2018 Infiniti Q50 First Drive | Edmunds

2018 Infiniti Q50 First Drive

A Sedan That Delivers on Performance and Luxury

In America, muscle cars are fast, affordable and almost always powered by a V8 engine. There are no direct equivalents in Japan, but the Nissan GT-R and Lexus RC F are close. The problem is neither is very affordable, so unless you're willing to pay for the privilege, you either have to settle for something less expensive or less powerful.

There is a middle ground, however, and the 2018 Infiniti Q50 is a perfect example. Nicer than traditional muscle cars such as the Camaro or Mustang — and with four doors, more practical, too — the Q50 adheres to a basic tenet of muscle-car philosophy: a lot of power for a little money.

And while $40,000 — the starting point for a six-cylinder Q50 — isn't "little" money, the Q50 delivers power and refinement at that level that makes it the rear-wheel-drive, tail-happy bargain of its class.

2018 Infiniti Q50

No News Is Still Good News
For 2018, the Infiniti Q50 evolves in subtle ways. Look closely and you'll see slight changes to the lower half of the front bumper, where the sides stretch out to better frame the foglights and LED accent lighting. There's also a flat black corner splitter that looks cool and ostensibly represents a minor aerodynamic enhancement.

The sides of the grille area are also pulled out into a crease that exaggerates the front end's vaguely catfish look, but proper proportions prevent it from looking too cartoonish. There's a more defined crease to the rear lower bumper and, on upper trim levels, a layer of black and body-color air diffusers to add visual distinction.

Other tweaks include reshuffled trim levels, improved isolation of wind and road noise, and revisions to software that help control steering feel and transmission shifting.

2018 Infiniti Q50

A Flavor for Every Buyer
For 2018, some of the Q50's trim levels are renamed, but the broad range of configurations remains one of the model's strengths. In addition to the standard Q50, there's also a V6-powered hybrid and a coupe version called the Q60.

The base model earns the more noble distinction of "Pure," while the former Premium trim level is now called Luxe. Both come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine (208 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque) paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission, the only gearbox available throughout the lineup. All-wheel drive is available for an additional $2,000.

Although an entry model, the 2.0t Pure offers an array of essentials and extras, including 17-inch wheels, run-flat tires, LED headlights, faux leather upholstery, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual display touchscreens and Bluetooth. The 2.0t Luxe adds 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, maple wood trim, and option packages that include features such as heated front seats, a 60/40-split folding rear seat and advanced safety technology.

The real fun starts with the Q50's two available V6 engines. The standard twin-turbocharged V6 makes 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque and comes in 3.0t Luxe and 3.0t Sport trims. Maximum giddyup comes with the 400-hp V6 offered in the Red Sport 400. Along with its 350 lb-ft of torque, this engine is a sensory experience that fills the cabin with a sonorous tenor growl and sends a hum through the chassis when prodded.

Sport models offer mostly the same features, but they add 19-inch wheels, sport-oriented leather seats and more options — notably the choice of magnesium shift paddles. Now mounted to the steering wheel, rather than to the steering column as before, the paddles have a heft and texture that render the Q50's absence of a manual transmission an afterthought.

2018 Infiniti Q50

Making the Connection
The Q50 cabin continues to age gracefully, but age it does. It's the same basic design introduced in 2014, and while it doesn't look especially old or dated, its vertical center stack-orientation makes it feel a step behind the more modern, elegant environments in the Q50's rivals from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. The split touchscreens handle some of the same functions, which makes it a little confusing to discern the division of labor between displays. That said, the quality of materials, textures and touches (such as the stitched upper instrument panel and quilted seat stitching) and craftsmanship remains excellent.

The front seats offer plenty of room for arms, knees and elbows. It's a similar story in the back seats, although passengers taller than 6 feet may run out of headroom due to the roof's downward slope.

Inside, a suite of connected tech includes a navigation system with Infiniti InTouch app-style services (remote locking and smartphone calendar sync, for example). A navigation system comes standard on Red Sport models and is optional on Sport and Luxe trims. The 16-speaker Bose audio system — with its clean and loud power, tight bass and definition — is an option worth springing for. Various driver aids, such as blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and bending headlights, are also available.

2018 Infiniti Q50

Sizing Up the Competition
For the same money you'd pay for one of the Q50's V6 models, you could get a comparably equipped German sport sedan, or a Cadillac ATS, and still come up anywhere from 25 to 50 hp short. It's not until you get into flagship performance models — the BMW M3, for example — before the Q50 starts to lose its power but not its price advantage.

Because, while the M3 might offer 25 more horsepower (or even 44 more hp with an optional power package), the Red Sport costs about $10,000 less. It's this power proposition that makes the Q50 a compelling blend of pony car and price.

Still, the Q50 generally feels larger and heavier than its German peers, especially when aggressively steering into curves with speed and even with optional adaptive suspension modes. You'll feel more body lean than in a 3 Series or A4, for example, making the Q50 less of the precision instrument than those cars. Its firm suspension controls up-and-down motions without inducing a constant state of kidney shaking. This makes the Q50 more of a touring-type car than a sport sedan.

We don't see this as a fault, just a difference. Because even if the Q50 doesn't carve the tightest path through a corner, it cuts a fun one. Stabbing the accelerator with traction control disabled just before entering a curve loosens the Q50's rear tire grip enough to initiate a light drift through the turn and the smile that comes from a slippery exit.

2018 Infiniti Q50

And while we weren't impressed with the first iteration of Infiniti's direct adaptive steering, which replaces the mechanical link between the steering wheel and front wheels with computer boxes that talk to one another, this second-generation system feels natural and transparent on quick transitions. This opinion may change once we take the Q50 to its handling limits at our test track, but for the kind of spirited drives that most drivers will enjoy, we're hard-pressed to find fault in the sedan's quick and stable steering feel.

In fact, we're hard-pressed to find fault in most aspects of the Q50's performance. It delivers on a different promise than its more agile competitors, but it's a promise we like: a lot of power for less money. Wrap that in an upscale interior and a sporty, comfortable ride, and you have a sedan equally at home inhaling highway miles as it is climbing a series of switchbacks.

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