New turbo petrol Infiniti plugs gap in BMW 3 Series rival’s range – but is it any good?
Sean Carson | January 2015
The Infiniti Q50’s task has always been tough. Going up against the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class isn’t easy, especially when all three thoroughly developed exec saloons offer myriad engine and trim combinations.
Which is why, with only two Q50s to choose from – an expensive £40,000 hybrid and entry-level 2.2-litre turbodiesel – Infiniti’s baby saloon lacked appeal when it launched in the UK last year.
Diesel might drive sales, but what about those who wanted a sporty saloon with a punchy petrol engine that could carry the family in plenty of refinement?
This is Infiniti’s answer: the Q50 2.0T.
What’s the Infiniti Q50 2.0T like to drive?
The 2.0T part denotes the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet. The raw stats are: 211hp, seven-speed automatic gearbox, 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds, 43.5mpg combined and 151g/km CO2.
The blown four-pot engine is smooth and refined, but it doesn’t deliver the hit of performance you might expect, even with 258lb ft of torque. It’s swift enough and hushed when cruising around, but ask for the max and the motor strains at the top of the rev range.
The shortcomings of the engine are replicated by the gearbox, too. Under normal driving conditions gear changes are imperceptible as the revs rise and fall without fuss. However, employ the paddleshifters and the delay between the flipping of your right fingers and a new gear going home is substantial.
The Q50 rides sweetly most of the time, but expansion joints and potholes transmit a trembling feeling of flex through the chassis. This firm edge means the Infiniti does feel agile when cornering, but it’s not backed up by any confidence-inspiring feel through the steering. In fact, there’s no feel through the steering at all.
That’s because in this Q50 the steering wheel has no mechanical linkage to the wheels and tyres, unlike pretty much every other vehicle on the road. Instead, Infiniti has developed what it calls ‘Direct Adaptive Steering’. This means, like a drive-by-wire accelerator, the driver’s inputs at the wheel are digitally relayed to a motor that takes care of turning the road wheels.
The benefits, says Infiniti, mean no nasty kickback over bumps, which is where the first problem materialises. Over bad roads the car gets knocked off line, so you try and correct it minutely only for the computer to do the same. It means you often seem to zig-zag down a lane, like a sail boat beating upwind.
The second problem comes when you engage Sport mode. This quickens up the steering’s speed, meaning a very small turn of the steering wheel gives a very big and sharp change of direction. The agility is impressive, but due to the lack of feel you’re never reassured by a confidence-inspiring connection to the road – or quite sure the front end will grip.
The Normal setting is the Q50’s best compromise, but a BMW 3 Series has it licked in every department dynamically.
What is the Infiniti Q50 2.0T like inside?
Not quite so inside, however. Our test car came in Sport spec and was nicely trimmed, with a great infotainment system.
The seats are comfortable and have loads of adjustment, with powerful seat heaters. The large, dual-screen layout is slick, too, with a big display for the sat nav and an intuitive layout for the climate control and other functions lower down.
To go with the tech, Infiniti’s latest saloon is practical. The 500-litre boot is big and a useful shape that’ll accommodate wide boxes. Getting them through the boot opening is easy as well.
There’s a touch too much plastic in some areas, but at least what’s there is soft and feels high quality. The hushed powertrain and smooth ride in the regular mode comes into its own here, meaning you can munch serious miles while getting out at your destination feeling entirely fresh.
Although the Q50 carries some sporting pretentions, this is where it’s most at home. Which begs the question, wouldn’t the diesel or the hybrid be a better option?
Verdict: 2015 Infiniti Q50 2.0T
In fact, that was our overriding impression of the Q50 2.0T Sport. It’s not sporty enough to challenge the BMW, which remains king of the class, so do you really need the underwhelming 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine if you simply must have an Infiniti?
At £41,545 as tested (including the £1,040 Visibility pack, £2,080 Safety Shield pack, £2,760 Multimedia pack, £660 metallic paint and £880 sunroof), it’s not cheap. For that money you could have your pick of the Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz ranges – a BMW 328i Sport with Sport Automatic eight-speed auto ’box, for example, costs £33,035, giving plenty of room to get liberal with extras.
The Q50 has much to offer, but the 2.0T Sport doesn’t answer the sporty petrol saloon quandary quite as convincingly as its German rivals.
Specification: Infiniti Q50 2.0T
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: seven-speed automatic with paddleshifters
Price as tested: £41,545
Torque: 258lb ft
0-62mph: 7.2 seconds
Top speed: 152mph