Drive.co.uk Review: Anybody who has recently acquired a new smartphone should be well prepared for Inifiniti’s new Q50 2.0T Sport. As with the new iPhone 6, you need to put in some solid functionality shifts on the technological riches of this car to make the most of it. Perhaps give it a day. Or two.
Nissan have been struggling for more than 20 years to make their Infiniti premium brand the equal of Toyota’s fabulously successful Lexus marque. In the USA – which is the market they care about above all others – Lexus outsells Infiniti by two-to-one. In the UK, a succession of false starts, dud dealership set-ups and comically irrelevant products have ensured that Infiniti has remained almost unknown. Last year, Infiniti sold 388 cars across the whole of this country – making their badge a far rarer sight on the roads of Britain than Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Ecstasy or Ferrari’s prancing horse.
With the new Q50 – which is the size of a BMW 5 Series for the price of a BMW 3 Series – Infiniti is aiming to shift that colossal imbalance by an inch or two. After 2015, they are hoping that perhaps 2500 Infinitis a year might be sold in Britain – which could put them right up there with the likes of, oh, Caterham or Morgan.
To that end, they have created a deeply desirable piece of work in the Q50 2.0T Sport. Its 1991cc 16-valve petrol engine with 211 bhp is the third engine variant to be offered (the others are a hybrid and a diesel). It’s an authentic corker. With 350 Nm of torque or pulling power pouring through a seven-speed automatic garbox with paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel, this capacious full five-seat, four-door saloon can put on a proper hustle on country roads and is also as serene as a reading room on the motorway.
The delights of driving this car are all the more surprising given the rather alarming fact that the steering wheel is not physically connected with the front axle or wheels. Among the miracles of new technology in this Q50 is a world-first in the form of a remote electronic steering system which disconnects the multifunction steering wheel through a clutch on the steering column when the engine starts. A pair of fail-safe ECUs will restore the physical connection if a glitch is detected in the electronics but, in motion, the sensation you feel through the wheel has been artificially concocted and calibrated by computer.
It’s uncanny. Among the plethora of technological choices on offer to the driver of this car is a range of options for the steering set-up. Through fingertip controls on the main information screen, you can select any combination from “Heavy” and “Quick” (which feels like a go-kart) to the easy-aid option for car-parks which appears as “Light” and “Barely Alive” (I am making that up but it’s close to reality).
That main screen is only one of three on display in the Q50. There’s another for the driver behind the steering wheel and a third for the satnav which is very much the equal of the previously peerless Lexus system. There’s a surround-sound system from Bose that’s more than equal to the Mark Levinson systems in Lexus and which even runs sound along the top of the dashboard with such sensitivity that it sounds as if each instrument has got its own speaker. The quality and finish of the materials in the interior beats Audi and matches Lexus.
As you would expect, there are systems to keep you from wandering out of your lane on the motorway and systems to make sure you don’t crash into the car in front or reverse into the dog that has mooched into the space behind. Getting to grips with the controls for those systems will add up to another two hours of your life that you’ll never see again.
Some of these optional extras brought the price of our £34125 test car up to a still-competitive £41545 and added to the worrying feeling that there will be an awful lot that could go wrong with this car in five or six years when it is sculling around the back-lots of the second-hand market.
That drawback may, however, be relatively minor compared with the dreariness of the Q50’s looks. A faintly Maserati-like drooping snoot leads to a chunky Insignia-like tail but otherwise this a car whose body is so featureless that it leaves nothing in the memory.
A startlingly excellent car deserves better.
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Infiniti Q50 2.0T Sport Specs
On the Road Staring Price: £34,125 with extras on car tested £41,545
Engine: 1,991cc Petrol
Transmission: 7-spd Automatic
Torque: 350Nm @ 1250 – 3500rpm
0-60mph: 7.2 seconds
Top speed: 152mph
Fuel economy urban/x-urban/combined: 32.1/54.3/43.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 151g/km
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