Pedigree, it's not just overpriced dog food, it's also what leads a lot of people to dealerships where they can find a vehicle with a 3 pointed star, roundel or four interlocked rings. It's also what gives some folks the idea that using a turn signal is beneath them or that decades of achievements in motorsport somehow legitimizes an $550 optional illuminated emblem. In the enthusaist community such folks are commonly referred to as asshats or suckers but to the rest of the world they're people who've completed the monumental task of driving a German luxury car.
For me, pedigree doesn't mean a damn thing. I appreciate and respect the history of the big drei, but winning races isn't what draws me to a brand. I prefer let things like styling, driver involvement and value dictate what brands I'm going to support. In other words, I'm a company's nightmare because I'm not brand loyal, no matter how much I'd like to be. I've got a panoramic point of view when it comes to cars, I do my best not to pass judgement until I have driven a vehicle and urge others to do the same. To firmly entrench yourself with one automaker and dismiss all others as inferior is not only foolish, but it's the opposite of what being an enthusaist is all about. A real appreciation for cars and car culture means being open minded and at times, swallowing your pride and admitting when you're wrong about something.
So with that in mind, let us dive into this review of the 2015 Infiniti Q50 S, a car that I am happy to admit I was completely wrong about.
Full Disclosure: Infiniti wanted me to drive the Q50 S so badly they left one at the Nashville International Airport valet and double dog dared me to come get it. Given that I haven't backed down from a double dog dare since 4th grade when a redheaded stepchild wished me to ingest something rather unpleasant, I accepted and hopped on a plane to Music City USA.
So I'm an unapologetic lover of simple design, especially when it comes to cars. Clean lines applied to a classic shape, that's what usually does it for me. I think it's why I love wagons so much because for the most part, it's much harder to screw up a wagon design than it is a sedan. Have people done it? Of course but overall I find it easier to love an ugly long roof than a 4 door. The Q50 was one of those cars that when it debuted, I didn't give a second glance, I dismissed it as just another in a long line of boring and overly stylized Japanese vehicles. If only it had bowed wearing the Malbec Black paint that my tester was covered in.
While there are specific aspects of the design that I still don't care for (chrome, bulging taillights, chrome) overall I think the Q50 S is a very, very good looking car. In profile it stands out but not in a "HEY! HEY! LOOK AT ME! I'M DIFFERENT!" sort of way like that other Japanese luxury brand. It's not overly reserved either, just happy to look like a generic people mover in a rental tux like the other, other Japanese luxury brand. No, the Q50 S occupies the middle ground, a blend of the traditional and the aggressive. The muscular frame and deeply creased belt line grabbed my eye in a way no other Infiniti has. Right away you can tell there's something special about it but it's not until you walk around the whole vehicle that you really get a sense of what it is.
I am admittedly not a fan of Infiniti's take on an Audi grille but it did grow on me rather quickly. By the end of the second day with the car I was already finding myself staring at it from various angles and struggling to see what it was that had bothered me so much. Certainly the chrome surrounding the grille is one thing that amplifies what I think are flaws in the front fascia design. It only enhances the "chipmunk with full cheeks look" and that's one of the worst trends in car design these days. I attribute it to the prevailing idea that cars should have this ultra aggressive, wide as hell front end so that they might part the sea of inferior vehicles in their way. If Infiniti offered a package to blackout all the chrome trim on the car (like Audi's "shadowline" trim) it would help tone down the puffiness, though I think the whole face could use a nip/tuck.
Ultimately a car's design really lives or dies with the consumers reception of its hind quarters. Drivers spend more time staring at the rump of a vehicle than any other part, so it makes sense that many cite a sub-par posterior as a reason for not liking a car. The rear of the Q50 S isn't anything that will draw creepy innuendo comments like a 911, but it sure ain't bad to look at either. Again, blacked out or body matched color trim would eliminate the most offensive aspect of the back end, the chrome bars that create a mouth ready to chomp down on a license plate. Infiniti isn't the only company guilty of doing this but for whatever reason, it really irks me here.
Perhaps it's that I like so many other aspects of the car and want people to give it a chance, hard to do when the most viewed part was half assed. I don't know what it is that leads car designers to craft these beautiful fascias and midsections, then phone it in when it comes to the butt. I guess they're just stuck in the past and unaware that we're living in the age of the booty. I'm not saying cars should have a big 'ol can like the Chrysler Pacifica did, but rather some definition to give them some personality. If Infiniti wants a potential customer's anaconda to want some, they're gonna need to give them buns...hun.
I have never been particularly fond of the way Japanese luxury does interiors, I've always found them to be busy, gaudy or cheap. The Q50 S didn't exactly change my way of thinking on the subject but it did instill a great sense of hope in me. I hope that Infiniti continues in the direction they're heading, I hope that they improve upon the template they have laid out and most of all, I hope they apply what they've done here to the interior of the next gen Q60 coupe.
