2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Introduction
Infiniti has unfortunately spent much of its existence toiling in the shadows of bigger names in the luxury business like BMW and Audi. That's something that the brand hopes will start to change through the introduction of vehicles like the 2014 Infiniti Q50S. This re-named refresh of the good, but often-overlooked Infiniti G sedan targets entry-level premium shoppers who want style, speed, and comfort without having to pay a Teutonic price penalty to get it.
If that sounds like the same play that was made by the now-departed G sedan, you are right - and these cars share more than a little DNA - but the Q50S is much more capable of delivering on its promise than past Infiniti models. A lot is riding on the 2014 Infiniti Q50S, but after spending a week with this 3 Series fighter, it seems to me that the Japanese upstart has put its money on a winner.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 comes in four distinct trim levels: base 3.7, 3.7 Premium 3.7 S, and Hybrid. The entry-level edition of the Infiniti Q50 (MSRP $36,700) offers LED headlights and fog lights, dual automatic climate control, vinyl seats, the InTouch interface, a rearview camera, satellite radio, 17-inch rims, power seats, and Bluetooth connectivity. The 3.7 Premium (MSRP $39,550) includes a louder stereo system, a sunroof, and heated seats, while the 3.7 S (MSRP 43,200) provides additional bolstering for the front buckets, leather upholstery, a stiffer suspension system, 19-inch rims, paddle shifters, and aluminum pedals. The Hybrid starts at an MSRP of $43,950, and essentially mirrors the trim levels of the gas-only version, topping out at $48,150 (all-wheel drive can be added to each and every version of the Q50, and in some cases brings a few additional features with it).
The 2014 Infiniti Q50S tester that I drove additional came with the Navigation package and the Deluxe Touring package (adaptive steering, wood trim, power steering wheel adjustment, memory seats), giving it a total MSRP of $48,60. Like the QX70 that I recently tested, this price includes an unexplained $905 charge for 'Miscellaneous' on the window sticker.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Design
- The 2014 Infiniti Q50S offers all-new styling.
The 2014 Infiniti Q50S is a sedan that realizes it's going to have to grab your attention from the get-go if it hopes to steal thunder away from the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. Mission accomplished: the Q50S is much more of a looker than last year's G sedan, and not only that, it takes the prize for 'most evil-looking luxury sedan' in the entry-level class. The laser-sharp lines of the Infiniti's hood, bumpers, and headlights are exceptionally striking, especially when seen from above where it's possible to appreciate the car's sculpted hood that rises up in waves to accent its LED projectors. A wide grille, flared wheel wells, and detailed sheet metal along its sides create by far the most visually-interesting sedan to date from the Japanese brand.
The Infiniti Q50S continues to deliver once the driver's door is opened wide, with a new interior that eliminates much of the plastic that was characteristic of past sedan efforts from the company. In its place is soft leather on the door panels and seats, along with hints of wood trim in unexpected, but pleasing areas of the dashboard and console. The new Infiniti feels much more in keeping with its premium price point than ever before, and doesn't come across nearly as stark as some versions of the class-leading 3 Series.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Infiniti Q50S has been completely redesigned.
The 2014 Infiniti Q50S rides on a chassis that is in many ways similar to that of the departed G sedan. Despite featuring the same wheelbase, however, the Q50S manages to give both front and rear-seat riders more space to stretch out, with leg, shoulder, and headroom improved at almost every position in the automobile. It's noticeable, too, giving the Infiniti a leg-up over smaller-feeling competitors like the Cadillac ATS. The vehicle's trunk measures 13.5 cubic feet, which is good, but its layout is a bit more shallow than I expected.
The Q50S' suspension system - despite being tuned for performance - is also soft enough to coddle riders during daily driving. Infiniti has made an effort to tighten up the car's unibody to help combat shakes and rattles, and I can vouch that this is one of the quietest Infiniti models I have had the pleasure of riding in. Seats are supportive in all of the right places, and visibility was excellent front and rear, making the Q50S a low-stress vehicle to pilot through traffic.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Infiniti Q50S delivers a dramatically-updated set of touchscreen controls.
