Some automakers give their mid-cycle vehicle updates drastic sheetmetal and fascia overhauls, while others take a more conservative tack, applying small nips and tucks here and there. Taking the latter approach, the 2018 Infiniti Q50's revisions are a little difficult to notice.
Walking toward my Q50 Red Sport 400 test car sitting in downtown Nashville, it doesn't look too different from the 2017 model. However, Infiniti says the double-arch grille, larger air dams, more pronounced front lip and LED accent light design are new on the Sport model specific fascia.
Out back, slimmer LED lamps and a two-tone lower diffuser give this most performance-focused model in the Q50 lineup a more aggressive look.
Sliding into the driver's seat feels familiar, as Infiniti left the main layout of the dash unchanged. Look close enough and some may be able to pick
-out subtle changes, such as the new thick-rimmed steering wheel, shift knob and additional accent stitching on top of the dash.
As I get rolling on the drive route, I toggle through the carryover Infiniti InTouch infotainment system, featuring an 8-inch screen at the top of the center console and a responsive 7-inch touchscreen below. In no time I have the navigation map up and my favorite satellite radio station playing on the fantastic 16-speaker Bose sound system.
My car is equipped with Infiniti's Direct Adaptive Steering system, which lacked feel and feedback when it first arrived on the scene. Now, in its second-generation and benefiting from continuous refinement, the steer-by-wire system no longer feels like it's not connected to anything. With the Drive Mode Selector in Standard, weight and response feels more natural through the city, but dial-up Sport Plus and it gives immediate response, with absolutely no dead spot on center.
Even with the improvements to Dynamic Adaptive Steering, I still prefer the rack-based electric power steering system that's standard on V6 Q50s.
No major complaints about the unchanged 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 churning away under the hood, giving my right foot control of 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Merging onto the expressway to head south is effortless with the seven-speed automatic transmission smoothly swapping cogs. Manually selecting gears using the steering wheel paddles is an option, but laggy response to shift commands left me letting the computer do all the work for most of the day.
The engine and gearbox combo is also relatively efficient considering the output. According to the EPA, it returns 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
My sole drivetrain quibble is that the exhaust note from the blown V6 is too understated. Even at wide-open-throttle, the audible belch doesn't stir one's emotions. Thankfully, Infiniti does offer a couple of sport exhausts through dealers nationwide. For the loudest soundtrack, a muffler-less kit is available for $589, while a throaty but still civilized kit with mufflers carries a suggested retail price of $681.
Off the interstate and onto more interesting ribbons of road southwest of Nashville, the Red Sport 400 comes alive a little more. In addition to upping steering response, Sport Plus also sharpens throttle response, transmission behavior and stiffens the adaptive Dynamic Digital Suspension. Through bends, the 3,840-pound car leans slightly as the staggered 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires hang on tight.
If you want, a firm jab of the throttle will get the rear to step out around corners, as the new programming for Vehicle Dynamic Control gives a fair amount of rope before stepping in to straighten things.
With the slower speed limits on the winding Natchez Trace Parkway, I switch the Drive Mode Selector to Standard. The front bucket seats, which do an excellent job holding passengers in place during spirited driving, are also comfortable and supportive for regular jogs. Suspension damping adequately smooths out jolts from the few road imperfections I come across in Tennessee, but some tire noise from the wide Bridgestone rubber gets into the cabin.
Another thing disturbing the interior peace is the beeping from the sensitive Lane Departure Prevention with Active Lane Control system, which is one of the many safety tech items on my tester. In addition to the standard Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Forward Emergency Braking, the car is also equipped with optional Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist and Adaptive Front Lighting.
Probably the biggest change to the 2018 Q50 lineup, which arrives in dealers later this summer, is the renamed trim structure. Base cars with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines are now known as Pure models, and begin at $35,105. Mid-tier vehicles adopt the Luxe moniker and are available with the 2.0-liter, 300-horsepower turbo V6 or hybrid drivetrain, and start at $37,455. Sport models begin at $41,555, while the range-topping Red Sport 400 starts at $51,905.
Each trim, no matter the drivetrain, can be had with all-wheel drive for an additional $2,000.
After returning to the city and giving up the keys to the Red Sport 400, I take a final look at the red sedan and mull things over. It remains a handsome looking sedan inside and out boasting impressive drive dynamics and offers technology features that more than hold their own today.
Maybe light updates are all the 2018 Infiniti Q50 needed.