The 2014 Infiniti Q50 sedan is a fitting successor to the popular G37 it will eventually replace; its boundless power, athletic road manners and elegant interior raise the bar in the class.
Infiniti's compact sedan probably looks familiar, but thanks to a brand-wide nameplate overhaul, you might have trouble putting the face with the name.
Aside from its new place in the Infiniti alphabet, the car wears more fluid styling, gets additional safety features and loses its manual transmission for 2014; a hybrid sedan is also new this year. Rear- and all-wheel-drive sedans return; coupe and convertible body styles are not yet available, though they will eventually join the lineup under the Q60 name. Compare the 2014 Q50 and the 2013 G37 here.
Automakers are keeping the compact sport sedan segment fresh; several key players are either all-new or redesigned within the past year. Q50 competitors include the Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS and Acura TL. Compare them here.
The G37 has always exuded muscular character. It still comes through on the Q50, but it's nicely balanced with some new softness. Glaring, hooded LED headlights and a shapelier version of Infiniti's double-arch grille add to its brawniness, but there's a new slipperiness to its profile. More dramatically sculpted wheel arches and subtle body-side wave lines give it a fluid, always-in-motion look.
Standard LED headlights, running lights and taillights are new this year. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, and the Sport trim level gets 19s; run-flat tires are standard on both. Sizewise, the Q50 retains the G37's wheelbase, but grows 2 inches wider and loses less than an inch of height.
An unfamiliar name and face camouflage an old favorite; the sedan's 328-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 has been tweaked for 2014 for a higher level of refinement and better fuel economy. It feels both spirited and grounded; power is robust from a stop, and a light tap calls up nearly boundless reserves for effortless passing and merging. It also sounds more refined — the sporty exhaust burble still headlines the soundtrack, but it's more muted than the outgoing model.
Two-wheel-drive versions are EPA-rated at 20/29/23 mpg city/highway/combined, up from the G37's 19/27 mpg rating. The numbers stack up favorably against two-wheel-drive V-6 versions of the Cadillac ATS (18/28 mpg), Lexus IS 350 (19/28 mpg) and Acura TL (20/29 mpg). A new Eco mode can boost fuel economy by around 5 to 10 percent, depending on how often it's engaged, Infiniti says. Eco is part of a new standard Drive Mode selector system that alters shift patterns and throttle sensitivity to benefit fuel economy or sportiness; choices include Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow (for all-wheel-drive versions) and Personal. Eco delivers a dull, stymied throttle response. In Sport mode, the throttle sensitivity sounds and feels more aggressive.
The smooth and responsive seven-speed automatic transmission returns for 2014. It teams nicely with the 3.7-liter; prompt and gentle shifts make for seamless transitions. We're lucky it's so good, as there's no manual transmission option this year. Infiniti said too few buyers selected the six-speed manual in the previous generation to justify offering the option. It will be back eventually — though Infiniti isn't saying when — and will likely debut on the coupe.
Fans of the G37, I mean Q50, will have plenty of models to choose from. Aside from the regular sedan, a hybrid version is also available. Infiniti bills it as a "no trade-off" vehicle, offering more power (32 additional hp) and better fuel economy (29/36/31 mpg) than the 3.7-liter. Despite the 3.5-liter's 360 hp in the hybrid, it isn't as much of a powerhouse as its gas-only sibling. It's still strong, but not nearly as smooth; shifts feel much more abrupt. At low speeds, it'll operate in EV-only mode and is nearly silent, save for some subtle mechanical whirrs. The transfer from EV to gas mode is nearly imperceptible.
One of the biggest — and most surprising — differences between the two models is their steering behavior. The all-wheel-drive Q50 S I tested used Infiniti's traditional mechanical steering setup, vastly different from the new Direct Adaptive Steering system on the hybrid: Its electric by-wire architecture uses sensors and signals to steer the car. Although it's standard on top-level hybrid trims or as a pricey option on non-hybrids (starting in a $3,100 package), it's worth it.
The standard system required a heavy amount of driver correction; finding a comfortable center at highway speeds was fatiguing. The overall feel was light and twitchy rather than connected to the road. It seemed at odds with the sedan's sporty mission.
In contrast, the Direct Adaptive Steering system provided a firm, direct feel along with quicker, more responsive reflexes. Despite the vastly different steering systems, both cars exhibited a controlled ride with decent bump isolation, though the S model, with its 19-inch wheels and sport suspension, rode more firmly. Overall, however, the Q50 felt as lithe as its predecessor — confident around corners with impressive grip and little lean.
