This is Infiniti’s best car. It’s not better than the original Q45, the car that launched the luxury arm of Nissan as a direct rival to Lexus. The Q50 is, though, the best Infiniti you can buy in the UK in 2014.
What is the Q50? A 5-series rival?
Spot on. And if you’re tired of German cars winning tests, you’re not alone. The trouble is that most rivals show so much promise on paper to tackle the likes of the BMW 5-series, yet can’t hold a candle to the German saloon in terms of dynamics, perceived quality or livability. The Q50S Hybrid AWD is the flagship Infiniti sports sedan, so this is its best shot.
The Q50S teams the same ‘FM’ platform as the Nissan 370Z and its Infiniti spin-off, the Q60 (formerly G-series) coupe, but this version has the all-wheel drive. You can also buy it as a rear-driver for £1635 less than this car’s £42k starting price.
There’s also the same 302bhp 3.7-litre V6 under that sculpted bonnet being fed by the signature front grille, but there are some significant changes: a lithium-ion battery pack stored behind the rear bench and a 67bhp electric motor. The total output is 359bhp and a claimed 41.5mpg.
There’s a raft of safety tech, too with the £2080 optional Safety Pack: radar cruise control, lane departure and blind sport warning systems, as well as auto braking. You’ll hear a lot of chimes…
What’s it like?
Let’s start with the cabin. This is a neat, well-executed interior that’s not high on the button-count, instead offering a smooth, more sophisticated design. The dark grey hues in our test car are more executive briefcase than opulent luxury, but the materials and fit and finish are excellent. The leather seats are supportive and comfortable, and there’s enough adjustment in both the driver’s seat and the steering column for both excellent visibility and a low-down position.
The steering wheel feels well made, and the stalks are rubbery and firm, with no flimsiness. It’s a quality cabin, apart from the old-fashioned footbrake in the footwell. The best part has to be the dual-screen system. Infiniti VP Fintan Knight told us at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed that the brand would be chasing a younger audience, and would do so by leading on the infotainment front. That’s a bold call, especially as the Gen-Y market it’s chasing supposedly can’t afford new cars….
So tell me about these screens?
The twin screens sit on top of each other, vertically, in the centre stack. The top screen is 8.0in and recessed, showing the map for the nav, for instance, while the lower 7.0in screen shows app-like icons for settings and to operate the top screen. The touch function is responsive, and while the layout takes a little getting used to, the graphics seem a generation ahead of the rest of this car: they’re crisp, clean and attractive. Kudos to Infiniti.
Is it a proper sports saloon?
The Q50S is not a BMW 5-series beater. That doesn’t mean it’s bad to drive, though it does have its weak points. There’s plenty of shove from the V6 and hybrid drivetrain, despite the fact that this car weighs 1901kg – there is 403lb ft of torque at your disposal. The throttle is responsive throttle in the Sports drive mode, which gives the steering more (too much) weight as well, but it’s elastic and inconsistent instead of progressive. Same goes for the brakes, as they pulsate even when you’re not slamming the anchors on using ABS and have you wondering if you’ll actually stop. That’s does not inspire confidence.
The Q50 is at its best as a cruiser. Its ride, on the firm side, deals with bumps quickly and although it’s far from supple, there’s a high level refinement and smoothness on the motorway. You can also attack corners swiftly, as the roadholding from the all-wheel drive and 19in alloys is strong, with body roll well controlled too. Still, you have to be smooth because of that odd throttle. This is a car that rewards measured driving, as when it’s grabbed by the scruff of the neck it falls apart.
Our drive of the Q50S shows that Infiniti is still behind the eight ball. This is a car that could be called ‘nice’ as opposed to inspiring a raft of flowery praise. It does its business as a matter of factly, just like the cabin design, which is conservative yet stylish and well made. The price just can’t pay off the hybrid tech, nor convince us out of a 5-series, yet the Infiniti does turn heads and is the less predictable choice. There’s a reason for this, as the Q50 is not in the same league.