drive it, and we think you'll be surprised.

MORE: Infiniti Q50 Details, News and Reviews
MORE: Infiniti | Midsized Prestige Cars

 

PRICING

  • 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 - $73,400 ($81,787)
 
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