2016 INFINITI Q50 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
June 27, 2016

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.

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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.

8

2016 INFINITI Q50

Styling

The Q50's flowing, organic shape balances sportiness and luxury in an appealing way.

Though larger than some of its main competitors, the Q50's proportions manage to make it look more compact from a few paces back. The overall look is dramatic and it appears as though it will age well.

We especially appreciate the creasing and surfacing, which add visual interest especially when the vehicle is viewed side-on. For instance, a fender line begins up front and continues along the side, then fades around the A-pillar where another one starts. Infiniti's designers say they modeled it after elements of nature, like waves.

The sensuality of the Q70 is translated to and amped up on the Q50, especially at the intersection of exaggerated curves and surfaces behind its rear doors. The boomerang brackets at the grille resemble those on the Lexus IS, but their hourglass shape is more cohesive with the rest of the silhouette. The double-arch grille and all-LED lighting details offer a combination of aggressive and smooth styling. The coefficient of drag is down to a low 0.26—about as slippery through the air as a Nissan GT-R.

The Q50's interior surprises with fairly good space and fine details up close. The sweeping theme cordons off the controls to the driver with an arc running down the console. The asymmetry helps keep the look sporty and cockpit-like. It's dominated by what's sure to be the Q50's lightning rod for controversy: Infiniti InTouch. It's a twin-screen system that replaces most vehicle and infotainment controls with menus on capacitive-touch displays, with a handful of redundant hard keys as well. A large touchscreen displays frequently used functions from atop the dash, while a second runs infotainment and other systems on a separate pane below, effectively acting like dual monitors.

Review continues below
9

2016 INFINITI Q50

Performance

The new 400-hp twin-turbo V-6 makes the Q50 a rocket, and the upated steer-by-wire system is both improved and programmable.

The big news for 2016 is a new engine lineup. It includes a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque and 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 new engine produces 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. In the Red Sport 400, it churns out 400 hp at 6,400 rpm and 350 lb-ft of torque all the way from 1,600 to 5,200 rpm. 

Both engines use 85 percent new parts versus the outgoing engine. Variable valve timing carries over, but they add direct injection. The exhaust manifolds are integrated into the heads, which helps reduce total weight by 40 pounds.

The differences involve the turbochargers. On the 300-hp version, the turbos spin out 8.7 psi of boost. Turbine speed sensors on the 400-hp version allow the turbos to spin faster and create 14.7 psi of boost.

Of the new engines, we have only driven the 400-horsepower 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.

All engines are mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode and available shift paddles. The transmission provides nice throttle-blipped downshifts and remarkably little driveline shock.

The Hybrid is quite quick as well, with well-coordinated throttle response and 360 combined horsepower from a special version of Infiniti's 3.5-liter V-6 plus a 50-kw motor system. It uses a unique dual-clutch-pack hybrid system (with a dry clutch fore of the transmission and motor system and a wet clutch aft of it) that effectively smooths out both shift shock and transitions from one power source to the other. It allows the car to gently take off on electric power alone, as well as turn off the gasoline engine to "glide" along down gradual expressway downhills. And with EPA ratings of 30 mpg combined (and an observed 29 mpg over about 100 miles), it manages to boost real-world mileage in a way that Lexus's performance hybrid system can't.

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 feels "muddy," but if you stop harder it's more precise.

Infiniti's "steer-by-wire" Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) is updated this year to improve handling and impart a more natural feel. Infinti boasts that it can respond faster because there are no mechanical linkages, and it is very customizable. In fact, it is available in seven settings.

Even within the Standard and Sport+ modes, the DAS can be adjusted for weight and responsiveness. In the Standard mode it feels much like any other electric-assist power steering system. While it filters out some bumps that can jerk the steering wheel, it also lacks some of the feel that can make steering satisfying.

In the Sport+ mode DAS does many of the things you'd want from a steering system. It becomes heavy and slower (read: stable) at highway speeds, wants to return to center, and gets quicker at low speeds. In fact, the ratio varies between 12:1 and more than 20:1. It is also almost too quick at low speeds, and darty and too weighty on the highway. Some of these issues can be mitigated by simply choosing the Sport or Standard modes instead of Sport+.

The base steering is a rack-based EPS system with a 15:1 ratio in the Red Sport. It is noticeably lighter than the steer-by-wire system but feels a bit more natural.

The new Dynamic Digital Suspension also has its pluses and minuses. It uses dampers with electronically controlled valves that provide a stiffer ride 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, 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.

