Refreshed and ready, the 2016 Infiniti Q50 returns with a trio of new turbocharged engines, for the latest in technology, performance and fuel efficiencies from this mid-sized luxury sports sedan. Dubbed a mid-cycle refresh, all three styles make great strides in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses, or in this case the Lexuses, the Hyundais, the Audis and others in the performance-luxury field.
Have they achieved their goal, or overstepped their boundaries? autoevolution had a chance to venture deep into the heart of Texas, to find out.
What’s on tap? Infiniti’s biggest seller in the North American market, the Q50 is available with four powertrain options that include a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, jointly developed with Daimler, that produces 208-horsepower, a 3.5-liter V6 / lithium-ion hybrid powertrain that puts out to a max tuneage of 360-horsepower and two new 3.0-liter VR30-based twin-turbocharged V6 engines.
The first of the direct-injected 3.0-liters comes talking big with 300-horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the second arrives with an injection of steroids (not really) that spews 400 ponies from its loins. Thanks to twin pump intercoolers, peak power in this so-called Q50 Red Sport 400 comes on at 6,800 rpm and packs 350 lb-ft of torque as part of that one-two punch. The extra power is realized through the combo of a new turbine speed sensor and optimized blade design for an increase of up to 10-percent in turbine speed (up to 220,000 rpm). Infiniti claims that the new VR engines feature up to 85-percent new parts and are now about 40-pounds lighter than the versions they replace.
All engine combinations are mated to an advanced seven-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with manual mode and magnesium steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Adaptive Shift Control makes shifting easier and livelier by a lateral acceleration sensor that detects hills and turns. Switching to sport mode offered a more potent shift protocol with downshift rev-matching. During our trip to San Antonio, Texas to experience the latest from Infiniti, the company made available a group of hand-built, pre-production Q50 Red Sport 400 sedans, some of which included their new Direct Adaptive Steering system.
This new digital steering system, according to the brand, offers advanced levels of steering feel and feedback that makes it seem as though it’s a traditional rack and pinion sport setup, but goes further to allow personalization of the response and feel according to the driver’s preferences.
Being at the top of this particular food chain meant that the testers also featured Infiniti’s Dynamic Digital Suspension (DDS), that combines with the standard double-wishbone front and multi-link rear kit, to “tighten up” the suspension for a flatter stance when rounding tighter turns and those with diminishing radii. Revised front and rear stabilizer bars do their part to prevent lateral movement for better tire contact from the staggered (19-inch) size Dunlop SP Sport MAXX summer performance run-flat tires.
The Q50’s entire performance parameters are controlled by the car’s Drive Mode Selector, which dials in according to driver preferences ranging from Personal, Standard, Snow, Eco, Sport and Sport+. This sport sedan, which competes with the BMW 3 Series, Hyundai Genesis, Audi A4 and others, is available with any engine combination in an owner’s choice of rear- or Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive.
Technobabble. The Q50 features many standard and available tech features including Lane Departure Warning, Blind-Spot Warning and Intervention, Back-Up collision intervention, Around-View monitor with moving object detection, and the world’s first Predictive Forward Collision Warning system which warns a driver of potential risks up to two cars ahead.
A new Active Lane Control system is now available which enhances on-center driving feel, adjusts for road surface irregularities and changes in crosswinds and virtually eliminates steering fine-tuning. It can be combined with Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering system, which, according to Infiniti, is the world’s first digital steering system. Looks inside and out. We’ve always thought the Infiniti Q50 to be a smart looking ride. Following its redo in 2014, the company has chosen to “keep on keepin’ on” in an effort to offer an alternative to such Teutonic offerings such as the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series or even the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
As such, little is different on the Q50 Red Sport 400, other than a slightly more aggressive front fascia, the red “S” badging and the addition of the small “t” to designate this Q as being powered by a twin-turbocharged engine.
Turning inward, the Q50 featured excellent multi-adjustable Sport seating in front with proper bolstering and thigh support in all the right places. The two-toned T-formation dashboard and center console separates driver and passenger from each other, and thankfully includes the new Nissan / Infiniti style of infotainment control interface now located just south of the transmission gear selector lever. This new location falls directly underhand for quick access to navigation, camera and menu controls inside the car. It sits just above the Drive Mode Selector.
In the rear seat, there is plenty of legroom, and a 60:40 split fold-down rear seat. Beyond the seatbacks lie 13.5 cubic feet (382 liters) of trunk space.
There are certain times when you get into a car that you know it just feels right. This Q50 Red Sport is one of those cars.
It’s a well put-together sedan with excellent pulling power to get off the line fast. Neck snapping fast, in fact. While in the passenger seat, we weren’t even aware of the illusion of speed until our heads snapped back, bouncing off the headrests several times before becoming acclimated with the Q’s newfound forward thrust.
A deep, husky voice is always sexy, and in this case the Red Sport 400 delivers. The 3.0-liter twin turbo mill with its performance exhaust system greeted a squeeze from our right foot with a roar that was impressive both within and outside the cabin.
Steering with the available Direct Adaptive Steering found several levels of input according to how you triggered the Drive Mode Selector switch. Switching to Sport mode sets the most responsive steering setup, but advancing to Sport+ (through system settings menus) with Dynamic+ response, goes a step further, offering the same effort, but in a quicker fashion via a digital shift of the steering ratio.
We also had a chance to see the Q50 Red Sport 400 find its own way through its Active Lane Control, which will gently steer through sweeping curves, as well as do its part to “maintain lane positioning against crosswinds.” Infiniti touts it as a semi-autonomous protocol that offers a look at what autonomous driving vehicles may be capable of in the future. We also found the system tends to give up the ghost when encountering sharper turns.
We thought that road noise was rather pronounced on the pre-production model we tested, probably owing to the summer-grade Dunlop tires and the coarse aggregate used to pave the highways throughout Texas. But not all was lost, as we eventually found smooth surfaces, which under normal drive conditions, showed off the Q50’s refined and quiet driving style.
The 2016 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is Infiniti’s attempt to build the 2014 Q50 Eau Rouge concept car for everyone. Have they succeeded? For the most part, yes, but some may still need convincing. Sure, it doesn’t sport the GT-R’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 engine behind its grille, but the 3.0-liter TT V6 and the Red Sport’s suspension is still pretty stout, offering a snap of the neck at every turn. For many of us, that’s all the convincing we need.
Oh, and as Henry Ford never said, you can have the Red Sport in any color in the Q50 paint lineup.