Infiniti’s latest sports sedan carries forward almost unchanged styling into 2016 – but don’t think that means nothing has changed.
There are two whole new engines, and it’s the biggest and best of them that packs the mightiest wallop. The 400-hp Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is the first Infiniti to bear the new “Red Sport” tag – and you can expect it to be Infiniti’s new performance moniker in the same way F Sport is used by Lexus. But while F Sport trims are effectively interior and exterior aesthetic updates (F models are a different story) Red Sport promises to always bring a genuine performance step-up to the party.
The Q50 is now available in 2.0T four cylinder, twin-turbo V6 300 hp and twin-turbo 3.0L V6 400 hp engine formats. There is also a hybrid. In the US, and available for this test, are RWD models. In Canada, we’ll only get the rear-biased AWD system. Because snow. Or something.
It also gets the latest edition of Infiniti’s drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering.
Want to know more? Here are the highlights:
The new high-power engine in the Infiniti Q50 is a 3.0L V6 twin turbo. That’s down from 3.7L in the outgoing model. The 3.0L engine comes in two configurations and the difference is more than just an engine map tune. The turbocharger on the 400 hp edition is more advanced, with an optical speed sensor applied to help the computers keep the turbo spooled up to the right speed at all times. There is also some minor exhaust work and major cooling adjustments.
Two Turbos. Two Water Pumps.
There are two turbos and two water pumps mounted to the V6 engine. Only one of these water pumps is for the turbos though. They operate on an entirely separate cooling circuit to the engine itself, which needs to operate at different temperature ranges to the turbochargers.
The result of the upgrades on the top-spec Red Sport edition is a whopping 400 hp at 6,400 rpm. There’s also 350 lb-ft of torque from just off idle right through to 5,200 rpm. This comes courtesy of 14.7 psi boost pressure, up from 8.7 psi in the 300 hp edition which is good for 295 lb-ft of torque. Infiniti expect 60 percent of cars to have the 300 hp “volume” engine and 15 percent to go for the Red Sport.
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Infiniti expects five percent of customers will opt for the Hybrid version, which will come in just one trim, the Technology trim. The remaining 20 percent will take up the 2.0T developed with Mercedes-Benz that is used in the QX30 and the GLA 250. It’s good for 208 hp at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft at 1,500 – 3,500.
Direct Adaptive Steering and Dynamic Digital Suspension
Infiniti’s new generation of steering promises better road feel and weight than the previous generation. The base electric steering now employs a rack-mounted servo to boost the steering. It feels lighter than the Direct Adaptive Steering despite having a proper mechanical connection to the front wheels.
Direct Adapative Steering is a fly-by-wire system that has the steering column in place only as a legislated back-up in case the electric system fails. It is decoupled in normal conditions with clutches that kick in if the electric system fails. It’s fun to watch the steering wheel stay completely still over a set of offset speed bumps, especially after watching the conventional wheel bounce around.
The DAS has been tuned beautifully. It was very much my favourite of the two systems completely contrary to my expectations. It actually simulates great feel and solid feedback through the steering wheel. Response is better than the non-steer-by-wire system and the weight is hefty and convincing – far more than the regular electric steering.
Dynamic Digital Suspension allows for three drive modes and individual suspension tuning between Comfort and Sport. It offers a comfortable(ish) ride on the road and a firmer, more responsive chassis out on the handling course.
Lighter Engine, Heavier Car
The 3.0L V6 is 18 kg lighter than the outgoing 3.7L unit courtesy of more aluminum and smaller dimensions. This also aids in heat dissipation. Still the Q50 is 40 kg heavier than last year’s in regular V6 trim, and the Red Sport is 99 kg heavier at 1,839 kg.
The 2.0T engine comes with a stop-start system for fuel saving at traffic lights. The system is not available on the V6 models. All three engines are mated to Infiniti's own seven-speed automatic and AWD because RWD is slowly dying.
In addition to cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, radar adaptive cruise control and blind-spot detection, the Q50 now also supports forward collision prevention (braking) and rear-collision prevention via braking. We tested both during our drive of the US-spec rear-wheel-drive model in San Antonio with great success. The forward-collision system actually stopped the car dead at a traffic light in a controlled and stable fashion. It wasn’t abrupt or frightening, it was smooth, progressive and felt natural. My passenger was at first disbelieving when I told her I hadn’t touched the brake at all during the process. The brake pedal is needed to hold the car still once it’s stopped though. It’s important to note, we did not have adaptive cruise control on at the time. You will, however, need to “opt in”. That means you must turn on the lane-keep assist and radar systems each time you get into the car in order for these features to work.
And yes, these systems are sowing the seeds for our autonomous driving future.
One Special Colour
The Red Sport 400 has one exclusive colour – but it’s not red. It’s blue. In fact it’s the same blue available on the Nissan GT-R – but only the top-spec Q50 gets the blue. It’s about the only way to immediately tell them apart from the others. The Red Sport also gets special wheels, and in Canada a more extreme deck lid spoiler (the US models we tested didn’t have it).
The Q50 Red Sport would benefit from an upgraded steering wheel compared to the other Q50 trims, in the same way that F Sport from Lexus and M cars from BMW get sportier steering wheels. This one is a little plain and that’s disappointing. The car feels special when it’s under way, not so much when you first sit in it.
My annual budget for tires if I owned this car. The 56:44 weight distribution is designed so that the Q50 has a more even spread of weight under acceleration, and it also helps keep the front tires pinned to the road. What does that mean? It means less grip out back under braking and turn-in, and plenty of oversteer. In fact, transforming understeer to oversteer in the Q50 is incredibly simple, a quick brush of the brake, a quick stab of the throttle and the rears light up like Diwali. Dorrrrifffffftttuuuuuuu!