- Beautiful new sheetmetal
- Much-improved refinement
- All-wheel drive on either model
- A touch-screen system with lots of redundancy
- Great Hybrid mileage
- Why are folding rear seats optional?
- Direct Adaptive Steering feels dead on center
- Brakes harder to modulate with Hybrid
The 2015 Infiniti Q50 continues as a more luxurious successor to the fabled G sedan, although in some forms it loses part of the enthusiast flavor of that model.
Though the badge doesn't quite suggest it, the Q50 is a familiar luxury sedan, the successor to Infiniti's G37 sedan. New for 2014, the Q50 is the first major redo of what was once known as the G, the first real Japanese-bred rival to the BMW 3-Series. Infiniti's freshest sport sedan lays out a more ambitious agenda than ever before.
The Q50 is aimed primarily at the latest 3-Series, as well as the Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS. In terms of overall dimensions, it's actually a half-size larger than those, and a half-size down from cars like the BMW 5-Series and Jaguar XF.
The new sheetmetal is simply striking: the sensuality of the bigger Infiniti Q70 sedan (formerly the M) 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 cohesive with the rest of the silhouette. Meanwhile, the interior is 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 takes most infotainment and vehicle-setup controls the touch-screen route, with only a handful of redundant hard keys left behind.
Infiniti offers two basic powertrains spread out over ten different configurations. The 2015 Q50 model is once again available with a 3.7-liter V-6 as well as a hybrid system based on a 3.5-liter V-6. Either powertrain is available with standard rear-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive.
In 3.7-badged sits 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; there's no longer a manual gearbox on offer.
The Hybrid feels just as quick, with very well-coordinated throttle response and 360 combined system horsepower from a special version of Infiniti's 3.5-liter V-6 and a 50-kW motor system. The powertrain features 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 from one power source to the other. EPA ratings for the Hybrid reach as high as 29 mpg city, 36 highway, real-world mileage boosts that Lexus's performance-focused hybrid system can't quite match.
Direct Adaptive Steering made its debut on the 2014 Q50 and is once again available—it's a groundbreaking, world-first technology feature that fundamentally changes the way the driver points the car. The system is steer-by-wire, with the only feedback reaching the driver being what the computers decide should be synthesized. We're not convinced it's going to be the preference of driving enthusiasts. Thankfully, it's not a standard feature, and Infiniti has been working to improve it since the car's launch. We much prefer the Q50 S, with hydraulic steering, sport suspension, and summer tires, thanks very much.
Infiniti's Drive Mode Select allows drivers to tailor the car's driving personality to fit their mood. With Standard, Sport, Eco, and Snow modes—as well as a customizable Personal setting—the system changes shift patterns, the sensitivity of the throttle, and even the Direct Adaptive Steering's effort and ratio. Overall, the Q50 feels slightly more compliant than its predecessor 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 latest 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 because the B-pillars were 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.
There are five core packages for the Q50 lineup, each offered in either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive: Infiniti Q50 3.7, Q50 3.7 Premium, and Q50S 3.7, as well as the Q50 Hybrid Premium and Q50S Hybrid. Options are lumped into a few large packages. The Deluxe Touring Package (for $3,100) adds Direct Adaptive Steering plus power adjustment for the steering wheel, memory settings, real wood trim, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, and an Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection. Connectivity features for the Infiniti InTouch infotainment system include 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.
Additions for 2015 are limited to a Performance Wheel package, which brings wide 19-inch lightweight RAYS wheels and summer tires.
Safety technology offered on the 2015 Q50 includes Active Lane Control, which uses cameras to pick up on and correct for slight steering shifts due to road surfaces and crosswinds. Also available are adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems. Infiniti has bolstered the body structure, adding more high-strength steel and effectively reengineering the entire vehicle. It was also able to cut some weight overall compared to the outgoing model. Crash-test ratings are improved somewhat over those of the G37, and the new model is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.