Infiniti Q50 – Solid as a rock

Despite hitting our Shores in late 2012, Infiniti’s transition into the Australian car market has been relatively quiet, something they aim to change with the launch of the new Q50.

Until now Infiniti has only offered 3 models in Australia, the Q60, Q70 and QX70 crossover with the all new Q50 entering one of Australia’s most popular categories – mid sized luxury sedans. The Q50 wasn’t my first introduction to the brand, driving the very enjoyable Q37 (now Q60) for a week last July, a car that shares the same 3.5 litre engine used in the Hybrid Q50S.

When I saw the first pictures of the Q50 I was pretty impressed, I thought it was confident statement from a progressing young brand. Not until later when someone pointed out that the car was just a dressed up Nissan Maxima, (Nissan own Infiniti) did I look at the car twice. Sure its clear its cut from the same cloth as the Maxima and maybe shares some design points with the Mazda MX-6, but after observing it up close and personal yesterday I also think there’s a taste of Maserati Quattroporte thrown in to.

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As a person who has had next to no interest in the Nissan brand (aside from the standout GTR) since I discovered my passion for cars as a young boy, the Maxima comment had no impact on me whatsoever – to me its never been a car worth noticing. The Q50 on the other hand is definitely a car worth noticing.

At the end of the day people are always going to compare the look of a new car to existing cars, it’s like any piece of design on any product. What we should be making comparisons to, are not the other cars it might look like, but the other cars competing in its category and other models in the Infiniti range. As both an addition to the Infiniti range and the mid sized luxury sedan category, this car shows substantial progression in design, performance and technology but must notably, value.

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The Q50 range is currently represented by 3 models with two engines, a 2.2-litre turbo diesel in the base GT and mid tier S, and the top of the range 3.5-litre V6 Hybrid S, with a mid tier petrol engine to arrive further down the track. Aside from the entry GT, both models feature Infiniti’s all new Direct Adaptive Steering which transfers commands to the wheels via electronic signals, the first production car to feature this technology. There’s a host of other gadgets including the cars InTouch media system (on a real hi-res screen) and Active Lane Control which monitors the lane for unintended drift and makes automatic steering adjustments to keep you on the road.

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The Direct Adaptive Steering does away with steering wheel kickback and quickens the response dramatically.

The 2.2 diesel S is exactly what it claims to be, a premium luxury sedan. The engine is more than capable but it’s not overly exciting to drive. In saying that I don’t think the customer buying it is looking for stand out performance. What they’re looking for is a European alternative that offers a solid package of looks and luxury, with a quality sound system at a competitive price, and that’s what it is at the $50k mark. The Hybrid S however is another story all together. Where the 2.2-litre felt a tad sluggish and underpowered, the 3.5L Hybrid engine delivers the power to excite.

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With Seb Vettel at the helm of their F1 car, Infiniti called the World Champ to help develop and tune the Q50 and it’s certainly more apparent in the Hybrid package. The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine plus a 50kW electric motor produces 268kW and does the 0-100km sprint in just 5.1 seconds or 5.4 depending on your choice of RWD or AWD. The power delivery is effortless and consistent in the Hybrid and the car is poised and firm through the bends. The most desirable thing about this car is it’s ability to be driven hard one moment, then seamlessly transition into a comfortable and quiet hybrid sedan the next.

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Whether Infiniti is a brand that appeals to you or not, there’s no denying that the Q50 will make an impact on this category. It takes a solid package like this to make consumers realise they’ve been paying too much for competing brands and hopefully make these brands re-consider their bottom line pricing. If the fact that the entry model Q50 undercuts every leading competitor in its category isn’t enough, perhaps the fact that a BMW 320i M Sport costs just shy of $80k will help you realise you’d be a fool not to consider this car.

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James is the Founder and Editor of The Versatile Gent.

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