Elise has been a journalist across the trifecta of TV, radio and print for more than twenty-five years. When not shackled to her computer or beloved kid, you’ll find this working mum indulging her other passions — skiing powder off piste or trying to catch a wave on her 8’ Mini Mal.
What is it?
There’s the Infinity Pool that offers envy-inducing Instagram snaps. The Infinity symbol that appears in the odd dodgy tattoo. Then there’s the Infiniti car, which is… what exactly?
It’s the luxury vehicle division of Japanese automaker Nissan. Just like Lexus is the premium offering from Toyota. Or Versace is the posh version of diffusion line Versus. Dolce & Gabbana is to D&G. More on luxe labels later.
The Infiniti, however, suffers from an eternal lack of badge awareness. In a country awash with different car brands, the Infiniti is forever lost. Even the badge is obscure: A sort of pie with a slice taken out. God knows why Nissan didn’t opt for the infinitely more identifiable “∞” symbol.
The Q50 is designed to compete with luxury mid-sized sedans like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, and Audi A4. At the time of writing it comes in five models, and we’re testing the middle sibling. This Q50 Sport is rear-wheel drive and comes with a 3.0-litre V6 petrol twin turbo and 7-speed automatic, all of which gives it an impressive amount of poke (but we’ll get to that shortly).
The manufacturer’s spiel describes the Q50 as “aggressive yet refined”. But because it’s expensive and lacks a badge, it needs to deliver something extra special. The question is: does the Infiniti deserve to be noticed?
What's it like to drive?
The Q50 is a fast and powerful beast. This is a bonus as I’m racing to Tullamarine Airport and running hideously late for my flight. The engine feels punchy and produces a growly exhaust note and sharp acceleration. I manage to (accidentally) spin the wheels taking off from the lights, which does get the Infiniti noticed.
The easy-to-use Intelligent Cruise Control is a must as I run the risk of speeding on the M2 with its farrago of speed limits — ranging from 40 to 100km/h. My only quibble is the transmission which does tend to hunt around for the right ratio.
The low ride is great for aerodynamics out on the freeway. Which brings me to the overly firm suspension. Even on Standard Mode (as opposed to the stiffer Sport and Sport+ Modes) the vehicle seems to crash over imperfections in the road.
The chunky, crescent shaped C-pillars look speedy and elegant, but they obscure the rear view. Reversing under time-pressure into a tight spot on Level 4 of the airport car park means I have to really rely on the cameras, but they appear too busy, with orange and green graphics eclipsing the shot.
The push button start is a bonus but what’s with the old-fashioned foot brake? I’m not a fan of this.
What's it like to live with?
The Q50 looks muscular with its aggressive stance and 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside feels premium thanks to smart, comfortable leather seats featuring white stitching. In an almost chivalrous move, the driver’s seat automatically slides back allowing easy entry and exit, before settling into the driver’s preferred setting. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels expensive.
The dash, however, is busier than Concorde’s cockpit. There is a confounding array of switches, buttons and different sized knobs. Adding to the confusion there is not one but two screens dominating this space; the top one has all the driving and navigation information while the bottom screen features audio, phone and climate controls. The Infiniti InTouch system is supposed to be state-of-the art, yet is so complex it comes with its own thick manual.
On a more positive note the 16-speaker Bose premium audio system is epic.
Back in suburbia the low ride height means care must be taken to avoid scrapes over speed humps and sloping driveways. Chuck three kiddies, school bags and shopping in the back and I’m wincing a lot during urban driving.
This ain’t no family wagon. While life in the rear is comfortable for two kids, the back middle seat is best suited to tiny tykes only.
Interior cargo space is also limited. The boot, while a generous 500L, is an odd shape thanks to the protruding rear wheel arches. Perfect for my carry-on luggage but not suited to school bags, instruments, sporting equipment and shopping. The boot lid also sounds disconcertingly tinny when you shut it.
Is it worth the money?
The Infiniti provides a great deal of luxury, comfort and performance for $64,900 (plus on road costs).
On the official fuel test the Q50 Sport consumes 9.2L/100km (combined). During a week of mostly freeway driving, however, a lower 8.6L/100km was reached.
The Q50 is impressive, and yes, “aggressive yet refined”. But it lacks that certain je ne sais quoi that would elevate it above its well-known German rivals.
Which brings me back to labels. If the Infiniti were a handbag, it would be a stylish number that adequately holds life’s accoutrements, but lacks the stamp of a recognised and respected brand. Are you going to buy this accessory — which may satisfy your needs, but fails to impress your friends — over the similarly priced Gucci or Prada number? As shallow as it sounds, in this label-loving land, the answer is probably no.
PROS: Punchy drivetrain; classy interior; curvy styling.
CONS: Confusing and complicated dash; cargo limitations; stiff suspension; lack of brand recognition.
On September 2, 2019, Infiniti Australia announced it will fully withdraw from the Australian market by the end of 2020. For more information, head here.
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