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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
The car (Hybrid) doesn't accelerate evenly, and the seven-speed transmission downshifts abruptly
Los Angeles Times
it's a confident, quiet, powerful car
If one dynamic parameter characterizes the 2014 Infiniti Q50, it is the steering, both for the steer-by-wire technology it introduces and for its dominant role in the behavior of the driver-assistance systems
retains the spirited personality of the G series line
the Q50 felt as lithe as its predecessor — confident around corners with impressive grip and little lean.
No matter which Q50 model you choose for 2014, you get a V-6 engine. While that might not deliver the base fuel economy numbers that shoppers are increasingly expecting, it does deliver in performance.
The Q50 3.7 is powered by the familiar VQ37—a 3.7-liter V-6 with 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. And then a new Q50 Hybrid model has joined the lineup, offering 360 combined horsepower plus improved performance and fuel economy.
In either version, a seven-speed automatic with a manual mode is the sole transmission offered. Paddle shift controls are available. All-wheel drive will be an option on either model. The manual gearbox is gone this year—it got thrown by the wayside in Infiniti's quest to put more refinement and technology into the Q50—but we're told it's not completely a lost hope for next year.
Although the engine itself hasn't changed, it's no longer nearly as ragged and coarse as it was in the G37. Engineers put a lot of effort into smoothing and isolating, with new intake and exhaust manifolds, as well as other measures that aid drivability in the middle of the rev range.
The seven-speed automatic transmission has been refined a bit, too, but the big change is that it's been given a taller final-drive ratio. Infiniti has lost 50 pounds in the new car—mostly in the structure—and you take off from a standing start with plenty of verve despite the taller effective ratio. Lower revs in higher-speed cruising (less than 2,500 rpm at 75 mph) is the other big advantage—to contribute to the quiet inside and raise this powertrain's mileage up to 20 mpg city, 30 highway with rear-wheel drive.
Paddle shift controls are available, and you get nice throttle-blipped downshifts and remarkably little driveline shock. Overall, the 3.7-liter sings up its range with much more harmony than it ever did in the G. All-wheel drive will be an option in all Q50s. The manual gearbox is gone this year—it got thrown by the wayside in Infiniti's quest to put more refinement and technology into the Q50—but we're told it's not completely a lost hope for next year.
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. This is a system that can gently take off on electric power alone, or turn off the gasoline engine to 'glide' along down gradual expressway downhills. And with EPA ratings of 29 mpg city, 36 highway (and an observed 29 mpg over about 100 quick miles) 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. There are several different steering settings with independently adjustable steering weight and ratio--with a conventional mechanical setup as a fallback. A revised suspension leaves the double-wishbone front layout intact, while adding dual-flow shocks to the multi-link rear suspension. A sport-tuned setup will be offered, and both the stiffer Q50 body and the retuned suspension improve handling, Infiniti says. 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.
There's one respect in which the Hybrid doesn't quite measure up, and that's braking. The last bit before a complete, gentle stop is 'muddy'—that's the best way to describe it—but if you stop harder it's more precise.
Separately, the geometry of the rear suspension has been altered to provide a little more compliance. We’re not yet sure how that manifests in body control and dynamics, as our preliminary drive was on semi-residential, quite heavily patrolled New England backroads.
The true steer-by-wire system breaks new ground, but what's important is that the Q50 preserves the responsive, balanced driving feel of the previous G.