Review: 2014 Infiniti Q50
Posted on August 9, 2013
Infiniti is in the midst of renaming its product line, and the first model to debut under this new scheme is the Infiniti Q50. The Q50 is for all intents and purposes the replacement for the Infiniti G line (think G25 and G37), but Infiniti intends to sell the G37 alongside the Q50 through the end of the calendar year. We managed to get our hands on a new 2014 Infiniti Q50S 3.7 AWD, which literally just went on sale, for an extended test. The “S” designation denotes that this model is the most sporting of the Q50 series and includes a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels with run-flat tires and larger brakes.
As compared to the G-series, the Q50 carries over much of the mechanical hardware, with subtle updates. The chassis and suspension hardware is fundamentally the same, as is the rather thirsty 3.7 liter V-6 (which is somewhat surprising). The Q50 does however bring a couple new features to the table, namely a hybrid model and cutting edge infotainment and technology. Also, in a production car first, the Q50 offers pure drive-by-wire steering (called “Direct Adaptive Steering”). To quickly summarize this feature, in normal operation, there is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the front tires. Instead, the steering wheel reads driver inputs through position sensors and electronically conveys this information to the electronic power steering rack. For luddites and those who are uneasy with technology creep, there is a failsafe mechanical system that activates via a clutch should the electronic system fail.
How’s it drive?
The Q50 carries on many of the G37’s strengths, which is unsurprising as there were limited changes to the mechanical hardware. However one aspect of the Q50 astounded us, whereas another greatly disappointed us.
To remind readers of the fine points of the G37 that continue in the Q50, there’s strong power and the handling is sporty and tight. The 3.7 liter V-6 and 7-speed automatic accelerate the Q50 to super-legal speeds readily, and the engine purrs out a pleasing burble. The gearing has nicely spread ratios and drops the V-6 to a low, unobtrusive rpm at highway speeds. We found the manumatic feature of the transmission to be a little slow to respond, regardless of whether we shifted with the gear lever or the paddles behind the steering wheel. It’s probably best to leave the transmission in “D” and call it a day, as it’s plenty responsive in auto mode. An ongoing complaint against the 3.7 V-6 has been that it’s a little harsh in terms of vibration at high rpm, but we felt it was sufficiently smooth. The automatic transmission and perhaps new engine mounts likely contribute to this. Overall, we thought the Q50 was class competitive in both road and wind noise isolation, which is rather impressive given its large, sticky tires.
In addition to offering plenty of power, the G was generally considered to be a good handler. We found the Q50 to be similarly capable on twisting back roads, showing high levels of grip and tight control of body motions. Moreover, the 14-inch brakes on our S model provided very strong, secure braking. We wouldn’t say the Q50 is especially nimble, but it can hustle down a mountain road with good speed.
The Q50’s strong handling leads us to both its standout attribute and its greatest failure. To start with the good stuff, the Q50’s ride quality is absolutely superb, despite its sport suspension and low-profile run-flat tires on 19-inch wheels, which have minimal sidewalls to deflect impacts. Many competitors’ sport suspensions cause their car to ride like ox-carts over potholes. Based on the Q50’s hardware and its tight body control, we were ready for potholes to send whacks through the steering wheel and for the large wheels to pummel the bump stops. To our utter surprise, despite us hunting for the worst pavement we could find, the Q50’s suspension effortlessly soaked up all of the heaves, potholes and undulations we would roll it over. Now for the bad news: the new drive-by-wire steering, which is admittedly optional (our tester was so equipped), is probably the numbest steering we’ve experienced in any car with even the mildest sporting aspirations. The level of effort can be varied by switching between the Q50’s various steering modes (Heavy, Standard or Light), but it always feels a little too light and never conveys any sense of the cornering loads on the tires nor the road’s texture. It honestly feels like steering in a video game arcade. This shouldn’t be surprising, as Infiniti itself touts on its website that the Q50’s Direct Adaptive Steering “helps shield the driver from excessive road vibrations.” Mission accomplished, we suppose.
How’s the interior and space?
One of the greatest advantages of the G relative to its competitors was its roomy interior. Whereas fitting adults into the back of an Audi A4 or BMW 3-series is always a bit of an ambitious endeavor, the G was just large enough inside to accommodate four adults in reasonable comfort. The Q50 largely maintains this space advantage, although head room seems to have suffered a tad on account of the swoopy new roofline. Our 6’4” test driver had no problem finding a comfortable seating position in the driver’s seat, and with the front seat set for him, there was sufficient legroom for a 6’ individual behind him, although headroom was at its limit. We note that our tester Q50 had a sunroof, which consumes about ¾ of an inch of headroom. If you’re hunting for max headroom, we suspect you’ll have some difficulty finding a Q50 without one based on our assessment of dealer stock (but of course we’re happy to help!). Our Q50S also had the superb sport seats with power lumbar support and very useful extendable thigh support. We found that these sports seats provided good support without pinching occupants’ sides, as some competitor’s sports seats do.
In terms of design and materials, the Q50’s interior is class competitive. We found the design to be attractive, clean and functional. For the price, the leather is of good quality and the dashboard has a nice soft-touch surface. Buttons are relatively few and far between, as most of the many technology features are controlled through the touch screen. This is a common trend with new cars, and some implementations are better than others. We found the Q50’s touch screen and infotainment system to be workable, but not particularly intuitive. There’s a good deal of information on the screens, and it takes several seconds (or perhaps weeks of regular exposure) to find what you’re looking for. Also, we noticed that when first starting the Q50, there’s some hesitation to the system’s responsiveness. It’s our understanding that there will be a software update coming from Infiniti in the early fall.
During our test, we found all of the Q50’s primary driver interfaces were readily at hand and easy to operate. While we aren’t in love with the touch screen and infotainment system, it does lend the interior an uncluttered look and one can concentrate on the task at hand. The Q50 is packed with the latest safety technology, including back-up collision intervention, predictive forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and intervention, lane-departure warning, distance control assist and Infiniti’s around view monitor. Many of these technologies are certainly useful, although we found the predictive forward collision warning system to be overly aggressive when we drove in regular traffic on semi-urban highways with traffic lights.
Overall, we think the Infiniti Q50 is a strong contender in its class, although it has some shortcomings. If you’d like to see how the Infiniti Q50 suits your needs, visit us at Car Match Car Buying Advice.