Aside from the upgraded interior bits and new styling throughout the passenger compartment, what stands out most about the redesigned 2014 Infiniti Q50S' cabin are the pair of large touchscreens that make up its center stack. Finally, a car company has elected to abandon the split-single-screen motif for keeping the map active while accessing other vehicle systems, giving owners what is essentially a dedicated nav screen at the top of the dash. Just underneath sits an even higher resolution LCD panel that serves as the home base for Infiniti's new InTouch interface.
Infiniti InTouch is the collective name for a group of features that includes apps, navigation commands, entertainment options and controls, and vehicle customization settings, many of which integrate with your mobile phone by way of an Infiniti-specific app. The system is made up of multiple screens that house a substantial number of icons, including the usual suspects like Facebook, Pandora, and Google search alongside other more vehicle-specific functionality such as a series of driving performance monitors (G forces, etc), a compass, an analog clock, and eventually, promises Infiniti, a calendar and email.
That's a lot to pack into a touchscreen, but Infiniti does a solid job of not letting the extraneous Internet-connected stuff get in the way of accessing things that are a bit more critical, such as vehicle settings. To top it all off the screen looks great - it might wash out a bit in direct sunlight due to the angle at which it is tilted, but it's a rare occurrence, and for the most part the colors are vibrant and the graphics crisp. It's a surprisingly upscale feature to encounter in an entry-level car like the Q50, although it's no shock that Nissan and co. have been able to build on the success of their older touchscreen interfaces.
Also adding to my appreciation of InTouch is the fact that Infiniti didn't forget to include actual physical buttons on the stack that I could use to set the climate control temperature, adjust the fan speed, and even shortcut right to the Home screen or the Audio screen (the latter being a feature I used almost constantly). There's also a rotary dial controller on the center console, which I almost never found myself interacting with - but if you are moving over from one of the several German premium brands that steadfastly refuse to move into the touchscreen future, then you won't feel completely lost using InTouch. It's a smart decision on Infiniti's part to add this set of training wheels to help ease-in its conquest customers.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Infiniti Q50 features new Active Lane Control on top of the brand's usual list of advanced safety features.
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 that I drove was remarkably free of active safety gear, although an Infiniti rep explained to me that the S model is more enthusiast-oriented and therefore comes with fewer nannies out of the box. My car featured side curtain airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, dual forward airbags, and electronic stability control and traction control. It also offered the AroundView top-down camera system, which was occasionally useful when parking but hard to use at night, or in the rain due to the extreme angle of the camera mounting points and the glare from vehicle lights.
If you want to load up the Q50 with extra safety features, then you are in luck. In addition to a blind spot and lane departure warning system, as well as collision warning systems front and rear, Infiniti has added a new Active Lane Control feature that interfaces with the car's full-electric steering rack to actually assist the driver in making small corrections to counter drift or rough roads (on top of keeping the sedan in its lane).
2014 Infiniti Q50S Crash-Test Ratings: The Infiniti Q50S has yet to be crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Infiniti Q50S features a mildly-refreshed version of last year's V-6.
Pop the hood of the 2014 Infiniti Q50S and you'll be greeted with a familiar sight: essentially the same 3.7-liter V-6 that graced last year's G sedan as well as a host of other Infiniti products. Power output is rated at 328 horses and 269 lb-ft of torque, but what the spec sheet doesn't show is the newly-refined character of this particular engine, which no longer blusters its way up to the redline but rather surges in a rapid and dignified manner befitting of a luxury car.
A seven-speed automatic transmission is now standard with the Q50, with the six-speed manual sadly relegated to the dust heap. As mentioned earlier, all-wheel drive is available with the Infiniti sedan, and fuel mileage for the rear-wheel drive version of the Q50 is listed at 20-mpg in city driving and 29-mpg highway.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Driving Impressions
A lot of coverage has been given to the electric steering system offered by the 2014 Infiniti Q50S, and with good reason: it's the first time a full drive-by-wire setup has been offered by the brand. Don't mistake the Q50S' design for a conventional electrically-assisted rack - there's actually no mechanical linkage between the steering wheel and the front wheels themselves, aside from an emergency backup system that can fail into place should it be required. Infiniti has engineered a network of sensors that keep watch over the front wheels, feeding data to a computer that then works out how much force needs to be used by the electric steering rack to turn them in a given direction. The computer is also responsible for the automatic adjustments in the vehicle's course that can be made by the optional Active Lane Control system.
