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Driven: Infiniti lobs Q50 range opener

Form a Q: The 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine under the bonnet of the Q50 2.0t is sourced from Daimler AG which uses it in the Mercedes-Benz C250.

New 2.0-litre turbo-petrol Q50 arrives from $50,900 to lift Infiniti's local sales


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24 Sep 2014

INFINITI has introduced a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol version of its Q50 sedan that, from $50,990, plus-on-road costs, will undercut its key rivals and give the Nissan-owned premium brand a leg-up in the competitive luxury mid-size segment.

The new addition to the range arrives about eight months after the February introduction of the Q50 in 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and V6 petrol-electric hybrid guises that lifted the Japanese brand's line-up to four models, following on from the QX70 SUV, Q60 Coupe and Cabriolet and BMW 5 Series-sized Q70.

Speaking at the media launch this week, Infiniti Cars Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery said the 2.0t would cap off the Q50 range, and likely become the top seller.

“This 2.0L petrol is the third and, for now, final variant for the Australian Q50 range,” he said. “It will bolster the existing turbo-diesel and petrol V6 (hybrid) variants. This car too is, to a significant extent, our core model. Especially during this part of our brand’s launch phase.” “Given four-cylinder petrol power comprises close to 60 per cent of this segment, we naturally expect our volume to grow with the release of this new variant.” Outgoing Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Campbell York – who will be replaced by new managing director Jean-Phillipe Roux on November 1 – would not be drawn on specific sales targets for the new Q50 range-opener, but said it would face some tough competition in the busy segment.

“We would expect we would have an incremental lift with this drivetrain, given it is what most people want and also comes at a price point at the lower end,” he said.

“The petrol (hybrid) we have had started at $68,000 which obviously cuts out a fair bit of audience with that. And the $50-60,000 price band is a fairly heavily populated price band as far as sales go.” Mr York said to expect to see new television advertising campaigns to promote the new variant in the coming weeks, and added that a promotional campaign from earlier in the year has had an impact on awareness of the Infiniti brand.

“Brand awareness and those metrics have continually improved over a number of years,” he said. “With the continuation of Infiniti as a product, people see the cars on the road, they see some of the advertising. It’s a long road though.” The powertrain in the new Q50 variant is a Daimler AG-developed and built 2.0-litre turbo-petrol unit producing 155kW and 350Nm, matching the output of the recently launched Mercedes-Benz C250 with which it shares its engine.

Offered in three trim levels, the Q50 2.0t kicks off in base GT guise from $50,900, plus on-road costs, which lifts to $56,900 when upgrading to the mid-spec S, before topping out at $60,500 for the S Premium.

This pricing represents a saving of $1000 over the equivalent 2.2-litre diesel variants, while the flagship Q50 3.5 Hybrid is also available from $67,900 for the S and $73,900 for the all-wheel drive S Premium.

Infiniti’s sharp opening price also undercuts many of its perceived competitors, with Mercedes' new C200 sedan – which uses a less powerful version of the same engine – starts at $60,900, while the C250 with the identical output kicks off from $68,900.

Audi's ageing A4 sedan opens at $55,500 in 1.8 TFSI guise and rises to $57,100 for the 2.0 TFSI Ambition, while BMW's 316i is priced from $52,800, but the most affordable 2.0-litre four-cylinder variant – the 320i – is $60,500.

Fellow Japanese rival Lexus has priced its IS250 Luxury from $56,500, while Volvo's S60 is available from $49,990 for the base 1.6-litre T4 Kinetic, but jumps to $59,890 for the 2.0-litre T5 Luxury.

Infiniti is hoping to tempt buyers further by offering driveaway pricing for the Q50 2.0t from October to December, with the GT available for $55,900, the S for $63,147 and the S Premium for $67,347.

On the performance front, the Q50's lightweight 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo engine is matched with a seven-speed automatic transmission – also sourced from Daimler AG – driving the rear wheels, which propels the sedan from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds.

This is 1.2 seconds quicker than the turbo-diesel, but 2.2 seconds shy of the 5.1-second dash of the 3.5 Hybrid. Mercedes' circa-1500kg C250 can cover the same distance in 6.6 seconds, but it weighs a little more than the 1646kg Q50 2.0t owing to Benz's use of aluminium panels.

With an official combined fuel figure of 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, the 2.0t is the thirstiest of the Q50s, with the 2.2d leading the way with 5.2L/100km followed by the 3.5 Hybrid on 6.8L/100km.

The Mercedes C250 eclipses the Infiniti in the fuel race, with an official figure of 6.0L/100km, while the BMW 320i (6.3L) and Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro (6.6) are also more frugal. Only the Volvo S60 T4 Kinetic (7.6L) and the 2.5-litre V6-powered Lexus IS250 (9.2L) chew more fuel.

The new Q50 features idle stop and the Infiniti Drive Mode selector with Standard, Snow, Sport and a Personal mode that allows the driver to alter the suspension, steering and throttle settings to suit their preference.

Like the 2.2d, the 2.0t has independent double-wishbone suspension up front and and multi-link at the rear, as well as four-wheel disc brakes and a foot-operated park-brake.

Infiniti's drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering is available as standard on the S and S Premium, and it works by electronically transferring the input to the front wheels as a high-response actuator powers the steering rack.

The Japanese car-maker says this system removes the mechanical losses that can slow responses with a regular system, making for quicker steering response and “non-existent” vibration.

In base GT guise, standard features include Infiniti's InTouch dual-screen display, sat-nav, LED headlights with integrated daytime running lights, climate control, DAB+ digital radio, tyre pressure monitoring system, leather-fronted seating with electric front seats, a smart key with enhanced memory, Active Noise Control, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity and 17-inch five-spoke light-alloy wheels.

GT buyers can shell out an extra $3000 to upgrade to 18-inch alloy wheels and an electric sunroof with sunshade.

For the extra $6000 it costs to move up to the S, buyers will also get high-gloss black fog-light surrounds, a sports front bumper, a more premium 14-speaker Bose audio system, electric sunroof with sliding sunshade, magnesium-modified paddle shifters, 10-way electric adjustable front seats (up from 8-way) and 18-inch seven-spoke alloys.

Choosing the S Premium adds active safety features under the company's 'Safety Shield' banner, including adaptive cruise control with a distance control, forward emergency braking, forward collision avoidance and a forward collision warning, lane departure warning and prevention, a blind spot warning, a reversing collision prevention system, around-view monitor that detect moving objects and high-beam assist as well as 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels.

Other safety gear includes standard front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, electronic brake-force distribution, six airbags and emergency brake lights, while two-wheel drive versions of the Q50 have a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating.

Infiniti Q50 pricing*
2.0t GT $50,900
2.0t S $56,900
2.0t S Premium $60,500
2.2d GT $51,900
2.2d S $57,900
2.2d S Premium $61,900
Hybrid S $67,900
Hybrid S Premium AWD $73,900
*Excludes on-road costs.

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