by Roger Biermann
The midsize sports sedan from the Infiniti brand sits in the same segment as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4, and with various powertrain and pricing options remains a strong contender in the market. Although some refreshed styling is present on the new model, upgrades are mostly minor aesthetic changes. A host of standard features and extensive personalization through additional packages is available for the Q50. There are two main engine options, a 2.0-liter V6 and 3.0-liter V6 in two states of tune, with the Red Sport 400 the popular choice for performance-driven buyers looking for an unusual alternative to a BMW M3. Although not leading the class in any key aspect, the Q50 has a good range of potent engines and a pleasant driving experience to appeal to those looking for a leftfield choice.
Most of the upgrades made to this year’s model relate to the exterior styling of the vehicle on the upper two Sport models. While the Pure and Luxe trims remain the same as the previous year, the Sport and Red Sport 400 models are refreshed and have new bumpers and wider air intakes as well as exclusive "Sport” badging. The range as a whole boasts only updated grille and LED headlights clusters, as well as more streamlined tail lights. The interior remains mostly unaffected, barring the addition of new driver support technology bundled in newly designated packages, labeled as the ProPilot suite of driver assists.
Both the Pure and Luxe trim models remain relatively unchanged from the 2017 model, but the other variants have been refreshed with more exterior changes. A new, detailed mesh grille is present on all models, as well as an upgraded headlight cluster featuring standard LED lights. The Pure and Luxe trims have 17-inch and 18-inch wheels respectively, whereas the Sport and Red Sport models boast unique 19-inch wheels. The Sport variants are set apart by exclusive badging, all-new bumpers, and a dual-exhaust enhancement on the Red Sport 400 trim.
With a wheelbase of 112.2 inches and a length of 189.6 inches, the Q50 is generously sized for a smaller sedan, measuring longer than the 2018 BMW 3 Series, while at a width of 71.8 it’s marginally wider, too. Curb weight varies depending on the trim, drivetrain, and package add-ons, with the lightest variants at 3,671 lbs and the heaviest at 4,212 lbs, making the Q50 heavier than more modern rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE.
Ten exterior color options are available for the Q50 line-up, including Pure White, Liquid Platinum, Graphite Shadow, Hagane Blue, Mocha Almond, and Black Obsidian at no cost. Two additional colors, Majestic White and Midnight Black, can be equipped at $500 extra. The Iridium Blue option is only available on the 3.0t Sport and Red Sport 400 models and costs an additional $800. Similarly, the Dynamic Sunstone Red can only be chosen for the Red Sport 400 trim.
While entry-level 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter turbocharged engines offer comparable performance to rival engines of similar size and strength, the Red Sport 400 is the performance halo of the Q50 range. It borrows the 3.0-liter twinturbo V6 engine from lower derivatives but turns up the wick to deliver power outputs of 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, while paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Available with either rear- or all-wheel drive, it’s the latter that’s the quickest, blasting through the 0-60 mph sprint in 4.5 seconds. While this may seem impressive, it’s worth remembering that similarly powered rivals from BMW and Audi manage the feat half a second quicker.
While rear- and all-wheel drive are the staples for the Q50 range, most rivals offer comparable systems with some manufacturers offering front-wheel drive alternatives as well.
The base model Q50 is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission - the same gearbox used across all non-hybrid derivatives. It produces 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which aren’t the most potent outputs but give sufficiently strong amounts of pull for a sedan of this size. Higher trims receive a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 generating 300 hp and 295 lb-ft. This mid-range engine offers better performance throughout the range of engine speeds, and the additional torque is vastly appreciated when overtaking. Both fare comparably to rival motors but lack the sense of urgency of response compared to the likes of BMW’s latest offerings.
On the Red Sport 400 model, a more powerful version of the 3.0-liter V6 engine ups the performance with outputs of 400 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. While this proves to be the most enthusiastic of the engines available, it’s lackluster compared to genuine performance rivals like the BMW M3, and buyers are better off looking at the lesser V6 derivatives which prove more than ample for most situations.
On the base end of the spectrum, the Q50 provides stable, consistent braking, smooth acceleration and a capable sense of road handling. However, they aren’t overly involving nor overtly comfort-biased. The Sport models offer more enjoyment and engagement whilst driving, with a firmer suspension that attests to the athletic nature of the trim. It may help that the Sport and Red Sport trims have potent V6 engines with which to exploit the chassis, but the upgraded suspension, despite being firm, is far more engaging and makes for a more confident driving experience.
The steering on base models is light but responsive and precise in its reactions, and while adaptive steering might be an optional extra - luring some into thinking it superior - it’s best avoided where you can. It provides an unnatural feeling and inputs are difficult to judge with the continually varying weight based on speed rather than the load on the front tires.
