Aspiration: we’re always told to use it to better ourselves and aim for a league higher than which we currently occupy.
Infiniti has employed this ethos with the Q50 Red Sport. The Japanese-built Infiniti is going after zee Germans. Hence, the $79,990 Red Sport has the undercard performance variants – like the BMW 340i, Audi S4 and Mercedes-AMG C43 – in its cross hairs.
Since its launch in 2014, Infiniti has sold about 1000 Q50s (all variants) Down Under and it has refreshed the range. The Red Sport gains updated 19-inch alloys, red brake calipers, red stitching, new steering wheel (with shift paddles moved from the column), gear lever and LEDs feature.
Mechanically, Infiniti has made refinements to the infamous Direct Adaptive Steering as well as incorporating Dynamic Digital Suspension (Infiniti-speak for adaptive dampers) to increase the sportiest variant’s credentials.
From the get-go it’s hard to ignore the twin-turbo V6, especially when it produces a significant 298kW of power and a hefty 475Nm of torque. After all, the 3.0-litre boosted six is from the same VR engine family as the mighty R35 GT-R, so it keeps venerable company. Sending all the power to the rear wheels via a relatively intuitive seven-speed automatic translates to a 0-100km/h time of about five seconds.
Its full head of steam comes on from just 1600rpm and it feels every bit as strong as the outputs suggest. The Red Sport is properly rapid and, on the run at least, it will trouble many performance-orientated, luxe competitors. When traction isn’t a factor, the in-gear acceleration from the VR30DDTT is comically addictive.
What detracts from the impressive oomph is the open differential and electronic nannies that want to take away your sweets before you’ve even thought about putting them in your mouth. Turn the traction control off and get on the power too early when exiting a closed-radius corner and the unloaded inside Dunlop SP Sport Maxx is fried faster than a dagwood dog at Summernats. Leave the poorly calibrated ESC system on and it’ll curtail any power being sent to the rear 245/40 RF19s, intrusively intervening at will. Accessing the mumbo in dry conditions is hard, but add water and it becomes a fruitless mission. It really needs a proper LSD.
Despite being version 2.0, the Q50 Red Sport still can’t avoid the fact its steering isn’t physically connected to anything (despite all the traditional gubbins remaining as a fail-safe in the event of a crash).
Essentially, you’re at the helm of an arcade-style wheel that computes inputs in bytes rather than via a physical connection. Yes, you get Sport+ mode that adds artificial weight, but it still feels disconcerting and disconnected – because it is. None of the modes result in meaningful feedback and that lack of feel makes placing the Q50 hard as the sensation is taken out of your hands.
Which is all a bit of a shame, really, because when the road opens up and the Red Sport is shown some sweeping, wider-radius corners it starts to make a little more sense. The rear-drive architecture, despite being based on the previous-gen G37, comes to the fore and there’s just about enough lateral poise to push on.
The brakes (355mm front and 350mm rear) offer the great progression and feel the steering lacks, arresting the rather portly 1784kg Red Sport’s pace in a reassuring manner.
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Getting the best out of the dynamics is all about dialling it back to receive more. Yes, the ride quality could be better – even with the adaptive dampers in their softest Comfort mode – but it’s acceptable at speed and general NVH levels are low.
On the inside, the Q50 is a relatively spacious, mid-sized four-door sedan. It has decent boot space and the rear pews afford enough head and legroom. The overall design of the cabin is pleasing and you won’t be left wanting for features to play with. It just about gets away with its prestige intent, distancing itself from its Nissan lineage. Although, the dual screens, and their differing graphics, are an ergonomic and cosmetic let down.
Aspiration should always be moderated by realistic expectations. For the Q50, that, ahem, sting in the tail comes via Kia’s impressive Stinger. Ultimately it achieves the brief more comprehensively with a smaller hit to the wallet. While the devilishly fast, well-specced and stylish Infiniti aspires to greener European pastures, it seems a fellow Asian upstart has already come in to cut its grass.
STAR RATING: 3/5
Like: Engine is a powerhouse; exterior styling
Dislike: Steering; needs a proper diff; ride quality; ESC
2018 Infiniti Q50 RED SPORT SPECS
Engine: 2997cc V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo
Power: 298kW @ 6400rpm
Torque: 475Nm @ 1600rpm
0-100km/h: 5.1sec (estimated)