Infiniti just seems to want to watch the world burn. For some reason they deemed it a good idea to rename their whole entire lineup, for no reason whatsoever. Every Infiniti is now named Q, with some meaningless number. The car you see here is the new Q50, the replacement for the current G37 sedan. As the replacement for the G, which is surely Infiniti’s best selling model of all time, the Q50 has big shoes to fill. This one isn’t an ordinary Q50, though, this is the much-anticipated Q50 Hybrid. So in addition to filling the G37’s shoes, the Hybrid must also make a case for itself in some new territory.
Briefly looking back, the G35 was the car that really launched Infiniti into what it is today. It was based on the same platform as the Nissan 350Z, making it a true 4-door sports car. What resulted was the car that gave the BMW 3 Series its most formidable challenge to date.
Boy has the world changed a lot since the G35 first came out. The emphasis in the luxury market is now on multitasking, both from the car and from the driver. A car needs to be comfortable, but also sporty enough for you to weave in and out of traffic at 90mph while you’re updating your Facebook status and texting your friends. The pure focus on driving is all but dead at this point, even BMW has made that obvious. While luxury cars must still be dynamically capable, and “fast”, the priority for most buyers is now on cool gadgets and hypothetical fuel economy numbers.
Looking at the Q50, especially the Hybrid, it is easy to see that it is a car built for our modern world. I must confess, that when I actually drove the car, I knew very little about it. Since my drive, I have been doing a lot of research to help with this article, and I am finding that the Q50 Hybrid may, in fact, be one of the most interesting cars on the market.
The Q50 has a very swoopy design, but one that stays within the general mold for modern passenger cars. I like its proportions, and I think its styling is quite elegant. Overall it is quite a handsome looking car, and while it largely stays within the sedan-mold, I think it has just enough aesthetic flamboyance to make a few people look twice.
The optional sport bodykit on the Q50 S also sets things off with an added touch of aggression. I really liked the Chestnut Bronze paint job on the car I drove; the color really showed off the lines well. The Q50 is certainly less plain-looking than the G37, and a good bit prettier than the current BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Lexus IS. That alone may win it some customers.
In terms of being a “Hybrid”, I am not a fan of driving a rolling political statement — keep your fuel savings to your own, damn self. With that in mind, the Q50 is my type of Hybrid for sure, with just two “Hybrid” badges on the front fenders to distinguish it. Other than that, it looks like any other Q50 S. A few of the Infiniti staff at the event even had trouble identifying it as the Hybrid at first. “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, indeed.
The Infiniti G37 was always a nice car, but the Q50’s fit and finish have been turned up another notch or two. In addition to nicer materials, the emphasis on design just seemed higher. The Q50S I sampled came equipped with the “Deluxe Technology Package”, which adds a massive $5,000 to the price tag. In addition to a whole load of safety features (which I will delve into later on) it also grants you the nice maple wood trim interior. Should you decide to forgo that option, and I suspect many will, you will still get some nice aluminum trim, so don’t worry.
In terms of features the Infiniti Q50 comes standard with quite a bit. Things that are often optional, like a moonroof, satellite radio, backup camera, device connectivity, and keyless operation, all come standard on Q50 Hybrid models. Navigation is the only other option, aside from the Deluxe Tech Pack, and I’m sure most people will be sure to check that box.
All of the above works via Infiniti’s new dual display system, which consists of two touch screens. Fear not, though, because they haven’t overdone the touch screen stuff like Cadillac has. Essential functions like the climate control and basic radio tuning still work through tangible buttons on the dash and steering wheel. I didn’t spend much time playing around with the infotainment, but from what I did try, it seems to work just fine.
Sitting in the car, the front seats are nice and comfortable, with decent support and a good amount of cushioning. The rear seats are a little on the tight side, by our somewhat absurd modern standards, but they are nowhere near as tight as the rear seats in the Cadillac ATS. Four people will fit comfortably in the Q50, and a fifth will be a little bit of a squeeze. Overall, the Q50’s interior room feels very similar to that of the G37 it replaces.
Where practicality is a bit compromised is in the Q50 Hybrid’s trunk. The battery sits against the back of the rear seats, so it not only takes some of the trunk’s depth away, but also stops the rear seats from folding down. There is still enough room for most grocery runs, but unless you will be using the rear seat, the Q50 is compromised on storage space compared to the average family sedan.
