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Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 2016 review

Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Infiniti Q50 Red Sport at its Australian laun
EXPERT RATING
5
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Infiniti Q50 Red Sport with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.

As a brand, Infiniti is in a pretty unique place in the automotive world; because it's owned by the Nissan-Renault Alliance, it has access to both the formidable engineering prowess of Nissan and the European styling chic of Renault.

It still needs to be able to forge its own identity in the marketplace, however, and even though it's been around for almost 20 years, Infiniti is still very much a small fish in a large pond.

Now, though, its big bosses are giving Infiniti every chance to haul itself up the order, with an influx of dynamically designed new products that should be able to make the most of its heritage.

And even though its Q50 sedan has been around for a handful of years, Infiniti reckons that a serious dose of attitude is just the thing to give the brand some pep, with two engines that can trace their lineage back to the awesome twin-turbo V6 under the bonnet of the Nissan GT-R.

Unfortunately, though, there are a couple of elements that aren't quite right yet.

Design

Even though this is ostensibly a 2016 model year update for the Q50, there are no changes to the inside or the outside of the mid-sized four-door sedan.

Even so, the rakishly chiseled Q50 still holds its own in a car park that includes cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, along with the Lexus IS range.

Practicality

The five-seat Q50 is reasonably well appointed throughout the range. We tested the new range-topping Q50 Red Sport variant, which takes the content from the previously tree-topping Sport Premium range and mixes it with more performance.

The rear seats are fulsome for the outside passengers, while the centre position is less comfortable.

The front seats are wide yet supportive, with the driver's seat offering adjustable side bolsters. Both are heated, as well, with power movement for both sides.

The rear seats are fulsome for the outside passengers, while the centre position is less comfortable. A pull-down armrest hides a pair of cupholders, and there are rear-facing air vents along with ISOFIX child seat mounts.

Two more cupholders reside up front, and larger bottles can be stashed in the front doors. There is no storage in the rear door cards, though.

Magnesium paddles supplement the traditional gated auto for the seven-speed automatic gearbox, but the foot-operated park brake is a throwback to its US origins and seems out of place in a modern car.

The twin multimedia screen system, too, is a confusing hybrid of two interfaces that's not particularly user friendly, and the requirement to switch on all safety warning systems to activate the cruise control is confusing, as well.

The boot space holds 500 litres, according to Infiniti, though a lack of a button on the tailgate is a frustration if you don't have the keys in your pocket.

Price and features

Infiniti has added two models to the Q50 range that feature a new V6 twin-turbo engine in different states of tune. The Sport Premium will cost $69,900 before on-road costs, while the Red Sport will sell for $79,900, making it one of the true-bang-for-buck bargains in the exec express space.

Infiniti runs essentially the same specs across its entire Q50 line, which means the Sport Premium V6 and the Red Sport offer leather seating, powered and heated front seats, 60/40 split/fold rear seats, rear air vents, powered steering column and a sunroof.

The two are fitted with 19-inch rims and 245/40 RF19 run-flat Dunlops.

Engines and transmissions

The Sport Premium runs a 224kW, 400Nm version of Infiniti's new VR30 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, which misses out on a couple of internal engine tweaks, including electric valve time controllers and a turbine speed sensor.

The VR30 twin-turbo in 298kW spec is a mighty, mighty engine, with astonishing dollops of mid-range urge that simply throws you towards the distant horizon.

The Red Sport, meanwhile, scores the more highly tuned and better equipped version of the same engine that makes 298kW and 475Nm of torque, making it one of the most powerful mid-size sedans on the market for less than $80,000.

A Jatco seven-speed 'traditional' automatic gearbox backs both engines, but crucially, the Q50 misses out on a limited slip rear differential.

Driving

Anything that's rear-wheel-drive and boasting a solid amount of power should be a bit of a hoot to drive, right? Well... in my opinion, the Q50 Red Sport is a pretty compromised device.

