A few weeks ago, I went on the Canadian launch of the all-new Infiniti Q50. Despite being the subject of many a negative review, I personally really liked the car. In every model lineup, there’s a sweet spot. My tail-happy, rev-happy right foot really fell in love with the rear-wheel-drive Q50 Sport, so I decided that it would be the subject of a proper review. I got some great seat time with multiple Q50 models at the launch, but I felt as though a few hours was too short a period to find out exactly what this car was about. I booked the 2014 Infiniti Q50S and spent one fast and rambunctious week with it.
Misconception number one: The Q50 is just a rebadged G37. This one could not be more incorrect. The new car may be powered by the same 3.7L V6 as the outgoing G37 and have a similar profile, but that’s where the similarities stop. It’s an all-new car, and it’s an amazing one at that. The rear-drive Q50S I drove sported 328-horsepower and 269 lb/ft of torque. Unfortunately, no manual is offered, with the sole transmission being a 7-speed automatic. The numbers are right in line with the likes of the BMW 335i, the Audi S4, and the Lexus IS350. This is an extremely competitive class to play in, and it’s one of my personal favourites. The Q50 just feels a smidge larger than the others, and the engine thrashes a bit more at higher RPMs. It scoots to 100 km/h in just over five seconds, and has a plethora of technology that ensures that it’s not just about the straight-line power.
In the Q50, Infiniti has introduced a new technology called Direct Adaptive Steering, an industry first. Simply put, there is no mechanical linkage between the steering wheel and the drive wheels. Fearing for your safety yet? So was I. However, they claim that there is a backup mechanical system in place “just in case”. The steering does lack the raw feedback that enthusiasts die for in a rear-drive sport sedan, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t hate it. The car allows you to choose between a series of settings including how heavy/light as well as how responsive you want your steering to be – very much like in a video game. The movements do feel artificial and slightly numb, but I managed to find a setting I liked. I set up my Driver Profile to keep the engine and transmission in the sportiest setting, and the steering in the heaviest and most responsive mode. When kept in what I like to refer to as Adi-Mode, the Q50S drove like a dream.
I had a huge soft spot for the outgoing G37. It was in my eyes one of the most underrated cars on the market, and I recommended it to friends or family at every opportunity I was given. Its only downfall in my eyes was its absolutely atrocious fuel economy. I feel that the fact that the Q50′s styling isn’t a huge departure from the old car works to its benefit. The new front end is aggressive and sporty, and the side profile oozes class. The rear end is questionable, but still evolutionary from the G37. I adore the interior of the car. The materials all feel premium without hitting Lexus-levels of pure luxury. The steering wheel is great, and the fact that the paddle shifters are column-mounted as opposed to wheel-mounted shows that Infiniti does care about the real driver and not just the armchair purist.
The rear-drive Q50S is the second model up from the base, and comes equipped exactly as I would want mine. Media fleets tend to pamper writers by only stocking the top-tier models for testing, so I counted my blessings that Infiniti decided to keep my ideal Q50 on fleet. My Sport, finished in a rather plain Platinum Ice (fancy terminology for silver), came with some gorgeous 19″ 5-spoke wheels. It also had the Direct Adaptive Steering system, a unique sport-tuned suspension, a relatively spartan Bose-branded sound system, and Infiniti navigation. Infiniti’s new infotainment system has dual-display screens, and they both work well together. The upper screen is a slightly-updated version of the old navigation system, and the lower screen is a very iPad-like display that reads out car diagnostics, audio controls, climate, as well as configuration of the Direct Adaptive Steering. I personally found the lower display to not be as responsive as I would have liked.
I think there are a couple things that have caused the Infiniti Q50 to be received poorly in the automotive industry. One of the biggest factors is the name it’s been given. It’s the first vehicle to take on Infiniti’s new “Q-based” naming scheme. Despite being alphanumeric, the names “G35″ and “G37″ sounded good, at least to me. The names throughout the rest of the lineup just confuse me, and it’s not a good thing. The second factor that has been detrimental to this car’s acceptance are the expectations around it. It seems that everyone was expecting this car to be the holy grail of sports sedans – a killer to the BMW 3-series and even the Cadillac ATS.
A 3-series fighter it may be, but in a very different way. The Infiniti doesn’t try to be European, because if it did, it wouldn’t be very good at it. Simply put, the car is a chameleon. It’s a comfortable, serene cruiser when you want it to be. At the touch of a few buttons, it becomes a sporty sedan that can dance up there with the best while making you feel like you’re back in your teens playing Need for Speed. Best of all, it conquers the fuel efficiency issue I faced with the last-gen G37 – I averaged 9.2L/100km on 91-octane fuel over my test week. Frankly, if it had a double-clutch transmission or the availability of a manual, there would be one on my driveway as early as yesterday. I love this car; the upcoming coupe can only be better.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Gallery