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Sporting a fresh design, new technology and a new name, the all-new 2014 Infiniti Q50 is a rear-wheel-drive compact luxury four-door that replaces the Infiniti G37 sedan.
The new nomenclature is the brainchild of erstwhile Infiniti president Johan De Nysschen, the former Audi executive who stuck around just long enough to shake up the company’s naming scheme before heading out the door to Cadillac. While the concept of using a single letter across the brand is logical on paper, the change has left some confused. When you tell someone you’re driving a Q50, expect the response to be, “Is that an SUV?”
Name aside, the Infiniti Q50 sedan has much to offer someone looking for a unique alternative to usual German suspects: Sophisticated design, a powerful V6 engine and plentiful technology features. And while it might not perform like a BMW 3 Series sedan, the Q50 is more engaging to drive than its Mercedes-Benz C-Class counterpart.
Two powertrains are available: the standard Q50 uses a 3.7-liter, 328-horsepower V6 and comes in base, Premium and performance-oriented S variants. The Q50 Hybrid pairs a 3.5-liter V6 with a 50-kw electric motor, along with a lithium-ion battery pack for a net output of 354 hp. Both standard and hybrid Q50s are available with all-wheel drive, and all models come with a 7-speed automatic transmission.
Driving characteristics are mixed. Acceleration is plenty fast (especially in sport mode with the Q50S), brakes are confident, and handling rivals that of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Lexus IS, particularly around town. But steering is perhaps the Q50’s biggest shortcoming; it lacks feedback and feels numb, especially for those used to the BMW steering feel. The car goes where you point it, but has a hollow characteristic like a USB-powered steering wheel hooked up to a home video game console. When pushed hard around corners, the Q50 starts to show its weaknesses in the form of slipping tires and body roll, so we’d say the Q50 is a better freeway cruiser than a track-day star.
Fuel economy for the base gasoline-powered Infiniti Q50 with rear-wheel drive is EPA-rated at 20/30 mpg City/Highway for and 20/29 mpg City/Highway for Q50 Premium and Q50 S models, which is within a mile per gallon or two of most competitors’ V6 engines. Gas mileage drops to 19/27 mpg City/Highway on all models with all-wheel drive. Hybrid Q50 Premium models achieve 29/26 mpg City/Highway, while Q50 S hybrids get 28/34 mpg City/Highway. Fuel economy also drops on hybrids to an EPA-estimated 28/35 mpg for Q50 Hybrid AWD and 27/31 mpg for Q50S Hybrid AWD.
Interior execution is well done, with a simple and elegant cabin design. It’s cleaner than a BMW 3 Series interior, and feels more inviting than the Audi A4’s stark, Bauhaus-style cabin. Seats, however, are large, good for large males but won’t fit an average-size female.
The Infiniti InTouch infotainment system uses two large screens in the center stack: one that displays the map, and another that controls audio, navigation, phone, apps and vehicle settings. We like this setup, which allows users to access other information while still being able to see where they are on the road. The interface is a combination of touchscreen, hard buttons, and a round control knob on the center console, like a mini version of iDrive. The redundancy aims to pacify both screen-touchers and button-pushers, and for the most part is easy to use. However, we found some functions laborious to access, and we found the voice recognition was mediocre at best.
Competitors to the Infiniti Q50 include the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.