If that appears to be a pleasant place to hang out, you're right it is. I logged a lot of hours inside the Q50 S during my week with it, not once did I feel like I needed to escape its leather and Kacchu aluminum clad confines. The nifty stitching on the doors lets you know Infiniti is trying and the overall design aesthetic is clean, crisp and refined. Basically, it's not what I usually associate with luxury from the land of Levis worship.
I judge all power adjustable driver seats against those found in my '06 Audi S4 because I've always thought they allow for a perfect amount of tilt adjustment in a given situation. I like to be as low as possible when driving so as to get a better feel for what's going on underneath me. Tilting the bottom of the seat up creates a very comfortable driving position in which I feel most engaged with the vehicle and while the Q50 S does allow for some tilt it's not as much as I'd like. The seat does get pretty low, enough to give you the feeling that you're riding in in the car vs. on it but I don't know how much of that should be attributed to the sport suspension setup.
Ultimately, these are seats that are very good, certainly better than what I expected but not the kind that I'll run off at the mouth about given any little chance. Of course I just had the good fortune to plunk myself down in the driver's seat of a McLaren 570S last week so all other seats may now and forever be ruined.
That red S on the trunk, it stands for Sport and you know what? This car deserves to wear it. The Q50 S isn't crazy fast but it does give you a nice shove when making the run up to 60 which takes 5.1 seconds according to an neat-o app I got recently. Launching the Q50 S is kinda fun but not a very memorable affair. I had much more fun jumping from "I'm gonna let you off with a warning" to "son, are you out of your dang mind?!" speeds on an very empty stretch of road in rural Louisiana.
The 3.7 litre V6 makes 328 hp @7000 rpm and 269 lb-ft @5200 rpm, it just begs you to keep your foot in it all the time. I had the most fun with it in sport mode and selecting the gears myself via the leather trimmed magnesium paddle shifters. Standard mode is exactly what you would think it is, standard, nothing more, nothing less. Eco mode sucked all the joy out of the car. I bet it would actually help return improved MPG vs. just be a gimmick like it is with most vehicles but I didn't use it more than 10 minutes during the whole week so I'm not qualified to comment on such things.
Brakes, they don't get you laid, they don't turn your friends to turn green with jealousy and they aren't sexy, but along with their good friend tires, they're the most important thing on a car. Ok, I suppose that in certain circles good brakes could get you laid and I know people who would turn green with jealousy if I got carbon ceramics for my S4 but I refuse to admit they're sexy. I don't care if they're slotted, drilled or dimpled, brakes just ain't sexy damnit!
The brakes on the Q50 S have 3,574 lbs to stop and at no point did I doubt their ability to do so in a hurry. As you can see my tester came with the optional 19" Rays wheel package which includes sticky Bridgestone Potenza
tires rubber circles and sport brakes. I don't know what it is about these brakes that make them "sport" but they were more than happy to scrub away a heck of a lot of speed without any drama*
*The brakes worked, they worked well. They're not sports car brakes but they ain't bargain basement either. I don't know what else to say without sounding pretentious.
Would you believe me if I told you that the Q50 S rides better than the Cadillac ATS? No? Well good, you shouldn't because it doesn't. As far as I'm concerned the ATS is the most comfortable ride in the segment with the C-Class coming in a close second. I was impressed with how little road noise and NVH the 19" Rays added, either true testament to how good the sound deadening is or how loud I had the stereo turned up all the time, probably the former.
It's no surprise than when Standard mode is selected the Q50 S is a perfect cruising companion, happy to eat up miles and miles of road while keeping your spine aligned. I was pleased to discover that the same holds true in Sport mode, something that can't be said for the rest of the segment. Even when hustling down some rough country roads the Q50 S was more Maybach than Miata which is what I want from my midsize luxury sedan. It is one thing to have sporting aspirations, it is entirely another to take them a bit too seriously thus defeating the purpose of having a vehicle slotted below the tuning house special. I didn't have any backseat passengers on this trip but I have no doubt that they would have enjoyed the ride, certainly more than they would in the cramped backseat of an ATS.
So this is the part where I admit that I was ready to tear apart the Q50 S for its lacklusternumbdeadcan'tfeeladamnthing steering. Well, guess what, my tester didn't have the much maligned Direct Adaptive Steering so I had to throw out my preconceived notion of what the handling was going to be like and actually pay attention to how things felt.
Starting with the nicely shaped leather wrapped wheel, the Q50 S gives the driver the feeling that they're very much in control of what's going on. Imagine that!
This strange feeling of actual involvement is amplified by the independent front and rear sport tuned suspension, which sends a good deal of information back to your hands in conjunction with the power assisted, speed sensitive steering. I wound up taking the Q50 S through some really fun roads in Hill Country above Austin and I'm happy to say I had perma-grin all day. I didn't have to make micro adjustments mid corner like some other sport sedans I've driven recently. I just set my line, pointed the car where I wanted it to go and it went there. What a novel idea huh?
