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Don't let the enigmatic new badge throw you off, because the Q50 is a familiar luxury sedan. What you're seeing, with the 2014 Infiniti Q50, is the follow-up to the Infiniti G, the first real Japanese-bred rival to the BMW 3-Series. This year, it is completely new as well. And it lays out a more ambitious agenda than ever before--if the new badge wasn't already enough to suggest that.
The Q50, like last year's G37 tackled the latest 3-Series, primarily, as well as the new Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS--but it's actually a half-size larger than those, and a half-size smaller than the likes of the BMW 5-Series and Jaguar XF. The new sheetmetal's just striking: the sensuality of the bigger Infiniti M sedan works in exotic new ways on the Q50, especially at the exaggerated intersection of curves and surfaces behind its rear doors. The boomerang brackets at the grille resemble the ones on the Lexus, but their hourglass shape is more at ease with the rest of the silhouette. We've seen dramatic cars that don't look so exciting a year later--the Q50 isn't one of them. Meanwhile inside it's organized around a sweeping theme that cordons off the controls to the driver with an arc running down the console. The asymmetry helps keep the look a little sportier, a little more cockpit-like. It's dominated by what's sure to be the Q50's lightning rod for controversy: Infiniti InTouch, a twin-screen system that maps out the brand's place in the world of CUE and MyFord Touch, with a handful of redundant hard keys left behind.
Whichever version of the 2014 Q50 you get includes a V-6 under the hood. In so-badged 3.7 versions will be an updated VQ 3.7-liter V-6 with 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. It sings along with less of the coarse character of the G37, while revving just as freely and eagerly through the gears. Gearing for the seven-speed automatic is a bit taller than before, in the interest of fuel economy and cabin quiet; paddle-shifters and throttle-blip downshifts rise to the occasion--even though there's no longer a manual gearbox on offer. The Hybrid feels just as quick, with very well-coordinated throttle response and 360 combined horsepower with a special version of Infiniti's 3.5-liter V-6 plus a 50-kW motor system and a unique dual clutch-pack hybrid system (with a dry clutch fore of the transmission and motor system and a wet clutch aft of them) that effectively smooths out both shift shock and transitions in power. And with EPA ratings of 29 mpg city, 36 highway it boosts real-world mileage in a way that Lexus' performance hybrid system doesn't.
Infiniti's new Drive Mode Select also helps make sure you get the driving personality right for the mood. With Standard, Sport, Eco, and Snow modes—as well as a customizable Personal mode—the system changes shift patterns, the sensitivity of the throttle, and even the Direct Adaptive Steering's effort and ratio. Direct Adaptive Steering is available on the 2014 Q50, and it's a groundbreaking, world-first technology feature--although we're still not convinced it's going to be the preference of driving enthusiasts. Overall, the Q50 feels slightly more compliant while remaining crisp and balanced. Standard-issue 17-inch wheels are shod with 55-series run-flat all-season tires, with all-season or summer tires optional in 19-inch, 40-series spec.
The Q50's seats benefit from some of the thought that went into those in the Nissan Altima--pressure is distributed more evenly, for long-distance comfort. For more interior space, Infiniti says it's slimmed down the front seatbacks and increased front-seat travel and height adjustment. In back, passengers have easier access, Infiniti says, because of a B-pillar moved an inch forward. Trunk space is boosted to 18 cubic feet on the non-hybrid Q50, while the hybrid loses 3.9 cubic feet to battery pack storage.
New safety technology offered on the 2014 Q50 will include Active Lane Control. Its cameras pick up on slight steering shifts due to road surfaces and crosswinds, and correct for them. Also available are adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, lane-keeping assist, and lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems. Infiniti has bolstered the body structure, adding more high-strength steel and effectively reengineered the entire vehicle. They’ve also been able to cut some weight overall: Crash-test ratings are improved somewhat over those of the last-generation (G37) versions, and the new model is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.
There are a total five core packages for the Q50 lineup, each offered in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive: Infiniti Q50 3.7, Premium, and Hybrid Premium, then also the Q50 S 3.7 and Q50S Hybrid. Options are lumped into a few large packages. The Deluxe Touring Package (for $3,100) adds Direct Adaptive Steering plus a power-adjusting steering wheel, memory settings, real wood trim, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, and an Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection. Yet another new feature in the Q50 is Infiniti Connection—a security- and concierge-related telematics service that has a companion smartphone app and provides remote monitoring (for teen drivers, for example), SOS call and collision notification, and a personal assistant service.