Car reviews - Infiniti - Q50 - 3.0t Red Sport
Value equation, level of in-vehicle customisation, much improved steering feel compared with predecessor, fantastic seats, potent engine
Room for improvement
Foot-operated parking brake, fiddly dual-screen infotainment set-up, steering feel still slightly off, can’t make the most of the power
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1 Nov 2017
By TUNG NGUYEN
INFINITI’S Q50 has never gotten the love or attention heaped on its premium mid-size rivals because it was always deemed to be a bit average in the past.
Quirky things such as a numb-feeling steer-by-wire system, complicated dual-screen infotainment set-up and lack of competitive technologies held the Q50 back from making a dent in the sales of the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
However, the Japanese luxury brand has now given its medium sedan a mid-life makeover with a new look, boosted equipment levels and next-generation adaptive steering to address criticisms and quell the naysayers.
The result is the brand’s best offering to date, but do improvements to the mechanicals and specification levels finally make the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport a premium sports sedan worth considering?
THE premium sports sedan market may be a niche, but it can be a difficult segment to compete in against the likes of the Audi S4, BMW 340i and Mercedes-AMG C43.
Infiniti has always faced an uphill battle with its Q50 mid-size sedan, but the latest updates to its flagship Red Sport variant give the Japanese luxury brand its best shot yet at gaining ground on its already-established German rivals.
Priced at $79,900 before on-roads, the Q50 Red Sport immediately stands out as a great value proposition.
Under the bonnet sits a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine belting out peak 298kW of power at 6400rpm and max 475Nm of torque at 5200rpm.
With power sent exclusively to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission, the Red Sport certainly is quick on its feet.
Infiniti has not divulged any zero to 100km/h time, but from a few freeway on-ramp sprints, we’d wager the time is likely in the low five second mark.
However, the power feels almost too much for the Japanese premium mid-sizer to handle, with anywhere near full throttle resulting in the dashboard lighting up like a Christmas tree as the traction control system struggles to tame the potent performance.
This is exemplified by its corning ability, or the fact that it becomes difficult – scary even – to apply throttle in mid-corner situations.
Maybe it takes a driver with more skill than us – or dry roads – to tame the wild Red Sport, but for a premium mid-size sedan that has room in the back for the whole family, we expect less Ken Block and more Ayrton Senna.
Our brief time with the car resulted in a 9.8 litre per 100km fuel consumption average, close to the official figure of 9.2L/100km, but one noticeably absent technology on the Q50 Red Sport was idle start/stop.
The often-criticised Direct Adaptive Steering steer-by-wire set-up has also received a revamp with the facelift, resulting in a more connected feel and feedback from the wheel.
While the second-generation technology still falls short of more traditional steering methods – it still feels iffy on centre and steering becomes artificially weighted on turn-in – we appreciate the updates and improvements to the system that addresses some of the issues we’ve had with the technology before.
Basically, the steering is much better than before, but still far from perfect.
To its credit though, the Q50 Red Sport offers various driving modes – including Personal – to change steering, suspension and engine settings to suit driver ability and bitumen conditions ahead.
Of course, everything can just be flicked over to Sport+ for maximum attack mode, but the suspension tune and steering feedback never gave us the confidence needed to push the ballistic engine anywhere close to its limits.
Our tip is to keep the steering setting in Sport for the most feedback and accuracy, while toning the engine/transmission and suspension down to Standard for a compliant, comfortable and agile-feeling cruiser.
Other changes to the new Q50 Red Sport are slightly massaged looks with a more aggressively-styled front bumper and slimmer tail-lights.
If the look of the Q50 did not draw your eye before, nothing will have changed now, but to us, the Red Sport aesthetics perfectly balances a sporty stance with class and elegance.
Inside, the Red Sport also gains new quilted seats with additional support which, in our opinion, are some of the best pews we’ve sat in – supportive without being intrusive, supple without being pillowy.
We also managed a near perfect seating position thanks to a wide range of adjustability from the steering column, seat height, seat distance and lumbar fine-tuning.
The Q50 also makes use of a foot-operated parking brake and does not come with a head-up display, two issues that need to be addressed if Infiniti want to be competitive in the premium space in 2017.
Safety technology also gains improvements thanks to lane departure control, adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
Luckily, we did not encounter an opportunity to test AEB – which now monitors two vehicles ahead instead of just one – but did switch all other systems on while cruising down the Tullamarine freeway.
The semi-autonomous abilities of the Q50 Red Sport work as advertised, keeping the vehicle in lane and speed consistent with vehicles in front, even while our hands were off the wheel.
Infiniti’s unique dual-screen infotainment layout is also retained, showing a map in the top display with audio, phone and climate controls in the bottom.
While we appreciate the system’s ability to output so much information at once, we found the layout – which sports a mixture of buttons flanking the bottom screen and on-screen controls –needs some time to acclimatise and make the most out of.
As a whole though, despite engine performance sometimes being too much and a numb steering feel, Infiniti’s latest Q50 Red Sport is the brand’s most-polished and refined vehicle to date.
The outstanding value equation, premium interior, impressive safety tech and mature looks also add-up in Infiniti’s favour and the Q50 Red Sport should not be a model overlooked for those seeking a premium sports sedan.
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