Prom­ise is fast, pulse is slow

A looker that’s ul­tra-com­fort­able in­side and packed with safety gear, the Q50 falls short of ri­vals’ sporti­ness

The Advertiser - Motoring - - PRESTIGE INFINITI Q50 RED SPORT - PAUL GOVER CHIEF REPORTER

THE In­finiti Q50 looks per­fectly at home as it rolls along be­side me on the eight­lane crazi­ness of the 405 Free­way in Los An­ge­les.

It’s a four-door sporty sedan that seems more like a swoopy coupe, help­ing to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from BMW and Mercedes in the com­pact lux­ury class.

The Q50 is a car that works for Cal­i­for­nia. In the US, In­finiti — although still an un­der­achiever against the heavy­weight Ger­mans — has a solid foun­da­tion and some gen­uine Amer­i­can fol­low­ers.

Back home in Aus­tralia, with a Q50 sit­ting in the drive­way, I’m not con­vinced.

The Red Sport model is $80,000 be­fore you add the on­road costs and I’ve just seen, fresh from the Geneva mo­tor show, the 2018 model up­date that gives it a lit­tle more vis­ual oomph with the prom­ise of more equip­ment and en­joy­ment.

So I’m think­ing this Q50 is off the pace, in value and tim­ing.

The deep blue Q50 has ar­rived for test­ing di­rectly af­ter In­finiti’s Q60 coupe, which is an­other “nice ... but” car. This is a brand that claims to be in­ter­na­tional but is heav­ily fo­cused on the US.

The coupe barely raises my pulse de­spite a solid chas­sis feel and great seats. Its 2.0-litre turbo is also fit­ted to the ba­sic Q50 GT (from $59,351) but the two-door is more of a cruis­ing coupe than a gen­uine sports car.

Any time I can say the seats are the best thing about the car, it’s a long way from earn­ing my ap­proval. It’s much the same with the Q50, even if In­finiti claims it’s a newer pack­age aimed at putting gen­uine driv­ing en­joy­ment into a class that’s dom­i­nated by the 3 Se­ries and C-Class.

The test Red Sport vari­ant sits atop the Q50 line-up with a twin-turbo V6 (298kW/ 475Nm), lovely leather trim, abun­dant lux­ury gear in­clud­ing a 14-speaker au­dio and two in­fo­tain­ment dis­plays, pad­dleshifters for the seven-speed au­to­matic gear­box and old­school rear-wheel drive.

It’s par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive on the safety side, as its five-star ANCAP rat­ing comes from auto safety brak­ing with mov­ing ob­ject de­tec­tion, radar cruise con­trol, re­vers­ing cam­era, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, back-up col­li­sion avoid­ance, “around view” mon­i­tor and much more.

So In­finiti is try­ing hard and, in the case of safety and com­fort, it ticks the boxes.

ON THE ROAD

The Q50 is a looker, that’s for sure. It’s also nicely cushy for a high­way cruise.

The V6’s peak torque is on tap across a broad spread, it sounds great and is fun to push to­wards the red­line. It also has plenty of gears and the reardrive lay­out means you can bal­ance it deftly in quick curves.

But the car doesn’t live up to sporty ex­pec­ta­tions, with a slightly pon­der­ous feel in slow cor­ners and not enough grip or re­sponse for my favourite driv­ing road. It also takes too long to get into the sweet spot with the V6, which can be a guz­zler — it claims 9.2L/100km and will be much thirstier when you’re hav­ing a fun run.

I’m sur­prised that In­finiti does not give a 0-100km/h sprint time for the Red Sport, de­spite quot­ing num­bers for the rest of the range. It claims 250km/h as top speed and tow­ing ca­pac­ity up to 1500kg.

The sprint to high­way speed is likely to take just un­der six sec­onds — the Red Sport feels swift enough but I still won­der.

For me, the re­sponse from the auto is not snappy in the low gears and some­times it feels baulky and clunky when I use the pad­dle-shifters to en­cour­age a down­shift.

The ride can be over-firm at times, not helped by the side­walls of the run-flat tyres, and lacks the sort of com­pli­ance needed for sec­ondary roads in Aus­tralia. It has what‘s called Dy­namic Dig­i­tal Sus­pen­sion, with driver-ad­justable set­tings, but it’s not as good as its ri­vals.

It makes lit­tle im­pact on my co-driver. “I thought it was (the coupe). I didn’t re­alise it had back doors for the first 30 min­utes,” she says.

Some may view that as flat­ter­ing for the four-door but it shows that the two In­finiti mod­els are too close.

Then comes her up­per-cut: “Ah, it’s noth­ing spe­cial any­way.”

There is plenty to en­joy in the cabin. The Bose au­dio packs some punch but the air­con­di­tion­ing is re­cal­ci­trant. It’s ei­ther blow­ing too hard or too soft, too hot or too cold, and that trig­gers ex­tra angst from the co-driver, although she likes the large re­vers­ing cam­era dis­play.

But, hon­estly, the seats are the best thing. They are soft and sup­port­ive, beau­ti­fully trimmed and com­fort­able for any trip.

I’m not keen to test the safety gear but the 360-de­gree cam­era is handy, as are the radar cruise con­trol and lanede­par­ture mon­i­tor. Over­all, the kit makes me feel safe.

But that’s not the brief — the Q50 is sold on the prom­ise of sports driv­ing and the abil­ity to crush a BMW or Benz.

VER­DICT

There is noth­ing badly wrong with the Q50, it’s just that the op­po­si­tion is bet­ter. In most cases, sig­nif­i­cantly so.

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