2018 Infiniti Q50

PHOENIX — The Q50 Infiniti’s best-selling sedan gets a mid-cycle refresh for 2018. That means, rather than a complete redo, there’s tweaking to the front and rear fascia, modest changes to the interior as well as innovative technologies designed to support the driving experience. One would have to park the outgoing 2017 Q50 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 shifter now resides 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 good news with the refreshed 2018 G50 is that everything we loved about the previous Q50 is still there. Unfortunately, much of what disappointed us is still here as well.

The Infiniti Q50 first launched as an all-new model in 2014, replacing the outgoing Infiniti G37. It is one of the best performance choices in the compact premium sedan segment, delivering driving performance and handling on par with German competitors like BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4. But Infiniti didn’t upgrade their 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 recently launched all-new 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.

All four engines come with a seven-speed automatic transmission and you can add all-wheel drive to any of the models for an additional $2,000.

I drove the 2018 Infiniti Q50 S with the 300-horsepower V-6 that stickered for $50,410, including the $995 destination charge. It delivers spirited performance, sure-footed handling and sharp looks, but feels a step behind competitors in the luxury sedan market. The engine was 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 noticeably larger than competitors in the segment with a generally roomy interior and a large trunk — other than the hybrid version where trunk space is significantly smaller. The driver’s seat includes eight-way power adjustment with a manual thigh extension and power lumbar and side bolsters. But we felt cramped because of the wide center console and wraparound instrument panel.

The front passenger’s seat does not have the same range of adjustments as the driver’s seat. The rear seat offers a generous amount of legroom, but like all sedans in this class, headroom is limited. The rear seat also folds 60/40 to extend trunk room for more cargo and longer shaped cargo items.

Seats are upholstered in leather but do not include any seat ventilation. The three-spoke steering wheel is leather-wrapped and power tilts and telescopes. The door trim was made of mainly soft-touch plastic material with some hard plastic trim beneath the armrest around the storage cubby.

Our test Q50 came with the optional Sensory Package that included the all-new Bose® Performance Series sound system with new aluminum speaker grilles on the door panels. The package also includes the power tilt-telescoping steering column, memory for driver’s seat and outside mirrors, advanced climate control system, enhanced interior ambient lighting, and auto-dimming outside mirrors.

The dashboard remains mostly unchanged from 2017, with a few changes. There is now French stitching on the dashboard, but the material is not leather. Rather, it’s a soft-touch inject-molded dashboard that has been after stitched to give it the appearance of a French stitching.

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 was 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. Further, there’s a lot of hunting involved to access anything more than basic features, with many settings buried in the system submenu. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available, a glaring oversight on the part of Infiniti.

Buyers get to choose from a lineup of four trim levels: base Pure, midrange Luxe and Sport and the performance Red Sport 400. Also available is the Q50 Hybrid version.

Overall the Q50 is a decent car that is far and away better than its competitors from Cadillac, Lincoln or Lexus. But it lacks the refinement and pure driving enjoyment you typically find in a Mercedes, BMW or Audi and just didn’t connect for us on an emotional level.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $34,200 - $53,000
Price as Tested: $50,410
Seating: 5
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 300
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Safety Crash Test Results: Not yet rated

Competes With
Acura TLX
Audi A4
BMW 3-Series
Cadillac CTS
Lexus IS
Lincoln MKZ
Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Fab Features
Smooth, powerful V6 engines
Attractive exterior and interior
Loaded with standard and optional active safety features

— Jim Prueter