The Red Sport 400 comes with big tires, 245/40R19s up front and 265/32R19s out back. They are Dunlap SP Sport Maxx 050 summer run-flat tires that don't provide a lot of grip. With 400 horsepower on tap, it is easy to break the rear tires loose in situations like punching it for passing or adding a bit of throttle in a turn. A grippier tire would go a long way toward making this car feel sportier and get around a track quicker.

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2016 INFINITI Q50

Comfort & Quality

The quiet, isolated cabin is home to excellent front seats, and the Q50 has more rear-seat and trunk space than the class average.

The Q50's 2016 update doesn't include any changes to the interior. That's OK because the Q50 is on par with its German rivals for comfort and isolation. Engine noise is well-muted, almost too much so for a sport sedan. The quality of the interior materials is also worthy of its luxurious competitors.

The Infiniti InTouch infotainment system is the most controversial aspect of the interior. It consists of a lower 7.0-inch touchscreen and an upper 8.0-inch one. The upper screen can be controlled via a slightly different version of Infiniti’s rotary/button controller. Infiniti has made many of the controls in the Q50 redundant; though some convenience features, like the heated steering wheel, require going into a proper screen. Oddly, destinations are chosen on the lower screen, but they display on the upper one.

In effect, InTouch has dual monitors, which is an interesting choice that, in theory, could either reduce complexity or increase it. We've found it to be somewhat distracting at first, until you figure out where to expect the control or screen you're looking for to appear, and the menu structure can also take some getting used to as well. Despite its popularity on this system and Cadillac's CUE, force feedback also doesn't provide much information outside the fact that you've touched something, but not what it was.

Space is generally better than the somewhat smaller cars with which the Q50 competes. The seats benefit from some of the thought that went into those in the latest Nissan Altima. It's a so-called "zero-gravity" approach patterned after some real space-age knowledge from NASA. In essence, pressure is distributed more evenly for long-distance comfort. The Sport models come with extendable thigh bolsters for the driver, and they help provide long-range comfort for taller pilots.

Head room is limited in back, and we'll venture to guess that most 6-footers will be rubbing the headliner. Leg room can also be tight, though it is pretty good for the class.

Trunk space is a large 18 cubic feet on non-hybrid Q50s, while the Hybrid loses 3.9 cubic feet to the battery pack. Hybrids have pretty much the same packaging, but because of the battery's location they can’t be specified with the split-folding rear seat.

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8

2016 INFINITI Q50

Safety

The Q50 hasn't been crash tested yet, but it has been safe in the past and it offers a bounty of accident avoidance features.

The Q50 offers a veritable mother lode of available active safety features.

Standard safety features include dual front airbags, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, traction control, electronic stability control, and a rearview camera.

Rear park assist is available, and most of the active safety features are offered in two packages. The Technology package comes with auto-leveling adaptive headlights, high beam assist, adaptive cruise control, distance control assist, front pre-crash seat belts, blind spot intervention, and lane departure warning and lane departure prevention with active lane control.

A Driver Assistance package adds forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, rain-sensing wipers, an around-view monitor with moving object detection, blind spot warning, and backup collision intervention with rear cross-traffic alert.

Predictive Forward Collision Warning warns the driver of risks far ahead of what he/she might otherwise see. It does so by sensing the second vehicle ahead, and warning the driver visually and audibly, while also tightening the seat belt.

Active Lane Control makes it easy to glide along in your lane on the highway, with seemingly no small adjustments needed for the pavement surface or crosswinds—and the system uses a camera system to fine-tune your lane placement in an oddly unobtrusive way. Strangely, it allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel without reminding them to reclaim control. That's not a good idea because the system won't steer around most bends.

Crash tests are not yet complete for the 2016 Q50, though the 2015 model scored well in tests by the IIHS and the government's safety agency. The 2015 model earned the top-tier Top Safety Pick+ distinction from the IIHS, and a good five-star overall score from the NHTSA, though its frontal protection was rated an imperfect four stars. Thus far, the Q50 gets only a "Superior" rating for front crash prevention and "Good" scores on every test except for the small overlap crash from the IIHS, and five-star side impact and rollover ratings from NHTSA.

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9

2016 INFINITI Q50

Features

Comfort and convenience features abound, and the Q50's twin-screen infotainment system works well, though it is a bit behind the times.

