2018 INFINITI Q50 Red Sport 400 Road Test Review
January 10 2018, Trevor Hofmann
Superb New Q50 One of the Best Values in the Luxury Sector
Sometimes a number of subtle albeit smartly executed changes can make a significant difference, and thanks to an outgoing Q50 that was already one of the more attractive cars in its class, the refreshed 2018 model didn't need much to make it look just right.
The upgrades include a modestly reworked version of INFINITI's trademark double-arch grille that now includes more texture within its wavy mesh-patterned insert, while more muscular character lines now follow the upper outside corners of that grille across each side of the hood. These changes were joined by new standard LED headlamps and redesigned LED taillights at the car's polar end. While all these updates help modernize the Q50's look, the new model's most noticeable changes were saved for its lower front fascia, which now more clearly depicts the trim line being shown.
Plenty of Changes for 2018
For 2018, the Q50 will be available in Luxe, Sport and as-tested Red Sport 400 trims. Sport grade offers performance-focused exterior styling, while even sportier visual upgrades enhance the Red Sport 400. Visuals specific to the two top-line grades include a more sharply creased front bumper and wider, lower air intakes, the corner vents edged in glossy black that's particularly easy to pick out in my tester's Pure White paint, while the rear bumper gets a bolder black diffuser embedded at centre, with a stainless steel exhaust tip at each corner. The Red Sport 400 takes things up a notch with unique tailpipes flanking a dark painted and body-color diffuser, while the side mirror caps also get a gloss black treatment, plus a unique set of 19-inch alloys framing red-painted brake calipers to finish off the track-ready look.
Inside, INFINITI added what appears to be a higher-grade of genuine metal atop the centre console, door panels and elsewhere, while the seat bolsters get some gorgeous quilting and red stitching, giving the car a rich ambience. What's more, every Q50 covers the instrument panel with double-stitched padded leatherette, while more traditional luxury-oriented models get naturally authentic hardwood inlays.
The patterned aluminum inlays on my Red Sport 400 tester also bling up the Sport model's interior, as do matte dark-chromed accents plus a black cloth headliner and pillars, while the new sport steering wheel is ideally formed for performance driving, allowing an easy reach to the solid magnesium shift paddles in behind. The new leather-wrapped shift knob has been ergonomically designed as well, enhanced with double-stitched seams, new chrome trim, and an INFINITI logo on top.
Red Sport 400 Delivers a Sportier Take on Luxury
INFINITI didn't hold back with the red stitching effect throughout the rest of the Red Sport 400's cabin either, but at least they didn't go so far as to brighten up the stitching within each and every diamond-quilted crevice of its Bentley-esque seats' side inserts, the result looking rich yet nicely restrained. As importantly those seats include a more comfortable "spinal support" design that can be felt initially when sitting down and more so after a long stint behind the wheel. The lower cushions of both front seats extend as well, while the driver's torso bolsters can be powered in and out for additional lateral support. Lastly, the new Red Sport 400 gets unique dark chromed primary instrument bezels surrounding the usual colour multi-information display.
I certainly could see why INFINITI may pull buyers over from some premium competitors when it comes to centre stack infotainment, because it continues to use a duo of more familiar, tablet-style touch-capacitive interfaces instead of less user-friendly rotating controller, button and/or touchpad designs. These vertically stacked displays allow the use of multiple functions simultaneously, such as navigation mapping on the top eight-inch screen and audio control for the bottom seven-inch one. INFINITI's appropriately named InTouch infotainment system also lets its various drivers customize the car's inner environment by storing detailed personal information for multiple users, such as memory seating and mirror positions, identifiable via individual proximity-sensing I-keys.
New Bose Audio System Delivers Strong Performance
Also new for 2018, my Q50 was equipped with an available 16-speaker Bose "Performance Series" audio system, standard in the Red Sport 400, featuring advanced staging signal processing capable of "a precise, rich and nuanced acoustic experience," said INFINITI in their initial press release, plus CenterPoint 2.0 surround-sound. I have to agree with INFINITI, as the sound quality is superb.
Possibly the biggest 2018 Q50 news is its available suite of ProPILOT advanced driver-assistance systems, which include Active Lane Control (camera-sighted autonomous driving capability above 72 km/h), Intelligent Cruise Control, Distance Control Assist, Backup Collision Intervention, Blind Spot Warning and Intervention, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Forward Emergency Braking, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and last but hardly least, INFINITI's exclusive Direct Adaptive Steering.
