The 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport – The Joy of Driving!

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By Nauman Farooq

When Infiniti first launched the Q50 model, back in 2014, it replaced what was by far and away the most successful model the company had ever made, the G35/G37 series.

Replacing the “G” with a model carrying a different name –a naming strategy introduced by one of the car world’s most irritating C.E.O’s, Johan de Nysschen, who is now no longer with Infiniti– was risky, and it got off to a rocky start. I know of a lot of people within the Infiniti network, who still do not like the new naming strategy -all sedans and coupes name start with “Q”, while all SUVs and CUVs start with “QX”- but have made peace with it.

The name change also came at a point when Infiniti was taking new leaps in terms of technology. The Q50 was the world’s first production car to feature a steer-by-wire system, which means, that the steering wheel is not mechanically connected to the front wheels, so your steering input is sent electronically to the front wheels. While the system lacks the feel of a good mechanical steering setup, spend some time with it, and it grows on you. The reaction time is actually really good – in short, the system works, and bravo to Infiniti for leading the way.

Another area where the Q50 was a pioneer, was with their vehicle radars, which study traffic all around the car, and can even detect a vehicle braking hard two vehicles ahead! So, the Q50 is one of the safest vehicles on the road, not only because of its impressive crash structure, and six airbags, but also because it tries its best to avoid an accident from happening in the first place.

So, the Q50 is a technological showcase, but how is the rest of the car, in particular, the 3.0t Red Sport 400 AWD model that I tested! Time to analyze in detail.

Styling: The Q50 is not the prettiest sedan on the market, but it is still quite attractive. Especially in the Red Sport trim, it looked
sharp with its dark trimmed rims, and the twin exit exhaust looks and sounds good, too. I do wish that Infinti would delete all the  chrome adoring its cars -especially from the nose- because it does the design no favours. If I bought one, I’d get it in black, and have all the chrome pieces tinted black – that would look really good.

Interior: Step inside, and nothig has changed in the Q50 over the last four years. That is both a good thing, and a bad thing. Good, because the interior is spacious and comfortable, and can be had with a lot of tech. Bad news, most of the tech looks old, and I mean, really old. Take the navigation screen for example, it -along with its mapping layout- looks the same as it did on the very first press car I picked up from Infiniti, which was a 2003 G35 sedan. Infiniti has tried to compliment the old screen with an additional screen below it, which has apps, but it is all very confusing to use, even after a week.

The oddest thing was the placement for the heated steering wheel switch – you’d expect it to be a proper button on the steering wheel or the dashboard, but no, it is through a touch screen, and you have to go through the “climate” settings to find it. It took me forever to find it, but glad I did. Thankfully, the heated seats have proper, actual buttons, to turn them on or off. All things considered, the Q50 is a nice place to spend time in.

Powertrain: This is where the Q50 Red Sport really shines, because while lesser Q50 models have four and six cylinder, low pressure turbo motors; my tester came equipped with their hottest engine, a high boost turbocharged V6 that displaces 3.0L in capacity, and produces 400 hp, and 350 lb-ft of torque. That power was fed to all wheels, via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. While this isn’t the fastest auto-box on the planet -I do wish Infiniti had taken the dual-clutch gearbox from the Nissan GT-R and stuck it in the Q50- but the auto is smooth enough when you need it to be, and decently quick on up shifts, when you’re really going for it. There is also minimal turbo-lag, and unlike most cars these days, where the horsepower figure doesn’t quite represent real world performance, I’m happy to report, the 400 hp in the Q50 Red Sport, feel like very healthy, galloping 400 horses – love that!

Driving Dynamics: The Q50 Red Sport is a good mix between comfort and sporty, in fact, it probably does the sporty bit a little better than the comfy bit. So, the ride is firm, but not harsh. Cabin noise levels are not high, but not as low as some rivals. It handles the corners really well, and thanks to all-wheel drive grip, it shoots off the line! If you like driving, you’ll enjoy this car – in fact, this car is so nice to drive, I don’t care about how it looks and what its infotainment system has to offer; it is worth buying just for driving it. Mind you, with intelligent cruise control, and lane keep assist, the Q50 can also, pretty much drive on its own, on the highway.

Fuel Economy: Well, my figure is based on my driving, and I did enjoy leaning on the throttle quite a bit, so I averaged 12.6 L/100 KM during my test week – although, it will probably drink a little less, if you drive a bit more calmly! One thing you have to keep in mind, is that this high performance engine likes to sip on premium fuel, so running costs are high – but that is a price worth paying for the joys of driving a hot rod sedan.

Pricing: The Q50 Red Sport starts from $52,695. My very well loaded tester, with its ProAssist, ProActive packages, plus freight and PDI, came to $61,666. Given the features and performance of this vehicle, that is not a lot – especially when compared to this cars German rivals.

Verdict: I didn’t think I was going to like the Q50 Red Sport, thought it would be just OK. I ended up loving it, and would happily live with one for an entire year – yes, it’s that good. Is it perfect? No, but then no car really is. For me, it is really good in areas that are important to me – performance and handling- and hence, it gets my recommendation.