On The Road: Steering
The first thing I noticed when pulling out of the parking lot was that the steering felt entirely artificial, loose, and devoid of any road feel whatsoever. This gave me a scare because I thought I had uncovered a fatal flaw right at the very beginning of my drive. I decided to switch into Sport mode to see if it made a difference, and it was like the moon had set, and the sun was suddenly at high-noon. I have driven many cars with variable steering, but nothing that had this stark of a difference between modes. The steering response became razor sharp, and pinpoint accurate, making the Q50 feel lively and eager to get a good pace going through corners. There still wasn’t much road feel, but that’s the case with most cars these days.
I turns out that the steering was one of the car’s major details that I was unaware of at the time. This Q50S Hybrid had Infiniti’s “Direct Adaptive Steering”, which means it was “drive-by-wire.” Where most cars these days have an electric motor hooked up to their steering rack, the Q50 has no tangible connection between the steering and the front wheels. A sensor on the steering wheel sends a signal to a computer, which sends a signal to the electric motors that move the front wheels.
Now, before you ask the safety question, Infiniti has fitted a small steering column that can be connected via a clutch, should the electric systems fail. However, when all systems are working properly, there is no longer a direct connection between your hands and the road. Now comes the question of, what does this mean for the driving experience?
As someone who has sampled cars with all types of different steering setups, I will tell you that it brings an interesting trade-off. First off, yes, all of the vibrations that normally come from the road surface to your fingertips are gone. However, what you get in return is a car with an immense feeling of stability on the road. In most cars you have to constantly make tons of little corrections as you go along, but in the Q50, you just point it where you want to go, and the computers take care of the little changes that need to be made.
In addition, as I said above, there is a huge difference to how the car feels between driving modes, and this means the Q50 can be right for a variety of different people. In Normal mode, the Q50 felt loose like many Toyota and Lexus cars I’ve driven. In sport mode the Q50 adopts a tightness and precision that will rival some of the better sports cars around. That means everyone from a sporting young fellow, such as myself, to an 84 year old granny can enjoy the Q50, and marketing wise, that is very clever.
The only relevant differences between the standard Q50 and Q50S are that the S has better brakes and paddle shifters. Everything else, from what I can tell, is basically the same, and that is not a bad thing for either model.
The eye-grabbing detail of the Q50 Hybrid has to be the amount of power it has. 360hp is available when its 3.5L V6 and electric motors combine efforts, and that is quite a healthy amount. It is very responsive to your throttle inputs as well because the electric motor makes up for the V6’s lack of low-mid range torque. Hit the gas from any RPM, and it pulls decently. Should you decide to floor it, and let it run flat-out for a bit, the Q50 Hybrid will surge forward with great haste, piling speed on speed at an exciting, and usually illegal rate. Fast is something this car does legitimately well, certainly comparable to a BMW 335i or an Audi S4.
When it comes to cornering, I found the Q50S Hybrid to be quite competent and eager to perform. While I wasn’t pushing its limits, I was keeping a nice pace at seven or eight tenths, and the car felt like it was right in its stride. This Q50 definitely retains that “sports car at heart” feeling that made the original G35 so appealing.
The Q50S’s upgraded brakes stop hard, and surely are great to have if you plan to ignore speed limits. Regenerative braking comes standard on all Hybrid models as well, so you will be able to save a little energy when you panic-stop for a surprise speed trap.
In terms of being a sport sedan, the Q50S Hybrid makes no compromises. Its 7 speed automatic works fantastically, with quick responses to your clicks of the shift paddles, and rev-matching to keep things silky smooth. It has quite a lot of power on tap, as well as the chassis and brakes to hold on to the pace that its powertrain can set. The quick steering in sport mode definitely adds to the fun too. Overall, the Q50S Hybrid just feels like an improvement on everything the G37 ever was.
There is, of course, a whole other side to the Q50 Hybrid, one that sets it apart from other cars with comparable levels of dynamic performance. This, of course, is its capacity for fuel efficiency. Altogether, there are four versions of the Q50 Hybrid, the Q50 and Q50S, as well as both rear-drive or all wheel drive versions of each. All Q50 Hybrid models weigh in around 4000lbs, with the rear-drive cars coming in a little under and the all wheel drive cars coming in a bit over.
It should be noted that Infiniti’s all wheel drive system is one that sends 100% of power to the rear wheels unless it senses a need to send some to the front wheels. In terms of fuel economy, especially while cruising at speed, this sort of all wheel drive system interferes very little. Only the added weight will really serve to raise fuel consumption, so buyers should know that they aren’t making much of a tradeoff for the added safety of all wheel drive.
