The Infiniti Q50 is a premium executive saloon that is swinging to make its mark on the swankier side of the market. It’s a valiant effort from the Japanese marque, itself a sub-brand of Nissan, and their best attempt yet at capturing this market.
When it was first introduced in 2013, it was clear that Infiniti wanted to make a competitor that stood apart from the established players such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, throwing in more standard equipment and technology than anyone else at the time.
Also on their list was to making a car that’s also relatively fuel efficient and dynamically capable. They took some bold steps in the styling department either, and for better or worse, labelling the Q50’s design as an derivative isn’t really possible in full honesty. Rather, ‘distinctive’ is a more accurate term.
Some would argue that the core flaw of the Q50 is that its inception was cluttered with many disparate goals. But Nissan being quite good at their job, have managed to produce surprisingly positive results for most of them. And with a decent update in 2016, the Q50 could have improved enough to make a surprisingly consummate contender.
The spread of variants available in Australia mostly mirrors that of the rest of the world, starting with the sportier GT, followed up with the more luxury-oriented S Premium, and finally the sole Red Sport performance version at the top of the heap, each of them with their own engines.
They’ve got a nice spread of powertrain choices on offer, but it will take a lot more than that to entice buyers away from the German badges. And let’s not forget that Lexus has been going strong with their IS saloon, and is right now the most sought after alternative.
“The overall shape is of a sweeping coupe, with interesting sculpting in the areas of the front and rear guards that tie in nicely with the shapes of the lower sections of the doors.” - CarsGuide
The Q50 had to make a statement to be memorable entrant and Infiniti has certainly included a lot of cues to ensure that no one could point to any part of it as being an also-ran effort to match segment leaders.
The unique front end now unifies all of Infiniti’s cars, with the grille’s side ‘kink’ also showing up at other spots, the designers clearly intending to have a recurring element to its design, notably at the rear window facing the C-pillar. The many creases pressed into its body contributes an improved air flow at high speed for better stability.
Viewed from its side and rear, the Q50’s design isn’t quite as striking at first blush but closer inspection reveals the same visual themes are indeed present, just no longer as pronounced. It’s handsome, though its route to pleasing aesthetics is an unconventional one. Lexus, the only other Japanese premium vehicle brand, is also marching to its own beat here.
Regardless of which variant is chosen, the car’s does exude a more sporting character, indicating that Infiniti isn’t really gunning directly for the Merc C-Class, which is telling given as both companies do have strategic ties that do manifest mechanically.
Engines and Drivetrain
“Off the line the Q50 hybrid moves away effortlessly, with the electrified powertrain permitting the V6 to shut off regularly and for extended periods.” - Autocar
Unlike some manufacturers which reuse an engine in multiple variants, differentiated by tune-extracted performance, Infiniti’s powertrain hierarchy is more straightforward. Larger engines are more expensive, smaller ones are less so - same goes for power output.
The first two engines here are four-cylinders sourced from technical partner Mercedes-Benz, both available in GT or S Premium trim. Things kick off with the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel that pumps out 125kW and 400Nm. It isn’t the quietest oil burner out there but it is decently frugal (5.2-litres/100km claimed) and generous with torque, but keep in mind it is a heavier lump that’s enough to make the Q50 noticeably less eager to change direction.
Next up is another turbocharged four-pot lifted from Mercedes-Benz, the same 2.0-litre petrol seen in the C 250, producing a familiar 155kW and 350Nm. Fuel consumption stands at 7.3-litres/100km, curiously higher than the 6.6-litres/100km claimed in an equivalent C-Class.
Stepping up from a mere four cylinders, we enter Infiniti’s range of V6-powered Q50s. Their proven 3.5-litre mill returns here in the S Premium Hybrid, turbocharged and electrically augmented to produce 268kW and 546Nm while sipping a claimed 6.8-litres/100km - an impressive use of both propulsion methods and brisk acceleration from standstill.
Finally there’s the new king of the hill, one that Infiniti has been developing for a while, a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 that kicks out 298kW and 475Nm, accessible in the S Premium or range-topping Red Sport grade introduced after 2016.
This motor is essentially a downsized version of the Nissan GT-R’s monstrous 3.8-litre bi-turbo V6, and gives the Q50 a performance kick enough to have it be a genuine rival to the BMW 340i, Audi S4, and Mercedes-AMG C 43. Power delivery is linear, sound mega, and is quite liberal with the revs you can chase before cutting in, which it actually does slightly beyond redline.
Whichever engine it is, a seven-speed automatic transmission is called upon to swap cogs. It’s a smooth transmission that is perhaps owed to its origins as a Mercedes-Benz box, but isn't the quickest to respond, which is really only an issue when paired to the V6s. Infiniti doesn’t offer an all-wheel drive option either, leaning on the traction and stability control to rein in the power and torque thrown rearward.
“The generous interior space makes for a comfortable environment, and the front seats feel quite armchair-like in their shaping. Suspension that’s soft enough to soak up all but the sharpest bumps adds to the impression of luxury.” - Telegraph Cars
This being a player in the premium category, top notch build and materials are (should be) table stakes. A little bit of flair here and there is nice too, but none too much dressing to distract from the overall sense of luxury.
