Mountain Wheels: Infiniti’s impressive Q50 sedan challenges the German competition
In this increasingly SUV-only universe, we might occasionally forget that Infiniti — the luxury partner of Nissan — used to be a considerably car-focused brand, chockablock with stylish and sporty variants and one-of-a-kind reimaginations of the more standard Nissan fare.
In the past four years, I think I’ve driven maybe one Infiniti non-SUV, though the SUV models from the small, British-made QX30 to the gargantuan QX80 mothership are all pretty swell, if you like that kind of thing.
So for the rare bird who loves actual low-to-the-ground performance cars, dislikes the sterility of German performance vehicles and thinks the entire range of nouveau Lexus products are off-putting, some time in the 2020 Red Sport AWD edition of the Infiniti Q50 sport sedan was just what the doctor ordered.
I am probably neglecting to include Hyundai’s spin-off luxury brand, Genesis, but I’ve never driven one, so … let’s use the aforementioned competitive set to frame our Q50 discussion.
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There are four grades of Q50 available, with the more austere Pure available with a 208-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. Luxe, Sport or my Red Sport get a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, and in Red Sport’s case, the 300-horsepower output tuned to a more German-eating 400 horsepower. All, it should be mentioned, are also available in Texas- and Florida-friendly two-wheel drive or the more Colorado-appropriate all-wheel drive.
The combined Red Sport package, with the blazingly Dynamic Sunstone Red paint, welcome lighting, rear-seat USB ports and carbon fiber treatments for the decklid spoiler and the caps of the side mirrors, all came to $60,475, including 400 horsepower and all-wheel drive. I have seen window stickers on German cars where the options alone seemed to cost more than that. The Red Sport’s up-tuned engine positively hums on startup.
Those who buy into the Infiniti’s parallel universe will be rewarded with an increasingly creased, swept and angled body, far removed from the old G and M Infiniti models, with road presence and confident handling (plus rear seat passenger room) that’s very much in the ballpark of a 5-Series BMW.
I did a comprehensive blaze around the Denver foothills last weekend — yes, even at 9 a.m. on a Saturday on an isolated stretch of road between Deckers and Sedalia, you will now be followed by weaving, horn-blaring yahoos in 4Runners if you have out-of-state plates — and besides the idiot factor, the Q50 was pretty awesome. And hella fast, when it needed to be.
You do require pretty judicious juicing to get that 3.0-liter to elicit a throttle-fest, with the Sport Plus mode on the multiple performance mode selector helping to keep it cranked a little more tightly.
The AWD helps keep the car comfortably grounded in corners, not to mention moving forward on icy and snowy patches (good to know), and while it doesn’t display the rock-solid precision/revolting fluidity of perhaps a BMW M5, remember the price, the output and the beautiful details you get here.
There’s lots and lots of drama up front with some very aggressive aerodynamic treatments on the front bumper and lower fascia, plus attractive LED headlamps. Out back, the twin exhausts get dark metallic trim, and the custom 19-inch alloy wheels are also sharp and attractive.
Interior details are just as sharp. Admittedly, I am willing to trade at least one of the increasingly redundant pile of screens featured in luxury vehicles for something simple like a digitized speedometer (my brain had to do the math to see the really high numbers on the brightly lit traditional speedo) or navigation maps that display Colorado secondary highways in white on a white background, which I do not find helpful.
Nonetheless, Q50’s double stack helps provide an inordinate amount of data, with hard buttons on the outside edge for HVAC control and three useful audio, HVAC screen and home buttons to keep it all grounded, versus fishing around on the touchscreen.
Unlike the enormity offered by an SUV, there’s also nowhere to safely park your iPhone, minus the elbow storage box, which might be a good idea, considering Q50’s ferocity.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Greeley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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