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Detroit show: Infiniti Q50 wired for steering

Hot wired: Infiniti Q50 customers can opt for a fully electronic steering system that dispenses with mechanical links from the steering wheel.

World-first steer-by-wire system to debut on Infiniti’s Q50 sedan this year

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Infiniti logo15 Jan 2013

By RON HAMMERTON

INFINITI’S new Q50 sedan that made its debut at the Detroit motor show last night will introduce the company’s world-first steer-by-wire system when it is rolled out globally this year.

The technology – called Infiniti Direct Adaptive Steering – will be optional on the replacement for the mid-sized G sedan that will take on the likes of BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class and the Lexus IS in Australia, where it is expected to be launched either late this year or early 2014.

The Q50 – the replacement for the G sedan in Infiniti’s line-up in North America and Europe – is a key element in the global expansion plans for Nissan’s prestige car arm that wants 10 per cent of the world luxury car market by 2016.

The steering system uses electronically controlled actuators to turn the front wheels, dispensing with direct mechanical links between the steering wheel and the tyres.

Infiniti says the system “transmits the driver’s intentions to the wheels faster than a mechanical system”, while also allowing the driver to customise steering settings to personal taste.

When it was announced by Infiniti parent company Nissan last year, reports said the system could override unsafe movements of the steering wheel, such as a wild swing on the tiller at highway speeds.

The Q50 driver can choose from four steering settings, according to personal preference.

As well, the Q50’s electronic steering comes with Active Lane Control that employs cameras to monitor lane markers to enhance on-centre steering feel, overcoming the vague steering of many electric-power-assisted systems.

The Infiniti system also is said to include a back-up clutch that connects the system mechanically if the electronic system fails.

If that is a bit scary, the Q50 will also be available with conventional rack-and-pinion steering with speed-related assistance.

The all-new Q50 was launched at Detroit with a choice of two powertrains – the 244kW/364Nm VQ 3.7-litre V6 that is used widely by both Nissan and Infiniti, and a petrol-electric hybrid set-up combining a 3.5-litre V6 punching out 220kW and 270Nm, mated with a 50kW electric motor and lithium-ion battery for a total maximum of 263kW.

Infiniti says other powertrains will be added to the Q50 range as it is rolled out globally.

These engines are expected to include Mercedes-Benz-sourced four-cylinder turbocharged petrol and diesel units that also will be used in some other Infiniti models, including a small car to be made in Britain in 2014.

All Q50 engines will be mated with a seven-speed automatic transmission, either driving the rear wheels or all four wheels, depending on customer choice.

The driver can select five driving modes – snow, eco, standard, sport or custom – that adjust the engine, transmission, handling and steering characteristics.

The styling of the new Q50 can be traced directly to the company’s Essence concept car that was revealed at the 2009 Geneva motor show.

Distinctly Infiniti, the design evolves the Infiniti family look over the car its replaces, the G series sedan that is sold in North America and Europe.

Infiniti Cars Australia, which entered the local market last September via a three-dealership network in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, elected to wait until the arrival of the new Q50 to launch the mid-sized sedan here rather than press ahead with the dated G series at the end of its model life.

However, it has imported the G37 Coupe and Convertible since December, as those models still have a couple of years to run before they gain the changes made to the Q50.

When they arrive in about 2015, the two-door variants will be dubbed Q60 under the new Infiniti naming system.

All Infiniti passenger cars will come under the Q banner, with a double-digit number according to the pecking order in the range.

Infiniti SUVs will all be badged QX, again with a number according to level.

The Q50 rides on a four-wheel independent suspension that makes extensive use of aluminium to reduce weight.

Wheels are 17-inch alloys with BMW-style run-flat tyres or optional 19-inch rims with run-flats.

Headlights and tail-lights are all LED, and the headlights have automated high-beam dipping.

Inside, the Q50 has two touchscreens to control audio, phone connectivity, sat-nav and other functions, including smartphone apps that Infiniti says can be accessed “in a way that is safe and easy-to-use while driving”.

Seat trim is leatherette on the standard model, with leather optional. The driver’s seat has eight-way electric adjustment, along with heating.

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