The most impressive of the lot from a handling perspective is the range-topping Q50 Red Sport 400. Judging it on power alone, it should compete in the same realm as BMW’s M3 and the Mercedes-AMG C63. But while that may be the impression it creates, the drive fails to match, with the suspension and steering feeling lukewarm at best. You feel more body roll, less responsiveness, and a general sense of disconnect, leaving the Red Sport 400 trailing well behind bona fide performance models like the M3 and C63.
The entry-level Q50 with the 2.0-liter engine is the most frugal of the combustion models, with EPA-rated estimates of 23/30/25 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With the bigger 3.0 liter engine, the Q50 produces mpg ratings of 20/29/23 mpg. In the Red Sport 400 version, fuel economy decreases substantially to 20/26/22 mpg. With a tank size of 17.8 gallons, the base 2.0t provides a 445-mile range.
Marketed as a luxury sedan, the Q50 seats five people in a well-appointed cabin, with sufficient space throughout. Headroom in the rear may be a little tight for taller passengers, especially with the inclusion of the moonroof, but it boasts ample legroom all around. High-quality finishes are present, and although some attempt has been made to keep up with advances in design, the interior does seem dated in comparison to rival vehicles in the segment. The contouring on the dashboard is both attractive and functional as it allows for more space in the front, but the dual-screen infotainment system is cumbersome and awkward to get used to. Three interior colors with matching trim are available, and classy inlays are present across the various trim levels.
As a five-seater sedan, the Q50 has two rows of seating. Interior dimensions include headroom up front of 39.5 inches with the moonroof installed, and 40.2 inches without, ample for six-foot passengers and drivers. Occupants in the rear seat have 36.8 inches of headroom with the addition of the moonroof, and 37.5 inches without, which may prove to be tight for those taller than six feet. Legroom is generous on the Q50, at 44.5 inches in the front and 35.1 inches for the rear seat.
Whilst seating is comfortable, supportive and spacious, rivals in this segment offer various comfort features as standard (such as heated front seats) which the Q50 does not have available as standard. But the seating adjustment is broad enough that most occupants can remain comfortably seated, and two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors in the rear allow for the fitment of child safety seats.
The whole range of Q50 vehicles boasts either leatherette (on lower end models) or full leather interior upholstery, available in colors such as Wheat, Stone, and Graphite. The Red Sport variant also has quilted, semi-Aniline leather-appointed sport seats with red-stitch detailing and a black headliner. Elsewhere in the cabin, on the dash and doors, Kacchua Aluminum trim is available on the 3.0 Sport and Red Sport, whilst Maple Wood inlays and trim options are reserved for the 2.0t and 3.0 Luxe trims. Lunar Black interior trim is only available on Pure trim levels.
One of the class-leading features on the Q50 is the above-average amount of cargo space available in the trunk for a sedan of this size. On the 2.0 Pure variant, this volume is an impressive 13.2 cubic feet, which is increased to 13.5 cubic feet in the 3.0, Sport and Red Sport trim levels. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers only 12.6 cu.ft. in this regard, and the Audi A4 has 13 cu.ft. to offer. A wide, low opening makes for great practicality when loading. One drawback, however, is that the rear seats do not fold down as standard, and the Essential Package has to be equipped in order to get 60/40-split to enlarge cargo space.
There are also a few nooks and crannies for storage of items throughout the cabin, including a mini-overhead console, front and rear cupholders and space for smaller items in the door panels. Overall it does not compare favorably on internal storage to what is available on leading rivals who tend to offer more in the way of passenger storage.
The basic 2.0t Pure and Luxe models have a long list of standard features which include rearview monitor, push-button start, dual-zone automatic temperature controls, and two USB ports. On the Luxe trim, a power-sliding, tinted moonroof is added on, and Maple wood inlays and HomeLink universal transceiver are equipped. The more popular Red Sport 400 includes all these standard features as well as heated front seats and steering wheel, as well as blind spot warning, reverse park sensors, and a surround view camera.
The Q50 has a set of dual screens for infotainment purposes: an eight-inch upper screen and seven-inch lower screen, which has resulted in mixed reactions from users. For the most part, the Infiniti InTouch system has remained up to date, but the menus and processes seem slightly long-winded and cumbersome to navigate as different menus are displayed on each of the two screens. Glare and dust have also been reported as drastically reducing touchscreen visibility, while the low-contrast labels make it difficult to read buttons on the displays. Despite this, once the input is given, the system is quick to respond and can be mastered through repeated use.