The VR30 twin-turbo in 298kW spec is a mighty, mighty engine, with astonishing dollops of mid-range urge that simply throws you towards the distant horizon.

It's important, then, that power and torque output be properly managed. And in the Red Sport's case, it's less than perfect.

First and foremost is the poor tyre spec. Run-flat tyres are generally heavier and stiffer than their regular counterparts, and aren't as adept at channeling power and grip to the road. And if that road is wet, then all bets are off.

The stock Dunlop Maxx Sport run-flats were simply all at sea during the wet part of our test drive, with virtually no grip and certainly no confidence on offer from either the front or the rear of the car.

The Q50 boasts a new set of adaptive dampers that supposedly help to marshal all of that firepower, along with a radically overhauled version of its pioneering steer-by-wire system that is now very good.

The rears scrabbled for traction in the first three gears, despite the traction and stability controls being switched on, and power-down out of corners was a sketchy proposition at best, with the Q50 stepping out of line very quickly.

The Q50 boasts a new set of adaptive dampers that supposedly help to marshal all of that firepower, along with a radically overhauled version of its pioneering steer-by-wire system that is now very good, and it's the one element of the car that actually worked well in the damp conditions.

The damper tune in our test car didn't appear to differ between Normal and Sport, and both tunes were less than ideal on the rippled, rolling tarmac that's commonplace throughout Australia.

The Q50 refused to calm down at any point, imparting an unsettling, uncomfortable ride for the duration of our test.

Things improved when the weather dried up, but patches of damp road sent hearts into mouths more than once.

A brief drive of the 224kW Sport Premium gave us an insight to what a more properly balanced Q50 sports sedan could feel like, with the reduced power figure giving the tyres a much-needed respite and the Normal damper tune in that test car feeling much nicer and more settled.

We've reached out to Infiniti and asked their engineers to recheck our Red Sport test vehicle, in case there was a production fault with its shock system that affected its handling.

On the whole, though, there's a difference between a high-powered car with a bit of attitude – we're looking at you, Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe – and a high-powered car that isn't a complete package, and the Red Sport is, unfortunately, the latter.

Fuel consumption

The 1784kg Q50 Sport Premium V6 is rated at 9.2L/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, and the same-weight Red Sport is rated at 9.3.

CO2 emissions are rated at 212 and 214 grams of CO2 per kilometre respectively, and both cars take 80 litres of Premium Unleaded fuel.

Safety

The Q50s come standard with seven airbags, and are rated at a maximum of five stars by ANCAP.

Both also come with a full suite of active and passive safety features, including radar cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning and intervention system, lane departure with prevention, predictive forward collision and 360-degree monitor.

Ownership

Infiniti offers a four-year, unlimited kilometre warranty on the Q50, and suggests a service interval of 15,000km or one year.

It offers a scheduled servicing policy, with prices to be confirmed at time of writing.

Verdict

As it sits, it's difficult to recommend the Q50 Red Sport, based on its poor performance in wet conditions. We suspect the situation would improve markedly with a different set of tyres.

The lower-powered Premium Sport V6 may actually be the pick of the pair based on our short drive, with a much more measured and balanced power delivery in evidence.

 

Would the Q50 be the prestige sedan for you, or would you prefer an IS? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Infiniti Q50 pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$33,990
Based on 25 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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$22,989
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Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0t GT 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $22,989 – 31,888 2016 Infiniti Q50 2016 2.0t GT Pricing and Specs
2.0t S 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $24,640 – 30,360 2016 Infiniti Q50 2016 2.0t S Pricing and Specs
2.0T S Premium 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $26,620 – 32,890 2016 Infiniti Q50 2016 2.0T S Premium Pricing and Specs
2.2d GT 2.1L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $31,990 – 33,990 2016 Infiniti Q50 2016 2.2d GT Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
5
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$32,000

Lowest price, based on 5 car listings in the last 6 months

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