The 2016 Infiniti Q50 is offered in six trim levels and rear- or all-wheel drive. The model lineup includes 2.0t, 2.0t Premium, 3.0t Premium, Sport, Red Sport 400, and Hybrid models.

Standard equipment across the board includes the InTouch dual-screen infotainment system, dual-zone auto climate control, an intelligent key, a rearview monitor, Bluetooth, LED headlights and fog lights, and a tilt-and-telescope steering column. The 2.0t models also come with leatherette upholstery and 17-inch wheels.

To that, Premium models add a heated steering wheel, a power moonroof, a universal garage-door opener, and a 14-speaker Bose Centerpoint audio system.

The Sport model, which is part of the 3.0t family, gets the Digital Dynamic Suspension, larger brakes (14-inch rotors up front, 13.8 inches in the rear), 19-inch wheels, leather sport seats with manual thigh adjustment and power lumbar adjustment, aluminum pedals, and magnesium shift paddles.

The Red Sport 400 is equipped the same way as the Sport, but the rear-drive version also comes with staggered size summer tires.

Hybrid models feature 19-inch wheels; leather upholstery; a surround-view camera system with moving object detection; a universal garage door opener; a power-adjustable heated steering wheel; heated front seats; memory for the driver's seat, outside mirrors, and steering wheel; a navigation system; blind-spot warning and intervention; backup collision intervention with rear cross-traffic alert; forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; and a sport suspension.

Options are lumped into a few large packages.

A Premium Plus package adds auto-dimming outside mirrors; memory for the steering wheel, driver’s seat, and outside mirrors; power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel; a navigation system, Infiniti InTouch Services with six months of safety, security, and convenience services, as well as real-time traffic information; Adaptive Shift Control with navigation synchronization; 60/40-split, fold-down rear seats with center armrest and pass-through; driver’s seat power lumbar adjustment; a heated steering wheel; heated front seats; and remote engine start.

The Technology package adds auto-leveling adaptive headlights, high beam assist, adaptive cruise control, Infiniti's Distance Control Assist, an Eco Pedal, an advanced climate control system with Plasmacluster and grape polyphenol filter, front pre-crash seat belts, blind spot intervention, lane departure warning, and lane departure prevention with active lane control.

A Driver Assistance package comes with forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, rain-sensing wipers, a surround-view camera system with moving object detection, blind-spot warning, and backup collision intervention with rear cross-traffic alert.

Infiniti's Direct Adaptive Steering system is a stand-alone option.

InTouch is bundled with 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.

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7

2016 INFINITI Q50

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy for the hybrid is fairly good, but even base 2.0t models can return more than 30 mpg on the highway.

The 2016 Infiniti Q50 gains three new engines this year, all turbocharged. Only the Hybrid model carries over unchanged.

The Q50 Hybrid costs a few thousand dollars extra, but it delivers satisfying performance as well as thrifty fuel economy. With its 3.5-liter V-6 and 50-kw electric motor system, the Hybrid earns 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined with rear-wheel drive or 27/31/28 with all-wheel drive.

Fuel economy ratings for the 2.0t models are 23/31/26 mpg with rear-wheel drive, 22/28/24 mpg with AWD, according to the automaker. The 300-hp version of the V-6 is rated at 20/30/24 mpg with rear drive and 19/28/22 mpg with AWD (though most of those numbers fall by one for the Sport model), and the 400-hp V-6 is rated at 20/27/22 mpg with rear drive and 19/26/22 mpg with AWD.

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 improve ratings above those from the EPA, though in daily use it can be somewhat annoying.

Review continues below
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August 8, 2016
For 2016 INFINITI Q50

Amazing auto especially with gps and all the technologies

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It's fabulous especially the q50sport red 400 In standard mode it's great in sport and sort plus it feels like U R during a Porche gas mileage could be a little better and it would be nice if U can use regular... + More »
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June 17, 2016
2016 INFINITI Q50 4-Door Sedan 3.0t Sport AWD

Wow what performance !!!! Love the tech ...

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Took this little beauty for a test drive, the performance was breath taking. I'm in the hunt for a new vehicle, I have taken the BMW 340ix, C450 AMG and the Audi S4 for test drives. They all have their charms... + More »
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March 9, 2016
For 2016 INFINITI Q50

I love the Maximum.

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I own a Maximum 2013 4 door sport fully loaded. Red with black leather interiors. Love the car. If they would only make this car a AWD. I would buy the 2017 when this car lease is up. Maximum has more room and... + More »
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Styling 8
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 9
Fuel Economy 7
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