This is INFINITI's second-generation Direct Adaptive Steering introduced in 2016 (the first version was launched in 2013), both of which are steer-by-wire systems that mostly do away with mechanically linked parts, and have been well received by owners and auto pundits alike. INFINITI considers its Direct Adaptive Steering a "building block on the way to achieving fully-autonomous driving," and it truly is a bit of tomorrow's technology today. Along with realistic feel and ultra-quick responsiveness, Direct Adaptive Steering makes it easier to add unique driving modes for comfort or sport applications, the Q50's Drive Mode Selector letting its driver modulate steering, suspension and drivetrain settings that include Personal, Standard (default), Snow, Eco, Sport and Sport+ modes. INFINITI has logged more than a million kilometres of tests on the second-gen Direct Adaptive Steering system alone, which is confidence inspiring.
Powertrain Lineup Remains One of the Strongest in the Industry
The 2018 Q50's three powertrains (one of which comes in two states of tune) are all carryover, although this shouldn't come as a surprise as they were just updated for the 2016 model year. Included is the base 2.0t, a 208 horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder featuring 258 lb-ft of torque that gets mated to INFINITI's seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, the latter two components also standard with the other two conventional engine choices.
Of note, the Q50's AWD system has long been lauded for its rear-wheel biased response and feel in high-grip conditions, which aids performance, while the quick-shifting seven-speed auto remains one of the most advanced of its type in the industry due to dual transmission fluid coolers, Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) boasting an adaptive learning algorithm that senses a driver's style and automatically adjusts shifting accordingly (upgraded with navigation-synchronized capability in upper trims), as well as a manual shift mode that makes you drive like a pro thanks to Downshift Rev Matching (DRM).
Performance-oriented 3.0t models include two different versions of INFINITI's exclusive new in-house VR family of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6s, which just like the old VQ V6 is once again a 2017 Ward's 10 Best Engines winner. The less formidable powerplant is good for 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which will be more than adequate for most, but the top-line Red Sport 400 being reviewed here pushes out a sensational 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque
Before I delve into how that powertrain feels when hooked up to the refreshed Q50, a word about INFINITI's high-energy Direct Response Hybrid powertrain. This power unit continues into the 2018 model too, and consists of the brand's well-proven 3.5-litre V6, plus a 50-kW electric motor, and a compact laminated lithium-ion battery. The combination makes a net 360 horsepower due to the internal combustion engine's 302 horsepower and electric motor's 67 horsepower (hybrid net output never adds up exactly), plus a non-advertised sum of torque, although the ICE's 258 lb-ft and electric motor's 213 lb-ft makes for a potent mixture.
Surprisingly Good Fuel Economy Considering All the Power on Tap
No 2018 model fuel economy info was available at the time of writing, but last year's Q50 Hybrid was good for a claimed 9.1 L/100km city, 7.7 highway and 8.5 combined, which made it quite thrifty considering the performance on tap, while the 2017 Q50 2.0t was estimated to achieve 10.7 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 9.6 combined, thanks partially to fuel-saving stop/start technology. Additionally, the mid-range 3.0t achieved a rating of 12.6 city, 8.8 highway and 10.9 combined, while the top-tier Red Sport 400 earned an estimated 12.3 city, 9.2 highway and 10.9 combined, its city mileage strangely more efficient than the less formidable engine. We'll have to wait to see if the new 2018 model's Transport Canada ratings do as well or possibly surpass the outgoing estimates when they're made available, being that the numerous unique design details could make small differences at the pump.
Of note, Q50s fitted with the larger engine will get INFINITI's refined "Rack Electronic Power Steering" as standard, which can also be modulated via the aforementioned Drive Mode Selector, whereas 2.0-litre Q50 models are equipped with more conventional vehicle speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic rack-and-pinion power steering.
While every Q50 incorporates a fully independent aluminum-intensive suspension combining a front double-wishbone design and a rear multi-link setup, plus stabilizer bars at both ends, Sport and Red Sport 400 trims go a step further by integrating a Dynamic Digital Suspension, capable of a more dramatic swing between comfort on one end and performance at the other. This allows you to firm up the electronically adjustable dampers via the previously noted Sport or Sport+ modes when pushing hard, at which point the suspension constantly adjusts for optimal handling and ride quality.
