Infiniti showed off a pair of its high-tech new Q50 sedans at the New England Motor Press’ Middleborough headquarters this month. Members who slogged through an early storm could have used the Q50’s Snow setting (among its multiple drive modes), but there were two other advanced features that created a buzz that evening.
Kyle Bazemore, Infiniti’s Senior Manager for US Communications, described in 10 minutes a system that took the company’s engineers some 10 years to develop: the Q50’s Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS). “Actually,” Bazemore said, “it was three years for the technology and seven more years to get the feel of the system just right.”
DAS is the first “steer by wire” system that operates with no mechanical connection between steering wheel and wheels, relying instead on two electric motors and a triple-redundant trio of electrical control units. “It only needs one unit to function,” said Bazemore. “The other two are backups. And if the statistically impossible does happen and the electric steering totally fails, the car will default to manual steering, though it won’t be power assisted.”
Direct Adaptive Steering saves weight because it is bolted directly to the subframe without any dampers. And because it’s electronic, feedback from rough pavement, for example, can be dialed out. “Of course, you can still get road feel through the suspension, but there’s less driver fatigue when it doesn’t come through the steering column too.”
Q50 drivers can select Standard, Sport, and Eco drive modes along with Snow and Custom (personalized) settings. Driving a Q50 on Middleborough’s back roads, a driver immediately notices the system’s quick response, even in Standard mode.
The electric steering is tied into an Active Lane Control system as well as another Q50 innovation: PFCW, the world’s first Predictive Forward Collision Warning system. This uses radar to track not only the vehicle directly ahead, but also the relative velocity and distance of the vehicle in front of that one.
“If there’s something small, such as a sports car, ahead of you, PFCW directs radar over it to track the vehicle in front of that,” Bazemore said. “If you’re following something big, like an 18-wheeler, the system bounces radar off the ground, under it, to track the vehicle in front of the truck.”
The system flashes and beeps if it detects the second vehicle ahead slowing suddenly; it acts more aggressively, and will apply braking, if the distance to the vehicle directly in front closes quickly.
Meanwhile, the Active Lane Control system uses the same cameras to make minute corrections to keep the Q50 in its lane. “We’re not talking an autonomous (self-driving) car here,” Bazemore said, “but these systems are building blocks in that direction.”
Coincidentally, Dec. 10 was the one-year anniversary of Infiniti’s radical decision to rename its vehicles, giving cars a Q prefix and designating SUVs and crossovers as “QX” models.
“Yes, this has caused some confusion,” said Bazemore. “The decision wasn’t made lightly, but it goes back to our original flagship, the Q45, in 1989. It turns out that pretty much the rest of alphabet is already taken, but we had the rights to the letter Q.”
Because Infiniti’s vehicles also had numerical designations based on engine displacement, there were also questions of where new vehicles would stand in the brand hierarchy as engine sizes decrease in the quest for ever-better fuel efficiency.
“At first it was like being told you had to rename your children,” Bazemore said, “but we knew it had to be done to grow the brand in the long run. Now, with our new nomenclature, there’s plenty of room to add product from entry-level vehicles to a halo ultra-luxury car.”
Either event would be an occasion for a return visit. Meanwhile, the Q50 with all-wheel-drive is a contender in NEMPA’s Winter Car of the Year judging.
Nissan is urging New Yorkers to get behind its #HailYes campaign to raise the profile of the company’s NV200 van-turned-taxi.
The company is using TaxiTV (New York City’s in-taxi broadcast channel), Twitter, and Facebook to encourage riders to give the cabs thumbs-up or hashtag mention.
Nissan took the industry lead in converting its smaller vans into taxicabs with features such as sliding doors, four-passenger space, USB charging, sky views through a transparent roof, and improved leg and cargo room.
Finalists: Car and Truck of the Year
General Motors dominated the “cut-down” voting in selecting the three finalists for the 2014 North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year. The winners will be announced on Jan. 13 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The three finalists for car of the year are GM’s Cadillac CTS and Corvette Stingray plus the Mazda3. Truck/utility finalists are the Acura MDX, Chevrolet Silverado, and Jeep Cherokee.
Balloting is by a jury of 48 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada.
The awards have been given since 1994 and are unique in that, instead of being given by a single publication, website, or broadcast outlet, they’re voted by a panel representing all of those media in two countries.