2019 INFINITI Q50 Signature Edition Road Test Review
January 09 2019, Trevor Hofmann
Improving on an Already Impressive Luxury-Sport Sedan
INFINITI gave its popular Q50 sport-luxury sedan a significant update last year, refreshing its grille, front fascia, headlamps, taillights, rear bumper and more, so the current 2019 model hasn't received any visual changes other than a new Canadian-exclusive "I-LINE" styling package that's now standard on the renamed I-LINE Red Sport 400.
The I-LINE upgrade, its new name derived from "Inspired Line," adds a blackened grille surround to last year's gloss-black fog lamp bezels and diffuser-style rear bumper cap, while the rear deck lid spoiler is now high-gloss carbon fibre and wheels are a unique "custom imported" set of glossy black 19-inch alloys. Importantly, the I-LINE upgrade package further helps to visually differentiate the sportiest 400-horsepower Q50 from lesser trims in the lineup, an intelligent move considering the $7,700 leap from the already very quick 300 horsepower Q50 3.0T Sport AWD.
Performance Is a Key Q50 Differentiator
To be totally clear, other than some upgraded components the Q50's 300 and 400 horsepower engines are more or less the same turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 in different states of tune, the combination providing one of the most formidable powertrain lineups in the category. This is probably a good time to mention that INFINITI Canada has discontinued its 208 horsepower four-cylinder engine for 2019, which makes it clear that Canadian Q50 buyers are prepared to pay a little for a lot stronger performance.
The two V6 engines come mated up to INFINITI's well-proven seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and downshift rev-matching, the latter very rare in this segment and really fun to use, while the Japanese luxury brand's "Intelligent" rear-biased all-wheel drive system comes standard too.
The Q50's fuel efficiency has made big gains since the new turbocharged 3.0-litre engine replaced the old naturally aspirated 3.7, with an impressive 12.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.8 combined rating for the 300 horsepower version, or 12.5 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 11.1 combined for the 400 horsepower Red Sport. That's impressive fuel economy considering all the power available.
New Advanced Driver Safety Comes Standard
Possibly the most significant upgrade to the 2019 Q50 is the inclusion of standard Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW) and Forward Emergency Braking (FEB), which means these critical accident avoidance systems now come as part of base $44,995 Luxe trim, plus of course they're added to the $46,495 Q50 3.0T Signature Edition that I'm reviewing here as well, and the $48,495 Q50 3.0T Sport AWD, as well as the $56,195 I-Line Red Sport 400, all of which are very affordable after factoring in all that's on offer.
I used the word "base" in the previous paragraph, but there's nothing even close to base about the Q50's twin-turbocharged V6. To clarify, no competitors' base engine makes 300 horsepower, or for that matter the direct-injected V6's formidable 295 lb-ft of torque. I've gone into great detail about this multiple-year Wards Auto "10 Best Engines" winner before, while heaping equal praise on the seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drivetrain that it's paired up to, but rather than delving into all the sophisticated tech that makes this combination a standout in this class, I think it deserves something a bit more experiential.
Superb Acceleration Combined with Excellent Handling and a Smooth Ride
Press ignition, push the "DRIVE MODE" toggle switch forward to select "SPORT" instead of "STANDARD" (SNOW, ECO and PERSONAL modes are included too), tug the contrast-stitched leather-clad gear lever rearward into "D" and then flick it slightly to the left for manual mode, and get ready for some good old fashioned straight-line performance. Speed ramps up faster than its specs suggest, not that 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque shouldn't feel quick. The Q50 simply has more initial jump than most cars in this class, this due to sizeable displacement combined with twin-turbos that reach maximum twist at only 1,600 rpm, and then maintain full torque all the way up to 5,200 rpm, which is much sooner than a normally aspirated engine would, not to mention a seriously wide maximum torque band overall.
Keeping traction with the road below, the Q50 receives standard 245/40R19 all-season run-flat performance tires in both Signature Edition and Sport trims, but full disclosure means I must tell you my tester was fitted with full winters instead. Fortunately INFINITI properly shod them in high-end M+S rubber, wrapping its standard triple-five-spoke alloy rims in Pirelli Sottozero 3 tires, which truly proved you don't need to step up to an SUV in order to deal with snowy winter conditions.
Actually, the Q50 was so incredibly stable in wet and soggy Vancouver snow that it quickly became my number-one choice despite having a driveway full of options. Certainly the winter tires impacted the car's lateral grip on dry sections of pavement, but my tester was so brilliant through the corners on dry, wet, snow, and mixed road conditions that I hardly noticed the change in rolling stock at all. Needless to say this well sorted Q50 and I became fast friends, as it was an especially enjoyable companion all week long, with quick-reacting steering, wonderful agility, and a smooth, comfortable ride.
Sporty yet Elegant Signature Edition Delivers Great Value
Additional Signature Edition upgrades include the same go-fast styling details as Sport trim, including the sharply honed gloss-black lip spoiler and inky fog light bezels up front, plus a slightly less aggressive version of the black and body-colour rear bumper diffuser noted earlier, while both models show off the identical set of silver-painted 19-inch alloy wheels, which are upgraded over base Luxe trim's 18-inch alloys on 225/50 all-season run-flat performance tires.