You see that little bit of leather trim on the paddle shifter there? Yeah, that's a good thing, a really good thing. The A+, 10/10, would tap again kind of a good thing. Paddle shifters often feel like they were sourced from a Mad Catz gaming setup and when you're dropping a decent amount of coin on a car, that shit is just unacceptable. These paddle shifters are more than just acceptable, long pieces of leather trimmed magnesium mounted to the steering column, that's the kind of thing that scores major points among enthusiasts. I won't even moan about there not being a manual option, that died with the G37 nameplate, I'm ok with it, a manual is just doesn't fit the vibe of this car.
As for the transmission itself, well it's pretty damn snappy and courteously blips the throttle for you when asked to downshift. It's not lightning fast like a dual-clutch setup but it gets the job done and then some. If Infiniti continues to improve upon this 7 speed automatic or sticks something in there on par with VW's DSG, well that would make things very interesting, very interesting indeed.
When I was a freshman in college I lived in an apartment with two TVs in the same room in opposite corners. One TV was hooked up to a revolutionary gaming system and the other was hooked up to an X-Box. This allowed for hours of un-interrupted gaming and a dangerous amount of microwaved chicken sandwich consumption. While the two screen setup in the Q50 S won't likely lead you to mindlessly stuffing your face with Costco brand foods, it will allow you to accomplish two things at once. Yes it took some getting used to but at the end of the week I was sold on the setup.
The menus are easy to scroll through and the unimaginatively named InTouch system operates at a good clip, never froze on me which is more than I can say for a number of other infotainment systems. Voice activated controls are par for the course which is to say that they are occasionally useful but ultimately still a long ways off from Jarvis or the computer on the Enterprise.
More often than not I am looking for what's missing in this class of car than what's there. At this point it should be a foregone conclusion that a midsize luxury sedan should have heated seats, a backup camera, more than one USB port, AUX jack, Bluetooth, and navigation. All of these things were present and accounted for in my tester, helping to make the case for being a good value when compared to the A4 or 3 Series where option boxes induce frequent face palming.
A big part of why I was loaned the Q50 S is so that I could test out Infiniti's "Studio On Wheels" 14 speaker audio system by BOSE. I've been in many cars with BOSE systems and I always found them to be loud but suffering from clarity issues. I was very much looking forward to testing out this new system which the folks at Infiniti told me was one of the most advanced speaker systems available and was designed with digital audio files in mind. As a music nerd I was incredibly intrigued by this and was very much looking forward to putting the system through its paces using my Big Sound playlist among others I created specifically for the trip.
From the moment I fired up the engine I knew I had a problem, the Q50 S had a really nice sounding exhaust. I was not prepared for this, here I was expected a boring, whiny, run of the mill V6 that I could drown out with this exceptional audio system and instead I got a burbling sport exhaust filling the cabin. My tester had been outfitted with Infiniti's brand spankin new sport exhaust system which I believe is worth every penny of its $681 price tag. Don't take my word for it though, hear for yourself in the teaser for my Q50 S video.
$47, 755 is what this car will run you and if you think that's too much then you're probably the sort of person that makes regular trips to the Coinstar. I think this car is very reasonably priced but that's not enough to warrant rating it an 8 or higher. The value of a vehicle is not based solely upon its initial sale price nor the quality of the vehicle itself. No, one must take into account the potential resale value of the vehicle which like it or not is innately tied to that thing we I discussed way back at the beginning of this review, pedigree.
The Infiniti badge just doesn't mean enough to warrant the distinction of being a truly valuable asset, not yet anyway. After all, they've only been at this for 25 years, think about how much you had to learn at 25, a whole hell of a lot. I think that if they continue on the path they're on, remain open to experimentation and listen to the concerns of their customers, the future is bright for Infiniti. They have the ability to be much more than a solid backup option, they could easily be the first name in Japanese luxury and certainly make a play for the global podium.
Improving upon the Q50 S will be paramount, it has only been a moderate success so I don't think they'll get complacent, at least I certainly hope not. I'd love to see them bring the Eau Rouge to life in one form or another but until that happens I'll settle for a better gearbox and maybe an even more aggressive tune on this car. At least they've found a way the give it some much needed character with the sport exhaust.
After all, strong character is the foundation upon which a brand's pedigree is built.
Engine: 3.7-liter V6
Power: 328 Horsepower/269 lb-ft Torque
Transmission: Seven-Speed Automatic
0-60 Time: 5.1 seconds
Top Speed: 144 MPH (limited)
Curb Weight: 3,574 pounds
Seating: 5 people
MPG: 20 City/29 Highway/23Combined (about 24.5 as tested)
MSRP: Stock Infiniti Q50 - $37,150, Q50 S as tested $47,755
Andrew Maness writes about cars because he has one and also has a computer. He's been known to drunkenly tweet as @thisnicelife and upload photos to @theroadlessdriven. He also has a YouTube Channel and thinks talking about himself in the 3rd person is really weird but knows it's necessary if he wants to be taken seriously as an automotive journalist.