The Q50 ushered in a change to the Infiniti lineup. Everything is now a Q. As a result, the former breadwinner, the G37, has been renamed and redesigned to be this new Q50. With it, though, comes an onslaught of new technology that could hint at the future of the automobile as we know it. But is it too much?
The first of those new technologies is the Direct Adaptive Steering. This “steer-by-wire” system is meant to improve fuel efficiency and feel, according to Infiniti. Well, it may do one of these things but not the other. It was a very strange sensation to drive without any meaningful connection to front wheels. The steering can be set to different ratios, but none of them really fit the sport sedan pretenses of the Q50. We could not seem to find a ratio that fit the car’s persona or our needs. It was either too heavy or too light, too sensitive or too vague. Even without that “just right” setting, you still have to appreciate the fact that Infiniti brought it to market first. It can only get better with time. Imagine a day when you can dial in exactly how much feel and weight you want in your steering. That day is probably coming sooner than you think.
The Technology Package will sit well with fans of driver assistance. Encompassing some of the most comprehensive safety measures on the market, this package will set you back $3,200 but provide industry leading assistance technology. It incorporates the Direct Adaptive Steering system as part of a lane-keep assist system. When active, you can feel the wheel twitch back and forth to keep the Q50 in its lane. The Infiniti also has the ability to “look ahead” and can apply the brakes if it senses a pending collision. Unfortunately, the system seemed to over-react in the real world, almost getting us rear ended during (what we judged to be) a false positive. Lastly, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are included in the Technology Package as well. After a week, we realized that the Q50 is as close to an autonomous car as you can currently own. It was a strange sensation, and one that took us a while to get a grasp on.
On the outside, much of the old G37 is gone – having been molded into the dashing Q50. The sharper, sportier front end stands out the most. The 19 inch wheel option is a must-have, filling the wheel wells nicely. As you move rearward, the aggression fades as the bodywork rounds out. Inside, the Q50 employs a leather and soft plastic configuration that comes together nicely. The seats are supportive and comfortable, and the cabin is quiet. The Bose audio system was excellent – so good that it’s probably the best in the midsize luxury class. The strangest part of the cabin is the dual touchscreen layout on the center stack. The top touchscreen is purely navigation, displaying the map and a navigation settings menu. To access the navigation settings menu, you need to use a dial on the console. From there, you can either select using that dial, or touch the screen. The lower touchscreen controls the audio, settings, and all the driver aids. But then you notice navigation options on the lower touch screen. And the screen is flanked by a number of buttons. With all these different interfaces, there’s just too many ways to do the same thing. The top screen looks like a traditional touchscreen while the bottom screen looks more like an iPad. It functions almost as well as one, except for the time it froze up and couldn’t be used at all.
Our Q50 tester, a non-S model, was perhaps more subdued than the 3.7S. The 3.7L V6 is the same in both models with 328 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration was good, but we couldn’t help but feel that the competitors from Audi and BMW are faster. When you finally do get the opportunity to disarm all the safety features and find for some back roads, the Q50 isn’t as bad as the steering would lead you to believe. The chassis is well thought out , though the suspension is a little soft for our liking, allowing for more body roll than expected. You can attack corners with ease and confidence builds quickly. You go as fast as you dare and the all-wheel-drive helps out immensely when you need it. The Q50 is remarkably easy to drive, but all the while in the back of your mind you still think about the steering.
Overall, our time with the Q50 was somewhat of a mixed bag. There were moments when Infiniti could convince us that Sebastian Vettel had contributed to the Q50’s development as the Director of Performance. Other times, we perplexed by the complexity and autonomy. We’re drivers. We enjoy driving the car, and we can’t say that we would opt for all the safety systems. Unfortunately, Infiniti bundles them all together, so its a take-it-or-leave-it approach. As it is, we’d leave it. Under all of that assistance, autonomy, and technology, the Q50 is a very capable car. The Direct Adaptive Steering is different and definitely still needs work. But in an all-digital system, who’s to say the entire thing couldn’t be re-calibrated with a simple software update. If they did, the car would be better for it, and the margin to the Germans would be smaller than ever.
|2014 Infiniti Q50 3.7 AWD Premium
|Deluxe Touring Package||$3,100|
|19″ Sport Tire & Wheel AWD Package||$1,000|
|Leather Seating Package||$1,000|
|As Tested MSRP||$51,955|