Up in Ontario cottage country, I had an opportunity to put the brand new Infiniti Q50 3.7 AWD and Q50 Hybrid AWD through its paces over two eventful and surprisingly relaxing days.
There’s a sexy word somewhere that can aptly describe the amalgamation of design, technology, comfort and brand image the 2014 Q50 represents; seeing as I don’t know where that is, let’s start by calling this new step in the right direction for Infiniti: remarkable.
For 2014 the Q50 replaces the popular G37 sedan. The G37 was a good car and much admired, but its successor is a whole other animal. There are new cars and then there are game changers, the Q50 is a little of the former and a whole lot of the latter.
Simplicity is the word that comes to mind when considering the two powertrain choices on this new sedan. There’s one internal combustion engine, a 3.7L V6 churning out 328 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque which manages a claimed 10.6L/100km in the city and 6.7L/100km on the highway –these are the numbers for the RWD configuration. Then there’s my favourite, the 3.5L Hybrid powerplant. Capable of a combined 360 hp along with 258 lb-ft from the engine and another 214 lb-ft from the electric motors.
Basic math at this point will likely get you jumping for joy, but as Infiniti product engineers will quickly point out, the set up of a hybrid system is such that you are not going to get 472 lb-ft of combined torque at any point of your drive. Electric motors which are capable of full torque at zero will provide initial get-up-and-go while the engine spools up and spits out its max torque at 5,000 rpm.
All technical explanations aside, I will attest that the hybrid Q50 was the most pleasurable to drive between the two powertrain choices. The fact that in its RWD configuration the car manages a claimed 7.0L/100km in the city and 5.6L/100km on the highway makes it an even more attractive choice.
Attractive, now there’s a word to describe the Q50’s low, wide stance. The car is 10mm lower and 51mm wider than the outgoing G37. While the car’s front facia tells of an Infiniti family resemblance, the silhouette screams European luxury sedan. Get inside and things look even better with leather and wood throughout complimented by just the right amount of polished metal.
It’d be an outright crime to speak of the Q50’s interior without mentioning the three LCD screens that makes this car extremely user friendly. The smallest of the three, a 5-inch unit mounted in the middle of the gauge cluster displays navigation, audio, and other vehicle information which is controlled by switches mounted on the steering wheel. Then there are two screens stacked atop each other in the centre console. The one above, an 8-inch touchscreen unit serves as a display for driving-related information such as maps, while the lower 7-inch touchscreen unit serves as the primary display and control interface for infotainment systems. Proving that they can think of everything, the Infiniti Q50 has redundant copies of the soft controls for some of the more popular settings as hard buttons to the sides of and beneath the lower screen. If you’re like my dad and don’t like using a touch screen or steering wheel mounted controls, great, because the Q50 still has an analog volume knob and buttons for track seek and channel skip.
Driving made easier, the three words I’d use to describe the plethora of electronic driving aids that call the 2014 Q50 home. In no particular order, the aids include a Lane Departure Warning and Prevention system; allows drivers to drift around in their lane while the car ensures you always stay in that lane. Yes, even tested with the “look ma, no hands” approach we found the Q50’s camera based system reading the road markings as the car drifted out of a lane due to a curve in the road and gently adjusting the steering to keep itself within the lane while sounding a quiet alarm to let the cabin know that lane drifting was happening and being corrected.
Unfortunately, I found the system would often let the car drift quite a bit too far for comfort before correcting, and yes, on a couple of occasions it didn’t correct at all. Thankfully it didn’t lead to any collisions; but unlike me in a test environment, the distracted –and/or tired– drifting driver in the real world likely won’t be prepared for a quick correction. Will this system help prevent traffic accidents? Sure. Will it compensate for bad driving? No.
The same goes for the Q50’s other marvel technology, Predictive Forward Collision Warning. Built as an extension of the already popular adaptive cruise control that most modern luxury cars have, the new system senses change in velocity between the car directly ahead plus the one in front of that one. So as the story goes, if the car in front of the one in front of you slams on the brakes, the Q50 will alert the driver of it and pre-tension the seat belt in preparation for hard braking –or worse. Testing this scenario in the real world is difficult, and it’s not something I was able to experience.
An experience worth talking about however, was Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering system. The system essentially removes the mechanical link between steering wheel and drive wheels making the whole affair a drive-by-wire action. While driver input is entirely electronic, there is a redundant mechanical backup which the car will default to in the event of a disruption to the car’s power supply. What this means is I don’t feel the jarring pot holes and other road imperfections as I would through a traditional rack and pinion steering set up. This also means that the front wheels stay true to the direction my steering wheel is turned to despite slight bumps and ruts in the road. Infiniti claims the system allows for faster response than a traditional system, and unless you got skills like Vettel, I doubt anyone’s going to dispute the claims.
Overall, the 2014 Q50 is very much what entry luxury buyers should expect from their choice of vehicle segment. The car is polished, poised, and –opt for the Hybrid– performance oriented. It’s not a sports car by any means, the throttle delay is a bit too much and it only comes equipped with a less than impressive 7-speed auto box, but it is very much a remarkable luxury sedan under $50k. The Q50 is miles ahead of what Infiniti had last year –apologies to those who just bought the 2013 G37– and if the cars coming next are as impressive as this first one, Infiniti is on track to properly impress.
The 2014 Q50 is on sale in Canada as of August and starts at $37,500 for the 3.7 RWD model. The expected to be popular in Canada AWD Sport model starts at $47,450 while the top-of-the-line AWD Hybrid Sport rings in at $56,450.
Photographs by Kanishka Sonnadara
Kanishka Sonnadara can be reached by email: kanishka[at]oyetimes.com or on Twitter @autoKsS