THANKS, Infiniti. For years you teased us with a hardcore version of the Q50 sedan tentatively called the Eau Rouge. Racy looks, and an engine borrowed from the Nissan GT-R, the concept promised much.
Unfortunately, Infiniti never delivered.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
Not to worry, though, because we now have a watered-down version of the Eau Rouge that, from the outside, looks like the perfect performance-car sleeper. Called the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport – a nod, at best, to the stillborn Eau Rouge concept – it offers V8-rivalling rear-drive performance, and just like Godzilla, a twin-turbo V6. At $79,990, it’s also the flagship of the Infiniti Q50 line-up.
- The performance of that engine, which wipes the floor with its competitors. It makes a class-leading 298kW and 475Nm from its twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, delivered in a rush from low in the rev range. It’s a bit like driving an old-school V8; wait for the rear to squat to let you know the grip is there and then unleash all its potential.
- It drives really well. The Q50 Red Sport has a classic front engine, rear-drive layout that even these days is a race car staple. Ride is nicely sorted at low speeds, and yet the chassis doesn’t dissolve into mush when pushed, wagging its tail as more throttle calls in a playful amount of oversteer. If anything, it probably rides a bit hard at speed, but you’d live with it.
- It’s very well equipped. The leather driver’s seat has 10-way adjustment including adjustable side supports that hug you in, the console uses two colour LED screens, the back seat is classy and roomy with a decent centre armrest, a tiny-by-today’s-standards sunroof, 14-speaker audio … the list goes on.
- The Infiniti Q50 Red Sport comes with six electronic maps for the engine and gearbox; Snow, Eco, Standard, Sport and Sport+, and Personal. They’re selected via a switch mounted behind the gearshift lever or via a menu on one of the touchscreens, and all change the way the Q50 feels underneath you, including the steering, suspension, engine mapping and the seven-speed automatic transmission’s shift points.
- The centre console has two colour screens that don’t match, one for the sat-nav and the other for all the multimedia functions. It gives the impression the interior was designed in parts rather than as a whole.
- There’s no digital speedo. The dash’s analogue gauges are okay for reading speed quickly, but given it’s a car that will leap from 10-100km/h in around 5.0 seconds you’re going to need a bit of help to tap that performance and keep your licence.
- The steering system is drive-by-wire. It means the Q50 Red Sport uses its electronics to read the road and provide feedback to the driver, with a mechanical connection only stepping in if the electronics fail. It’s all a bit Ghost in the Shell, but it can make the steering delightfully quick, needing less input from the driver to turn a corner.
- Make sure you warm up those Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres wrapped around the Infiniti’s classy-looking 19-inch alloys before you start to tap the engine’s potential. They grip up better with use.
- The brake calipers are silver, but the car is called the Red Sport. Come on, Infiniti, surely red calipers would work better?
- The bootlid is heavy. A push of the key fob or a dash-mounted button will pop the bootlid, but raising it requires more effort than you’d think. On the flip side, it closes with a solid “thunk”.
- There’s an AWD version of the Red Sport available in other markets, but not here.
- The reversing camera is terrible. In the dark, it’s as good as useless. The cameras that look to either side of the car, though, are good.
- The Infiniti badge still doesn’t have the pull of the other premium marques. One person came up to me and asked if it was a Mazda.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
That depends. The Infiniti Q50 Red Sport stacks up as a compelling package, but that badge doesn’t have the same pull as rivals.
You might also want to kick tyres on the brilliant inline six turbo-equipped BMW 340i with the Sport option tagged, the “low-fat” twin-turbo V6 Mercedes-AMG C43, the now single-turbo V6 Audi S4, and the non-turbo Lexus IS350 Sports Luxury.