If you're just looking for a hybrid that'll give you great fuel economy, there's no shortage of models to choose from. But what if you also want serious power and handling? A few years ago, you would have been out of luck, but now you've got the all-new 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid to consider. I just spent a week with the Q50 Hybrid, and I was blown away by its performance. This isn't a tame hybrid with a sprinkling of sport; it's a true sport sedan that just happens to employ an electric motor and some batteries.
I'm usually ready to hand over the keys at the end of the week, but the Q50 Hybrid was the rare test car that I genuinely wanted to keep. Here's what stood out to me as I rolled up the miles.
A friend of mine likes to talk about "Have a Nice Day" cars. The definition is simple -- when you plant your right foot, the car lunges forward so powerfully that it's like you're waving "Have a Nice Day" to every driver nearby. There aren't many hybrids in this club, but the Q50 Hybrid is a member in excellent standing. With a remarkable 360 horsepower under the hood, courtesy of a gasoline V6 engine and a 50-kilowatt electric motor, this is one hybrid that can give just about any sedan on the road a run for its money. The acceleration at highway speeds is particularly awesome -- if you floor it at 65, say, you'll be criminal in no time. As an added bonus, the Hybrid's 3.5-liter V6 has none of the high-rpm vibration that plagues the 3.7-liter V6 in other Infiniti products.
Oh, and the rear-drive Q50 Hybrid (all-wheel drive is also available) gets a cool 29 miles per gallon city/36 mpg highway, too, or 28 mpg city/34 mpg hwy in sporty Q50S trim. Not bad at all for a car that sprints to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
When I talk about a car's composure, I mean the way it responds under a variety of circumstances. Does it inspire confidence in a sudden avoidance maneuver? Does it have that planted, stuck-to-the-pavement feel on the highway? Is its steering reassuringly firm and accurate? Do you feel like you can trust it to behave predictably and decisively, come what may? In the case of the Q50 Hybrid, the answer is "yes" across the board. It actually reminded me of an older BMW M3 in the way it followed my commands, and that's about as high as my praise can get.
Having said that, there's one weird hybrid-related thing to keep in mind. When you lift off the throttle, there's basically no engine braking, so you'll need to use the brake pedal more than in a conventional car -- and when you do, you'll notice some typical hybrid oddness in the pedal feel. But I acclimated to these quirks within a few days, and I'm sure you will, too. Overall, the Q50 Hybrid was a real pleasure to drive, whether I was in the express lane to Palm Springs or making time in the twisty Malibu hills.
Let's go back for a moment to the original car in this lineage, the G35 sedan. I really liked that car's looks -- especially the slinky coupe -- but I thought they nailed the sedan, too. Then came the second-generation model, the G37, and it immediately left me cold. Clearly the designers were going for a curvier, more evocative shape, but to me it just came out soft and muddled. The strong, crisp character of the original had been lost.
The 2014 Q50 sedan marks the start of the third generation, and this time I think they crushed it. The curves of the second-generation car are still present, but they're taut and muscular now, resulting in a car that looks dynamic from every angle. I got a lot of compliments on the Hybrid in my week on the road, and that never happened in the old G37. Sometimes you've just got to tip your cap to the designers for a job well done, and the new Q50 is a great example. I'll go so far as to say that it's the best-looking sedan under $50,000 -- all illustrious German rivals included.
The Bottom Line
At $53,655, my fully loaded test car wasn't a bad value, but I think you easily could do without the Deluxe Technology package and the Navigation package. Take those out and you're looking at $46,350 plus destination, which is something of a bargain as luxury sedans go. Would I take the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid over the regular Q50, which is even cheaper? Not sure; I'd have to drive both back-to-back before deciding. But there's no doubt that both models would be at the top of my list for 2014.