It was damn near 100 degrees in Nashville, Tennessee last week when we were there to drive the newly redesigned 2018 Infiniti Q50. More than the heat, however, was the humidity. Some folks in attendance were okay with the humidity, but being that I live in the desert, it was borderline deadly. With a “feels like” temperature of almost 120 degrees, it was too hot for planes to take off from the airport, and my 7PM departure was delayed until 10PM because of that. If only American Airlines had a couple Q50 RedSport 400 engines to strap onto their planes, they’d have had more than enough power to take off, regardless of the heat index. There’s something about that turbocharged 3-liter V6 that makes it feel like it has much more power than the ratings might indicate. Certainly enough to power a flight loaded down with a couple hundred fat asses and all their luggage.
In the interest of full disclosure, Infiniti flew me to Tennesee, put me up in a nice room, and fed me nice food. When heat completely jacked up flight schedules, their staff went out of their way to accommodate me.
— Manuel Carrillo III (@mc3films) July 24, 2017
First and foremost, I had to find out if it would hoon. While we were having lunch, I asked one of the Infiniti folk if the Q50 would do burnouts or donuts. I told them that I probably wouldn’t be doing burnouts or donuts myself, but they replied that I was actually encouraged to find out if the car would shred. With the explicit blessing of Infiniti, I found an empty lot, pressed the TC button on the dash, and laid down some rubber. It spins around real quick, and I had a hard time sustaining the donut with the strange feeling steer-by-wire system, but it didn’t take long to find out that the car was more than capable of turning Bridgestones into molten rubber projectiles and atomized smoke. With that out of the way, let’s talk about how it drives.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t stop to take very many photos of this car because it was a joy to drive. The RedSport is a hooligan in a sports jacket. It’s a GT-R with a fancy haircut. It has the refinement you expect from Nissan’s lux brand; it’s quiet inside, it’s got nicely appointed seats, the touch points are all covered in quality materials, and there are options for premium audio. There was very little about this car that disappointed me. We’ll start with the things that were good about the Q50, move on to the disappointing bits, and then make a recommendation on how we would buy one if we had the money to lay down.
Things I liked about the Infiniti Q50 RedSport 400
This is an easy car to get in and go fast. You are instantly rewarded with a romp of the throttle by a comfortable jog away from the line as the revs build, then a wave of torque rushes up behind you shoving you forward as the turbochargers build boost. There are very few turbo engines left today that provide a sensation of being turbocharged, but this one sure does. That’s not a bad thing, it reminds me of the way my old 2.2 liter inline 5 turbo Audi sedan’s power delivery, and I am absolutely in love with that car. Unlike a lot of “sports sedans” these days with launch control and harsh dual clutch transmissions, this Infiniti has a way of delivering a smooth acceleration away from a stop that isn’t jarring or lurchy. Sure, there are other cars that are faster, but this is luxury rapid. It accelerates somewhat like a maglev train, simply building toward insane speed.
The navigation screen in the dash is easy to read and simple to operate. That’s seen far less often than it should be in this day and age. It was simple and easy to pair a phone with the bluetooth system, as well.
The RedSport model we drove was equipped with a dealer-install optional sport exhaust system, one of three different exhaust options in three varying levels of sound intensity. Pricing on this has not been finalized, but we are sure it was worth whatever that price was. The standard car is far too quiet for the power it delivers. You need some indication that the engine under the hood is doing something, and this exhaust helped a lot.
The RedSport is only available with a black on black interior punctuated by these red stitching accents where leather meets leather. It’s a good look, if it is a bit dark. The standard sunroof keeps things a little lighter on days when it isn’t 100 degrees.
Infiniti introduced this new shifter for the 2018 models, and it’s a nice looking piece. Not particularly mind blowing, but just nice. The silver stitching on this particular model comes from the fact that it’s in a 3.0t Sport model rather than the RedSport.
Speaking of the 3.0t Sport, this is the interior color that it was equipped with. Much less cave-like, but I didn’t really feel that it was a sporty looking interior. The quilted leather seat faces of the RedSport were much nicer to look at. Sadly none of these cars are available with vented seats, which would have helped on the swelteringly hot day.
The things I didn’t like about the 2018 Infiniti Q50 RedSport 400
The car takes some getting used to when driving quickly. It doesn’t communicate its intentions to you as well as many other cars in its competitive set. The steering is numb, to a nearly unacceptable degree. There was one point where I was forced to tighten my line through a decreasing radius corner, and I put the inside wheel in the dirt because I’d turned too sharply for the corner. I couldn’t feel any of that happening.
Likewise the brakes. The brake pedal was overboosted and uncommunicative. Hauling the car down from the insane speeds it can manage is a bit disconcerting when you feel the ABS engage at about 60 miles per hour. Without a nice linear pedal feel, it’s easy to overstep the boundaries of the braking system. Which brings us to the tires.
The tires are Bridgestone Potenzas when optioning a summer-only rubber. The tire itself is fine (though there are others I would prefer), but in this application, it is far too narrow a tire for the power output and weight that they need to haul around. The RedSport gets a unique 19″ wheel, but the tires are only 245 front and 265 rear. Braking, turning, and acceleration would all be improved with more rubber.
This little design flash element on the rev counter is unnecessary and unattractive.
This is less radical in levels of disappointment, but I dislike two-screen systems in the center stack. I would rather that the bottom screen be replaced by a simple array of buttons (HVAC controls are already there, why do they need to be redundantly built into the center screen, too?). The screen itself is nice enough, but the soft display screens need to go. Go check out Volkswagen’s gorgeous center display to see how it should look in a car this expensive.
The conclusion I have come to here is that the Infiniti Q50 RedSport 400 provides an excellent performance-for-value in the luxury sports sedan segment. Personally, I think it’s a bit too much for me, and I’d opt for the 3.0t Sport model (Which I’ve taken to calling the “Infiniti Q50 SilverSport 300”) as it’s got the same driving dynamics and aggro looks as the RedSport but comes in just over ten grand less expensive (starts at $40,650) and has about the right amount of power/economy mix. Compared to an M3 or a Quadrifoglio, the RedSport is significantly less expensive and is capable of at least 90% what those cars can do. Infiniti themselves identify the Lexus IS350 F Sport, BMW 340i Track, and Audi S4 as the competition. While I haven’t personally experienced Audi’s S4 to give a proper side-by-side comparison, a few of the other people on this press drive with me commented that the Q50 was a better car, so take that for what it’s worth.
The car we tested was fitted with the “ProACTIVE Package”, which includes adaptive steering, intelligent cruise, lane departure control (we went about 10 minutes on the interstate without touching any controls at all, including the steering wheel), adaptive lighting, and blind spot intervention. That package was a $2700 option. This car also had the “Sensory Package” which gives you BOSE Performance Series audio, power tilt/telescope steering column, and memory settings for the driver’s seat (this pack is a $2650 option). There were also a few tweaks, like the lighted door sills ($465), a spare tire ($300), and a “radiant grille emblem” ($400) that cost more money. Personally, I wouldn’t buy any of those options, as the RedSport 400 comes ridiculously well equipped as standard.
The takeaway here is that Infiniti has built a reasonably competent sport sedan that ticks all of the boxes (aside from steering/brake feel) for a whole lot less than the competition. Is it worth an extra thirteen grand to buy an M3? Is it worth twenty grand to buy Alfa’s Quadrifoglio? Especially if you’re just going to be wondering when it’s going to break down next. I’d have this car over a C63 or a CTS-V or Lexus F-sport, or any number of other, more expensive, sport sedans.