Infiniti Q50 — Rewarding sports sedan

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Infiniti's mid-sized sports sedan has received several engine and technology upgrades since the latest iteration was introduced in 2014, and for 2018 the Q50 has been endowed with styling tweaks both inside and out. Fortunately, the sculpted and muscular look of the car has not been altered and the satisfying driving experience remains intact.

The Q50 has good bones, a descendent of the original G35 introduced in 2003 that later evolved into the G37 then into the current Q50. It made a good case for buying a Japanese entry-level luxury sports sedan with a powerful V-6 engine.

The 2018 Q50 carries the Infiniti Q50's achievements forward with a firm grip on what makes a solid mid-sized sports sedan including a pair of athletic V-6 engines, excellent handling and cornering attributes and innovative technologies designed to support the driving experience.

You would have to park the outgoing 2017 model next to the refreshed 2018 to discern the difference, visually. Up front, there are new lower air intakes, a modestly reshaped front bumper, and a grille that’s a bit more dimensional. The rear end gets a similar nip and tuck, with a sleeker, more contemporary look to the LED taillights and a reshaped rear bumper with a new two-tone diffuser with twin exhausts.

Inside, there’s a new steering wheel that’s the same in the Q60 coupe. The paddle shifters now reside on the column rather than the steering wheel for easier reach mid turn. Materials have been upgraded, with faux-leather on the dash and new wood trim options.

The Infiniti Q50 is one of the best performance choices in the compact premium sedan segment, delivering driving dynamics and handling on par with German competitors like BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4. But Infiniti didn’t upgrade its infotainment /vehicle operation system for 2018. Still, excellent engine choices and a strong value proposition make it a great choice in this competitive segment.

Because Infiniti updated the Q50 engines for the 2016 model year, nothing under the hood changes for 2018. The base model still gets the Mercedes-Benz-designed 2.0-liter 208-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Next is a choice of two 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 engines, one that produces 300 horsepower and one with 400 horsepower that’s available only in the performance oriented Red Sport trim level. There’s also the 3.5-liter V-6 hybrid system that delivers 360 horsepower.

While the Red Sport is obviously the performance champ with 0 to
60 measured at 4.5 seconds, the less expensive 300-horsepower Q50 is everything a sports sedan needs with performance measured at about 5.2 seconds and slot-car-like handling. EPA-rated mileage is good with the V-6 considering the engine's strong performance, rated at 20-mpg city, 29 highway and 23 combined on premium gas.

We were pleased with the spirited performance of the 300 hp V-6. The engine is powerful with strong throttle response for passing. Steering is sharp and responsive. The seven-speed automatic transmission is quick, smooth and linear.

The Q50 is also noticeably larger than competitors in the segment with a generally roomy interior and a large trunk — measuring 13.5 cubic feet — other than the hybrid version where trunk space is significantly smaller. The driver’s seat includes eight-way power and power lumbar and side bolsters.

Inside, Infiniti’s two-screen infotainment and navigation remains relatively unchanged from last year’s model. Both the upper and lower screens are touchscreens that work in coordination with each other to do things like entering navigation destinations, changing audio sources, changing music tracks etc. The system itself is fairly responsive with large icons and easy-to-read-text, however, the navigation maps featured light and bare-bones graphics; it’s not particularly easy to navigate. Inexplicably, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available, a major oversight.

There are four trim levels starting at $35,195 for the base four cylinder — Pure, Luxe, Sport and Red Sport 400. Also available is the hybrid version. V-6 models start at $39,945 including destination charge. All four engines can be ordered with all-wheel drive as a $2,000 option.

Our $50,410 test car came with four packages — Essential, Road Assist, Performance and Sensory — totaling $8,300. Sensory includes navigation, Infiniti InTouch services, heated front seats and heated steering wheel, and remote engine start. Road Assist includes safety features such as blind sport warning with cross-traffic alert, and an around-view monitor. Performance brings such things as Dynamic Digital Suspension and sports brakes. And Sensory includes a 16-speaker Bose audio system, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, memory front seats, and an advanced climate control system.

Jim Prueter contributed to this review

Base price: $35,195; as driven, $50,410
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 300 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 295 foot-pounds @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 189.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,730 pounds
Turning circle: 36.7 feet
Luggage capacity; 13.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 20.0 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 20 city, 29 highway, 23 combined
0-60: 5.2 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: BMW 3-Series, Acura TLX, Volvo S60

The Good
• Excellent performance from V-6
• Many high-tech features
• Aggressive styling

The Bad
• Interior design showing age

The Ugly
• Apple CarPlay, Android Auto not available