In Europe and North America, Infiniti is selling-up a storm – given the demands of those markets, the clean-sheet Q50 prestige sedan had to be a slick package. No surprise then the all-new Q50’s range-topper – the 3.5h S Premium - is a brilliant addition to a segment which isn’t lacking for great cars.
Except it did surprise.
Well, we expected the 268kW/546Nm V6 hybrid engine to pack a punch – and it did (the best hybrid in this segment by a long way) – but we were pleasantly surprised by the excellence of the all-paw chassis. We’d go so far as to say the chassis dynamics of the Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium rank amongst the best in this league, even with its classy Europeans.
On the other hand, there’s no surprise about the outstanding value-for-money…that’s an Infiniti hallmark.
Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium Overview
Internationally, Infiniti had a reputation for good sedans even before Nissan’s prestige brand launched in Australia (smartly riding on the back of its sponsorship of the Red Bull Formula One Grand Prix team). But it’s fair to say launch of the handsome Q50 model has seen Infiniti raise the bar again.
The Infiniti Q50 range starts at a very sharp $51,900 but this time CarShowroom.com.au scored the range-topping 3.5h S Premium model which is outstanding value-for-money at $73,900 (that’s $25,000 less than BMW’s less powerful ActiveHybrid 3).
To a model which is already bursting with luxury and technology and apart from the hybrid drivetrain, the Infiniti Q50 3.5h Hybrid adds extras such as Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, 19-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, opposed-piston sport brakes and regenerative braking, 14-speaker BOSE audio and the full suite of safety technologies like intelligent cruise control and lane departure warning.
Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium Engine
Like the BMW ActiveHybrid3 and Lexus GS 450h, the Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium is a hybrid we’d be happy to have permanently. This thing has serious grunt and performance - zero to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds which is faster than both the BMW and the Lexus - but when you’re cruising down the freeway, the rev-counter slips to zero as the petrol V6 seamlessly cuts out and you’re driving on emissions-free electric power. Brilliant!
The figures speak for themselves – 225kW/350Nm from the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, 50kW/290Nm from the electric motor for a combined total of 268kW/546Nm. All of that with combined-cycle fuel consumption of 7.2l/100kms (that’s not quite as good as the Lexus or the BMW but the Infiniti is all-wheel-drive remember).
So drive is to all four wheels via Infiniti’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system and a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission.
Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium The Interior
Infiniti scores top marks for the Q50 3.5h S Premium’s interior – leather-trimmed, it oozes class and sporty sophistication. And again this underscores the value-for-money equation.
Front seats are superb (the so-called NASA-research ‘Zero Gravity’ design) with adjustable lumbar support and excellent bolstering. The steering wheel adjusts electronically for rake and reach and even the seat belts have electric-powered returns when you unbuckle.
To the left is a twin-screen layout (top screen for satellite navigation/cameras and the lower screen for vehicle and audio settings). The conventional gear lever is in the centre console, just ahead of the drive mode switch.
Like others in this segment, rear seat accommodation isn’t massive but the CarShowroom.com.au juniors had no complaints.
One negative is the tiny boot (a consequence of the hybrid systems).
A positive is the all-round quality. Right from day one Infiniti has obsessed about build quality and material choices. Nothing has changed and that obsession pays dividends in the Q50 3.5h S Premium.
Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium Exterior & Styling
As an ‘S’ model, the Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium runs a sportier front bumper section but otherwise shares its looks with the rest of the Q50 lineup. That would be a dynamic styling job which blends elements from concept cars such as the Essence, Etherea and Emerg-E.
At the front is the latest version of the hallmark Infiniti ‘double-arch’ grille (the top span a profile of a typical Japanese bridge and the lower its reflection in the water we’re told).
From the side, Infiniti’s stylists introduced some complexity in the body shape and distinctive ‘crescent-cut’ C-pillars. And we must say the larger 19-inch alloy wheels on the S Premium better fill the wheel arches for a sportier look than lower grade models.
The rear shows an integrated bootlip spoiler and the contemporary large tail-lights.
This is by far Infiniti’s best-looking sedan to-date. Very nice.
Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium On The Road
The seamless operation of the electric and petrol powerplants is a standout driving impression of the Infiniti Q50 3.5h s Premium. When cruising down the freeway only if you notice the rev-counter dip to zero do you realize the electric motor is providing your propulsion.
Of course normally in reverse, the electric motor operates exclusively and the Q50 has warning ‘beeps’ to alert passers-by in the absence of exhaust noise.
But it was over our high-speed mountain roads test loop where the Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium left us gob-smacked. Dial-up the sportiest chassis setting, nail the accelerator and be prepared for something really special.
Not that Infiniti had to look far for assistance – the awesome Nissan GT-R is one of the world’s best all-wheel-drive supercars. And while the Q50 doesn’t have the GT-R’s twin-turbo grunt, the 3.5h has plenty we can assure you.
Whistling down a hill into a tight hairpin you zip down through the gears as the Q50 impressive anchors wash-off speed with purpose. Then you aim into the apex and despite the wet conditions this thing points-in with alarming precision.
Mid-turn there is some understeer (hey this is an AWD sedan you know) but you simply stomp on the throttle and that remarkable four-wheel-drive system and slick electronics do all the work as the Q50 delivers traction, grip and bucket loads of acceleration.
It’s staggeringly good.
But back in town, the Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium didn’t short change in the ‘premium-ness’. Noise isolation and ride were top-shelf, just as you’d expect in a premium sedan.
Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium Issues
Luggage Space! The CarShowroom.com.au junior’s junior golf sets barely fit in the in the Q50 hybrid’s boot. Good luck with large suitcase or a full set of gold clubs.
And count us in with those who don’t like steering wheel paddle shifters fixed to the steering column (best if they move with the wheel we reckon).
Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium Verdict
No point beating around the bush – the Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium is an awesome car. Unleash that 3.5-litre V6 hybrid and all-paw chassis on your favourite road and a smile won’t be far away.
Load your mates inside and they’ll be astonished at the level of luxury and standard equipment.
And those who own German rivals certainly won’t be looking so smug when you tell them the price. Value for money? The Infiniti Q50 has hit the ‘reset’ button in this part of the premium sedan segment.
Where once exterior styling was an ‘elephant in the room’ for Infiniti, the Q50 has hit the reset button in that department too.
Good looks, great performance, brilliant interior and value-for-money…what’s not to like with the Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium (expect perhaps that cumbersome full name)?
Infiniti Q50 3.5h S Premium The Competition
BMW’s outstanding ActiveHybrid 3 looms as the most direct competitor. But the facts speak for themselves: the German’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-hybrid is outpunched (225kW/400Nm to 268kW/546Nm for the Infiniti) and, at $99,700, it’s $25,800 more expensive. We like the BMW ActiveHybrid 3 a lot but ’25-large’ is hard to swallow even in this league.
Lexus IS 300h ($58,900 for the Luxury or $67,900 for the excellent F Sport) is a CarShowroom.com.au Favourite. But the 164kW/221Nm Lexus 2.5-litre, four-cylinder hybrid is seriously outgunned by the 268kW/546Nm Infiniti Q50 3.5h and the astonishing performance of the all-wheel-drive Infiniti (rear-drive for the Lexus) certainly provides some justification for its $73,900 sticker.