Infiniti says the Q50 is its "most connected" vehicle, and the new InTouch multimedia system indeed takes connectivity to a new level. Its two touch-screens take up much of the futuristic, command-center-like instrument panel. The 8-inch upper screen displays navigation and vehicle info, while climate, audio and app displays live on the 7-inch lower unit. Two expansive readouts mean the audio and climate systems don't need to jockey for the same piece of real estate.
The screens function like an iPad or tablet — pinch to zoom, swipe to scroll. InTouch is customizable and can store up to four driver preference profiles, remembering navigation, audio, climate and app settings. Infiniti says it'll be compatible with around a dozen apps, including Twitter, Facebook and Pandora. Twitter while driving will never be a good idea, but Infiniti says the apps can be controlled via voice prompts to minimize distractions; the software was unavailable on the preproduction models we tested.
All this technology may sound daunting, but it's not. Infiniti makes the technology available but not overwhelming. The menu structures are intuitive and there's no need to panic about the loss of physical controls — most of the audio and climate buttons are still there if you want to opt out of the screens. The optional navigation system was easy to use; entering a destination and canceling a route can be done in only a few steps.
A couple minor gripes: The Q50 still has a traditional audio volume knob, but gone is the radio tune knob. In its place is a touch-screen button — going from SiriusXM 28 to 95 will give you finger fatigue. Also, the touch-screens' response time was sometimes sluggish and their actions delayed, though I was told it was a preproduction glitch.
The cabin retains the G37's classy and sporty vibe, with an added dash of modern elegance. The front seat's twin-cockpit setup is re-imagined with an asymmetrical division of space and an emphasis on the driver; a metal dividing line runs the length of the center console. High-gloss maple wood trim or textured matte-finish metal complement the supple leather for a stylish and sophisticated interior. Everything looks and feels first class; Infiniti's attention to detail is evident in the padded surfaces, contrast stitching and expertly fitted panels.
Although the Q50's footprint is similar to the G37's, the sedan is wider and sits a bit lower. This translates into less rear headroom but more front headroom and legroom. It still compares favorably against competitors, though. Even taller drivers will find the front seat spacious. The bolstered front sport seats are abundantly comfortable — they're deep, wide and long, with a thigh extender for additional support. At 5-foot-5, I easily had enough headroom in the backseat, but my 6-foot-6 passenger rode with his head brushing the ceiling — a common occurrence, he assured me.
Lexus IS 350
|Front headroom, inches
|Front legroom, inches||44.5||42.5||44.8||42.5|
|Rear headroom, inches||37.5||36.8||36.9||36.7|
|Rear legroom, inches||35.1||33.5||32.2||36.2|
There's 13.5 cubic feet of space in the trunk, much roomier than the ATS (10.4) and the TL (13.1), but a smidge less than the IS 350's 13.8 cubic feet. A pass-through to the trunk is standard; a 60/40-split rear seat is optional (which strikes me as a cut-rate move). Neither is available on the hybrid, where trunk space shrinks to 9.4 cubic feet to accommodate its battery.
Features & Price
Base rear-wheel-drive versions of the 2014 Infiniti Q50 start at $37,605 (all prices include destination charges). It's available in base, Premium, Hybrid Premium, S and S Hybrid trims, and all-wheel drive adds an extra $1,800 across the lineup. The hybrid model is pricey, starting at $44,855. In a strange twist, Infiniti announced it'll continue to sell the G37 model until mid-2015. It will now start at $33,455, much lower than the previous price.
The V-6 versions of the 2014 Cadillac ATS ($42,020) and 2014 Lexus IS 350 ($40,360) clock in a bit higher, the 2013 Acura TL a bit lower ($36,800). The Q50 is at the low end of the price spectrum, but not after adding safety and convenience features. The Deluxe Touring Package, for example, adds the upgraded steering, Around View Monitor and a few other small features for $3,100. Many of the active safety features are bundled into the $3,200 Technology Package. Navigation is an additional $1,400, and leather seats add $1,000.
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 has not yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Q50 comes standard with a full complement of airbags, including side curtain airbags that protect front and rear occupants. A backup camera is standard. Click here for a full list of safety features.
The options are where things get interesting. The Q50 offers a host of active collision-preventing safety features, including predictive forward collision warning with automated emergency braking, blind spot warning, blind spot intervention, backup collision intervention, lane departure prevention and active lane control. The latter uses cameras and steering sensors to help keep you in the center of the lane if you've wandered too far; it also makes smaller adjustments to keep you straight in case of crosswinds and road imperfections.
Q50 in the Market
Executives at the press preview called the Q50 "the best sedan we've ever built," and though the hyperbole prompted an automatic eye roll, I have to concede their point. The G37 was already a standout, and the Q50 builds on that foundation with a compelling blend of sport, comfort and class.
Fans of the original should have no problem welcoming this iteration to the family — as long as they know just what the heck they're looking at.