The most important question for potential buyers is how all of this technological wizardry impacts the driving experience. After a week behind the wheel, I can report that it’s a mixed bag. The Infiniti Q50S provides a switch on the center console that allows for several drive modes to be selected, including Eco, Standard, Sport, and Snow. Each mode comes with its own particular steering feel, ranging from the somewhat loose Eco/Standard setting to the so-stiff-it-actually-pushes-back Sport setting. In any of these pre-configured drive modes, I found the electronic system to be more of a hindrance than a help. The amount of resistance encountered in the Sport mode was frankly off-putting, and in sharper corners the amount of resistance offered by the wheel actually felt destabilizing. Standard mode was weighted properly but wasn't immediate enough to satisfy my sport sedan preference.
You might notice a bit of a Goldilocks situation here, with one steering setting too firm and the other too soft. This is where Infiniti's Personal setting on the drive mode selector swoops in and saves the day (for the most part). The InTouch system allows an owner to select the steering speed and weight that they prefer, and then match it with the level of throttle response that they want, with these preferences saved to the Personal stop on the drive mode select switch. This allowed me to select quick steering with normal weight, salvaging a respectable performance from the rack and keeping me content in all manner of driving situations. Steering feel still isn't where one would want it to be in an ideal world - given that feedback is entirely simulated - but I was impressed that the Q50S offered this level of customization instead of leaving me at the mercy of pre-ordained vehicle settings. While it be nice if the Q50S would default to Personal mode rather than Standard when starting up the vehicle (or at least link it to the key fob that is being used), more luxury car companies need to follow Infiniti's example in their less-expensive models.
The 269 lb-ft of twist available from the Q50S' V-6 honestly felt a lot more like 369 given the way I was able to lay down 0-60-mph times in the low five second range. The sedan's motor is surprisingly robust, and the lack of a turbocharger gives it an immediacy that is absent from more powerful vehicles like the BMW 335i. The seven-speed automatic transmission was adept at handling its gear-changing duties, although I rarely found myself flipping through the paddles in the pursuit of the perfect ratio swap.
The Q50S' excellent chassis hung with me through the corners without complaint, but I was unable to tell whether the car's Active Trace Control system (which can also be selected via the Personal drive mode select feature) made any appreciable difference in rotating the car. The system is intended to selectively use the vehicle's brakes in order to improve its handling. I did notice an unusual throttle restriction when trying to accelerate hard away from a 90-degree corner, typically after waiting a stoplight, which seemed to go away if I turned off traction control. This was the only really intrusive aspect of the Infiniti's electronic safety systems, which surprisingly allowed for some wheel spin in other situations.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Final Thoughts
The 2014 Infiniti Q50S is a big step forward for what was previously a good entry-level sedan, but one which fell a bit short in terms of overall refinement. On top of its sultry good looks that make such a strong statement when parked beside Audis and BMWs, the Infiniti Q50S no longer disappoints in terms of its interior quality or the smoothness of its ride. Some might criticize the lack of a big-bore engine option, but I was astounded by how hard the car's standard 3.7-liter unit pulled, and if anything, the Q50 is going to be given a smaller, more fuel-efficient option before it goes the full high performance route. The 2014 Infiniti Q50S is well worth a test drive for anyone shopping for their first luxury sedan - especially considering its price-to-features ration in base trim.
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Pros and Cons
2014 Infiniti Q50S Review: Pros and Cons
- The best-looking Infiniti sedan so far
- Well-designed InTouch vehicle interface
- Customizable drive control settings
- Significantly-upgraded interior quality
- Beautiful pair of touchscreens
- Quite quick
- Electric steering system still can't match a hydraulic setup when it comes to road feel.
- No more manual transmission
- Fuel mileage is only average in its class
- Adding options can significantly boost the car's bottom line
Nissan Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.
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