Stepping on the throttle produces the familiar throaty roar that larger-displacement Nissan/Infiniti engines are famous for.
I’ve had a massive car crush on the Infiniti G35 since it showed up as a 2002 model. A few facelifts and one huge redesign later, the G37 still had its edge when it was put out to pasture in late 2013. The all-new model, part of Infiniti’s new “Q” naming scheme, was completely overhauled from the ground up, and set out to take down the best in the sports sedan segment, namely the BMW 3-series and Lexus IS. I decided to revisit the latest 2015 Infiniti Q50 AWD Limited and see if it still has its mojo nearly two years after its conception.
If you ask the majority of North American media, the Q50 is a polarizing car in every way. It’s received some praise for its overall manners, but the drive-by-wire steering has been a topic of controversy. Purists complained about lack of road feedback through the wheel and paranoia should the system fail, and the car got way more criticism than it should have. I drove the rear-drive Sport model in late 2013, and I came away in love with it. However, this all-wheel-drive Limited is the one that most Canadians will opt for, so we gave it a whirl. Personally, this is a segment that stands out to me as being particularly special, so I entered my road test with a considerable amount of excitement.
This excitement is brought to the road via a freshened version of Infiniti’s tried and tested 3.7L V6, a descendant of the VQ-series motor we saw in previous models. I wholeheartedly approve of Infiniti’s decision to go with a traditional, large V6 as opposed to a boosted four-cylinder. As the old adage goes, there’s no replacement for displacement. The 3.7L pumps out 328 horsepower at 7,000RPM and 269 lb-ft of torque, also at 7,000RPM. The manual transmission is gone, with the sole choice being a 7-speed automatic with sport mode.
Stepping on the throttle produces the familiar throaty roar that larger-displacement Nissan/Infiniti engines are famous for, and the Q50 eagerly darts to 100km/h in the 5-second range. It feels considerably quicker than it is, and you can barely feel any added weight over the previous-generation model. The transmission is responsive and I’m glad to see a regular automatic instead of a continuously variable unit. It’s quick to shift and most drivers will never really see the need to shift themselves. As a purist, I definitely miss the option to have a three-pedal model, but drivers like myself are an increasingly rare breed.
Throttle response is about perfect, and Infiniti’s selectable drive modes allow the driver to choose their preference between Eco, Sport, Normal, Snow, and Personal. Cycling through these modes adjusts throttle response, transmission shift points, engine mapping, and of course, the drive-by-wire steering. The downside to this steering setup is that there is no mechanical linkage between the steering wheel/column and the actual wheels. The benefit to this system is increased efficiency as well as giving the driver the ability to select steering weightage and response. My preference was setting the weightage to “heavy” and the steering response to “quick”.
Leaving the car in “Eco” mode for the vast majority of my highway commuting resulted in significantly improved fuel economy numbers over the last G37x I drove. Even still, the 3.7L V6 is not known for its efficiency. That throaty roar and exhaust rumble comes at a price, and that price is paid at the fuel pumps. Over a combined cycle with a heavy bias towards highway driving, I was able to manage 11.5L/100km out of the Q50 AWD. The added weight of the all-wheel-drive system certainly has an impact on this number, as the last RWD Sport model I tested returned about 9.2L/100km in similar driving. The Q50’s gas tank will accept 76L of premium fuel.
The result is an Infiniti Q50 that responds almost instantaneously to every input. Feedback is a little bit reminiscent of playing Need for Speed on an electronic steering wheel setup, but this isn’t a car meant for weekend track days. The Q50 is a car meant to ensure comfort, driving enjoyment, and luxury while delivering a premium feel inside and out. On the outside, the car is definitely polarizing. It’s very clearly a more modern take on the outgoing G37 with stunning LED lighting and more chrome accents on the body. The rear end is more conservative, but the front fascia and side profile are attractive and fresh even two years after its initial debut.
Infiniti has ensured that interior appointments are fitted appropriately for a premium sedan. The seats are fantastic and supportive, doing a great job hugging my body in the corners and providing adequate support on long highway hauls. There’s some stunning piano black finish on the dash itself and soft-touch materials everywhere. There’s also great visibility all around and head and legroom is plentiful for four adults to travel long distances in comfort. I actually found the driving position dead-on for my preferences once I adjusted everything to my liking. Thankfully, there are memory settings for the power-tilting wheel, seats, and mirrors.
For $37,500, the base Q50 3.7 already comes surprisingly well equipped. It comes with downshift rev-matching, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, leatherette upholstery, a sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity, and full Infiniti InTouch infotainment. For $39,950, all-wheel-drive is added to the base model. This $45,100 Q50 AWD Limited adds 19” wheels, navigation with lane guidance and 3D graphics, heated leather seats, 14-speaker Bose stereo, satellite radio, and a rear lip spoiler. Short of the hybrid powertrain, this is the most luxurious Q50 that can be had in the Canadian market right now.
The Q50 Sport all-wheel-drive is priced at about $2,300 more, and adds features such as a sport-tuned suspension, solid magnesium paddle shifters, aluminum 4-piston calipers, and sport-oriented leather seats. The only thing I really found this Limited model lacking were the paddle shifters. I understand Infiniti’s packaging, because those who will actually make any use of the paddles would likely just have opted for the Sport trim anyhow, but it’s something I have come to expect in this segment. Infiniti’s paddles are especially cool because they’re fitted to the steering column instead of the wheel itself, so they remain in a fixed position no matter which way the wheel is turned.
Entertainment is provided by means of Infiniti’s InTouch system, a dual touchscreen setup that’s state-of-the-art for the brand. The lower touchscreen toggles all entertainment, climate, and vehicle settings, and the upper screen operates the navigation system and other setup options. The lower screen has a brilliant display with excellent clarity even with the sun shining right on it. There is a good amount of glare though and like other touchscreens, it’s going to be a fingerprint magnet. Thankfully, Infiniti provides owners with a small cloth in the console to wipe prints and keep the screen clean at all times.
InTouch is great in operation and seems to work fairly well, and the graphics are reminiscent of Tesla’s infotainment system. However, the catch is that there is some noticeable lag from the lower screen. The touch “buttons” themselves are small enough so that they require the driver’s attention to be off the road and on the screen to ensure the perfect spot is touched. A great solution to this is that Infiniti actually provides real buttons (!) for frequently-used commands within both the entertainment and climate control system. This means most drivers will be able to tune the radio, adjust the temperature on the A/C, and turn the volume up or down without having to mess about with the touchscreen.
There’s a very interesting comparison within this crowded segment now, urging Infiniti to ensure that the Q50 remains competitive. A fully-loaded BMW 328i (with the 4-cylinder) can exceed the $50,000 price point, and same goes for the Mercedes-Benz C300 and Lexus IS. The V6 iterations of these cars (including the Audi S4) are all easily in the $55,000 range once they’ve been stacked with comparable options. At just over $45,100, the Infiniti Q50 is a true value proposition offering comfort, sporty driving dynamics, and all of the latest technology at a price point that no one else has been able to match. The sweet spot in the lineup for me is the rear-wheel-drive Q50 Sport, which would be a car I could live with every day for the rest of my life.