Infinitis are boring. Infinitis are for marketing VPs. Infinitis have no appeal. Infinitis are just uprated Nissans. These notions are all part of the grand public mythos of Infiniti. And all of them are false.
Well, mostly. That one about Infinitis being for marketing VPs is probably true.
But Infiniti sold nearly 37,000 of the damn things last year, more than any other vehicle Infiniti makes, and there's got to be some reason people keep buying them, right? And it's supposed to be a big deal, because of the drive-by-wire steering that helps you stay on the road, adapting this way and that. A steering to change your life, and isn't that neat.
But when I think "mid-level luxury car that I might want to own some day, if I was that sort of person, which I'm not, but let's just say that I am," maybe I would consider an Infiniti Q50? At least, that was my thought process going into this. As I'm not entirely convinced that someone would by an Infiniti over, say, a comparable Mercedes, just because of a steering switch.
But after having driven it for a few days, I can finally say that I would definitely maybe consider the Q50 if I was that sort of person. Which I am not.
But I would also definitely definitely recommend that if you are going to get one of these, get the Hybrid.
Yeah, the hybrid.
Because 360 horsepower, combined with oodles of electric-curve-flattening torque pushing you back into your perforated leather armchair is legally a mild intoxicant. And while that doesn't make it an in-house Skunkworks special like one of the Germans might have it, the end result is – dare I say it? – an induced feeling that's a bit like a speedy strip-mall dragster. Really, no fooling. And that makes it much better than any base model Q50, stuffed to the gills with men in polo shirts and pleated khakis, and festooned with women in particularly fetching pantsuits.
Instead, what we're dealing with is the future of hybrids that we were always promised. One that allows you to have your cake, accelerate faster than a Porsche, and get 31 MPG on the highway, too. All without shoving a Porsche badge in someone's face.
(Full disclosure: Infiniti wanted me to drive the Q50S Hybrid so bad that I needed a car for a weekend for some reason that I forget, so I asked Travis for a car, and he said "we have an Infiniti on schedule so you're getting that," and then Infiniti gave me that. Automotive journalism is an extremely romantic profession.)
But here's the weird thing about the Infiniti Q50. If you had to rattle off a list of competitors, you might start with a Cadillac CTS, then head to a BMW 5-series. But that's technically not the category it's in, as it's not quite the same size as those not-quite-big barges. It's actually surrounded by those juvenile hoodlums like the BMW 3-series, and the Cadillac ATS. And it replaced the most juvenile hoodlum of all, the Infiniti G-series, the car you'll only see now in some sort of scuffed goldish-beige (they're all a scuffed goldish-beige), awkwardly lowered and sitting on clashing black wheels.
The Q50 feels older somehow. Not quite boring, per se, just... aged. Like a cask-strength 12-year bourbon that sells for a reduced price. Not that that's wrong, either. It's just not a pint of Fireball.
But hey, there's gadgets! A lot of them. Almost all of them.
Exterior – 7/10
The new Q50 has looks that you either love, or despise with such a burning, intense hatred within you that it has the capability to destroy worlds in a wall of searing rage-fueled fire.
I actually quite like it, especially in S form, which has more aggressive bumpers and whatnot. But what I really like, more than anything, is that crease along the belt line. It's style for style's sake, and, between us friends here, let's just compare it to the BMW 3-series, which hasn't looked proper in years. This is just better, because it looks like someone actually tried harder.
That side profile looks absurdly muscular compared to Infinitis of old, and that's just fine by me.
I should also probably note that I was originally going to give the Infiniti a 6/10, until Raphael Orlove disagreed saying that it looked worse than the Audi A7, and the Audi A7 had stronger styling. Raphael is wrong (Raphael is correct, the A7 is a damn masterpiece. - Ed.), as the Audi A7 looks like every other goddamn Audi these days, except it's got a weird saggy behind, so the Q50S gets a 7/10.
Interior – 6/10
I have a grand scale of automotive seat comfort. At the top are the splendid thrones of a new Volvo. At the bottom are the wretched stools of every Subaru I've ever driven. And the Infiniti is, well, an Infiniti, I guess? They're somewhere in the middle. They do the job of conveying your buttocks from here to there, without hurting. I mean, it's a seat. It's covered in leather, and it heats up, and the drivers side has a little adjustable thigh-pullout thingy, but, it's a seat.
The rest of the interior is sort of like that. It's fine. Just, fine. Infiniti tried with some swoopy things on the inside of the doors, and there's lots of aluminum in places, but none of it induces lust or passion or vinegar strokes.
And when an interior just induces a strong sense of nihilism, everything is just, well, fine.
