In a class that is highly competitive such as the compact luxury sedan segment, trying to make yourself stand out is a tough ask. Some can do it just on reputation, while others must rely on price, design, features, or overall drivability. Infiniti is using technology to have their Q50 sedan stand out in this crowded field. We spent a week in the Q50S 3.7 to see if any of this new technology makes a difference.
In terms of styling, the Q50S sits right in the middle of the compact luxury sedan spectrum. It isn’t as shocking as the Lexus IS, but it isn’t boring as a BMW 3-Series. The overall design is reminiscent of the Q70 (formally known as the M37/35h/56) with a narrow grille, a sculpted hood that rises and falls, and a distinctive character line running from the front fender to the rear. This particular Q50S was fitted with 19-inch Rays wheels finished in black and looked quite sharp. It should be noted the wheels are part of a Performance Wheel package that also swaps the standard run-flat tires for a set of summer performance tires.
The Q50S’s interior is very scrumptious with leather and soft plastics seemingly lining every surface, and a small amount of wood trim around the center stack. Front seat passengers get supportive seats with power adjustments and the ability to cool and heat. The driver gets a couple of more adjustments in the form of adjustable seat bolsters and a manual extension for the thigh. Rear seat passengers will find plenty of headroom, but legroom is somewhat limited thanks to a tall transmission tunnel.
A key feature of the Q50 is Infiniti’s InTouch infotainment system. The system is comprised of two screens; the top one handles navigation and key information about the vehicle, while the bottom one handles audio, climate, vehicle settings, and other functions. Now before you start thinking the dual screen setup is going to be a catastrophe like the system used in Acura vehicles, it isn’t. The difference is that Infiniti uses two touchscreens, unlike the one touchscreen and the other screen being controlled by a knob like a number of Acura models. Using the system was a breeze thanks a simple layout and quick performance. There are a couple of downsides to the InTouch system. First is the navigation system which is looking very dated when compared to other models in the compact luxury class. Second is the bottom screen that washes out in sunlight.
In terms of power, the Q50 comes with either a 3.7L V6 or a hybrid powertrain that pairs the V6 with an electric motor. Our tester boasted the V6 with 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. This is paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is very potent as it will pull hard during acceleration and feels eager to get up to speed. But the V6 isn’t the smoothest or most refined at higher rpms as many of its competitors. The seven-speed automatic transmission delivers quick and smooth shifts. In terms of fuel economy, the Q50 with the V6 is rated at 20 City/29 Highway/23 Combined. Our week of driving saw an average of 21.2 MPG.
The Q50S boasts a sport-tuned suspension which gives it a button-down feeling on the road. In corners, the Q50 shows excellent control of body motions. Agility is also tops as the Q50S seamlessly moves from corner to corner. The ride is on the firm side, letting in some bumps into the cabin. Noise isolation is excellent.
Now the Q50 has one other key item that Infiniti is quick to point out and that is the optional Direct Adaptive Steering system. Unlike most systems where the system is mechanical-based, Direct Adaptive Steering uses a drive-by-wire system that transmits electrical impulses from the steering wheel to the front wheels, causing them to turn. Infiniti has also fitted an electric motor to mimic weight when turning. At first, I thought I was driving a normal steering system as it had good weight and feel for a sporty sedan. It was only when I parked the car and played around with the wheel did I realize something was different. The steering wheel moved very fast and with no feel. It was then I realized I had the drive-by-wire system.
After spending a week with the Direct Adaptive Steering system, I’m a bit mixed. Not with the system itself, I actually didn’t have any complaints about the steering feeling disconnected to the road or having enough weight as other reviews. I found it to be like any other steering system. But I find myself wondering if this was done because Infiniti sees the future of steering going to this, or if they did this just for the sake of differentiation?
The Infiniti Q50S is a good compact luxury sedan, but it relies too much on technology as a crutch. Yes, it's amazing that the dual-screen infotainment system works very well, but so does a single screen and a controller. The drive-by-wire steering system is a really cool piece of technology, but does it bring any real improvement? If you take the technologies away, you have a sedan that is very competent. But in a class that is highly competitive and models are constantly improving, competent isn’t good enough.
Infiniti needs to go back to drawing board and figure out how to take a model from competent to a real contender. The bones are there in the Q50, they need a bit more finessing and less tech.
Disclaimer: Infiniti Provided the Q50S 3.7, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Model: Q50 3.7
Engine: 3.7L DOHC 24-Valve V6
Driveline: Seven-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 328 @ 7,000
Torque @ RPM: 269 @ 5,200
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/29/23
Curb Weight: 3,675 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Tochigi, Japan
Base Price: $43,650
As Tested Price: $54,055 (Includes $905.00 Destination Charge)
Technology Package - $3,200
Deluxe Package - $3,100
Performance Wheel Package - $1,800
Navigation Package - $1,400