By: Tom Lawson
For those that don’t know, Infiniti is to Nissan what Lexus is to Toyota – that is, the luxury brand of the respective car-makers. You won’t have seen too many Infinitis on the road, and that is a shame.
Infiniti started selling cars in the US in 1989, but, to be honest, did not have as much success as Lexus. In the early 2000s Nissan merged with Renault and the Nissan revival plan was formed: part of this was to turn Infiniti into the Japanese BMW.
Fast forward to 2011 when they started sponsoring F1 team Red Bull, and then to the Frankfurt Motor Show of 2013 where their Q30 Concept car would get its coming out party – the start of an aggressive strategy to extend the Infiniti brand into the ever-burgeoning premium sectors. Just before this, the model designations changed – saloons and coupés now carry a “Q” prefix while all crossovers and SUVs carry a “QX” prefix.
This extremely potted history brings us somewhat randomly to our look at the Infiniti Q50.
At a glance, the wavy curvaceous lines say: “Look at me – I’m not one of your straight-edged, straight-laced Teutons.” Inside, the tight, gap-free build uses high-quality materials and surfaces to wrap the occupants in a spacious, business-class cabin. The seats are nicely supportive, and behind the driver’s seat, set for my almost-six-foot frame, the space and view are fine.
Sitting defiantly as an option to the BMW 3-series, although slightly bigger, the Q50 offers not only a change of flavour but also a number of advances that this and its other nearest rivals do not.
While maybe not the choice for the driving “enthusiasts” out there, first up of these has to be the groundbreaking “steer by wire” feature – much electronic trickery turns the wheels and even decides how much feedback to give you. And as there is no mechanical link, gone is the requirement for bushes and dampers to cushion against rough roads, so it is all quite precise. Just in case you’re worried by the lack of a mechanical link, there is a traditional steering column: it’s normally disengaged, but will wake up if the wizardry fails.
Next, the two info-tainment touch-screens are another well thought out feature – you can show navigation on one, so you won’t miss a turn even if your co-pilot wishes to fiddle with the music system on the other, or you can even check out the amount of g-force being pulled. The upper screen can also be controlled via Infiniti’s rotary/push-button controller.
Acceleration is brisk, thanks to cooperation with Mercedes and the installation of what is basically the “250” two-litre turbo and seven-speed gearbox, providing smooth gear changes and more than sufficient oomph for our clogged Singaporean roads. The handling is well balanced, what we would expect from a good rear-wheel-drive chassis. We are told that the geometry of the rear suspension has been altered to provide more compliance, but on these roads it’s hard to say how much of a difference this actually makes.
The braking is good, with a nicely controlled feel. Combined with a whole host of safety features too numerous to mention here, there’s every chance you’ll arrive at your destination relaxed and in fine fettle. Give it a go – you may be surprised how much you like it.
Cost: S$203,000 for the Premium; $221,000 for the Sport.