Infiniti Q50 VS Volkswagen Passat
- Powerful V6 engine
- Good value
- Macho looks
- Struggles to maintain traction at times
- Confusing dual screens
- Cabin design feels busy
- Super practical
- Easy to drive
- Great safety equipment
- Dual clutch auto isn't too smooth at low speed
- No heated steering wheel
- Halogen lights are dim
The Infiniti Q50 Red Sport sedan really wants you to love it, and this latest version is doing its best to impress the heck out of you with its looks and features.
Oh, and don't forget that we when first met the Q50 Red Sport last year we didn't exactly get off on the right foot. The engine's formidable grunt seemed too much for the car to handle. Then there was the jiggly ride, and the steering wasn't great either unless you were in Sport + mode. It's all coming back now...
Perhaps the Q50 Red Sport had changed. This is the new one, and Infiniti had assured us it's a different car now.
Do we give it another chance? Of course, and we do, in a quick 48-hour test. So, has it changed? Is it better? Would we live with it forever?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
I like you already. Even if you don’t end up picking the Volkswagen Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon, the fact you’re here means you’re willing to think outside the SUV square that so many Australians may get a bit stuck in when buying a car for the family or work, or both.
See, SUVs are kind of the cargo shorts of the car world because of their practicality, but do you want to wear cargo shorts everywhere? Wagons generally handle on the road better than SUVs and can be just as practical - especially if it’s the Passat 132TSI Comfortline.
Think of this wagon as the comfortable but cool jeans of the car world that you can get away with at a dinner or a picnic, the ones that always surprise you with how much stuff you manage to take out of the pockets when it comes to time to wash them.
|Engine Type||1.8L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Q50 Red Sport is a premium sedan that's great value, with a cracker of an engine. While Infiniti has improved the ride and steering, it still feels to me that the engine is too powerful for the wheels and chassis to handle. But if you're looking for something of an untamed beast, this car could be for you. Just don't say we didn't warn you.
Would you pick a Q50 Red Sport over a Euro sports sedan? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon is a well-equipped, super practical, good looking, and easy to drive alternative to an SUV. I’d option the Luxury Package for the LED headlights if you’re doing lots of country kays, plus it brings you auto parking – making life with it even easier. Jeans or cargo shorts? The choice is yours.
Are you a cargo shorts or jeans type of guy or girl? Does a wagon appeal more to you than an SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Q50 Red Sport looks cranky from front on, which I like in a car. Yes, the grille is simplistic and gaping, the nose is a bit bulbous, and sure, side on the car looks like a Lexus IS 350, but those rear haunches and the aggro body kit with its front splitter and boot lid spoiler make for an impressive looking four-door sedan.
The update brought restyled front and rear bumpers, those red brake calipers and the dark chrome 20-inch rims and new LED tail-lights.
Inside, the cabin is an asymmetrical paradise (or hell, if you're a bit OCD like me) full of sweeping lines, angles, as well as different textures and materials.
The red stitched quilted leather seats are an addition that came with the update, so is the new steering wheel and the ambient lighting.
The 'Sunstone Red' colour of our test car is also a new hue which looks a bit like Mazda's Soul Red. If red is not you, there are other colours – hope you like blue or white or black or grey because there's 'Iridium Blue', 'Midnight Black', 'Liquid Platinum', 'Graphite Shadow', 'Black Obsidian', 'Majestic White' and 'Pure White'.
The Q50 has similar dimensions to the IS 350: both are 1430mm tall, the Infiniti is 10mm wider at 1820mm, 120mm longer at 4800mm, and has a wheelbase that's 50mm longer at 2850mm.
The Passat wagon doesn’t have the flowing curves of the Mazda6 nor the killer-bee look of the Levorg, nope, but there is so much appeal in its restrained and organised design, with razor sharp lines and ridges. It’s a serious and prestige look, that’s less about bling and more about utility.
The 132TSI Comfortline and the 132TSI grade below it in the range look almost identical from the outside – both have the chrome blades on the grille, and the chrome trim around the windows, and there’s the dual exhaust. The only difference is the wheels. While both come with 17-inch wheels, the 132TSI Comfortline has the ‘London’ style not the ‘Soho’ style of the 132TSI.
The interior has the same clean design and premium feel. There’s the simple, logical layout of controls and a high-quality feel to the materials. The 132TSI Comfortline like the 132TSI below it in the line-up has a ‘Silver Diamond’ trim on the dash, the centre console and doors. I think the leather seats make the cabin with their ‘tuck and roll’ style.
You need to step up to the top of the range 206 TSI R-Line to get the fully digital active driving display as standard, but you can option it on the R-Line package which also brings bigger 18-inch wheels, aluminium face pedals and a tougher looking body kit.