Acceleration – 7/10
Okay this one is actually the Infinti's party piece. Seriously. Stop looking at me like I've got three heads and two of them are sticking out of my leg. The Infiniti Q50S Hybrid with all-wheel-drive pairs the company's venerable 3.5-liter V6 with a smattering of batteries and electric motors, and the result is a silly 360 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque coming from the combined motive sources. Since the onslaught of torque that is the cliche of electric propulsion is available from all the way down low, and doesn't give up on a gear shift, in sport mode the car is basically a little jet-propelled sled in its own right.
Infiniti gives a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds, which I totally believe from the way that launching it just makes you have a ridiculous grin and makes your friends squeal in a way that shouldn't be possible in such a "boring suburban special." And to put that in context, this silly little Infiniti gets to highway speed faster than the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid.
Yes, an Infiniti is faster than a Porsche, and friends, we live in strange times.
On the other hand, Infiniti seems to be one of the few manufacturers that takes the "Eco" button seriously, so when you push it strange things happen to the speedy pedal. It actually pushes back on you when it feels like you're getting all out of hand with this whole acceleration business, and that's all very weird and takes some getting used to. So I just keep it in Sport mode, or, heaven forbid, Standard mode, which all just felt sort of Standard, really.
Braking – 6/10
The brakes braked me in reasonable braking distances. The little sheet that Infiniti gave me said that they were "sport" brakes, and I believe them, but they didn't play hockey or anything. They felt fine, I suppose. They slowed me down a bunch of times when I asked them to do so, without being all fussy and grabby about it.
But were they FADE-FREE AND PROGRESSIVE ON THE BLEEDING EDGE THAT IS THE RACE TRACK, THE ONE TRUE CRUCIBLE OF PERFORMANCE?
I honestly have no idea. I didn't take it to a track. How many Infinti Q50 buyers do you reasonably expect to take it to a track? C'mon, man. Don't play like that.
Ride – 7/10
It's comfy! I know, that's not exactly surprising considering it is, at its heart, a decently luxurious suburban cruiser. But nowadays, in the pursuit of the best 'Ring times, some in this segment can ride on the borderline harsh side, especially if you spec up to a Sport package. And then everything is ruined on your grocery run, when you inevitably hit a pothole despite the fact that you pay approximately $12,000,000 in property taxes and Nassau County is still run by dipshits, and then you have to pay for new wheels.
But at least you can tell people, when they ask about your promotion to VP at the marketing firm, that your new Mercedes C-Class with the AMG Sport Package will do somewhere under ten minutes at an archaic racetrack near the German city of Nurburg.
Not that the Q50S is wafting-over-a-marshmallow-glazed-pillow comfy, but you won't hurt yourself or anything, and it doesn't feel all unsettled and out of place if you hit a particularly large highway expansion gap. And when you're headed to the mall for just one last taste of the Crunchburger at Bobby's Burger Palace before you start your new juice cleanse, isn't that what you want?
Handling – 6/10
The story about the handling in the Infiniti Q50 isn't about how many Gs you can pull on a skidpad before the tires start to squeal, or just how quickly you can take Copse corner at Silverstone right after you've blasted down the straight.
It's about that big round thing in front of you.
The company's made a big deal of noise about what it's calling "Direct Adaptive Steering." It's an electronic, wired steering setup, with no real, physical connection to the road. The intention is that the steering is light, when you want it to be light, and heavy, when you want to be racy and do fun things. You'll get the best of all worlds, and no one will ever make a better setup because the essence of the human condition is the notion of technology striving over the physical realm, defeating the mere analog that solely exists to block its patch, et cetera, et cetera.
To be honest, I get the sentiment, as much as anyone could, I guess. Or at least I'm trying to, since it's apparently something we're all going to have to get used to. And Infiniti's got the right idea here. If you want your life to be comfortable, you put it in Eco or whatever and the steering wheel is as light as the one on a city bus, with the same amount of feedback from the road.
Let's say you want to feel like Parker Kligerman, driving your Infiniti at strangely high speeds through Belgium, and to do so you need a proper connection to the front wheels. So you flick the Drive Mode button into sport, and things happen.
Well, one thing happens. The steering actually just gets a lot firmer, possibly too firm, making you look like Popeye after a while.
And that's about it. The feeling of the steering isn't increased, you don't get the chatter from the road as you would in a vintage Porsche, and at the end of the day you're just sort of left wondering what the point of it all was. It's a neat idea, and I really like the concept of giving yourself fantastic steering at the switch of a button in luxury family sedans where previously you had to suffer through vagueries, but it needs some work. So the majority of the time, you just end up leaving the steering in its most comfortable setting, wondering how your life has all come to this. This simple comfort mode.
