2017 INFINITI Q50 2.0T AWD Road Test Review
November 15 2016, Trevor Hofmann - Canadian Auto Press
Fuel Efficient and Still Fun to Drive
The Q50 underwent a complete redesign for 2014 at which point it left its G series history behind and took on its current Q designation, and no one complained about its styling. Even after three years it remains one of the more attractive in its compact D-segment luxury class, but since last year's updates there are many more reasons to sit up and take notice. For a bit of recent history, only two years ago all Q50s came with a standard V6 that walloped each and every rival with respect to base output. The 3.7-litre engine's 328 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque delivered unparalleled bang for the buck, yet this strength inevitably became its weakness as it couldn't satisfy two important types of customers. The first group is the world's regulatory bodies that keep demanding evermore-stringent fuel economy and emissions standards, and the second are buyers that want all the luxury and dynamic handling offered by the Q50, yet not the ongoing fuel expense of a big V6. Whether there are as many bureaucrats enforcing the former as buyers for the latter is of little consequence, because the end result is a very pleasing road car.
New Four-Cylinder Delivers Strong Performance and Good Efficiency
Behind INFINITI's trademark double-arched grille is a new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder making 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the latter reaching peak output at just 1,500 rpm, while fuel economy goes from 12.5 L/100km city and 8.7 highway for the old 3.7 to a much more agreeable 10.6 city and 8.4 highway, assisted in part by an auto start/stop system that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling. That's not quite as thrifty as the Q50 Hybrid's 8.7 city and 7.6 highway rating, but it's still very good. If INFINITI had left the story there its diehard enthusiast fans might have gone searching for new prospects, but smartly the Japanese brand widened its engine lineup with two variants of an all-new twin-turbocharged V6. As planned, the more modest of its two 3.0-litre units would become the Q50's bread and butter powertrain thanks to an energetic 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and a still more fuel-efficient rating of 12.3 L/100km city and 8.5 highway, while a new top-line variant has given INFINITI a new level of street cred due to 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, while nevertheless proving economical with a rating of 12.3 city and 9.1 highway. I tested a 2016 2.0t AWD and a Q50 Red Sport 400 last year, plus the similarly sized albeit all-new 2017 Q60 sports coupe with the 300 horsepower 3.0-litre V6 more recently, and all lived up to expectations except for the 2.0t; it was much better than expected. First off, its standard transmission is the same wonderfully advanced seven-speed autobox that most other INFINITI models enjoy. Long one of the best automatics in the business, it features downshift rev-matching and adaptive shift control (that can even be navigationally synchronized when equipped). This helps get the most from the four-cylinder, with response from standstill immediate and acceleration quite brisk when pushed. It even sounds nice, unlike some others in this class that cause me to pull up next to the yellow diesel pump despite their gasoline requirement, while less weight over the front wheels allows for a lighter, nimbler chassis that's plenty of fun through the corners yet just as stable as V6-powered Q50s at high speed. Included is INFINITI's Drive Mode selector with Standard, Sport, Snow, Eco and Personal settings to make the most of near any mood or road condition. When set to Sport the seven-speed auto snaps through its gears with impressive speed and supreme smoothness.
Sharp Handling Remains a Q50 Strength
To this end the base model's ride is quite compliant and handling very satisfying, this the only trim to utilize speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic power steering instead of the next level up that gets RACK EPS or optional Direct Adaptive Steering. The most basic car does include Active Trace Control, which automatically modulates engine torque and braking to improve cornering feel, while the Q50's inherently well sorted double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, augmented with coil springs over dual flow path dampers and a stabilizer bar forward and rearward, provide all the mechanical grip needed. Lastly, the entry Q50 gets sizeable 12.6-inch front and 12.1-inch rear ventilated disc brakes for impressive stopping power and very little fade after repeated applications. Again, performance is strong across the board, but to be clear this entry model is also extremely comfortable and very quiet. Luxury in mind, my tester featured black soft synthetics and leathers joined by various metals instead of natural grains, with a general aura of quality pervading the cabin. The usual premium trappings including fabric-wrapped pillars front to rear, a plush pliable dash top, instrument panel and door uppers, even more padding for the door inserts, leatherette covered contrast stitched armrests, and natural feeling leatherette seat upholstery. Even the glove box lid is soft synthetic. Additionally, the sides of the lower console are finished better than most any competitor, with padded leatherette that's contrast stitched to match the seats, armrests and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Lots of Luxury and Features for a Very Reasonable Price
Despite its reasonable $39,900 entry price, the Q50 comes to market with standard AWD, LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED brake lights, UV-reducing solar glass, powered heatable side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, dual chrome exhaust finishers, front door handle courtesy lights, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, aluminum front doorsill kick plates, rain-sensing wipers (newly standard this year), a leather-wrapped shift knob with aluminum accents to go along with that steering wheel, genuine Kacchu aluminum trim, Fine Vision electroluminescent primary gauges featuring a large colour multi-information display at centre, eight-way powered front seats, a heatable steering wheel and front seats, dual-zone auto HVAC, InTouch dual infotainment displays (including eight-inch upper and seven-inch lower colour LCD/VGA screens), a rearview camera, voice recognition for audio, SMS text and vehicle information, a powered glass sunroof, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, six-speaker audio with satellite and high definition AM/FM radio, a CD, RDS and speed-sensitive volume, two USB ports, self-fixable Scratch Shield paint, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, and all the expected active and passive safety features. INFINITI always impresses when it comes to the quality of its switchgear, the Q50's circular infotainment controller even featuring knurled metal edges, but it's the set of electronic interfaces this rotating and touch-sensitive dial actuates that deserve special mention. Actually, the console-mounted device and surrounding buttons only connect to the uppermost display, the lower one a touchscreen that lets your fingers do the walking. Either way, the resolution and crisp detail of both monitors is excellent, as is the depth of contrast and colour quality. Helpful, INFINITI's InTouch apps include Facebook and an Online POI search, while its three quick access Menu, Audio, and Climate buttons made fast work of finding regularly adjusted features. If you want to add options, such as Bose Centerpoint simulated surround audio, navigation with lane guidance and 3D mapping, the navigation synchronized adaptive shift control mentioned earlier, INFINITI Connection telematics, a Homelink universal garage door remote, driver's seat memory, predictive forward collision warning, autonomous forward emergency braking, blindspot warning, back-up collision intervention, a 360-degree Around View Monitor with moving object detection, and much more, you'll need to move up into one of the V6-powered models as the turbo-four offers no options other than paint choices.
No Shortage of Cabin and Cargo Space
One of the Q50's most appealing characteristics is size, larger folk finding it comfortable up front and more than adequately proportioned in back where legroom rivals some mid-size luxury sedans. Specifically I found about four inches ahead of my knees when the driver's seat was set to my five-foot-eight height, with three inches left over above my head. The rear seats are comfortable with good support, plus an armrest with the usual integrated cupholders folds down at centre. The armrest pocket can be turned into a centre pass-through as well, or alternatively the rear seatbacks can be folded 60/40 to expand on the trunk's volume. In summary, the new Q50 2.0t AWD is a solid entry-level luxury sedan in a highly competitive field. Its performance is stronger than some of its base rivals and therefore should satisfy value-focused D-segment buyers, while the car's optional powertrains are very impressive, especially when factoring in bang for the buck. No matter the trim, the Q50 is worthy of your close attention.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann and Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.