Official fuel economy numbers are as follows:
Q50 Hybrid: 29city/36hwy
Q50 Hybrid AWD: 28city/35hwy
Q50S Hybrid: 28city/34hwy
Q50S Hybrid AWD: 27city/31hwy
Speaking realistically, I’m not buying the near 10% difference between the standard models and the Q50S models. Looking at the tangible differences between them, there just doesn’t seem to be anything that could cause such a drop in mileage (tighter gearing, more power, drastically different aerodynamics, etc). I think the difference is just a marketing ploy to try and differentiate the models a bit. In reality, seeing mid-30mpg should be possible in all of the Q50 Hybrid models. Also, given how official numbers always seem to run a bit low, I’d be willing to bet that at least the rear-drive models should be able to hit the 40mpg mark in many situations.
These fuel economy numbers seem extremely good for a luxury sedan with such high performance, however it will all depend on how you drive the car. Think of 360hp and 36mpg as two things that this Q50 Hybrid is capable of achieving, but neither is always a given, and both cannot happen at the same time.
I hear too many stories of people complaining that their cars “don’t get the advertised MPG” when they constantly choose to drive aggressively. The Q50 Hybrid is a car that will likely have a huge gap between when you drive it hard and when you drive like a saint. Remember, that 3.5L V6 is literally a sports car’s engine (from the 350Z), and that the boost in MPG comes from using the electric motor as much as you can. If you aren’t coasting on the electric motor, then your MPG will be that of the motor alone. Even high performance hybrids can get fantastic fuel mileage, but it takes an attentive and intelligent driver to really tap into their potential.
That $5,000 “Deluxe Technology Package” I mentioned earlier largely consists of the most modern safety features. It has many of today’s common features, such as blind spot warning, lane departure warning, radar-guided cruise control, and automatically adaptive lighting. However, it also comes with more advanced collision avoidance features, which can apply braking and steering inputs to avoid, or reduce the damage of, an impact. It also has 360 degree view cameras to help you when parking in tight areas. These are all great features, but many have become industry standards at this point.
The most impressive feature on the list is the “Predictive Forward Collision Warning”, which can warn you of an impending collision one, or even two cars ahead of you. Say the guy two cars ahead of you hits a deer. The driver in front of you (and behind him) will see the accident occur and react, maybe in time to avoid a second wreck, or maybe not. The Infiniti’s system will sense the instant something abnormal happens with the car that hit the deer, and will give you the same, if not faster, warning as the driver immediately behind the car that hit the deer. With that sort of warning, you should be able to stop or maneuver in time to avoid crashing into either car, and hopefully prevent what could be a massive pile-up on the road.
As far as whether to spring for the $5,000 option, it largely depends on whether you can really justify it to yourself. I will say that you are definitely getting your money’s worth in added features, especially regarding safety. At the same time, though, I cannot say that I, personally, would spring for it because it is a lot of extra money and I don’t really want the car driving for me. However, I say that as a young guy with no kids. If I were a parent, I would probably be much more inclined.
Dollars and Sense
Pricing for the Q50 Hybrid range is as follows (Base price, popular options, fully loaded):
Q50 Hybrid: $44k; $46k; $51k
Q50 Hybrid AWD: $46k; $48k; $53k
Q50S Hybrid: $46k; $49k; $54k
Q50S Hybrid AWD: $48k; $50k; $55k
Pricing for the Q50’s competition is as follows (Base price, popular options, fully loaded):
BMW ActiveHybrid3: $50k; $58k; $68k
Mercedes E400 Hybrid: $56k; $64k; $74k
Lexus GS450h: $59k; $64k; $64k
Lexus ES300h: $39k; $46k; $49k
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: $36k; $41k; $47k
BMW 335i: $46k; $49k; $54k
BMW 335i xDrive: $45k; $56k; $64k
Audi S4: $48k; $54k; $65k
Cadillac ATS 3.6: $39k; $44k; $52k
Cadillac ATS-4 3.6: $44k; $46k; $53k
Acura TL SH-AWD: $39k; $44k; $46k
The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid is priced extremely effectively. In the past, hybrid models have tended to occupy a tight niche, competing mostly with each other. With the Q50 Hybrid, I feel that is no longer the case. Its mix of rear-drive and all wheel drive models, as well as the S models, give it a much wider appeal than any luxury hybrid that has come before it. The executive sedan category is hotly contested ground in the automobile market, and I see the Q50 Hybrid competing at a multitude of levels.
I suppose the most direct competitor for the Q50 Hybrid has to be the BMW ActiveHybrid3. The Bimmer offers a similar overall package to the Q50, with likely a little more horsepower on tap in reality (BMWs are always underrated). Conversely, the BMW also gets slightly worse fuel economy than the Q50, has no all wheel drive option, and costs a massive $8-15k more, once options have been fitted. In terms of value the BMW ActiveHybrid3 has got nothing on the Q50 Hybrid.
