We’re headed off on a ride today. There’s only one problem: Our destination is uncertain as is the route to get there, wherever “there’’ turns out to be. So buckle in (as always), come along for the ride, and enjoy some tangential detours and hairpin turns.
Usually, after several days of driving a car under various conditions, you have a pretty good idea of where the review is going to end up. Not today. This is a case of sitting down at the keyboard and following the sentences as if they’re a road map.
Side note to wannabe writers: This isn’t the way to approach the craft. Most good writers know where they’re headed, come up with a good lead paragraph, and then take you to their destination.
In this case, I’m the typical male driver. A bit lost and unwilling to stop and ask for directions.
For starters: Today’s test car is the all-new Infiniti Q50 Premium. Our test model has the 3.7 V-6 (sorry, a 4-cylinder isn’t an option here), virtually all the bells and whistles in terms of optional safety, comfort, and technology packages, and—apropos for New England—all-wheel-drive.
Here’s where we have to detour and give some additional background on this new vehicle.
The Q50 is a direct descendent of Infiniti’s G37, a nice, near-luxury sport sedan that’s still on sale (until inventory is exhausted). The question now becomes whether the Q50 retains the G37’s combination of value and performance.
But first, another detour to explain Infiniti’s naming conventions. Again, apologies for making this journey a bit convoluted.
Automakers want to sell their cars worldwide, and what may be a great name in North America, for example, becomes an inappropriate or laughable name elsewhere in the world. Thus, Infiniti’s wrenching corporate-wide decision to shift to Q designations—Q for cars, QX for crossovers and SUVs. Wrenching because it causes consumer confusion, something no manufacturer wants.
In previous years, engine size was part of the name. The G37, for example, had a 3.7-liter V-6 engine. Thus the 37. However, industry marketing managers worry that as conventional internal combustion engines became more efficient and have smaller displacement, how would the consumers react if a G27—even if it’s more luxurious, powerful, and expensive—were to replace the G37?
So Infiniti joins those manufacturers who have chosen to move to the alphanumeric nomenclature. It’s something Audi and BMW have done well, Audi with its A and S designations and BMW with its 1- 2- 3- series for sedans and X names for SUVs and crossovers. Bigger numbers in those model lines signify bigger (and more expensive) vehicles. If it’s intuitive for the consumer, it’s better for sales.
That brings us back to the Q50. Base price for our test vehicle is $42,255 (including destination). Not bad for a vehicle that wants to go out to compete with Europe’s finest: the BMW 3 Series, Audi S4, Volvo S60, along with worthy US (Cadillac ATS) and Asian (Lexus IS 350) vehicles.
However, our test car had a bottom line price of $51,955, thanks to five add-on packages: Technology ($3,200), Deluxe Touring ($3,100), Navigation ($1,400), 19-inch AWD tire and sport package ($1,000), and leather seating ($1,000).
The technology package is astounding and represents state of the art systems. Included are adaptive front lighting (outstanding), automatic high beams (as good as there is in the industry), blind spot warning/prevention (excellent), backup collision intervention (amazing), intelligent cruise control (I drove 60 miles without touching the gas or brakes), active lane control, and upgraded climate control.
Self-discovery No. 1. Because these are the car’s most memorable features to me, it likely means the Q50’s luxury-performance equation is tilted more towards luxury than sport sedan. The Q50 does most everything well, but the whole package isn’t a winner as a sport sedan; that said, it is an exceptional near-luxury “sporty’’ sedan.
A month or so ago, we were introduced to its industry-first direct adaptive steering, an all-electric system, and how it felt great on a quick ride. In real-life experience, it’s just different—a little too quick-response for my tastes, maybe because it’s also working with the active lane control during highway driving. Perhaps my driving technique wasn’t quite in step with the controller’s algorithms.
The 3.7-liter V-6 is powerful (328 horsepower) but a little noisy when cold. The seven-speed automatic transmission is flawless. Downshifting for an exit ramp or upcoming turn, the transmission, with its rev-matching feature, is amazingly smooth.
On the road, the Q50 is solid and predictable, but it doesn’t have that true ride-on-rails sport sedan feel.
As we near the end of our ride, I guess that’s the conclusion.
The Q50 is a wonderful car, but it seems to have taken a step back from sport mode while improving its near luxury attributes to pretty much full luxury. That is still is the way most people look at Infiniti even though three-time Formula One racing champion Sebastian Vettel has input on the performance turning.
In the end, you are what you are. Accepting that (hopefully) isn’t the worst outcome in this lifetime.
2014 Infiniti Q50 3.7 AWD Premium
Price, base/as tested (with destination): $42,255/$51,955. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 19 city/27 highway/22 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 23.2. Drivetrain: 3.7-liter V-6, 7-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. Body: 5-passenger sedan.
Horsepower: 328. Torque: 269 lb.-ft. Overall length: 188.3 in. Wheelbase: 112.2 in. Height: 75.2 in. Width: 71.8 in. Curb weight: 5,004 lbs.
Luxury appointments, latest technology, Infiniti badge and quality.
Ride and handling not as refined as some on the road and not as tight as other sport sedans.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A fine, near-luxury sedan with cutting edge technology that hasn’t quite become a true sport sedan.
Audi S4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60.