Our test car didn’t have any options fitted and that 'Pure White' paint it wears is the only no-cost colour. I don’t think it shows off the Passat’s lines best, not as well as the optional 'Pyrite Silver Metallic', or 'Manganese Grey Metallic', the 'Harvard Deep Blue Metallic' and the 'Deep Black Pearl Effect'.
How big is the Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon? Not as big as it looks in the pictures. The dimensions show it to be a bit less than 4.8m in length (the same as the sedan version), 1.8m wide and almost 1.5m tall.
The Q50 Red Sport is a five-seat four-door sedan and is vastly more practical than its two-door Q60 Red Sport sister, in that I can actually sit in the back seat. The Q60's coupe styling looks amazing, but the sloping roofline means headroom is so severely limited that it reduces the rear seats to a place to throw your jacket.
True, I'm tall at 191cm, but in the Q50 Red Sport I can sit behind my driving position with legroom to spare and more than enough headroom.
Boot space is good at 500 litres, which is 20 litres more than the luggage capacity of the IS 350.
Storage throughout the cabin is good with two cup holders in the rear centre fold-down armrest, two more up front and bottle holders in all doors. A large centre console storage bin and another big storage area in front of the shifter are great for keeping junk under control and your valuables covered.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline does the practicality thing well with a roomy cabin and good storage space.
Up front is spacious with plenty of shoulder and headroom, while rear legroom is excellent. I’m 191cm and can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm between my knees and the seatback. Headroom back there is outstanding, too.
Those rear doors are giant and swing wide like the one on a bank vault making it super easy to get in and out – look at the images.
I have a three-year-old who is now insisting on climbing in and out of every test car we have – it used to be annoying (because he takes his time) but it’s now becoming part of the car testing process. He’s fallen backwards, forwards and sideways out of SUVs because of their height and if the entry way is narrow the sloping door sill makes it harder to for him to get secure footing, (don’t judge me, I’m there to catch him…mostly).
But the Passat was low enough for him to easily step up or down from and the doorway wide enough for him to have plenty of flat door sill to stand on.
The boot opening is enormous, too, and luggage space with the rear seats up is 650 litres (more than the Mazda6 wagon and Commodore Sportwagon) and you have a cargo capacity of 1152 litres with them folded down.
There are four cupholders – two in the front and two in the back, large bottle holders in all the doors, and a deep centre console bin with USB port. There are three 12-volt outlets – one in the front, one in the second row and one in the cargo area.
Those in the back seats are the masters of their own climate with digital controls for temperature and directional vents.
Price and features
Maybe sit down for this next bit. The Q50 Red Sport lists for $79,900. Are you okay? Do you want a moment? Remember, though that only seems like a lot because it's not a Benz or a BMW. Truth is the value is pretty good – better than a German car of the equivalent size and grunt.
Look at the standard features list: 8.0-inch and 7.0-inch stacked touchscreens, the 16-speaker Bose 'Performance Series' stereo system, digital radio, road noise cancellation, sat nav, 360-degree camera, leather seats, power adjustable from sports seats, dual-zone climate control, proximity key, sunroof, auto wipers and adaptive LED headlights.
The 2017 update brought new standard features to the Red Sport including, red stitching on the seats and dash, quilted leather seats, new 19-inch alloy wheels and red brake calipers.
Don't forget that the bang-for-buck factor is strong with the Red Sport, too. In that nose is a twin-turbo V6 that makes almost as much grunt as the BMW M3 for about $100K less. Even the 340i, which Infiniti says is a Red Sport rival, is $10K more. Truth is though, the Lexus IS 350 is the real rival to the Q50 Red Sport.
The Passat comes in three grades and the 132TSI Comfortline sits right in the middle of the range. While the sedan lists for $41,990 the wagon asks $43,990. That’s $6K more than the entry grade 132TSI wagon – so what do you get that the base-spec car doesn’t?
For starters it comes with the larger 9.2-inch screen (not the 8.0-inch) and the more sophisticated 'Discover Pro' media system with sat nav and gesture control, plus voice control for phone and the navigation.
The seats are leather, not cloth. There’s also the auto tailgate with kick-open function, 14-way power adjustable and heated front seats, electric folding door mirrors with reverse kerb adjustment, puddle lights, front fog lights, proximity key and a start button. The 132TSI Comfortline also has more safety equipment than the 132TSI, which we’ll cover below.
That was the gear that comes on the 132TSI Comfortline over the 132TSI. Here’s what they both get: there’s the LED tail-lights, roof rails, three-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors with visual display, floor mats, halogen headlights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker stereo and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
Is it good value? Yes. The 132TSI Comfortline is the sweet spot for value in the range. Is there anything that should be there that’s not? Yes. A head-up display – or the option for one would be good. Ventilated seats are welcome in Australia, but not offered on the Passat, neither is a heated steering wheel.
The Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon will cost you less at $39,490, but it’s 13cm longer – that could be the difference between making it into a parking spot or not.
