2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid, Al’s Take (Grade: A)

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Infiniti has been good at keeping itself in the news lately.  Last year, when they announced they would reshuffle their naming convention in their model lineup to use the word “Q” across the board, I decried the news as a poor decision which would confuse buyers and damage sales.  I’m still not sure if I said the right thing, or the wrong thing.  However, at the New York Auto Show last year, I did catch a glimpse of the new Q50, Infiniti’s replacement for the respectable G37 sedan, and took some time with it to see what it was like to sit in.  By the time Pebble Beach rolled around, Infiniti was offering this brown 2014 Q50S Hybrid for drives.  I eagerly took the keys to see what Infiniti had done with a new platform to fight the BMW 3-Series.

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The Looks:

The Q50 has a lot of details in its styling that merit a very close look.  The lines are almost conflicting from afar and at a close angle, look polarizing. The whole package up front vaguely resembles the Maserati Quattroporte with a more origami approach. The back end looks crisp and modern too, while the car manages to look longer than it really is, without seeming out of proportion.  The overhangs are crisp and clean, while the LED clusters peppered on the front end are a great addition.  There’s no mistaking the car’s identity up close, and the large wheels look agressive and give the car a strong stance.

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The inside is a copy of the outside, with some softened edges. I like the way the lines come together but the styling of the parts on their own is rather awkward. There is a modern feel on the inside and the lines do copy the exterior accurately, but don’t look as put together. I find it to be a nice place to spend time, but in the end it isn’t much to look at.  The passenger’s side dash panel is a bit staid and blank, while the air vents look almost comically large in comparison.

Score: 3.0/4.0

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By the Numbers:

The Q50S Hybrid is good looking, and backs it up with very good quality control and detailing. The LED lamps look smart and the fit and finish is befitting of a premium sedan at its price, even in this pre-production model.  The paint finish, a deep lustrous bronze color with a metallic sheen, is complementary to the car’s lines and has a good, even look to it.  The rims, a set of 19-inch multitone, multi-spoke wheels, are of a high quality and suit the car well.

The interior quality is excellent.  The wood trim, while flat in pictures, is excellent in quality and the finish is befitting of a premium car.  The leather is soft and covers most of the oft-touched surfaces, while the instrument panel has a nice, even glow to it.  The controls are placed relatively well and the joystick control for the driver information center on the center stack is easy to figure out and takes little time to master.  The leather on the steering wheel feels great in the hands with some very good stitching to boot.  It even has paddle shifters–in a hybrid.  I knew at this point that things were about to get interesting.

Score: 4.o/4.0

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At the Helm:

Once on the road, I wasted little time getting the Q50S Hybrid to shake a move.  The Hybrid model packs a 3.7L V6 with a 50 kW electric motor for a combined output of 360hp, coupled through a 7-speed automatic transmission.  The acceleration is such that I didn’t feel like I was driving a hybrid.  Off the line and coming out of corners, I was staggered.  This car moves through its gears well and the transmission holds its gear without changing up, a nice touch.  Clearly, Infiniti is selling this as a performance car that happens to have hybrid drive.  As someone who’s driven plenty of hybrids over the years, I was enamored with this experience.  The transmission even matches revs on downshifts–a classy touch.

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The Q50S handles with surefootedness and never made me feel like I was outmatched.  The steering weighted up well in corners and I always felt directly in control–the tires offer excellent grip.  For a sports sedan, the ride is surprisingly good, with a controlled body motion and no jarring over large bumps.  The best part of the car’s chassis response, however, come from the brakes.  The braking feel is great for a hybrid, with a smooth, progressive pedal action and loads of pedal feel.  There’s negligible nosedive either.  One of the best things about the brake feel on the Q50S Hybrid is that despite the existence of a regenerative braking system, the brakes feel entirely normal and there’s no noticeable effect from the regenerative action on the braking system, something I have not seen before in a hybrid car of any price.  Infiniti did a fantastic job setting up this car’s chassis.

Score: 4.0/4.0

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The Bottom Line:

After a period of time, I did look up prices for this car, and my test car’s MSRP out the door is a bit over 54K.  That’s a strong amount of money, but for that, this car has more power than a BMW 335i and will get better fuel mileage.  It also looks better, and in my opinion, has more room inside and a bigger trunk.  It’s also one of only two hybrids currently available in this class, the other being a BMW 3-Series.  As a result, to compare, the BMW will cost a few thousand more with the same options as this loaded tester.  My car was equipped with navigation, satellite radio, voice control, adaptive lighting up front, a full memory system, and a full around-view camera system, among many other toys for the money.  Bearing in mind that this car had over 9 grand in options, the base price of the Q50S Hybrid is about $47K, not a bad price.  For around 55 grand, this is a very strong value.

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Overall, I genuinely enjoyed the Q50S Hybrid.  For the money paid, this is a car that looks more expensive than it is, is built very well, has great dynamics, and even feels nice to spend time in.  As one of only a few hybrids in its class, this car has a lot of strong attributes that can appeal to non-hybrid buyers, not at all a bad thing.  Infiniti does even offer the Hybrid with AWD, furthering its general appeal.  Considering that my mother owns a Toyota hybrid at present, whenever she pays this off, I may indeed fight to get her to buy one of these despite the fact that it’s more performance-oriented.  It can make a believer out of someone who hates hybrids, but it can also make an environmentalist (thanks to its green credentials) into a true enthusiast believer (thanks to that chassis).

Score: 4.0/4.0

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In conclusion, this car’s worth the money.  It’s for those of us who want something in the 3-Series class, but might be put off by the BMW’s staid (by comparison) styling, or by the lack of catchet of the Cadillac CTS, or the fact that the percieved reliability of the Infiniti might be better than the other German rivals.  Or further still, it could just be someone who wants a Japanese luxury sedan but is put off by the Lexus IS’s polarizing rear end, or percieved lack of emotion.  The Q50 appeals to plenty of different segments at the same time, without stretching itself too thin, and I have to respect that on a lot of levels.  It will appeal even to those who want a hybrid–because it drives so darn good that I forgot I was driving a hybrid.

Score: 3.0+4.0+4.0+4.0 = 15.0/16

Grade: A

-Albert S. Davis

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