by Roger Biermann
You get hybrids for the sake of performance, the LaFerrari, McLaren P1 etc, and then you get hybrids for the sake of efficiency – the Prius springs to mind. But in the middle there are a select few that do both – and the Mercedes-based Infiniti Q50 Hybrid does this like almost no other. A free-breathing V6 is mated to a high-torque electric motor in a package that can be had in either rear- or all-wheel drive. Launched in 2014, a series of minor updates has kept the Q50 fresh – and the 2018 year model sees a series of minor visual tweaks.
3.5-liter V6 Hybrid
The updates for the 2018 model include a new steering wheel, taken from the sportier Q60 Coupe, and a new range of faux leathers for the dashboard to be clad in and wood inlay finishes. Aside from the materials, little has changed. The infotainment system was in dire need of an upgrade, but it remains the same slow operating system with outdated graphic qualities. The glass also attracts fingerprints and is prone to plenty glare.
Based upon the Mercedes C Class, the Q50 Hybrid boasts impressive ergonomics. Ingress and egress are easy, with broad seats offering impressive support and comfort levels for larger occupants as well as those more slight of build. The rear of the cabin offers seating for 3 at a push, but head and leg room is more than sufficient for those 6-feet in height. With the battery under the trunk floor, the Q50 hybrid loses 4.1 cubic feet worth of space, the figure now at 9.4 cubes.
The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid drives decently, but be it the hybrid injection to the drivetrain, the steer-by-wire electric steering system, or any of the other electric nannies in place, you're never quite driving the Q50 yourself. Think of the Q50 as a life-sized video game. The steering is devoid of feel – falsified weighting and reverse feedback attempting communication, but never entirely succeeding. The throttle pedal responds in the same way, and in Eco mode it even pushes back if it feels you accelerate too hard. Do you drive the Q50, or does it let you just feel like it?
The ride quality is cushy, a little extra weight settling the suspension nicely on the road, and resisting roll pretty well. Bumps in the road don't interfere with the balance too much, but they are noticeable. Handling is ample, but not exceptional, though the AWD model offers good levels of grip in any weather.
The Q50 Hybrid is the last vestige of natural aspiration in the Q50 line-up, packing a 3.5-liter V6 beneath the hood. But it's coupled with an electric motor – a measly 67 horsepower one – to generate a combined 360hp. But the electric motor's torque of 214 lb-ft is what makes the difference, creating surging acceleration and bridging the shift gaps from the 7-speed non-torque converter automatic gearbox. Total torque sits at 472 lb-ft, sent to either the rear- or all wheels. The hybrid also offers excellent economy though, EPA rated at 28/34 MPG city/highway.
The Q50 Hybrid is available purely in the LUXE trim line available on other Q50 models. It features a Bose 16-speaker audio system, navigation, heated front seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, and a memory driver's seat. The Q50 Hybrid also features extensive safety features, including high beam assist, lane departure warning with prevention and active lane control, following distance assistant, blind spot monitoring, and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking. As such, the Q50 Hybrid receives best possible ratings of Good in all IIHS crash tests, and scored 5/5 stars as a 2015 model in NHTSA testing.
The electrified drivetrain and Mercedes underpinnings are true highlights for the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid, and the Luxe specification level is excellent. Performance, in a straight line, is mega. But the electric nannies are always present, and it's never quite you driving the car. 'Big Brother' on 4 wheels seems like the future taken too far.