As far as the other luxury hybrid competition goes, there is the tier above, with the Lexus GS 450h and Mercedes E400 Hybrid, and there is the tier below, with the Lexus ES300h and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.
When it comes to the upper tier, technically we are talking about competitors to Infiniti’s own M Hybrid. I am, however, of the mindset that buyers looking to spend this kind of money will be cross shopping most of the available options against each other because there just aren’t that many luxury hybrids out there right now. When it comes to the E400 Hybrid and the GS450h, the Q50 smokes them both in value for money, fuel economy, and dynamic performance. Being a size up from the Q50, the Lexus and Mercedes will have more room and luggage space, but in terms of all the “hybrid” stuff, the Q50 wins hands down.
When comparing the Q50 to the lower tier, the Lexus ES300h and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, the Infiniti is simply in another league entirely. Look, the E300h is just a Toyota Camry Hybrid underneath and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is just a Ford Fusion Hybrid underneath — as in they are mechanically identical. If you are looking at those cars as options, and the extra performance of the Q50 Hybrid doesn’t entice you too much, then do yourself a favor and get the Toyota or the Ford version instead. You will wind up saving yourself around $10,000 (lots of gas money), and you will be getting all of what you’re paying for. The Lincoln and the Lexus are really just $30,000 cars that have been put into a nice suit, whereas the Infiniti is legitimately $50,000 worth of car, no matter how you option it out.
Now for the non-hybrid competition. After driving the Q50S Hybrid for myself, I am thoroughly convinced that it is right on par with the Audi S4, BMW 335i, and Cadillac ATS as an executive sport sedan. In the past, there have always been excuses to be made with hybrid cars, but not with this Q50.
Let’s consider what sort of people will be purchasing executive sport sedans. Usually they are successful business executives who are in the cream of their career. They’ve worked hard to climb the corporate ladder, and now the paychecks are big, the bills are in line, the family is taken care of, and the “American Dream” has become a reality. Most such executives live in the suburbs, around 40-50 miles from the cities they work in. Commuting to and from work will be the main duty of whatever car they choose, and often times they will be caught sitting in rush hour traffic. Real world concerns, like room for the kids and miles per tank of gas, are still very relevant, though. With all of that in mind, they still want something that is enjoyable to drive, should they decided to take the back-way home from time to time.
This is where the Q50 Hybrid can really make a case for itself in comparison to the traditional sport sedans out there. It will keep up with an Audi S4 and a BMW 335i, and likely outrun the Cadillac ATS 3.6 and Acura TL altogether. It is fun enough to drive that most drivers wouldn’t feel like they would be missing anything. Finally, the trump card is the fuel economy. The Q50 will see mid-30s, maybe even 40mpg, on the highway, even with all wheel drive, whereas its non-hybrid competition will all struggle to see even 30mpg. In addition, during that rush hour traffic, the Infiniti will be able to shut off its engine and run on electricity for much of the time, while all of the others will need to sit there, idling their tanks away. When you really consider the whole situation, in addition to the Infiniti being largely cheaper, it becomes quite convincing.
The makeup of a car is one thing, but the bottom line of a purchase decision comes down to how much car you get for the money you’re spending. The Q50 Hybrids, all of them, are a phenomenal value if you only equip the navigation option — honestly, right now I cannot think of a better way to spend $50k on a new car. Even if you do spring for the Deluxe Tech Pack, you are still getting a great value for your money, especially compared to much of the European competition.
The normal Q50 is basically a continuation of what the original G35 brought to the table, however, the Q50 Hybrid has taken things up to a new level entirely. The only concession you make for having a hybrid is in the trunk space, but otherwise the Q50 Hybrid is as fast, as fun, and as comfortable as any other sport sedans out there. Add the Infiniti’s fuel economy into what is otherwise a pretty level playing field, and a clear advantage can be seen for the Q50 Hybrid.
The Q50 also has all of the technology people want these days, being the first “drive-by-wire” production car in the world, along with its cutting edge safety systems. Many people want cars that have taken a step backward, in an effort to preserve what we loved about earlier models (Cadillac ATS). While I do agree that many modern cars have lost their way compared to their late-model versions, this Q50 is something entirely different. It is a real step forward, incorporating new technology to make a car that can compete to the best of our traditional standards. The result is a fast, attractive luxury car that can rival most economy cars in fuel efficiency. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “hybrid sort of person”, this is surely the hybrid you have been waiting for.
WoM Score: Infiniti Q50S Hybrid
Primary Function: Luxury: 2
Secondary Functions: Performance(2) Practicality(1) MPG(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 10/10