This is the Infiniti Q50 S Hybrid – the petrol-electric yin to the Q50 2.2-litre diesel’s yang. We tried the oil-burning version of Infiniti’s 3-series andC-class fighter late last year, and though its avant-garde design (inside and out) impressed, the lack of refinement and below-par dynamics left us underwhelmed. So this hybrid version is going to have to be something pretty special to make its mark.
Just how trick is the Infiniti Q50 S Hybrid AWD’s powertrain?
This is the all-wheel drive Q50 S Hybrid. Though you can buy a rear-drive model for bang-on £40,000, Infiniti will sell you this model to compete with Audi’s Quattro-drive and BMW xDrive models. It marks the peak of the swelling Q50 family, and you’ll pay an additional £1625 for the privilege.
Adaptive all-wheel drive is just the tip of the tech iceberg: the hybrid drivetrain is a generous-displacement job, 3.5-litres of naturally aspirated V6 teamed with an electric motor for a combined 358bhp and 403lb ft. Strong numbers, especially once you consider 199lb ft is available from standstill, thanks to the electric motor’s instant torque. Infiniti claims the powertrain, when specced with all-wheel drive and its 76kg weight penalty, will return 41.5mpg, while the part-electric power means its CO2 output is a commendable 159g/km.
So it’s BMW 335d power for 320d running costs?
Not quite. For almost identical money, you can bag yourself a BMW 335d xDrive, which claims 52.3mpg for 143g/km and a brisker 0-62mph time of 4.8sec. You still can’t argue with the Infiniti’s performance figures: despite its 1825kg kerbweight, the Q50 S Hybrid hits 62mph in a claimed 5.4sec (against 5.1sec for the rear-drive version), accompanied by a throaty V6 backing track. That sporty growl doesn’t mean it lacks refinement – the cabin’s well insulated from both the outside world and the mechanical performance going on around you, such as the seven-speed automatic’s smooth gearchanges. Yet when asked to give its all, the 155mph Q50 S Hybrid goes as a £42k sports saloon should.
Sounds like a pretty handy powertrain
It’s handy on a motorway, less so in town. Unfortunately, this car is less convincing at everyday speeds, shunting along in traffic due to its perky throttle. The switch between pure electric and internal combustion power isn’t seamless, either, with the Q50’s powertrain tying itself in knots resulting in a yet more unwanted doses of abrupt acceleration. It’s the same story when slowing down. Despite four-piston brakes and 355mm front discs, the amount of resistance provided by the regenerative braking gubbins varies, making smooth speed trimming a bit hit-and-miss and hardly confidence inspiring.
What about its ride and handling?
Doing their best to upset the refinement and handling of the Q50 S are the standard 19in alloys wearing run-flat tyres. UK buyers like their sport saloons to look the part (note the ubiquity of BMW M Sport and Audi S-line machines), but the Q50’s pimply ride may well offend the fleet drivers who the hybrid’s low CO2 rating is appealing to. Small wonder Audi, BMW and Mercedes offer ‘delete sport suspension’ option on their cooking models to compensate for vanity – sorry, sports pack – cars.
The Q50 also has a trick drive-by-wire steering set-up that’s exclusive to the hybrid versions. The system is explored in more detail in our first drive review here, but suffice to say its numb feeling and inconsistent weighting hamper its fuel-saving benefits. There’s that word again – inconsistent.
Beneath the murky world of PlayStation steering and a fidgety ride, there’s a hint the Q50 has a decent chassis waiting to be discovered. Perhaps the 560bhp Nissan GT-R-powered Eau Rouge flagship will be the proof of that pudding – click here to discover more.
I’m spotting a theme here…
The inconsistency continues. The cabin’s fresh design offers a dual touchscreen interface, with an 8in screen atop of a 7in screen. The design of the interface is smart and attractive, but it’s hardly the most intuitive system and the screens are VGA resolution – a contrast to the smartphone most owners will be looking at before they climb into the Q50. And while the looks are a fresh departure from conservative German designs, with its angular LED headlamps and curvaceous lines, the Infiniti is hardly a cohesive package in any sense – visual or dynamic execution.
The Infiniti Q50 isn’t a car that can compete on mainstream merit. The established class elite make any new boy an underdog; anything with drivetrain flaws and dodgy steering is going into battle with sodden powder.
If you’re sick of the usual German expresses, and can stomach spending £42,000 on an unproven tech-fest, the Q50 is worth a look, even though we can’t recommend it as a sport saloon top choice.