Infiniti enjoys a healthy market share in its original US market that isn’t translating that well here. Perhaps that’s because we’ve become accustomed to European offerings that have a distinctly different flavour or because Lexus has spent so long building a solid reputation as a Japanese alternative.
In any event, Infiniti’s newest Q50 Red Sport might be its prettiest model yet, and it delivers a thumping output in the mid-size premium sedan market that’s always been a place to stake your flag.
Vehicle Style: Premium sports sedan
Price: $79,900 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 298kW/475Nm 3.0 litre V6 twin-turbo-diesel | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 9.3 L/100km | Tested: 11.0 L/100km
Curb appeal has been lifted for 2018 and the refreshed Q50 gets new front and rear bumpers under nicer LED lights with gloss black trim accents and a body-coloured kit. At the rear is a black boot lip spoiler and dual exhaust tips – it’s generally sporty looking without going over the top.
Priced from $79,990 plus on-road costs the Red Sport adds a $25,000 premium over the entry grade model but it has a bump in fit and finish in every area, plus a stonking engine that out shines all of its equivalent rivals – the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The heart of that performance is a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that produces 298kW at 6400rpm and 475Nm at 5200rpm through a conventional seven-speed automatic feeding the rear-wheels.
Further additions are 19-inch alloys, red brake callipers, leather interior with diamond quilt pattern, contrasting red stitching, leather steering wheel, 16-speaker Bose stereo and dual-zone climate control.
It also has modern safety assist technology such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive radar cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist.
- Standard Equipment: Semi-aniline leather trim with red contrast stitching, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat (8-way passenger), electrically adjustable steering column, sunroof, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, adaptive LED headlights, auto wipers and lights, aluminium interior decor, rear boot spoiler, sports exhaust tips, 19-inch alloy wheels,
- Infotainment: Dual screen infotainment with 8.0-inch display and 7.0-inch touchscreen, 16-speaker Bose audio, interior noise cancelling, CD player, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and Aux inputs.
- Cargo Volume: 500 litres
There’s some fine detail inside and the diamond quilted leather semi-aniline seats finished with red stitching are the height of it all. Not only do they look good, but they are comfortable, and offer fully-electric adjustment with heating and ventilated cooling.
The main seat also pops into a range of ergonomic postures including a relatively low sporty position and the steering wheel has plenty of telescopic adjustment. Despite having the driver’s seat set back most of its way the rear seats didn’t suffer for legroom, and the two outboard ISOfix pews provide generous leg room for kids or adults.
The steering wheel has had an upgrade and it feels much nicer in the hands than before, with a quality finish that’s got some rivals beat for driver focus. The steering wheel-mounted shifters have also moved from the column onto the wheel that’s a little more conventional.
However, some of the finer details fall apart, like switch gear that doesn’t click with longevity in mind and a dual 7.0- and 8.0-inch infotainment system that’s nice in theory but not as polished as simpler single display systems. It also lacks a vibrant high-resolution screen for the functions used most and contemporary connectivity such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is missing to compete against the best. The foot-operated park brake is a bit yesterday too.
That said, there’s plenty of kit thrown in like a 360-degree camera that’s clear all-around and 16-speaker Bose sound system that punches through with clarity and tight bass at high levels.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol, 298kW @6400rpm, 475Nm @5200rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, multi-link independent rear, Dynamic Digital Suspension adaptive dampers
- Brakes: Four-piston calipers, 355mm front discs, two-piston calipers, 350mm rear discs
- Steering: Direct Adaptive Steering, electrically assisted and controlled
There’s no beating around the bush: Infiniti has come out to trump its rivals on paper-power and its 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol motor does just that. It develops an impressive 298kW and 470Nm that outperforms the 240kW/450Nm BMW 340i and even bests the 260kW/500Nm Audi S4 and 270kW/520Nm Mercedes-AMG C43 heavy weights, albeit with less torque.
It’s not just a numbers game either as the all of that power is provided on tap in the real world. Left to pour every last kilowatt and newton metre onto the pavement in sports plus mode the Q50 is a feral beast at the best of times and it won’t think twice about spinning the rear tyres. Even in gentler driving modes it’s not hard to overdo the herbs and find the rear pushing out with some unpredictability.
And therein lies a problem: the Q50 in equal measures has trouble using its potential in a way that all of its competitors do with poise.
While the 340i isn’t quite as energetic, it controls mid-corner bumps better and can shove grunt on early through corner exit. The same exercise in the Q50 will (and undoubtedly in the wet) result in oversteer that’s manageable though hard to judge through Infiniti’s overly-trick electronic fly-by-wire steering system.
The Direct Adaptive Steering has been upgraded in this generation and is a little better, but it still doesn’t transcribe the road – in fact it leans the other way and does its best to remove feedback from underneath.
Though for some it might be preferred as turn-in is sharp and responsive while the steering is light, which makes it easy to point around city streets and corners without effort. But if you’re looking for a sporty feel that connects the driver with what’s happening there’s little in the way of communication.
The ride is also firm despite adaptive suspension and will bounce over a rough road without much forgiveness that’s bothersome on pot hole-riddled city streets. Its stiff bias results in some of the skittish response when accelerating hard but on fine roads it rides smoothly, and it can hook up well with a bit of right-foot modesty for some flying acceleration.
It’s also generally pleasant to drive on normal country roads and of course there’s more than enough power to overtake a road train or have a good punt. But despite such an angry engine it doesn’t generate much noise except except when the exhaust is artificially plumbed through the stereo.
SAFETY | RATING: 5/5
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 through Infiniti's authorised service network.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Audi A4 has a more settled ride that’s also more dynamic and comes with some strong yet efficient engines. Further up the tree is the S4 that's a German power house, but it's expensive.
The BMW 3-Series is another sporty premium sedan that comes from good stock in terms of athletic ability. It’s also well-appointed inside though the Q50 does well to keep up with its interior space and seating finish.
Mercedes is close to updating its C-Class that will bring better tech and updated styling though the current model is a wonderful balance between comfort and handling. AMG’s potent C43 is pricey but a real mid-size muscle car.
The Jaguar XE brings a similar left-field vibe unlike the more common Germans on this list and is no slouch to drive, tending towards dynamic ability while remaining comfortable.
- Audi A4
- BMW 3-Series
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class
- Jaguar XE
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Infiniti has out-muscled its competition at the traffic lights and with bang for your buck in mind there’s plenty on tap. The problem is taming the beast, which requires a little patience and a lot of commitment in poor conditions.
Off the throttle and the Q50 is easier to drive, despite sacrificing some compliance for firm sporty suspension, and with a roomy, comfortable cabin inside, this is a car that’s unique among the usual crowd.
- Interested in buying Infiniti Q50? Visit our Infiniti Q50 showroom for more information.