Review of the Infiniti Q50
PUBLISHED: 19:19 17 October 2014 | UPDATED: 19:19 17 October 2014
The Q50 from Nissan's luxury arm Infiniti offers a different path for those who like to chart their own way in life
If you buy clothes with brands and logos that shout what you are worth rather than your individual sense of style, please ignore the Q50 from Nissan premium brand, Infiniti. You just won’t like it: it’s not German, it’s not all straight lines, and the key fob might simply go unnoticed even if you rest it ostentatiously on a bar.
However, if you like to chart your own course, admire things that are well made and applaud a stand against adversity, then the Infiniti is worth a second look.
The brand was created in the 1980s when three Japanese car giants launched luxury marques for the lucrative US market, with varying degrees of success: Toyota created Lexus, Honda’s answer was Acura, and Mazda experimented with Xedos.
Infiniti prospered, although progress in Europe and the UK has been dogged by bad timing and a small dealership network.
It arrived here in 2008 as the recession was in full swing; any buyer with money to spare was unlikely to take a chance on a relatively unknown brand, especially one without a diesel option.
Slowly but surely, Infiniti has demanded attention with well-produced, good-value cars with points of difference, and by adding diesels, while the dealer network is expanding - now joined by Infiniti Maidstone, part of the Motorline group.
Our BMW 3 Series rivalling Q50 test car is a technical tour de force, the £41,640 3.5-litre Hybrid All-Wheel Drive model - 302bhp comes from a V6 petrol engine and 67bhp from the car’s electric motor.
At one extreme, this lavish set-up allows rear-driven emissions-free electric mode for a limited time or potent 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds sporting saloon performance, through harnessing both powerplants and driving all four wheels.
While both impressive and potentially economical (41.5mpg on the official combined cycle) the car is slightly off the pace dynamically, with the ‘fly-by-wire’ power steering fitted on top Q50 models like this lacking the feedback keen drivers demand. However, the Q50 Hybrid is a refined motorway and long-distance cruiser that can bind the loyalties of those already drawn to its arresting, bold styling.
The cabin has quality writ large, with smart materials including a real metallic finish centre console.
Gadget freaks will like the ‘connectivity’ of two 12v sockets, two USB sockets, an SD card slot, plus audio and video-in sockets; a real office away from home that also boasts seats designed with space age input from NASA, no less, and lots of legroom thanks to a long wheelbase.
Headroom in the rear is limited for taller people, while the middle passenger there will hate the high transmission tunnel.
But finding the perfect driving position is a doddle and I liked the well-crafted manual gear selection steering wheel paddles; encouragement to override the slightly plodding seven-speed auto ‘box.
Fact is, though, you can save money and have the best of the Q50 – the looks and the generous standard spec, while also escaping that fly-by-wire steering – by buying the most popular and entry level 170bhp 2.2-litre diesel manual powertrain (from £29,870). n