Engine & trans
Inside the Q50 Red Sport's nose is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine and it is a beautiful thing. To me this car is piece of technologically sophisticated jewellery that cradles a precious gem that pumps out 298kW/475Nm.
But I have my concerns... you can read about those in the driving section.
Shifting gears for you is a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
You and I know this isn’t a performance car, but a 0-100km/h time of 8.1 seconds means there’s enough oomph to move quickly if you need to with confidence, such as in overtaking situations.
Infiniti says the V6 petrol engine in the Q50 Red Sport should use 9.3L/100km if you're using it on a mix of highways, urban streets and country roads. We only had the Q60 Red Sport for 48 hours and after a couple of days of Sydney city commutes and a trip to the Royal National Park our trip computer was reporting 11.1L/100km.
I measured our test car’s fuel consumption at the petrol pump and after 177km of inner-city peak-hour commutes in the morning and late nights on empty motorways measured 8.0L/100km when it came to fill up. That’s still good mileage.
Perhaps the biggest complaint we had about the previous Q50 Red Sport, which launched in 2016, was that it felt as though the chassis wasn't up to the amount of grunt running through it, and those rear wheels struggled to transfer the oomph to the road without losing traction.
We experienced the same issue again in this new car. I was breaking traction, not just in 'Sport+' and 'Sport' modes, but in 'Standard' and 'Eco', too. That was happening without pushing it hard and with all electronic traction and stability aids on.
If I was 18 I'd declare to the world I'd found my dream car - something that always wants to 'light 'em up' given half a chance. But like that one mate who always gets into trouble on a night out it's only funny when you're young.
A truly great performance car is planted, balanced and able to deliver the grunt to the road effectively. The Nissan R35 GT-R is the perfect example – a brilliant piece of machinery, a weapon of a performance car and with a chassis matched perfectly to its engine.
And that could be the issue with Q50 Red Sport - that engine feels overpowered for the chassis, and wheel and tyre package.
We also felt the previous Q50 Red Sport's ride, with its constantly adapting 'Dynamic Digital Suspension', was overly busy. Infiniti says it has developed the suspension system further and it does feel as though the ride is more comfortable and composed.
Steering was another area that we weren't overly impressed with when we drove the previous car. Infiniti's 'Direct Adaptive Steering' (DAS) system is super sophisticated and was the first in the world not to have any mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels – it's all electronic.
The new Q50 Red Sport uses the upgraded 'DAS 2' and while it feels better than before, it's only in Sport+ mode that it seems most natural and accurate.
In a word: easy. The Passat 132TSI Comfortline is easy to see out of, easy to park, easy to sit comfortably in for long periods of time whether it’s in peak-hour traffic going nowhere or on the motorway at 110km/h.
The cabin is quiet, the ride is composed, and on-board tech such as gesture control for the media adds to its all-round easiness.
Easy, but not perfect. The halogen headlights are dim and while they’re fine in the city you’ll really notice on Australia’s poorly lit country roads and highways – I strongly recommended optioning the 'Luxury Package' which brings the incredibly bright LED headlights.
The dual-clutch auto transmission isn’t perfectly smooth at low speeds, either. But I feel I am just looking for problems where there really aren’t many.
If you’re after a more sporty driving experience and looks to match there’s the Passat 206 TSI R-Line – much more power and aggressive styling to go with it.
The Q50 was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2014 and the amount of advanced safety equipment which comes standard on the Red Sport is impressive. There's AEB, that works forwards and when you're reversing, forward collision and blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance and moving object detection.
There are two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor points in the back row, for child seats.
The Q60 Red Sport doesn't come with a spare tyre because the 245/40 R19 tyres are run flats, which means even after a puncture you should be able to keep driving for about 80km. Not ideal in Australia where distances are seriously vast.
Wondering what else the 132TSI Comfortline gets over the 132TSI grade below it? More standard safety equipment. Yup, while all Passats come with AEB which works at lower city speeds, manoeuvre braking (front and rear), a rear-view camera, and parking sensors, the 132TSI Comfortline also comes with blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning.
Do I still need to tell you that the Passat wagon has a five-star ANCAP rating? It does.
For child and baby seats there are three top tether anchor mounts and two ISOFIX points in the second row.
Happy to report, too, that the 132TSI Comfortline comes standard with a full-sized spare wheel. That’s becoming a rarity with many car makers opting for a space saver spare, which might save weight and space, but in Australia where distances are vast a full-sized spare is an essential part of a good safety kit.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended every 15,000km/12 months and pricing is capped.
You can expect to pay $476 for the first service, $671 for the second, $563 for the third, $857 for the fourth and $476 for the fifth.
It’s more than most Japanese and Korean brands charge for a service. Mazda for example caps servicing no higher than $341 for each service over five years for it’s 2.5-litre petrol GT Mazda6 wagon and has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
So, the Passat 132TSI Comfortline is losing marks here for its short warranty and relatively high servicing costs.