- Beautiful sheet metal
- Interior refinement
- Available all-wheel drive
- Why are folding rear seats optional?
- Direct Adaptive Steering still controversial
- Brakes harder to modulate with Hybrid
The 2016 Infiniti Q50 is an appealing luxury sedan with improved power and more feel in its "steer-by-wire" system, but a bit more enthusiast flavor would make it a better sport sedan.
The successor to the G37, the Q50 was completely redesigned for the 2014 model year. Now, just two years later, it gets a new engine lineup, a revised version of its "steer-by-wire" Direct Adaptive Steering system, and an available adjustable suspension.
In terms of overall dimensions, the Q50 is actually a half-size larger than rivals like the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and a half-size down from cars like the BMW 5-Series and Jaguar XF.
The sheet metal is simply striking: the sensuality of the bigger Infiniti Q70 sedan works in exotic 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 IS, 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. It's dominated by Infiniti InTouch, a twin-screen system that takes most infotainment and vehicle-setup controls the touchscreen route, with a handful of redundant hard keys left behind.
The revised engine lineup includes three new turbocharged engines to go with a carryover hybrid. The base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Next up is a pair of twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6s. The V-6s are the first two engines in the new VR family that replaces the aging, but still competitive, VQ 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6. In base form, the VR makes 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. In the Red Sport 400, it spins out 400 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque.
Of the new engines, we have only driven the 400-hp VR and it is a delight. It provides willing, easy power and lets out a muffled howl when pushed. Power is accessible across the rev range, making highway passing a breeze. Zero to 60 mph takes less than five seconds, probably around 4.8 with rear-wheel drive and as low as perhaps 4.5 with all-wheel drive. If you are looking for reasons to buy the Q50 Red Sport, this engine is it.
The Hybrid feels quick as well, with very well-coordinated throttle response and 360 combined 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 that effectively smooths out both shift shock and transitions from one power source to the other.
Infiniti's "steer-by-wire" Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) is updated this year to improve handling and impart a more natural feel. We find that it is better, offering nice heft and quick reactions in the Sport+ mode. However, it lacks some of the feel of systems with a mechanical connection.
The newly offered Dynamic Digital Suspension (DDS) uses adjustable dampers that get stiffer in Sport or Sport+ modes. The ride is firm but livable in the Standard mode—as it should be in a sport sedan—and the Sport modes make it a bit jiggly while helping to reduce body roll through corners.
Speaking of modes, the Q50's Drive Mode Selector offers a ridiculous total of more than 300 personalized settings that alter the engine, 7-speed automatic transmission, DAS, electric power steering, DDS, and electronic stability control. Our advice is to try the various settings, personalize them down to one that you like, and just use it.
Our main dynamic complaint involves the Red Sport 400's tires. They are big but don't provide the expected levels of grip. That makes it easy to break the rear tires loose in situations like punching it for passing or adding a bit of throttle in a turn.
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. In back, passengers have better space than the class average, and it is easy to get in and out, but both headroom and legroom are tight for taller occupants. Trunk space is an impressive 18 cubic feet on the non-hybrid Q50, while the hybrid loses 3.9 cubic feet to the battery pack.
The 2016 Infiniti Q50 offers plenty of safety technologies, including an around view monitor with moving object detection, adaptive headlights, high beam assist, blind spot intervention, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention, active lane control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and backup collision intervention with rear cross traffic alert. Active Lane Control uses cameras to pick up on and correct for slight steering shifts due to road surfaces and crosswinds. Predictive Forward Collision Warning can read two cars ahead. Complete safety ratings are not yet available.
A total of six trim levels are offered, plus rear- or all-wheel drive. The model lineup includes 2.0t, 2.0t Premium, 3.0t Premium, Sport, Red Sport 400, and Hybrid models. The Sport and Red Sport models feature the Digital Dynamic Suspension, larger brakes, 19-inch wheels, leather sport seats, aluminum pedals, and magnesium shift paddles.
The Direct Adaptive Steering is an option, and most of the safety features are offered in a pair of packages. Also available are a power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, heated seats and steering wheel, remote engine start, a navigation system, and Infiniti InTouch Services with six months of safety, security, and convenience services, as well as real-time traffic information.
With three different engines and one hybrid offering, the fuel-economy ratings are all over the board. The Hybrid earns 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined, which is comparable to Lexus' offering. The thirstiest Q50—a 400-hp Red Sport with all-wheel drive—manages 19/26/22 mpg.
Cars equipped with the Technology Package include a so-called Eco Pedal that will actually press back more firmly to encourage you drive more economically. It can further improve ratings above those from the EPA, though in daily use it can be somewhat annoying.