Infiniti clearly means business. The company is meeting the sports sedan establishment head-on with its new medium car, the Q50. The cutting-edge car – it features steer-by-wire technology – was launched to local media in KwaZulu-Natal this week.
To back up the Infiniti revitalisation, the company is boosting its tiny dealer footprint. It plans to roll out several more dealers, initially in Gauteng.
The Infiniti Q50 fits the classic sports sedan template, with handsome lines and a powerful front engine driving the rear wheels. To some eyes the car’s complex curves can seem a little fussy. Still, you’d not accuse it of being dull.
At launch, the Q50 is available with either a 2,2 diesel or a hybrid that combines a 3,5 V6 petrol and an electric motor. That electric motor is intended as more of a power boost than an economy assistant. The hybrid can be had with either two-wheel drive or (later) four-wheel drive. A 2,0 petrol turbo is being readied for production and will be available from September.
Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) “steer-by-wire” technology, available only on the hybrid, will get most of the Q50 tech headlines. DAS enables the driver to adjust both the steering’s response and weight and is completely electronic. It has no mechanical linkage to the front wheels (although there is a steering column failsafe). DAS is combined with innovative Active Lane Control, automatically steering the car back in line. Adaptive suspension, embraced by some competing manufacturers, is not available.
Another tech highlight is the central dual LCD VGA touch screens. The set-up uses proprietary InTouch tech with a range of connectivity options and performance-monitoring (G force meter and graphs, for instance).
The touch-screen display is very comprehensive – perhaps too comprehensive. One minor jarring note for me is the use of a digital clock in the display, rather than a mechanical clock, which would have been a nice touch. Other than that, the interior finishes are a great combination of classic and modern, with a distinctly driver-oriented cockpit. Comfort levels are good front and rear.
Incidentally, the hybrid battery pack significantly eats into the boot space. To mitigate this, a decision was taken to orient the battery more or less upright, not on flat on the boot floor. This means that only the front-to-rear boot space is affected; vertical load space is unchanged.
THE PM DRIVE
KZN’s back roads are perhaps not the ideal environment for putting an Infiniti Q50 through its paces. Although pleasantly winding, the backroads pass through countless settlements and are littered with tyre-eating potholes. That said, several aspects stood out.
First, DAS, with which I was already on nodding terms. Standard setting felt a little little and quick for the circumstances, so I stuck to Sport. In high-speed bends, that Sport setting comes into its own, but when moving at a leisurely pace it seems to lack feel around the straight-ahead position. With more time and settling down, I can see myself opting to optimise my own preferences and selecting the Personal option.
On both hybrid and diesel, ride is superbly controlled and generally quite comfortable. Road noise is a little intrusive, though. Speaking of noise, the hybrid makes a satisfying growl under acceleration (to accompany the satisfying kick in the back). The diesel is a lot more raspy and, though not as muscular and refined in feel as the hybrid, doesn’t lack urge when overtaking. Strangely, the diesel transmission’s shifts felt “lazier” than the hybrid’s, irrespective of mode.
INFINITI Q50: JUST THE FACTS
Engine hybrid 3,5 V6 or 2,2 diesel 4-cylinder
Output hybrid: 270 kW/546 N.m; diesel 125 kW/400 N.m
0-100 km/h hybrid 5,1 s
Price from about R400 000