Very little wind or tyre noise successfully make their way past the layers of insulation that cocoon the cabin, and when seated the experience is on par with most of its rivals. But have a poke around or stop squinting, and there’s a sense of old hat in the way the dashboard is laid out as well the as the material finishes that were in vogue years ago.
While objectively, the interior is one of quality, it can’t really compete with Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz where it really counts at this level. Lexus has upped their game in this department too, leaving the Q50 somewhat flat-footed in their response to have a modern and, crucially, ‘special’ interior experience.
In terms of wheelbase, there’s more of a gap between the front and rear axles than nearly all of its competitors, but that doesn’t really translate to a revelatory amount of rear legroom, but enough for anyone to feel comfortable as long as you’re aware of the limitations that require a hump in the middle for prop shaft to live. Headroom is fairly good too.
Around back, the boot reveals a commodious 500-litre boot, giving the the Q50 a useful edge in terms of cargo carrying ability, though points are deducted for the less than flat floor and a boot aperture that could impede the loading of certain larger items.
Behind The Wheel
“Steering and ride feel resolutely 1990s, which sounds like trash-talk but is actually a compliment. The car bobs down the road like a hot Primera,” - CAR Magazine
Built on Nissan’s FM platform, the Q50’s underpinnings allow for a longitudinally-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. The high-strength steel construction does mean impressive rigidity, but Infiniti has offset this with aluminium panels and components at key areas for lightness, weight distribution, and a lower centre of gravity. It can also shoe in features more sophisticated suspension: double wishbones up front and a multi-link setup at the rear.
However, the way this has settled is a car that reviewers have termed as fairly fun at times but rather aloof in most situations. The car does have plenty of front axle grip and body roll is well controlled, but its technical steer-by-wire system has received some criticism for its inconsistent feel and behaviour. Our advice would be to opt out of it should that be possible.
All those niggles do reduce the Q50’s natural affinity for smooth high speed cruising, handling undulations and road imperfections well, even in the performance-oriented Red Sport.
Safety and Technology
“…tech fans will no doubt appreciate Infiniti’s Intouch twin-screen infotainment and control system…” - CarAdvice
In 2015, ANCAP handed the Infiniti Q50 a 5-star safety rating with an overall score of 35.76 out of 37 points and reflecting the Euro NCAP tests that were conducted abroad. Dual front, side chest, and curtain airbags are standard for all variants.
The Infiniti InTouch dual screen setup of the infotainment and navigation stack may have looked futuristic some time ago, but the execution leaves much to be desired, paradoxically not contributing much to a de-cluttered centre stack.
It is indeed useful to control have a dedicated navigation screen separate from media and other infotainment functions, but they software does not at all feel integrated and at times, a little clumsy, with different graphics, colours, and fonts for either screen.
Once you’re familiar, though, all the basics functions are covered and operate quite well. It’s just a shame that the polish isn’t quite on par with the competition it so importantly needs to prove itself to be better than. And there’s a Bose sound system to keep you entertained, but only if you choose the S Premium trim.
It’s clear that Infiniti has put a lot of work into creating the Q50 and further refining it from its launch. Writing it off as a plusher, faster Nissan sedan isn’t at all in accordance with the truth.
It’s also true that the Q50 is the product of an unfocused vision, and while it mostly succeeds in balancing the separate ideals of held by those involved in its development, it doesn’t quite stand out as a car that slots in between them as a standalone participant.
Taken objectively, the Q50 is a fine car and more than capable of being an alternative to the more conventional premium saloons. But the details and overall sense of cohesion are where things favour the Germans far better. Then again, that was forged from years of refinement and many generations of car - perhaps time is all Infiniti and the Q50 needs.
CAR Magazine - 3/5 - “So the Q50 isn’t the car to tempt to you into an Infiniti. But if some quirk of fate puts you in one, you’ll enjoy yourself much more than you expected to.”
CarsGuide - 4/5 - “The Q50 costs significantly less than all other Infinitis to date, and will delight those who enjoy driving, not to mention those who love technology. It’s well worth adding to your shopping list of relatively affordable upmarket cars.”
Motoring.com.au - 66/100 - “The Infiniti Q50 S Red Sport has a great engine with lashings of power and torque, and its updated steering is an improvement, but Infiniti engineers need to improve its traction and ride quality.”
CarAdvice - 6.5/100 - “Inconsistency remains the Q50's issue, and while its new engine improves the car’s drivability and its pricing and generous equipment could well be enough to woo coin-conscious buyers, the Q50 remains one of the also-rans in what is arguably the toughest segment of the luxury car market.”
Telegraph Cars - 5/10 - “A daring choice in a very competitive market, but the Infiniti Q50 will cost you more to run than an Audi A3 saloon or a BMW 3-series, and it’s less fun to drive. You’ll have to really want to stand out to choose it.”
What Car - 2/5 - “The Infiniti Q50 packs a high-tech and surprisingly stylish punch, but it lacks the overall sophistication of its executive car rivals.”
Autocar - 2.5/5 - “…in demanding comparison with Europe’s best, the Q50 has left itself exposed. We’d almost prefer a ludicrous but interesting left field choice than an uninteresting and uncompetitive one.