Let’s assume for a moment that I’m a reasonable man, a father, a husband, and that I love to drive. Short of being married (I’m actually engaged), I am and can be all of the above. It is in these moments, when I’m driving a lovely luxury sedan with plenty of equipment and power, that I wonder what draws me to 2-seater psycho cars producing 500+ horsepower.
Case in point: one week and many hours and over 1,200 kilometres with the new 2016 Infiniti Q50 2.0T AWD. This entry-level sedan may very well be the best, most intelligent purchase that can be made at one of the brand’s dealerships. The list of standard features is long, the pricing is right, and the power is smart.
In 2016, going on 2017, a 200-horsepower engine is almost a turn-off, a reason NOT to consider buying a specific car. However, when given the chance, a small turbocharger on a 4-cylinder engine will more than likely impress. This is the Q50 2.0T’s ace in the hole―that is, if everything else about the car doesn’t get you first.
The Infiniti card
Nissan’s luxury division has worked hard at carving a spot amongst the German giants and the other highly adaptive Japanese luxury car brands. In building a name for itself as a performance-oriented carmaker, it has managed to be considered as an alternative to the unbeatable BMW 3 Series, which is no small feat.
The G35 did hard labour years ago, but the fruits of this labour can be found in how today’s Q50 behaves on the road. However, in the hopes of staying ahead, Infiniti has abandoned everything analog and replaced them with electronics.
The enthusiast and performance driver in me is annoyed with the driving experience, but the pragmatic guy appreciates the transparency with which the car operates. The 2016 Infiniti Q50 2.0T AWD is sharp minus any harshness with rapid, precise steering, as well as a honed, tuned-in drive. Ride quality is decent if only because the suspension is calibrated for a sportier ride.
The Q50’s drive is far from boring and this can be attributed to a few things, namely the speed-sensitive, electro-hydraulic power steering and the rear-biased AWD system. Steering is quick with a fair amount of weight behind it―ideal for that sporty feeling. Unlike many AWD systems that focus on the front wheels, the Q50 displays a minute amount of rear-steer with little understeer unless severely induced.
Up until recently, the famed VQ family of V6 engines held the sole responsibility of motivating the Infiniti G35/G37/Q50. The 2016 model brings a number of changes including a new series of powerplants. The normally aspirated V6 has been replaced by a pair of turbocharged VR 3.0L V6s, one that’s good for 300 horsepower (Q50 3.0T AWD) and the other, 400 horsepower (Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD).
The basic engine is the Mercedes-sourced 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that also does duty in the new QX30 crossover. Its 208 horsepower may sound mundane, but never underestimate the impact of torque―258 lb-ft in this instance. At scarcely above idle, the 2.0T generates its maximum amount of twisting power. This makes for surprisingly spirited off-the-line acceleration.
I have long been a fan of Infiniti’s 7-speed automatic transmission. Despite the absence of paddle shifters on the steering wheel, it will rev-match on downshift, making itself very involved in the drive. It does a great job under any type of acceleration, although in my experience it prefers to be put to the test than driven leisurely. This autobox will aptly handle the daily grind, but revels at the opportunity to drop a few cogs when passing is required.
As a highway cruiser, the Q50 2.0T AWD is perfectly adapted to efficiency and wellbeing. I covered 1,260 kilometres in a week, and the car returned a very satisfactory 8.6L/100km average.
My bum and back
There is one element that I found to be lacking in the 2016 Infiniti Q50: the front seats. I know Nissan and Infiniti have done much work creating comfortable “Zero Gravity” seats, but my passenger and I did masses of shuffling on our 5-hour drive. A proper driving position also proved difficult to find in part because the telescoping action of the steering column is partial.
The nonexistent lateral and limited lumbar support was the major culprit; we actually had the impression of sitting on flat surfaces. Despite this shortcoming, the quiet ride and plenty entertaining audio and communication system kept us in good spirits.
Unlike some manufacturers, Infiniti has managed to smartly blend two screens and make them work in perfect synchronicity. The combination of a menu wheel and touchscreen permits easy and quick navigation. The graphics and overall quality of the interface are top-notch.
Elsewhere in the Q50 cabin, ergonomics are equal parts modern design and excellent layout. Fit and finish are both lovely and on par with what the Germans have in store.
The smart version
With a starting price of $39,900, the 2016 Infiniti Q50 2.0T AWD is a lot of car for the money. The addition of the $4,000 Premium Package (navigation, heated leather seats, Bose Centerpoint stereo, etc.) makes it complete, although I would suggest offering the Sport seats from the 3.0T as an option and throw in that model’s 19” wheels for $3,000 combined. This would make the Q50 2.0T all the more appealing.
That's my pragmatic point of view.