What is it?
As a brand, Infiniti is in a pretty unique place in the automotive world. The luxury offshoot of Nissan - think Lexus for Toyota - it’s yet to really forge its own identity in the Australian marketplace, and even though it’s been around for almost 20 years, Infiniti is still a small fish in a large pond.
A couple of years ago, the brand got a bit of a kick-along from the top brass, with new, bolder designs and novel technology promoted up the order to gain more visibility.
Case in point; even though its Q50 sedan has been around for a number of years, Infiniti reckons that a dose of attitude is just the thing to give the brand a kick-along.
Unfortunately, though, it’s not the car it should be.
The four-door, five-seat Infiniti Q50 sedan lineup got a bit of a birthday in 2018, with revised front and rear bumpers, new rims and a bit of an internal refresh.
The overall look of the Q50 manages – just – to not look derivative when it’s lined up against its closest competitors, but it’s not resetting the bar when it comes to reinventing the sedan silhouette.
Price and value
Infiniti’s Q50 Red Sport sells for $74,900 before on-road costs, which is a drop of $5000 over its 2016 Aussie debut and makes it a true-bang-for-buck bargain in the executive express space.
The Red Sport offers leather-clad seating, powered and heated front seats, 60/40 split/fold rear seats, rear air vents, a powered steering column and a sunroof.
It also sports 19-inch dark chrome rims and 245/40 RF19 run-flat Dunlops.
Under the bonnet is a highly tuned version of Infiniti’s VR30 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 that makes 298kW and 475Nm of torque, making it one of the most powerful mid-size sedans on the market for less than $75,000.
A seven-speed traditional automatic gearbox backs the mighty motor, but crucially the Q50 misses out on a limited slip rear differential.
At 4751mm long, the Q50 S is fractionally longer than cars like the Audi A4 and about 100mm longer than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan. It holds five people, but four in comfort.
The boot space holds 500 litres, according to Infiniti, while the seat backs can be dropped to increase that load space.
The Q50 comes standard with seven airbags, and it’s rated at a maximum of five stars by ANCAP.
It comes with a full suite of active and passive safety features, including radar cruise control that can manage traffic, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning and intervention system, lane departure with prevention, predictive forward and rear collision prevention and a 360-degree camera.
It also sports a mode – operated via a button on the steering wheel – that will apply the brakes for you if you lift off the accelerator when approaching a vehicle or obstacle. It’s unusual, but I really got to like it in heavy traffic.
Warranty and running costs
Infiniti offers a four-year, 100,000km warranty on the Q50, and suggests a service interval of 15,000km or one year.
The 1784kg Q50 Red Sport is rated at 9.3 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, compared to our 10.2L/100km over 435km of testing.
It’ll hold 70 litres of premium-grade fuel, giving it a theoretical range of about 750km on a single tank.
Infiniti offers a fixed-price scheduled servicing policy up to 80,000km, along with a plan to pre-pay for servicing at time of purchase.
The Q50 Red Sport variant takes the content from the previously top-rung Sport Premium range and mixes it with more performance.
The front seats – newly trimmed with contrasting stitching - are wide yet supportive, with the driver’s seat offering adjustable side bolsters. Both are heated, as well, with powered movement for both sides.
The rear seats are fulsome for the outside passengers, the centre position is less comfortable, while a lack of headroom cruels in for all three. A pull-down armrest hides a pair of cupholders, and there are rear-facing air vents along with ISOFIX baby seat holders.
There is no storage in the rear door cards, though.
Magnesium paddles supplement the traditional gated auto for the seven-speed automatic gearbox, but the foot-operated park brake is quite archaic in a modern car.
The twin multimedia screen system, too, is a confusing hybrid of two separately designed interfaces that’s not particularly user-friendly (though it has been improved over the 2016 launch version), and there is no smartphone mirroring tech on offer.
On the road
Anything that’s rear-wheel-drive and boasts a decent slug of power should be a bit of a hoot to drive, right? Well…
At launch, the Q50 S Red Sport startled seven bells out of me with its decidedly wayward manners, particularly in the wet. While things have improved since, it’s still a bit off the pace.
The VR30 twin-turbo three-litre six in its 298kW spec is a smooth, tractable, potent engine, with astonishing chunks of mid-range urge that simply throw you towards the end of the road.
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It’s important, then, that power and torque output be properly managed, but in the Red Sport’s case, it’s less than perfect.
A poor tyre spec is the first culprit. Run-flat tyres are as a rule heavier and stiffer than their regular counterparts and often aren’t as adept at channelling power and grip to the road.
The stock Dunlop Maxx Sport run-flats on the Q50 S just aren’t just up to the task of handling the additional performance of the car – and it’s not just the rear end, either. Even moderate corner speeds equal loss of grip at the front (understeer), followed by loss of rear grip (oversteer) – and I’m not talking track speeds here.
The Q50 boasts a set of adaptive dampers that are designed to help rein in all of that firepower, along with a massively worked-over version of its excellent steer-by-wire system.
The difference between the Q50’s Sport and Normal driving mode suspension tunes is quite subtle, but the firmer mode is actually the pick of the two.
The shocks themselves feel too soft in their compression and not quite quick enough in rebound, which means the Q50 doesn’t react to bumps in the way you’d expect.
It’s a heck of a lot better than the last version I drove, and at citified speeds (once you get used to the sharp, high brake pedal feel), the Q50 S is actually pretty pleasant to drive. Lean on it even a little, though, and things unravel pretty quickly.
It’s a funny one, this car. On the positive side, it looks pretty good, goes bloody quickly, is comfortable from the front seats and sports a host of modern safety tech that makes the commute a lot easier to bear.
On the downside, its lack of physical grip, its cramped rear quarters and its unresolved multimedia set-up play against it.
In terms of its value equation, though, the beautifully assembled Q50 does feel like a lot of car for the money if you’re after a quiet, quick urban warrior for the inner city, though its resale values would be horrific, thanks to the brand’s lack of presence in Australia.
Model: Infiniti Q50 S 3.0tt Red Sport
Engine: 2997cc V6 (60degree), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo
Max power: 298kW @ 6400rpm
Max torque: 475Nm @ 2200-5200rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 4.8sec (estimated)
Fuel consumption: 9.3L/100km
On sale: Now