There’s more to Infiniti’s enthusiast’s cars than Red Sport, a fact that the 2017 Q50 3.0t Sport AWD would like to underline. It may not have the highest tuning, but with 300 horsepower underneath its well-styled flanks there’s plenty of reasons to bypass BMW’s showroom and opt for a something more out of the ordinary. That’s Infiniti‘s case on paper, anyway, but does the Q50S deliver on the road?
The Q50S isn’t the most handsome car in Infiniti’s line-up – I’d give that award to the Q60 coupe – but it’s definitely curvaceous. Even in a more discrete finish, like the Iridium Blue of this particular car, it’s a handsome beast. It also hides its size well, falling somewhere in-between the 3 Series and 5 Series that Infiniti so clearly wants to take on.
Infiniti gets closer to that ambition with the Q50S than with many of its previous cars. The 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine isn’t quite tuned to the max – Infiniti saves peak power for the Red Sport branded versions – but 300 HP and 295 lb-ft. of torque isn’t to be sniffed at. Combined with an sure-footed (but optional) AWD system and the Q50S has no issues getting that power to the road, either.
Turbo-lag is nearly non-existent, and though the engine’s soundtrack is a little on the muted side, the V6 pulls well even without the Red Sport tweaks. While it may be larger than many in its class, it hides that size well.
Infiniti takes its “sport sedan” billing seriously, and even in the “Standard” drive mode the Q50S is a fairly firm car. Notch up to Sport or Sport+ and things can get lumpy on ill-kept roads, even if it means the car does stay steady and level in more aggressive cornering. Sport+ can leave things feeling jittery.
Infiniti’s infotainment system is spread across two touch screens in the dashboard, physics buttons underneath, a rotary controller in the center console, buttons on the steering wheel, and an LCD sandwiched in-between its analog dials. If you think that sounds a lot, you’re not wrong. On the plus side, it means you can keep both a full-screen map view and your media on-show simultaneously, one atop the other in the center stack.
On the downside, it does make navigation a fairy challenging affair, at least initially. Infiniti’s shortcut buttons help, and I’m all for a dedicated volume knob, but there’s a reasonable amount of hunting involved for anything more than basic features. I spent several days with chilly fingers before I discovered the heated steering wheel, the control for which is buried in a submenu.
In the back, the segment-straddling dimensions leave the Q50S with impressive legroom. However, the taller among us might discover they must suffer for the car’s slinky styling, with headroom sacrificed for the lower roofline. Corporate parent Nissan donates its fancy Zero Gravity Seat technology, which promises to apply NASA genius to the important matter of keeping your rump relaxed.
I’m no astronaut, but they’re certainly comfortable even after extended travel. Generally, though, while the Q50S’ cabin is solid and functional, it’s starting to show its age, and some of the plastics don’t have the same heft as rivals offer. Similarly, while there’s Infiniti’s InTouch app suite as part of the $2,250 Premium Plus Package, don’t expect Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Infiniti’s drive-by-wire steering is an option, and the Q50S I drove featured a more traditional speed-sensitive setup. Nonetheless, while it doesn’t lack in precision, there’s scant feel coming from the road through to the wheel. It’s not quite so anodyne as the Direct Adaptive Steer (DAS), but it still feels a little too much like a gaming wheel for your console for my liking.
Perhaps I was unlucky, or unduly heavy-footed, but the Q50S proved thirsty, too. Infiniti and the EPA rate the sedan at 19 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined, but in my mixed driving I saw only 19.2 mpg on the trip computer. Considering, with similar use, the Q60 Red Sport 400 coupe – tuned, notably, for 400 horsepower – delivered closer to 21 mpg, you have to ask yourself what the Q50S is doing with all that gas.
At $46,650, the 2017 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport AWD finds itself in-between BMW’s 330i xDrive and 340i xDrive: more powerful than the former, and cheaper than the latter. Add in the Driver Assistance Package, Premium Plus Package, and unnecessary illuminated kick plates, however, and the $52,430 of the car you see here starts to look a lot less appealing. That 340i xDrive kicks off at $49,900 after all, drives better, and has more power.
It’s not to say the Infiniti is a bad choice, but it does encourage temperance when faced with the order form. Those who need more space for their buck may find the physically larger Q50S fits the bill simply by virtual of the space it has on offer.