The new 2014 Infiniti Q50 line is something of a mystery. The successor to the G37, it is a sleek and sexy entry-level sport sedan with beautifully sculpted exterior lines and a well designed and appointed interior. But it only offers two engines a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 328 hp and a hybrid gas engine/electric motor that is surprisingly more powerful at 354 horsepower. There is no turbocharged four cylinder or V8 options, which suggests Infiniti means the hybrid to be the sportier of the two engine choice, an automotive first.
We haven't had a chance to test the hybrid but recently spent a week in Q50S with the 3.7-liter V6. Although 26 horsepower short of the hybrid version, it was still plenty fast.
But the Q50S also attracted a lot of attention when parked, with several strangers commenting on how good the car looked. None of them knew what it was, however, which suggests Infiniti needs to spend a little money distinguishing itself from the competition, which includes the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The ads could focus on the car's stable and comfortable ride, the welcoming driver's environment, and the quality interior materials. Our test car also featured two display screens, including one that substantially reduced the number of buttons needed to handle routine information searches and setting changes. The result was a refreshingly clean dash highlighted by tasteful metal trim pieces.
Unfortunately, the electric steering was a little twitchy, undermining the car's full potential a bit. We're not sure if that was because of the Active Lane Control system meant to reduce accidents. According to Infiniti, "The system not only reads the road ahead (the camera is located above the rearview mirror) for unintended lane drift but also makes small steering-input-angle adjustments if the Q50 undergoes minor direction changes due to road-surface changes or crosswinds (as detected by the lane-marker-detection system). By reducing the need for steering input for the driver, the driver's effort may be reduced."
Whatever the case, the twitchiness was a little distracting from time to time. Not a deal breaker, to be sure, but a puzzling flaw in the car's other impeccable driving manners. It would be worth seeing whether this is minimized in all-wheel-drive equipped versions.
But the Q50 retains one of Infiniti's most exclusive charms a ride that is so smooth and quiet it borders on the ethereal. In Normal driving mode, it floated over rough pavement. Even the Sport mode is not as harsh as the one in many competitors. This may make the Q50 slower on a race track, but it is also easier to live with in the real world. This was true even though our test Sport model was equipped with optional 19-inch alloy wheels and summer performance run-flat tires, a combination that usually magnifies imperfections.
Producing a genuinely competitive entry-level sports sedan is getting tricky these days. Kia and Hyundai have entered the field with cars that look, feel and drive like more expensive models. Cadillac and Lincoln are offering compacts with almost as much room as midsize cars. And, as noted earlier, some manufacturers are offering models with far more drivetrain choices than the new Q50.
Our test car was equipped with several options, including a Technology package, that pushed its price from around $38,000 to just over $45,000. Even so, that's not out of line for sport sedans, and less expensive than some competitors. Although it may not have the most engine and transmission choices, the striking styling, responsive V6 and up-to-date infotainment features make the 2014 Infiniti Q50 well worth considering.
Facts and figures
Model tested: 2014 Q50S 3.7.
Class: Midsize sport sedan.
Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive.
Style: Four-door, five passenger car.
Engines: 3.7-liter V6 (328 hp, 269 ft-lbs); 3.5-liter V6 and electric motor hybrid (354 hp).
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift mode and steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Fuel Economy: 20/29/23.
Price: Starting at around $38,000 ($45,905 as tested).