6.4.2016Infiniti Q50 2.2d review
The compact executive market is dominated by just a few main models. But what if you want something a little different; something with the same presence, power and technology as a BMW or Audi say, but you don't want to follow the crowd. Here's where the Infiniti Q50 comes in, so we've taken a look to see how it holds up.
Review by Chris Lilly
The Infiniti Q50 test car came with the company's 2.2 litre turbo diesel under the bonnet, which produces 170hp and 295 lb ft of torque. It's a gutsy four-cylinder unit that's the best seller in the UK and is mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox with power transferred to the rear wheels. It all sounds promising as everything that should be around on a small executive saloon is present and correct. The powertrain is pretty good too, with the 0-62mph sprint dispatched in 8.5 seconds, before heading on to a top speed of 143mph. It manages to feel faster than that though in everyday driving, with the Q50 leaning on that significant amount of torque to push it along. The gearbox matches the engine well, is smooth, and will potter about well - though anything with a seriously sporty intent will be met with sluggishness when hurried. The engine itself isn't the most refined around, but it has ooodles of torque at low revs which means lazy/comfortable driving is the preferred mode anyway.
Handling is on of the biggest selling points in this sector, with each manufacturer specialising in different subjects. Sporty, comfortable, luxurious, and dynamic set-ups are all catered for in one way or another by rival manufacturers, and Infiniti introduces another adjective into the mix - technological. It might sound a strange word to use, but the Infiniti Q50 is the first car to feature drive-by-wire steering. There is no mechanical link between the steering wheel and front axle - at least most of the time. There is a steering column as back-up, but it is decoupled all the time until sensors recognise a safety threat. The benefit of this set-up is that steering speed and weight can easily be adjusted, with the driver opting between different modes too. What the system also does is actively calculate steering lock compared to wheel speed and will turn the front wheels accordingly, meaning small movements in the supermarket car park gain big results, while the same movement on a motorway yields far less steering input. It works well though, as you might expect, lacks feedback since there is no physical manner in which to transmit what the front wheels are doing to the driver's hands. Electronics do a good job of compensating, but not to the same degree. As for the rest of the handling experience, the Q50 is set-up to be sensible. The chassis can clearly handle more power and handling vigour, and the car rides well with a decent blend of dynamism and comfort. Push on though and the car will pitch a little. Everything will be fine and there is plenty of grip, but it's not an enjoyable car to hustle along. Then again, most people very rarely thrash their car along a favourite B-road, and the Infiniti's set-up is, well, sensible.
Only available in four door saloon form, Infiniti has eschewed the conventional estate and more random coupe-saloon-crossovers that other manufacturers bring to the table. This is no bad thing though since the Q50 is a good looking machine all told. Perhaps a little over designed, on the whole the Infiniti looks good with swoops, creases and flicks aplenty to keep the eye entertained. Sports trim improves the look further. The boot aperture is nice and wide to make using the rear load space easy, though rear seat access is restricted slightly by the styling.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The interior is a nice place in which to sit, with loads of occupant space front and rear despite a large transmission tunnel. That tunnel does make using the centre of the rear bench very much the reserve of small children, but four adults can comfortably sit in the Q50 for long distances in nicely supportive seats. Up front, the driver gets two touchscreens to play with which is a good idea, as they are able to customise both and have the navigation up top and media settings below for example. It's strange to see that they are both very different though, as though they have been designed by two completely separate people. There's no problem to their functionality, but it looks a little odd when compared to the likes of Volvo's large integrated Sensus tablet. Switchgear is fitted to a very high quality, and the buttons well laid out and intuitive to reach. There is a dial behind the gearlever to select various functions too which is handy for shortcuts.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The 2.2d is the most efficient it the range, which might sound strange until you realise that the Q50 hybrid is fitted with a 3.5 litre petrol V6. The diesel will officially return 61.4 MPG, but unfortunately for Infiniti, this isn't enough to challenge the most efficient models in its class, especially considering fleet and business buyers make up a large chunk of sales in the executive saloon sector. Still, the figures aren't bad and averages in the low to mid-50s were achieved after my time with it. The Infiniti comes in at insurance group 37, while it also has a three year / 60,000 mile warranty.
Emissions for the model tested came in at 123 g/km CO2, though the range does have a best of 114 g/km CO2 if specified correctly. All versions come with engine stop-start technology, but there isn't much else to help the Q50 reduce its emissions further and as such, it languishes behind the likes of BMW's 3 Series, the Audi A4, Jaguar's XE, and the Mercedes C Class - all of which have models that emit less than 100 g/km CO2. And that's excluding any hybrid versions. Here perhaps we see the legacy of Infiniti's advancement into Europe from America, where fuel economy isn't as important as it is on this side of the pond. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 41.
The Infiniti Q50 range comes well equipped no matter which specification you choose. Starting in SE trim, features such as engine stop/start, speed sensitive steering, active trace control, 17-inch alloy wheels, Infiniti Drive Mode Selector, dual screen infotainment system, rear view camera, dual-zone climate control, leather trim and USB/DAB/Bluetooth audio system are all standard. Moving up to the Sport Tech trim tested and those wheels increase to 19-inches, adaptive steering with active lane control, heated and electric wing mirrors, electric adjustment for the steering wheel, sports front seats, and aluminium interior trim are included. It says a lot though that when looking through options, even the entry level model has a lot of boxes ticked.
It has to be said first of all that the Infiniti Q50 isn't as capable all-round as its German and British rivals. However, that's not to say that it isn't worth looking at as a good proposition in the executive saloon market. Its distinctive but refined styling will appeal to many, running costs aren't too bad, and it's comfortable and very well equipped Probably its trump card though is that the Q50 is something different. There are so many 3-Series, A4, C-Class and XE models on the roads that they don't stand out from the crowd at all. Should you buy an Infiniti, you might spend some of the time explaining why you didn't pick one of its rivals, but there is substance to back up your arguments. Not for everyone then, but certainly not worth dismissing either.
Model tested: Infiniti Q50 2.2d Sport Tech
Body-style: Four-door executive saloon
Engine / CO2: 2.2 litre turbo diesel / 123 g/km
Trim grades: SE, Premium, Premium Tehc, Sport, Hybrid Sport, Sport Tech, Hybrid Sport Tech
On-road price: From £29,320. Price as tested £40,540
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.0