As I check the 2017 Infiniti Q50's handling on a twisty mountain road, I'm hearing tire squeal but the back end isn't drifting out. Then I remember seeing the AWD badge on its rear. Sweet.
A toggle on the console lets me choose from six different drive modes, including Sport, Sport Plus and an configurable mode called Personal. Those modes adjust throttle, steering and suspension. This sedan hides advanced performance tech under its fenders.
On the center dashboard sits a stack of two screens, one color LCD at the top and a touchscreen below, controlling navigation, stereo, hands-free phone and connected features. I like these controls, finding them intuitive and responsive enough for regular use.
But what I find really impressive is the fuel economy, which ends up averaging in the mid-20s, much better than the Q50's predecessor.
The Q50 succeeded Infiniti's G37 model in 2014, coming out as a rewrite of that earlier popular sport sedan. The 2017 Q50 looks as good as Infiniti's older G sedans and shows off improvements in driving dynamics and feature content. Infiniti offers the Q50 in 16 base variations, with engines ranging from a turbocharged 2.0-liter to a gasoline-electric hybrid and all-wheel-drive options on each drivetrain. And for those who think four doors is too many, Infiniti also have the very similar Q60 coupe.
I drove the Q50 3.0t Sport AWD, meaning this Sport trim model featured a twin turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine with direct injection, seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. That engine makes 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
The cabin feels similar to earlier Infiniti models, with leather, power adjustable seats and easily understood switchgear showing good ergonomics. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, but I find the roof feels low in the rear seats, with only an inch to spare for my 5 foot 8 inch self. As a premium car, the Q50 includes automatic climate control, and metal grilles cover the Bose stereo's 14 speakers.
At the top of the dashboard, an 8-inch color LCD shows the map and route guidance, placing it within easy driver view. The 7-inch touchscreen below that includes functions for entering destinations, along with control and display for audio and hands-free phones. I like this arrangement, as I can have route guidance working on the upper screen and still see what song is playing with a glance at the lower screen.
The Q50's interface includes some duplicative controls, but I didn't find these confusing in any way. This system also earned a spot on Ward's 10 Best UX awards for 2016. All that said, the bright and colorful map screens don't reflect the sophistication of the car, and route guidance did not show lane suggestions. And Infiniti doesn't speak Android Auto or Apple CarPlay yet.
Infiniti includes online destination search in the Q50 through its telematics service, plus the ability to send destinations from phone to car through Google maps.
I was disappointed at the lack of adaptive cruise control in the Q50 I drove, but Infiniti makes that feature available as part of a $1,700 Technology package, which also bundles blind spot monitoring, a lane keeping system to prevent drivers from drifting over lane lines, and automated high beams. That package sounds well worth the price. Included on this Q50 was Infiniti's surround view camera system, which not only gives a forward and rear camera view, but also a top-down view, very useful when parking.
The Q50's adaptive suspension and variable steering input give it a tech edge over its G37 predecessor, yet the driving experience feels similar. The sedan adapts easily from city to freeway to twisty mountain road.
As I putt around city streets, I'm comfortable in the Q50. It drives easy, letting me modulate brakes and accelerator without any drama, while proving maneuverable in heavy traffic. It feels commute-capable.
On the freeway, the Q50 zips along, taking a rightful place in the fast lane when necessary. I roll along in Standard or Eco drive modes, the latter detuning the throttle substantially, and over about 50 miles the trip computer shows 26 mpg, right at its EPA 26 mpg highway number for the all-wheel-drive version (add 3 mpg for the rear-wheel-drive version). City fuel economy is down at 18 mpg under EPA testing, with a score of 21 mpg combined, but my average for a variety of driving conditions comes in at 23 mpg.
I take the Q50's real measure on mountain roads, pushing the revs by using its column-mounted paddle shifters. This sedan immediately impresses me through the simplicity of activating its sport modes. Unlike most competitors, which require a separate sport setting for transmission and engine, I only need to work a toggle on the Q50's console to engage sport settings for suspension, transmission and steering. One button to glory.
In both Sport and Sport Plus modes, of which I feel minimal difference, the Q50 gives me ready power to tackle the turns and straights. Its steering proves responsive and it grips well, while the body remains poised. However, I also note that the Q50 never shows exceptionally sharp responses. From throttle to gear changes to steering, it feels slightly muted, giving it a traditional sport sedan feel in line with its predecessor.
The example I drove came with standard electric power steering, but Infiniti also offers what it calls Direct Adaptive Steering, the industry's first drive-by-wire steering system. While some automotive journalists give that system poor marks, I found it worked just fine in a previous Q50 model I drove.
The Infiniti G37 appealed to management and executive types who craved a sporty edge in a premium sedan, an appeal that the 2017 Infiniti Q50 maintains. It's a comfortable sport sedan, able to handle the daily commute, show some life on a weekend trip and even carry a child seat. Although some buyers may still favor the worthy German competition, counting the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, I like the Infiniti's straightforward nature. I didn't get lost in the settings or the cabin electronics.
Infiniti offers many options with the Q50 and the aforementioned 16 variants. I would seriously consider the Q50 Hybrid, which boasts considerably more power than the 3.0t variants while also getting a big fuel economy boost. That said, for a gasoline-only version I would stick with the 3.0t instead of going to the less powerful 2.0t.
The Q50 also requires some extra cash to option it up, starting with the Premium Plus package, at $2,250, bringing in navigation and a number of other niceties. Add another $2,150 for the basic Driver Assistance package to get the surround view camera, blind spot monitor and other collision prevention systems, then throw in $1,700 for the Technology package, with adaptive cruise control and a lane departure prevention system. The Q50 Hybrid includes some of these packages as standard, helping to make up for the base price differential.