When Infiniti released the G35 almost 15 years ago, luxury sports sedan shoppers finally had a compelling alternative to what had become a German monopoly. With a gutsy V6 engine, rear-wheel drive, and balanced handling, the G35 was an instant success and garnered numerous awards over the years.
Unfortunately, the G sedan and coupe stayed largely the same for the next decade and a half. Styling changes, increased engine output, and a name change to G37 (and eventually Q40) couldn’t hide the fact that it was no longer as competitive, especially as competitors embraced turbocharging and offered customers more options at different price points.
Luckily the folks at Infiniti seem very intent on righting the ship, as the Q50 (its current, and hopefully more permanent name) now offers four different powertrains spread across 14 models. All-wheel drive is available with every engine, including the hybrid model, and you can also order the Q50 with Direct Adaptive Steering – Infiniti’s name for drive-by-wire steering, an industry first. Whether this is really a fruitful new technology or just an unnecessary gimmick remains to be seen but it’s an impressive piece of engineering to be sure.
We recently spent a week with a 2017 Q50 3.0t Sport, which fits nicely in the middle of the model line-up and looks to be one of the more popular trim levels. Last year, the Q50 received a suite of new engines, including a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder for the base model, as well as a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 in two different states of tune. There’s also a carryover V6-based hybrid for folks looking for increased fuel efficiency.
Infiniti claims 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque for the milder version of the turbo 6 in the 3.0t, although this feels like a conservative rating, as acceleration is stronger than the numbers would suggest. For even more speed, there is also the Q50 Red Sport 400, which as the name suggests features a 400 horsepower version of the same motor. Regardless of the engine you select, shifting duties are handled by a 7-speed automatic. It’s a perfectly decent transmission but we can’t help but miss the 6-speed manual from the old G35.
With its eye-catching design and muscular stance, the Q50 definitely looks the part of a legitimate sports sedan ready to do battle with the best in the segment. Unfortunately, get behind the wheel and the car sends some distinctly mixed messages. The engine is definitely eager and willing, and the cockpit-like seating position sure fits the part but the level of driving engagement is a bit less than what we’ve come to expect from the best in the segment.
Much of the blame goes to the fancy drive-by-wire steering, which robs the driver of any road feedback and just feels strangely disconnected. Although many of the electronic power steering systems now in use across the industry feel a bit numb, none feel quite this vague and artificial – and I honestly have to wonder why Infiniti even bothered to go through the trouble. Fortunately, you can save some change and order the Q50 without the drive-by-wire but rumor has it that the standard setup is not much better.
Also hampering the fun is a set of Dunlop run-flat tires that don’t grip quite as well as you’d expect, especially for a low-profile summer tire, and unfortunately they also don’t do any favors in terms of ride quality. Get a bit too aggressive with the throttle mid-corner and you can easily get the rear tires loose. Entertaining, for sure but also a bit nerve-wracking, especially when trying to hustle down a narrow, twisty road.
On the plus side, the suspension does an impressive job of both soaking up the bumps in the road and keeping the car stable when cornering. The Sport models feature a set of continuously variable, electronically controlled shock absorbers that monitor the car’s body roll, pitch and bounce rate, and adjust things accordingly. And unlike some other sports sedans, the interior of the Q50 does a very good impression of a larger, more expensive luxury sedan. The cabin is quiet and quite spacious, and the quality of materials is easily as good as anything in its price range.
The Q50 is also a solid value, with a starting price of $33,950 for the base model, and the 3.0t Premium model, with its potent 6 cylinder engine, is available for just over $40k. This undercuts the competition quite a bit, as the BMW 340i and Mercedes C400 both start in the high forties. My tester came equipped with several option packages that inflated the price to well over $50,000 but add similar equipment to the aforementioned competition and you’ll likely pay over $60,000.
|2017 INFINITI Q50 3.0t SPORT|
|Price as tested||$53,520|
|Engine||3.0L twin-turbo V6 [VR30DDTT]|
|Power (hp)||300 @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque (lb-ft)||295 @ 1,600-5,200 rpm|
|Drivetrain layout||longitudinal mounted front engine / rear-wheel-drive|
|Curb weight||3,662 lbs|
|EPA-estimated fuel economy mpg||20 / 30 / 24 (city/hwy/combined)|
Has the steer-by-wire got you confused? Roman uses a Q60 to show how Infiniti’s steer-by-wire works.