Q50 Red Sport 400 Delivers New Level of Speed and Comfort on the Road
The Q50 Red Sport 400 really did an admirable job both smoothing out rough patches of pavement and staying glued to changing road surfaces, even when flung around some of the more challenging off-camber, bump, dip and crumbling tarmac riddled corners of my local "test track." It's a good thing too, especially when factoring in how quickly the car turns in, its steering response unfathomably fast, and more so how immediately it gets up to target speed, and before you know it, accelerates beyond posted limits, its upsized four-piston caliper enhanced front brakes and two-piston rears more than adequate for scrubbing off that speed when called upon.
While all this might make the Red Sport 400 sound like some sort of racecar for the street, it's just as much about smooth, fast refinement. This transcends into a cabin that's less about creating a race replica experience and more about resplendent luxury, its stitched leather-like dash-top, instrument panel, lower console sides, and door panels going above and beyond most peers when it comes to soft-touch pampering, even its glove box lid finished in pliable synthetic for a nice upscale feel. Likewise, all of the switchgear is superb.
The Q50's base Luxe grade includes a lot of upscale goodies for its ultra-competitive $39,995 base price, such as that advanced seven-speed auto noted earlier, plus AWD, 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, proximity keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, heatable eight-way powered front seats, dual-zone auto climate control, InTouch dual-display infotainment, a backup camera, voice recognition, SMS text and email reading capability, satellite radio, two USB ports, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, genuine maple inlays, Scratch Shield exterior paint, and much more, while Luxe trim with the 3.0-litre V6 adds remote engine start, navigation, lane guidance, 3D building graphics, INFINITI's InTouch Services, SiriusXM real-time traffic info, 60/40 split-folding rear seats with a flip-down centre armrest and handy centre pass-through, and more for $44,995.
Sport and Red Sport 400 Trims Provide Extra Edge of Performance and Style
Sport trim, at $47,995, provides all the styling and performance changes already noted, plus 19-inch alloys, paddle shifters, the aforementioned sport seats with thigh extenders and powered bolsters, leather upholstery, Kacchu aluminum and maple inlays, etcetera, while the $52,695 Red Sport 400 adds its unique styling and performance upgrades as well as a powered steering column, driver's memory for the seat, side mirrors and steering wheel, aluminum pedals, auto-dimming side mirrors with reverse tilt-down, adaptive cruise control, advanced climate control with auto-recirculation, plasmacluster air purification and grape polyphenol filtration, 16-speaker Bose audio, quilted semi-aniline leather upholstery, dark metal trim, and more.
If you're wondering if this is good value, go ahead and price configure one of the Q50's German competitors and you'll quickly appreciate how much you'll have to pay for similar equipment. Even more amazing, the 2018 Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD starts at $53,000 USD in the States, and it doesn't include standard Direct Adaptive Steering, auto-dimming side mirrors, adaptive cruise, advanced climate control, or Bose audio, although it does include the ProAssist package which adds front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, cross-traffic alert with backup collision intervention, blindspot monitoring, predictive forward collision warning (that can see two cars ahead), and forward emergency autonomous braking, but no auto high beams that are included in the Canadian-spec $2,000 ProAssist package. Still, the Canadian dollar equivalent of $53,000 USD is about $68,245 for way fewer features.
Back to Canada, many of the Red Sport 400's extra features can be had through various options packages, while my tester included the just noted ProAssist package as well as the $3,800 ProActive packaged, which added auto-leveling and adaptive cornering headlamps, distance control assist, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention with active lane control, blindspot intervention, front pre-crash seatbelts, and INFINITI's Eco Pedal.
Q50 Value Proposition Is Shockingly Good
If you were to add both additional packages to the U.S.-spec car your tally would reach $60,210 USD, or about $77,530 CAD at the time of writing. The price for my fully loaded Canadian-spec example (except for $750 metallic paint) was just $58,495. That's better than $17k in savings from INFINITI Canada, before even asking for a discount.
From its beautifully sculpted outward design and superbly crafted, wonderfully accommodating interior, to its extremely well balanced comfort and performance dynamics, the 2018 Q50 moves INFINITI a solid step up the premium D-segment desirability ladder, especially in top-tier Red Sport 400 trim. That it can be had for such exceptionally good value is a significant bonus. It's certainly easy to recommend the Q50.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.