Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, is not as well recognised in Australia’s luxury car market as many of its competitors, but the seeds have been planted and a recent update to the smart-looking Q50 show it has plenty to offer.
Breaking into the well-established luxury car segment, where iconic brands include Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lexus and Jaguar, is a tough ask, however, for this luxury Japanese marque. Especially as brand image or badge appeal is such an important ingredient for many luxury car buyers.
The new Q50 sedan range offers a good model spread and in the luxury car field, its line-up is attractively priced in terms of what you get for the money. Many of the Infiniti Q50’s standard features are extra cost options on similar-priced rivals.
Dressed to impress
The new models have been dressed to impress, with a range of cosmetic changes, as well as the introduction of Infiniti’s second-generation ‘direct adaptive steering and dynamic digital suspension’. Subtle exterior styling changes have given the sedan’s flowing curved lines a slightly smarter, sportier appearance.
The top-selling model is expected to be the entry-level GT 2.0t at $54.900 plus on-road costs. The mid-spec Sports Premium grade comes in four versions offering a choice of different engines and drivelines.
The Sport Premium line starts with the same 2.0-litre 155kW four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the GT ($62,400). For stronger performance, the 3.0t, V6 twin-turbo at $70,400 has a useful 224kW. There are also two hybrid Sport Premium models – the standard rear-wheel-drive version (the same as the other models) at $73,400, and for $75,400 there is a similar-spec all-wheel-drive Hybrid. These Hybrids employ a 3.5-litre V6 petrol supported by an electric motor system boosting the maximum power output to 268kW.
The flagship of the Q50 line-up is the performance-oriented 3.0tt Red Sport, which we drove. It has a sportier appearance and a higher engine output to match. Maximum power is an impressive 298kW with a hefty 475Nm of torque on tap. Standard transmission across the range is an impressive seven-speed automatic. The diesel version has been discontinued.
The GT is reasonably well equipped for the price and has some advanced safety features, but it does not get the full complement of excellent safety technologies found as standard in the other versions. All versions have a five-star ANCAP rating.
In a brief drive, mainly around the city and suburbs, our Q50 Red Sport’s performance, ride and handling displayed a good blend of luxury-style comfort and a stirring dose of athletic ability. Squeeze the throttle and you immediately get the sense that this beast means business.
Six drive models
There is a choice of six drive modes, each of which gives the car a noticeably different feel. Even the sports-focused settings don’t detract too much from the well-controlled luxury-car ride comfort. Infiniti’s second-generation ‘direct adaptive steering’ is an improvement on the previous version but the steering still has a vague feel. As a result, the Q50 isn’t quite as sharp or involving to drive as its peers.
ADR fuel consumption for the Red Sport is 9.3 litre/100km but around town it is more likely to be in the vicinity of 13.5 l/100km and even higher if its performance potential is regularly used.
The Infiniti Q50 is classified as a medium-size luxury car, competing against the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and Lexus IS. As such the use of interior space is good and it feels like one of the roomier cars in the class.
The front seats are on the narrow side, but with plenty of adjustment they’re supportive and quite comfortable. In the Red Sport, the trimming and presentation has an unmistakable sporting accent, with red stitching on the leather seats and dash.
The instrumentation and controls are neatly laid out and deliver everything you would expect in terms of operation and infotainment. Standards in this class are high and for the most part Infiniti matches but does not exceed its competitors.
In some respects, our test car was let down by a few little things like the awkward foot-operated park brake and a couple of slightly misaligned trim fittings.
Infiniti’s dealer network is slowly expanding. It now has representation in all states, but with only nine dealers and three additional service centres nationally, it’s still not extensive. In Victoria there are currently two dealers, both in Melbourne – Doncaster and Brighton.