The Infiniti Q50 has been around since 2014, and it's earned a reputation for being a fetching entry in the compact sport sedan segment. In 2016, things got more interesting when Infiniti brought us the Red Sport 400 model that upped the performance ante.
But the Q50 is now one of the older cars in its segment, and it has to do battle with the likes of the tech-forward Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4, not to mention a noteworthy newcomer in the Genesis G70, as well as the next-gen BMW 3 Series, the segment's bedrock mainstay. Is the 2019 Infiniti Q50 relevant in the face of formidable competition? Spending a week getting reacquainted in Southern California provides a worthwhile refresher course.
All the feels, except one
My Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 tester arrived powered by a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 making 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque across a generous swath of the rev range. Combine that power with a seven-speed automatic transmission, and you've got yourself a lovely powertrain that's eager to wallop the rear wheels. As a bonus, whenever it climbs to the higher side of the tachometer, the engine begins to sound like a relative of the Nissan GT-R. (If you want to mimic the GT-R's all-wheel drive setup, having the engine power all four wheels costs $2,000 extra.)
The transmission shifts smoothly during normal driving, but once I flick the Q50 into Sport+ mode, cog swaps become much more aggressive, throwing me deeper into my seat whenever I grab the right shift paddle near redline. Infiniti counters that power with a respectable set of brakes that are easy to modulate, and no matter your driving mode, the Q50's adaptive dampers always strike a nice balance between ride comfort and performance.
Toss the Q50 into a set of turns, and the 3,800-pound sedan feels eager to change direction. Unfortunately, the car's steering is the one thing that keeps the Q50 from being a masterpiece. Even without the widely derided by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering that Roadshow's Emme Hall, the standard electronic-rack power steering lacks in terms of feel or feedback… two elements that help out a lot when you want to drive spiritedly.
The EPA rates the Q50 Red Sport 400 at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg highway, which is pretty good considering the level of performance offered. After a week of racking up mostly highway miles, I achieved 23.9 mpg. (If you're looking for something a little more fuel-frugal, the base Q50 comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder producing 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and is estimated to get 23/30 city/highway mpg.)
In the year 2019, you'd be labeled a reasonable person if you were to expect your brand-new luxury performance sedan to feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the Q50 comes with none of that. Instead, all you're afforded is an outdated, challenging-to-use Infiniti InTouch infotainment interface.
The setup consists of an 8-inch touchscreen layered atop a 7-inch touchscreen in the center stack. The top screen, with its tired graphics, looks a decade behind the times. The bottom screen, meanwhile, is comparatively modern, only looking half as old as the relic above it. Tapping through the interface, though, I get the sense that at least half the system's menus could be binned for greater simplicity.
Other standard cabin tech features include HD and satellite radio. My tester includes optional features such as embedded navigation, which is also complicated to use, but at least the 16-speaker Bose is lovely.
The Q50's tech-challenged theme spills over to a lack of standard driver assistance features. All you get right out of the gates is automatic emergency braking. Competition like the Genesis G70 and Lexus IS are much more generous with their driver safety tech. That isn't to say you can't option the Q50 with all the modern bells and whistles, because you certainly can. My $58,435 (including $995 for destination) example features blind-spot monitoring, a 360-degree camera, front and rear parking sensors, backup collision prevention and rain-sensing wipers.
But the Q50's interior redeems things a bit. Despite being an older design, the interior has held up throughout the years. The dual-arch dash with the waterfall center stack contributes to a look I think will still hold up 25 years from now. The cabin plastics look fine for the base car, but for the Red Sport spec, they could be a little better. Still, touches like quilted leather in my test car help lift cabin quality in step with the higher-spec price. Also, seat comfort is right on the money.
How I'd spec it
If you want a decontented, but still-plush commuter, the base Q50 starts at $36,545. Step up to a top-of-the-range Red Sport 400, and you're looking at $52,245, which is where I'd start.
I'd then fork over an additional $2,700 for the Proactive Package that adds adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, adaptive front headlights, automatic high-beams and direct adaptive steering. The Proactive Package requires electing the $2,650 sensory package that includes convenience features such as a power tilt and telescoping steering column, auto-dimming outside mirrors, plus the aforementioned Bose sound system.
I appreciate how the car looks in Midnight Black or Majestic White. Those paint colors cost $500 extra, but I think they're worth it. That leads us to a grand total of $58,510 -- only $75 more than my tester, yet much better-equipped. That's because my Q50 tester comes with superfluous accessories like the $1,520 carbon fiber package, which seems perfect for people who are entertained by building campfires out of stacks of cash. Save yourself some moolah and skip the wannabe supercar flourishes. The Q50 looks perfectly fine without a carbon fiber trunk-lid spoiler and carbon fiber mirror caps.
Lovable, but hard to recommend
I really enjoy driving the Infiniti Q50. It's got loads of power and equally dynamic reflexes. In addition, it sports an attractive interior that's also a quiet and comfortable place to be. There's even 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space, which is better than most competitors.
Unfortunately, in a marketplace where cabin tech is becoming increasingly important to owner satisfaction, the Q50 is too far behind the times to recommend. Not only that, but even for folks who love to drive, that steering could be a deal-breaker, as well.
Don't get me wrong, the Infiniti Q50 is a good car, but its competition is simply more modern and well-rounded.