Automakers offering luxury brands as offshoots of their core brand is nothing new. Toyota has Lexus, Honda has Acura, and Nissan has Infiniti. It’s a way to offer a premium vehicle at a premium price as a company expands its product mix and migrates upmarket. The goal is to achieve maximum premium-ness with minimal costliness through the use of the parent company’s resources and know-how.
The Infiniti Q50 is the latest offshoot luxury car to arrive at the TFL office and attempt such a feat. After recently driving a BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, my expectations were set fairly high. So, does the Infiniti measure up as a true luxury-sport car or is it a lux-lite with a value proposition?
The engine in our week-long test vehicle is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder sourced from Mercedes-Benz. In the Q50 it makes 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic feeds power to the rear wheels with AWD being optional. In a series of drag races against a Lexus IS that also had a 2.0-liter turbo, the Infiniti repeatedly outpaced the Lexus by a car length or two. When kept in the power band the turbo makes passing at highway speeds a non-issue, although engine noise when accelerating from a stop is more than one should accept from a vehicle in this class.
The car has four driving modes: Snow, Normal, Sport, and Personal. In Normal mode, acceleration and steering weight make for an exceptional daily driver one can toss around when the mood strikes. Switch to Sport and the steering becomes instantly heavier. It’s clear what the engineers were going for but more a aggressive throttle response over Normal would help differentiate Sport mode. While cornering at speed, the car remains level and inspires confidence.
On the inside, the Q50 Premium gives an initial impression of an upscale car that’s ready to nip away at sales of German brands costing 25 – 50% more. That illusion slowly evaporates for anybody who’s spent time in a Nissan as the car appears to borrow many interior bits and pieces from the Altima parts bin. Two display units reside in the center stack but the upper unit is difficult to read, even in indirect sunlight. The steering wheel – the item in a car which gets the most hands-on time – is pure Nissan. Although controls are well placed and achieving a comfortable seating position is easily achieved, upgrading the look and feel of the infotainment system, center display, and steering wheel would go a long way towards convincing the driver he or she is in a luxury car.
So, does the Infiniti Q50 stand far enough away from Nissan to give the brand its own identity? In a word, no. What the Q50 does is offer a luxury look and feel that would cost much more in other brands. By carefully choosing where to spend money, Infiniti has created an alternative for those who appreciate a good value in a premium vehicle. Check out the video below to see the Q50 take on one of its main competitors, the Lexus IS 200t.
2016 Infiniti Q50 2.0t Premium specifications
Base price: $37,650
As-tested price: $40,705 (including $905 for destination)
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Power: 208 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 258 @ 1,500 – 3,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic w/ manual shift mode
Drive: Rear-wheel drive
Tires: Bridgestone Potenza 255/55R17 all-season run flats
Curb weight: 3,705 pounds
EPA fuel economy estimates (mpg): 23/31/26 city/highway/combined
Observed fuel economy: 28 mpg combined