Gearbox – 7/10
The Q50S AWD Hybrid comes with a seven-speed automatic, and it it does a pretty good job of shifting gears automatically, as automatics go. It even doesn't do terribly when you decide you want to shift the gears yourself, relying on nought but the paddle shifters. When you want to downshift with one of those, the rev-matching system will dutifully take care to bump you up, and surprisingly quickly, considering some of the other automatics I've tried in the Nissan family.
Plus the paddle shifters are all metal with little bits of leather and that's a nice touch. None of that weird plastic, which sometimes crops up on one of the paddles, and leaves you feeling all rotten for the rest of the day. You know when you buy what you thought was a nice and expensive car, and everything's perfect, really just peachy, and then you go to grab one of the paddle shifters, and it's made with some plastic they fished out from a dumpster behind the McDonald's next to the factory?
Yeah, I hate that. The Infiniti isn't like that.
Toys – 10/10
Growing up there was always that one kid with all the toys, so you always wanted to go to their house because that was just better. The Q50 is like that in almost every respect. Pretty much the only toys it didn't have was cooled seats (meh) and a heads-up display (boo. Everyone's got a HUD these days, get it together Infiniti). But really, it's a huge list of toys. If you really want to see, this is the whole goddamn list of toys that I haven't mentioned already:
- Active Trace Control (I'm not exactly sure what this does, maybe it helps you trace things?)
- A moonroof
- Automatic LED headlights and fog lights and brake lights
- Heated seats
- Other power things in the seats that go up and down and forwards and backwards and things like that
- Heated steering wheel (Big!!!!! Plus!!!!!! For when it's cold out and you forgot gloves and you parked the car outside for a while and touching the steering wheel is literally ice)
- The wheel is power-adjustable, too, which is fine, but it's not something I've ever really needed
- Dual-zone climate control
- A navigation system, which works as well as any other, I suppose. I mean, there are some out there that make you want to kill yourself, and then there's the one in the Buick Regal GS that was actually a delight, and this one is neither
- The outside mirrors are heated
- Speed-sensitive windshield wipers
- A backup camera
- Cameras all around, really, so it can give you that neat top-down view which I still can't quite figure out so I assume it's wizardry
- Supposedly it's got this thing where you can have different keys, one for each person that drives the car, and then the car remembers the settings you want for each key and then when that key is in the car it puts those settings in for that person, which is cool but I was the only one driving it, so I couldn't test it out, but let's say you and your significant other and maybe your teenage kid all drive the car and you hate your kid and your kids music preferences so this is great for that type of happy family situation
- The aforementioned drive-by-wire steering.
- And an auto-dimming rear-view mirror
And this car had the Deluxe Technology package, which came with auto-diming outside mirrors, the aforementioned neat outside camera system, parking sensors, radar-guided cruise control which is actually a Thing That I Love, a blind spot system, automatic emergency braking and seatbelt pre-tensioners which I didn't get to test out because I don't like crashing into things that much, and active lane control which by now we all know works a little too well.
Plus many other toys besides which aren't nearly as exhilarating.
Audio – 6/10
Okay so there was one other toy which I did actually quite like, which is the 14-speaker Bose premium sound system that was in this one. I've been in cars with sound systems that are muddy and diluted at their best, and this one simply wasn't. It was clear and bright and wonderful and bassy when you wanted it to be, and that's actually just a peach.
But here's where the biases come out. I've never actually been a huge fan of the noise that the venerable Nissan/Infiniti V6 puts out, as it always sounded kind of tinny and buzzy to me, especially in some of its more comfort-oriented variants. So yeah, not as good a noise as coming from the hood. Sadly.
Value – 6/10
Let's get started with the big number that matters, which is the $55,905 that this particular example cost, including destination charges. That's not exactly cheap, especially when something like a BMW 5-series starts at six grand cheaper. But you do get a whole bunch of technology, and a whole bunch of power for that price. Plus a combined 28 MPG isn't bad, for all that power. And the back seats could fit someone 6' reasonably well, which is great for the teenagers you're likely to have, in your firmly middle-management-at-the-marketing-firm lifestyle you've got.
But hey, almost all of us have aspired to be promoted at some point, and marketing is better than being stuck in a coal mine.
So maybe settling down and buying that Infiniti like your parents always wanted you to isn't so bad after all.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, paired with a hybrid-electric system
Power: 360 Horsepower/258 lb-ft Torque (V6)/214 lb-ft Torque (electric)
Transmission: Seven-Speed Automatic
0-60 Time: 5.2 seconds
Top Speed: 144 MPH (limited)
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight: 3,713 pounds
Seating: 5 people
MPG: 27 City/31 Highway/28 Combined (about 28.5 as tested)
MSRP: A bone-stock Infiniti Q50 will cost $37,150, a Q50S AWD Hybrid as tested will run you $55,905