Signature Edition and Sport trims also provide the same genuine Kacchu aluminum inlays inside, which feel substantive and look wonderful, plus they use identical Sport Type seats, complete with power-adjustable lumbar support and powered torso bolsters for the driver, plus manual thigh extensions for both front occupants. I found the driver's seat extremely comfortable thanks to a good inherent design and adjustable lumbar that fit the small of my back ideally, while it provided great lateral support too.
The only real upgrades from the Signature Edition to Sport trim are performance oriented, including steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a special sport-tuned dynamic digital suspension, and the same sport brakes as found on the Red Sport 400, which include four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers, while the two sportiest trims get front seat-mounted side-impact supplemental airbags as well.
Q50 Provides a Long List of Standard Features
Most every other Signature Edition feature gets shared with the base Q50 Luxe model, including standard automatic LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps and front turn signals, LED brake lamps, aluminum "INFINITI" branded kick plates, proximity keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, INFINITI's "InTuition" for storing climate, audio and driving preferences within each "Intelligent Key", welcome lighting on the front outer door handles, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, micro-filtered dual-zone automatic climate control, INFINITI InTouch infotainment with a bright, clear and colourful 8.0-inch upper display filled with top-tier features, and an equally impressive 7.0-inch lower touchscreen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a great sounding six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite audio system with HD playback, RDS and speed-sensitive volume, two USB charge points, a heated steering wheel rim (that really responds fast), heatable front seats (these heat up quickly too), power-adjustable front seats, a powered glass sunroof, and more.
Also notable, the move up to the base V6 powerplant has caused a number of features that were previously optional to now become standard equipment, such as remote engine start, INFINITI's extremely accurate InTouch navigation system with lane guidance and 3D building graphics, the INFINITI InTouch Services suite of digital alerts and remote services, voice recognition for audio, SMS text and vehicle info, the aforementioned power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver's seat, and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with a handy centre pass-through.
Q50 Offers Plenty of High-Tech Options
Also of interest, some items not available with this value-packed Signature Edition include Sport trim's optional electronic power steering, while INFINITI's highly advanced drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) system is available across the line, except with the Signature Edition.
The latter is also true for the auto-leveling adaptive front lighting system (AFS) with high beam assist, the power-adjustable steering column with memory, an available Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), the premium 16-speaker Bose Performance audio system with Centerpoint technology, front and rear parking sensors, Intelligent Cruise Control with full speed range (ICC), Distance Control Assist (DCA), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Blind Spot Intervention (BSI), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) with Active Lane Control, and Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA).
Additionally, a couple of features not available with the Signature Edition yet optional with the Sport and standard with the Red Sport 400 include auto-dimming exterior mirrors with reverse link and memory, plus INFINITI's Advanced Climate Control System with auto-recirculation, Plasmacluster air purifier and Grape Polyphenol Filter.
Interior Quality and Roominess Is an INFINITI Hallmark
Along with this healthy supply of standard features and available options, the Q50's cabin is impressively finished no matter your choice of trim. My tester's interior featured stitched padded leather across the entire dash top, on the instrument panel, on each side of the lower centre console, and across the upper two-thirds of its door panels, while the glove box lid was finished in a high-grade soft composite. The detailing is superb too, from that stitched leather trim to the skillfully upholstered leather seats, as well as those stunning Kacchu aluminum inlays mentioned earlier, to the tastefully arranged assortment of satin silver accents, while all switchgear felt substantive, was damped like a high-end stereo, and fit together tightly.
The Q50 is impressively quiet inside too, whether I was making my way through heavy city traffic and all the noise associated with downtown life, or cruising along the freeway at high speeds, the din of the wind and the road were kept to a minimum, making it easy to enjoy conversations and clearly hear the finer details of pianissimo level classical tracks on the audio system.
Along with quietness and quality, INFINITI has long brought more size to the value equation too. With respect to the Q50, the result is a compact luxury D-segment sedan that rivals mid-size models in interior room. There's so much seat travel and headroom up front that taller occupants should be able to get comfortable easily, while the rear seating area provides exceptional comfort and plenty of space in all directions. It's just as nicely finished in back as up front too, so rear passengers should even remain happily comfortable on long road trips.
A Sport-Luxury Sedan That Can Do It All
Likewise the trunk should fit most owners' requirements, while the aforementioned split-folding rear seatbacks improve on the segment's usual 60/40-division with a centre pass-through as noted earlier, which allows longer luggage such as skis to be stowed down the middle, while rear passengers benefit from the more comfortable window seats. This is a real dealmaker for active lifestyle families.
The Q50 is actually a great option for those who need some of the key benefits of a crossover SUV, such as just noted storage and seriously good all-wheel drive traction, but still want the styling and performance of a sport-luxury sedan. On top of all this it has a great value proposition on its side too, plus a superb reliability record, a gorgeous interior, stunning styling, and more.
I recommend you take a new Q50 for a test drive, by contacting INFINITI North Vancouver via phone at (888) 204-5481, or coming to visit us in our showroom at 819 Automall Drive, North Vancouver.
Story credit: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credit: Karen Tuggay