Car reviews - Infiniti - Q50 - 3.0t range
Playful chassis, performance and equipment value, bountiful power and pace
Room for improvement
Inconspicuous looks, no AWD option
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27 Sep 2016
INFILTRATING an already busy and well represented auto market is a slow burn process as Infiniti is well aware but the Japanese brand is steadily gaining momentum. Of course, having the backing and financial support of a global entity like Nissan doesn’t hurt but the company only has so long to find its own two feet.
The Q50 is the most significant model to join the Infiniti ranks since its Australian relaunch and, while the company predicts the newest 3.0tt pair to account for only 15 per cent of total sales, the turbocharged V6 version appears to make a lot of sense.
In the high-end (but not super-performance) luxury sedan market there are some current notable omissions such as the forthcoming Audi S4 and the Mercedes-AMG C43 leaving only BMW, Jaguar and Lexus to fight it out with the 340i, XE S and IS350 respectively, so the hotter Infiniti arrives at an opportune time.
You can argue exactly which cars the Infiniti competes with but from a purely financial perspective the Q50 3.0tt is a compelling proposition, starting at $69,900 before on-road costs for the S Premium and $79,900 for the Red Sport.
When compared with the $89,855 BMW and $105,065 Jag it would be hard not to consider the Infiniti if you are in the market for an executive rear-drive sports sedan. Then you start looking through the list of included equipment and find very little appears on the options list.
Anyone who has browsed the optional equipment brochure of a prestige German model knows what a minefield it can be so Infiniti score high marks here too.
But generous kit packages and transparent pricing have only so much allure in a sporty sedan market if the model in question can’t live up to the name. But fear not because Infiniti’s Q50 3.0tt does not disappoint here either.
It’s not just that the Red Sport is fast – because it is very fast – but what we really love about it is the rear-drive chassis tune that is unashamedly frivolous. You would be forgiven for thinking the Infiniti was set up as a soporific cruiser but after a blast through damp Victorian country roads we can confirm it is anything but.
Get on the power too early in a corner and the tail will progressively step out of line with all the grace and predictability of some brands that have been in the sports sedan game a lot longer, and the road manner when driven hard is huge fun.
In other global markets, a four-wheel-drive option will be offered and while we would jump straight on the two-wheel drive version, the grippier Q50 would likely appeal to a different audience. The car maker has previously stated that it is its job as a premium brand to offer more choice...
Complementing the lively dynamics is Infiniti’s revised Direct Adaptive Steering 2.0. The revolutionary system was flawed in its first generation but Infiniti has sharpened the steer-by-wire technology removing some of the curious synthetic feel.
We also like the snappy seven-speed auto transmission which works best in the Sport setting combined with sharper throttle response and more eager kick-down.
The steering is also at its best in Sport with a better weight than the first-generation system that was too heavy in the sportiest setting.
When directly compared to the previous version in the Hybrid S Premium, the improvements are even clearer. Negotiating a slalom required less effort with the new system and our steering inputs seemed more efficient.
With 298kW and 475Nm on tap the Q50 3.0tt Red Sport is easy to pilot quickly but the handy grunt makes less enthusiastic motoring a pleasure too. The hosed-down 3.0tt S Premium is just as happy to rev out as the more powerful car and is still quick despite not having quite the torque or top end.
Both engines sing a classic V6 note that honours the sporty personality Infiniti is promoting in its six-cylinder Q50 pair. We are also fans of the unusual but sharp Q50 styling, however a little more differentiation from the lesser performance variants would further justify their price premium.
That said, it is likely there is an even more potent Q50 version in the works and Infiniti is probably just keeping its powder dry for the arrival of an M3-bating super-sedan. We have everything crossed that it will look something like the Eau Rouge concept.
On less involving sections of road the Q50 settled down into the comfortable cruiser that the model has offered since its launch in four-cylinder power and hybrid. Its ability to munch miles is up there with the best thanks to a comfortable driving seating position and extensive comfort features.
We have always been a fan of the vast twin touch-screen information system which is easy and intuitive to negotiate and looks premium.
The standard 19-inch wheels transmitted a little more noise into the cabin than we would have expected on coarser roads even with the active noise cancellation active, but turning up the excellent Bose 14-speaker sound system substituted any undesirable noise with Madonna.
Flick the Infiniti Drive Mode Selector to Eco and the V6 calms down along with the gearbox, throttle sensitivity and steering for a more cosseting ride. The Eco Pedal accelerator is a novel but interesting idea and pushes back against zealous throttle stabbing to encourage economical driving.
A comfortable cruising manner is a handy trick to have up your sleeve if you cover a lot of kilometres but we couldn’t stop thinking about how much fun it is to yank on one of the magnesium gear shift paddles and make the engine do its thing, which we continued to do a lot.
Infiniti has done a sterling job of turning an accomplished luxury sedan into a genuinely sporty model with personality you’ll want to get to know.
There are those traditionalists and brand-loyal buyers that will take a lot of convincing before walking into an Infiniti showroom, but those more open-minded and curious shoppers will find a lot to like about the high-performance Q50.
Not only do the 3.0tt variants offer some surprising performance, playful dynamics and looks like no other model in the competitive market, but Infiniti wraps it all up in an honest value proposition that is hard to ignore.
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