Nissan’s upmarket arm has its German rivals in its sights with this sports sedan, but does it deliver? Y’s Alvin Thomas finds out.
Armed with practical sports sedans such as the BMW 440i M Sport, Mercedes-AMG C43 and the Audi S4, the Germans have been ruling over the sports-sedan market for decades now.
As a matter of fact, these cars are so good that their nearest, and possibly only, rival hails from the UK in the form of the Jaguar XE R Sport – and even that struggles to match the finesse and precision of, let’s say, the “Beemer”.
But a few months back, Infiniti created waves when it announced its all-new Q50S Red Sport (previously known as the G37) – a 400hp car that could be pitched against this formidable German line-up. The Q50S quickly became the defining face of the company’s short line-up of cars and became one of the standalone sedans from the “land of the rising sun” to rival the Deutschland trio.
However, as with most sports cars of today, there’s a toned-down version of the Q50S Red Sport – complete with a retuned engine and suspension, and comfort seats – and that’s the variant (Q50 3.0T) I’m given the keys to this week.
But from where I’m standing, I find it hard to tell the difference between the two cars – and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing for Infiniti. Don’t get me wrong: the Infiniti Q50, looks great from every angle, even without the “S” bumpers and large wheels as seen on the Red Sport or the regular Q50S.
But the real problem lies in the fact that the only difference with each variant is if you look closely for a red “S” badge at the rear boot-lid of the car – otherwise they look similar.
Still, the design language is unmistakeably Japanese; it’s overly aggressive and perfectly proportioned. It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer angles and curves on the body of the car. The headlights sit low and wide on the body, and are complemented by the spindle-shaped grille and 46cm 10-spoke alloys. The almost ornamental hood – which is chiselled and well-shaped – sort of reminds me of actor Matthew McConaughey’s jawline. In a nutshell, then, the Q50 is incredibly handsome; it’s almost flawless in styling.
The interior is typical Infiniti: there’s a tinge of Nissan in certain areas (buttons, knobs and so on) but it still manages to mask that and remain unique with plenty of stitched leather and soft-touch padding all around the cabin. That’s something even the Germans don’t do nowadays.
The seats are moderately bolstered, with abundant cushioning and adequate lateral support during cornering, while the rear seats can comfortably seat up to three adults effortlessly (if you are OK with seating a third passenger right in front of the AC vents).
The centre console houses Infiniti’s finicky dual-screen Infotainment system, which, again, is distinctive. Is it purposeful? Perhaps. The second screen acts as a control panel for the car, displaying information such as driving statistics, fuel economy and so on. This allows you to use the car’s infotainment system without affecting the navigation screen on top. Truth be told: the dual-screens will take time to get used to but it’s still easier to
use than other systems I have used in rival Asian cars.
Now, let’s move on to the the drive. As defined by its name, the Infiniti Q50 3.0T comes with a stalwart 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine, producing 300hp and a stout 400Nm of torque. The engine is mated to Infiniti’s seven-speed automatic gearbox, which sends all the power to the rear wheels.
The results? Well, the car effortlessly (almost a tad too effortlessly) hauls itself from a standstill, hitting the 100kph mark in 6.2 seconds. I’m sure that the car will launch itself off the mark even quicker if it were not for the hot midday heat (heat does affect the overall efficiency of the engine).
There’s not much of a tone to the engine either but it is far from what I would call boring (it is a V6 after all).
But like most turbocharged cars, the Infiniti Q50 suffers from turbo-lag, as the boost only builds up past the 2,500rpm mark. This means that you will have to predetermine your revolutions if you’re shifting gears manually, as a huge chunk of the torque is served up in one go (from 2,500rpm to 5,000rpm) before the engine hits the rev limiter.
Honestly, it’s wiser to leave the gear shifts to the automatic gearbox, as it is designed to make the most of the torque available in lower rpms. The gearbox fuses very smoothly with this engine too, offering snappy shifts with very little jerkiness during normal driving.
Shift the Drive Mode Selector switch to “Sport”, however, and you’ll be treated to a snappier gearbox, heavier steering and quicker throttle response. The electric steering is incredibly precise, if lacking in any real feedback. But all the Germans have adopted the same technology too, so I’m not complaining here.
What I can say, though, is that the handling is excellent. The chassis acts very neutrally during normal driving and comes alive during more spirited driving. Even the suspension setup (even in this tame Q50) is very well-tuned. The car turns corners effortlessly, with a hint of body roll and understeer that only crept in when I took sharp turns quickly.
Leaving the ESP on keeps things in check, but I found that it is possible to have a lot more fun when the electronic nannies were turned off. Upon doing that, I was able to slide the car into the corners, and let the rear wheels go haywire. The car loves to oversteer, even with the slightest of throttle inputs. But, again, you would have to nail your timing with the throttle, otherwise you will just end up with no power mid-corner.
When things go right, however, everything is blissful. And thanks to the confidence-inspiring steering wheel, it is also incredibly easy to hold the line of the car. At no point does it feel like a handful to handle: you’re always in control of the car.
By the end of my drive, I realised that Infiniti’s take on an otherwise German-infested market may not have only spawned the arrival of one of the best sports-sedans from Japan, but also one that will soon become a benchmark for other manufacturers to try to beat. Don’t believe me? Just remember this: even this Q50 3.0T – even without the thrills and frills of the “Red Sport” package – is still almost as quick as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or the Subaru WRX STI, and possesses much more space inside. Infiniti has really struck all the right chords, here. So, have their efforts worked? Only time will tell.