The Infiniti brand has been making serious strides toward re-establishing its relevance: The Japanese nameplate has become a separate subsidiary from Nissan, and it has a new president whose previous job involved leading Audi's charge in the U.S. But the most important reflection of that revitalized spirit is the 2014 Infiniti Q50. Originally intended to replace the G37, the Q50 will now live alongside the outgoing model as a more premium offering until the G37 is dropped after the 2015 model year.
What's New for 2014?
The Q50 is completely redesigned for 2014.
What We Like
Silky styling; much improved interior quality; Hybrid model offers gutsy 360-horsepower powerplant; techy features ease the stress of driving in traffic; hard buttons and dual touchscreens make multimedia navigation easier
What We Don't
Steer-by-wire feature feels disconcerting during hard cornering; sophisticated driver-assist systems aren't for everyone, can feel intrusive; differing resolutions make dual touchscreens feel mismatched
Nonhybrid Q50 models are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that delivers 20 miles per gallon city/30 mpg hwy in the base Q50 3.7 model. Step up to the Q50's all-wheel-drive variants (Q50 3.7 AWD, Q50 3.7 AWD Premium and Q50S 3.7 AWD Premium models) and fuel economy downgrades to 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy. The Q50 3.7 Premium and Q50S 3.7 models achieve 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.
The Q50 Hybrid Premium achieves 29 mpg city/36 mpg hwy, while the all-wheel-drive version dips to 28 mpg city/35 mpg hwy. The sportier Q50S Hybrid is rated at 28 mpg city/34 mpg hwy, while the Q50S Hybrid AWD receives the lowest rating of the hybrid models: 27 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 is available in six nonhybrid and four hybrid trim levels.
The Q50 3.7 model ($36,700) comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, dual multimedia displays, Bluetooth and LED headlights.
Stepping up to the Q50 3.7 AWD model ($38,500) adds all-wheel drive.
The next level up is the Q50 3.7 Premium ($39,550), which includes a 14-speaker Bose sound system, a moonroof, heated front seats and a HomeLink universal garage door opener, while the Q50 3.7 AWD Premium ($41,350) tops that list off with all-wheel drive.
Driving enthusiasts might be drawn to the Q50S 3.7 ($43,200), which features 19-in alloy wheels, more aggressive brakes, sports seats with 10-way power adjustable driver settings, firmer suspension, a sportier front bumper and magnesium paddle shifters. The Q50S 3.7 AWD ($45,000) adds all-wheel drive and a heated steering wheel.
A la carte options include a moonroof ($1,000 on Q50 3.7 and Q50 3.7 AWD models), navigation ($1,400 on Q50 3.7 Premium and Q50S 3.7 and Hybrid models) and leather seats ($1,000 for the Q50 3.7 Premium model). A Deluxe Touring Package is available on Q50 3.7 Premium and Q50S 3.7 models for $3,100 and adds direct adaptive steering, a power tilting and telescoping steering wheel, wood trim, 60/40 fold down rear seats, an around-view monitor and rain-sensing wipers. A $3,200 Technology Package for Q50 3.7 Premium and Q50S 3.7 models includes predictive forward collision warning, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning and backup collision intervention, among other features.
Hybrid lovers will find a wide range of Q50 options, starting with the Q50 Hybrid Premium ($43,950), which comes with heated front seats, a moonroof, a rearview monitor and a 14-speaker Bose sound system.
Opt for the Q50 Hybrid AWD Premium ($45,750) and you'll get all-wheel drive and a heated steering wheel on top of those items.
The Q50S Hybrid ($46,350) includes 19-in alloy wheels, sport brakes, a more aggressive front bumper, aluminum-trimmed pedals, magnesium paddle shifters and sports seats with 8-way driver seat adjustability.
The top-of-the-line Q50S Hybrid AWD ($48,150) includes all-wheel drive and a heated steering wheel.
A Deluxe Technology Package can be ordered on Q50 Hybrid Premium and Q50S Hybrid models for $5,000. It combines Deluxe Touring and Technology packages for $5,000 but does not include fold-down rear seats.
The Infiniti Q50 has yet to be crash-test rated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but we expect it to perform competitively thanks to its standard advanced airbag system with supplemental rear curtain side-impact airbags. Also aiding the Q50's safety cause are features such as an optional predictive system that gauges the speed of the vehicle two cars ahead and an available lane departure warning system with active lane control.
Behind the Wheel
While some competitors -- namely, the BMW 3 series -- take a more Spartan, driver-focused approach with their sports sedans, Infiniti wraps the experience in more luxurious surroundings, offering supportive yet comfy seats along with high-quality surface treatments that defy its relatively approachable price. Q50 drivers are treated to an easy-to-read analog dashboard and generous secondary screen real estate featuring two touchscreens: an 8-in screen that sits above a 7-in lower screen. The former displays navigation items, while the latter controls audio, climate and driver-assist systems. Incidentally, Infiniti's Intelligent Key system can remember the preferences of up to four drivers and recall their settings upon entry.
Neither Q50 models are slouches: The internal combustion 328-hp 7-speed lineup produces brisk acceleration and smooth shifts, while the Hybrid models deliver even more grunt thanks to their total output of 360 hp. But the big (and controversial) news with the Q50 is the world's first steer-by-wire system, which interprets steering-wheel input through an ECU and turns the front wheels via two electric motors. Should the system fail, an electric clutch engages a mechanical linkage, which lacks power assist but enables the driver to maintain control of the vehicle. Using the smaller 7-in screen, parameters can be set, including steering effort and quickness.
While the steer-by-wire setup delivers what it promises in adjustability and isolation from vibrations, something starts to feel like it's missing during higher-speed corners, as though the system can only fabricate so much feedback until the car's physics catch up with the electronics. The Q50 drives with a secure, surefooted and swift grasp of the road. But real driving enthusiasts will want to skip the electronic steering and stick with the standard hydraulic system. There are, however, other reasons to tick the Direct Adaptive Steering box, including a lane-minding system that helps keep the car centered in its lane (when the road stays generally straight). Other techy driving features include distance control, which helps maintain a safety cushion between you and the car ahead of you.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW 3 Series -- The addition of the $32,550 BMW 320i sedan opens up the Bavarian brand to more buyers, but pile on the options and this German sports sedan can easily top $50,000.
Lexus IS -- The other Japanese offering in this hotly contested category, the Lexus IS250, starts at $35,950 and delivers solid styling and creature comforts.
Infiniti's 2014 Q50 proves the Japanese carmaker is serious about innovation. While we were lukewarm about the adaptive steering system under performance-oriented driving conditions like twisty roads, we found it to otherwise operate smoothly without drawing too much attention to itself. Overall, the Q50's blend of brawn and beauty make it a fresh, attractively priced alternative to its competitors.