I’ve been waiting for the Japanese luxury brands to go turbo for a long time now. They’ve been keeping their cars pretty simple for years, and that’s great for reliability, but in the end, the turbo European cars were faster, a lot faster. Well now it seems the tables have turned. Infiniti has finally joined the turbo game, and they’ve brought a ringer.
Their new 3.0L twin turbo V6 comes in two flavors, one with 300hp and one with 400hp. The first will compete directly with the existing sport sedan pack, and the second will blow them away. Even with the German’s conservative horsepower claims, none of their offerings reach the 400hp mark. That means the high-output Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 I drove here is some very serious business.
The Red Sport 400 is genuinely fast, like “Oops I’m going 80 in a 25” kind of fast. That happened to me. I went for a little acceleration test, and I was shocked when I looked down at the speedo. She moves!
In this rear drive model I felt the rear tires chirping on shifts and struggling for grip in 2nd gear. It definitely added some nice drama to the whole experience, though I suspect many customers will opt for all wheel drive.
The Red Sport 400 delivered a nice surge of boost when I pinned the throttle. It had a nice fat powerband from around 2500 rpm to a little before redline, with increasing ferocity as the revs climbed. There was a tiny bit of turbo lag as you get into the throttle, but it was quickly replaced by a big wave of forward thrust.
This Infiniti Q50 with the high-output 3.0t takes performance to the next level for luxury sport sedans. Weighing 3,700lbs, with 400hp propelling it, this car is now in the same league as the previous-gen BMW M3 and Lexus IS-F. That’s some serious performance, and surely a step up from the run-of-the-mill BMW 335i.
Okay, so what about the rest of the car?
While the new 3.0t engine is surely the main story here, a good engine alone doesn’t make for a great car.
I drove the Q50 S Hybrid a few years ago, and was very impressed with it as the next step for the Infiniti brand. The story is much the same with the Q50 Red Sport 400. Those familiar with previous-gen Infiniti G35s and G37s will be very impressed with the Q50’s jump in quality, as well as in fit and finish. The Q50 is a very nice, comfortable sedan with some decent sporting capabilities.
The only thing I’m not totally sold on in the Infiniti Q50 lineup is the drive-by-wire steering. That’s right, there’s no physical connection with the front wheels while you drive, and that can be an issue for many of us.
The drive-by-wire system works well in application, with loose steering in normal mode and very tight, responsive steering in sport modes. There’s obviously no road feel at all, but it is very sharp and accurate when driving fast through turns. My only real concern is “what if the system fails at 80 mph?”
I know Infiniti has a fail-safe spring-loaded connector that engages the steering wheel to the steering rack if a failure occurs, but what if that doesn’t work? My concern may be a little much, but if I could change one thing about the Q50 it’d be to give it mechanical steering. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely a deal-breaker for me, though, because the rest of the car is so good.
I also had some time riding in the back seat of this Q50, and I was really impressed with how comfortable I was. This is normally a point I’d just leave out because the standard for a typical rear seat is to be merely “tolerable.” But the posture in the Q50 was really nice for me, and I’m a pretty big guy at 5″11.
Okay so enough about the Q50 in general, let’s get back to the Red Sport 400
Again, a great engine needs to be a part of the full package. With that in mind, the Q50 Red Sport 400 isn’t supposed to be a full-on BMW M3 rival. It’s more like a BMW 335i rival that’s brought a bigger gun to the fight.
The Red Sport 400 utilizes Nissan’s rev-matching 7 speed automatic gearbox. It’s a nice all-round transmission, and capable of solid crisp shifts when driving fast.
In terms of handling, the Red Sport 400 is both willing and capable for fun on winding roads. I’m not sure how it would do at its limits on a racetrack, but again this is a sport model, not a full performance model. Most drivers will enjoy its lively and composed handling in Sport + mode just fine. And with that potent new engine, the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is a sport sedan that will exceed your expectations.
Dollars and Sense
Infiniti had yet to announce official pricing for the Q50 Red Sport 400 when this article was first written, but I knew it was safe to say that the Audi S4 and BMW 335i should be worried. I figured it’d be around $50-60,000, and I was right.
Infiniti recently released pricing for the Red Sport 400. The RWD model starts at $48,000 and the AWD model starts at $50,000. The real kicker, though, is that the Q50 Red Sport 400’s pricing tops out right at the $60,000 mark, and that makes it a tremendous value.
Infiniti has brought a heavy hitter to the game, one that raises the bar to a new level. In addition to the Q50 Red Sport 400’s higher performance, Infiniti also has a better reputation for reliability and lower running costs than their European rivals. If that reputation continues to hold true for the Infiniti Q50, then that makes the new turbocharged models, Q50 2.0t and Q50 Red Sport 400, extremely appealing.
Infiniti raised the bar in a similar way when they brought out the G35 in the early 2000s, and it made their brand successful to this day. I’m thrilled to see Infiniti finally stepping up I to the big leagues of the luxury market, even upping the ante in the process.
In case you couldn’t tell by now, I was thoroughly impressed by the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. It has many great qualities, but my big takeaway from it was, “Damn, that thing was FAST!”
MoM Score: Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 RWD
Primary Function: Performance: 2
Secondary Functions: Luxury(2) Practicality(2) MPG(2): 2
Visual Appeal: 2
Build Quality: 2
Value for Money: 2
Final Score: 10 /10