Q50 Red Sport 400 a credible alternative to German sport sedans

By Jim Prueter

(May 6, 2019) Back in 2016, Infiniti made a decision to up its performance game to compete with high-performance German sports sedans like the compact Mercedes AMG C43, BMW M3 and Audi S4 and S5. Infiniti started by discontinuing its outdated VQ-series 328-horsepower V-6 engine and replacing it with an all-new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter 400-horsepower V-6 performance variant called the Red Sport.

Now in its fourth model year, the 2019 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is almost entirely a carryover model from last year, where it received very modest tweaks to both the exterior and interior.

Consistent with its German competitors, the Q50 is a small luxury sedan, and the performance trim level distinguishes itself with aggressive, yet good-looking trim including front fascia detailing, rear fender swells and dramatic lower bodywork, wide performance tires and gorgeous oversized alloy wheels of varying designs. Optional carbon fiber trim on our Red Sport adorned the outside rearview mirrors, thin trunk mounted rear spoiler and trim about the cabin. It all looks great.

Visually, however, the Red Sport is only differentiated from the base Q50 by its exhaust tips, the red “S” moniker on its front fenders and deck lid, its more aggressive wheels and red painted brake calipers. We wished it had more performance styling like Mercedes’ AMG products, which clearly send the message that there’s something special about it.

The Red Sport ups Infiniti’s performance game with sporty driving dynamics, and instant acceleration power delivered through its seven-speed automatic transmission. Most competitors feature an eight-speed automatic, but the Red Sport is helped by its console-mounted selectable drive modes, including Sport and the more aggressive Sport+ that powers to 60 mph from a dead stop in 4.8 seconds, actually a few ticks more than we had expected. In Sport+ mode, the suspension becomes more rigid, steering weight is increased and the transmission shifts sooner while holding the gears longer. Rear wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive optional.

In addition to its performance enhancements, the Red Sport upgraded other aspects of the vehicle, making improvements to the previous generation’s steer-by-wire system with two new implementations of its electronic steering system. ‘Direct Adaptive Steering’ delivers a more granular control over the weight of the wheels and feedback delivered through the column to the driver.

The Red Sport 400 has certainly been a welcome addition to Infiniti dealer showrooms. They can point to a luxury sports sedan with enough bravado and muscle to go toe-to-toe with the Barons of Bavaria, yet delivers daily driver comfort and smoothness until the heavy hammer is needed.

While Infiniti has elected to compete with the Europeans, the Red Sport still falls short of the all-out performance you’ll experience with those brands. But to their credit, the Red Sport it isn’t trying to be that. Rather, it’s seeking an audience that’s more interested in a good balance between luxury and high-performance muscle wrapped in a stylish package and an attractive, comfortable interior.

Still, there are a number of cars in this class that also deliver excellent ride and handling with ample power, but with more advanced and easier to use infotainment and operational technology, nicer interiors and updated styling. The Q50 on sale today isn’t that much different than the one that’s been on the market since 2014, and for 2019, it still doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $52,245
Price as Tested: $58,435
What Makes it go: 400-hp 3.0-Liter twin-turbocharged V6 connected to a 7-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 20-mpg city – 26-mpg highway – 22-mpg combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Ratings: The 2019 Q50 earned a “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has not been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Where Built: Kaminokawa, Tochigi, Japan

Competes With:
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
Audi S4 and S5
BMW M3 and M4
Genesis G70
Mercedes-AMG C 43

Fab Features:
Potent 400-hp V6 engine
Athletic handling with comfortable ride