Bluetooth connectivity is included and the Infotainment system has voice recognition capabilities and Smartphone Integration (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). Adding on some of the packages will also upgrade the existing equipment to have navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot, and a premium audio sound system with 16-speakers, as opposed to the six-speaker standard system.
The J.D. Power and Associates vehicle dependability study scored the Q50 as 3 out of 5; this translates to an average reliability rating for the segment and the industry as a whole. There has been one recorded safety recall as issued by the NHTSA in 2017 for errors reported in the fuel system on the 2.0-liter engine, pertaining to incorrect fuel pump control modules reporting incorrect fuel levels in the tank, but nothing since. Infiniti provides a four-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, as well as a six-year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty for added peace of mind
The IIHS scored the Q50 best available scores of Good in most metrics with Superior front crash prevention. The 2018 year model Q50 has only been evaluated by the NHTSA for roll-over safety, scoring five stars out of five.
The Q50 has numerous key safety features that are included as standard on even the base trim, including a rearview camera, driver and front passenger airbags, side-impact airbags, and side-curtain airbags. Traction control is also standard, as is parking assist and blind-spot monitoring. The ProASSIST package comprises backup collision intervention, around-view monitor with moving object detection, predictive forward collision warning and forward emergency braking, which are all standard on Red Sport trims. The ProACTIVE package adds further safety features such as distance control, intelligent cruise control and adaptive front lighting.
With rivals like the Audi A4 and venerable BMW 3 Series, the Q50 has to be exceptional if it’s to truly succeed. While a broad catalog of available engines seems attractive, particularly with the Red Sport 400 at the center of attention, they prove to be lukewarm in most aspects. The 3.0t Luxe and Sport models represent the best value in this regard as they provide a decent V6 soundtrack paired with impressive lag-free performance with the option of rear- or all-wheel drive.
The Q50 offers generous interior volumes and impressive trunk volume for the segment but is let down by a confusing infotainment system and an interior that feels dated compared to rivals, even if the materials and build quality seem decently high. However, rivals Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-class have more to offer in terms of refinement and luxury features.
In its favor, the entry-level Q50 has the benefit of a cheaper base price than many rivals, but it’s a bland alternative lacking standard features and basic functionality - all items that must be equipped at some cost. On the higher end of the spectrum, however, rivals all offer comfort, convenience, and driver assistance features not available on the Q50, even optionally.
While the Q50 does nothing severely wrong, it just doesn’t do enough brilliantly to recommend it above its rivals, all of whom offer more and feel more contemporary in numerous aspects.
The base trim 2.0t Pure rear-wheel drive is the cheapest available model in the Q50 line-up with a base MSRP of $35,200 without the addition of any packages. The mid-range 3.0t Sport model costs $40,650, whereas the most expensive, fully loaded Red Sport 400 is marked at $51,000. Upgrading any of the trims to all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the price, and destination charges of $995 apply for all of the above, as do tax, registration, and licensing fees.
The Q50 range is composed of five basic trim levels: 2.0t Pure, 2.0t Luxe, 3.0t Luxe, 3.0t Sport, and Red Sport 400.
Both 2.0t models are powered by a 208-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired to a seven-speed automatic gearbox and rear- or all-wheel drive.
The 2.0t Pure features LED signature headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, leatherette-appointed seats, and a dual-screen infotainment system with six speakers.
The Luxe trim has 18-inch wheels, a power sunroof, and maple wood inlays for a more luxurious feel.
On the 3.0t Luxe trim, a more powerful engine is equipped, while all other features remain the same as the lesser 2.0t Luxe.
An upgrade from this model is the 3.0t Sport, which boasts aluminum interior inlays, an ‘S’ trunk insignia, sport fascias on the front and rear, 19-inch sport wheels, and performance run-flat tires, as well as full leather seating surfaces and additional adjustment options for the front pair of seats.
The Red Sport 400 configuration includes all of the standard features on the 3.0t Sport and Luxe trims, as well as a more powerful 400-hp engine, Dynamic Digital Suspension, unique 19-inch sport wheels, exclusive red-stitched leather seats, and paddle-shifters for the automatic transmission mounted on the steering wheel. It also adds features such as heated seats, a heated steering wheel, remote engine start, and a host of driver aids like a surround-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
|2.0t Pure||2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$32,736||$35,200|
|2.0t Luxe||2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$34,921||$37,550|
|3.0t Luxe||3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$36,410||$39,150|
|3.0t Sport||3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$37,805||$40,650|
|3.0t Red Sport 400||3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$47,430||$51,000|
While the Red Sport 400 trim is extensively equipped, many of these features can be added to lower derivatives by means of package upgrades.
The Essential 2.0t Package is available for the Luxe and Sport models and adds navigation, SiriusXM Traffic, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel, as well as rear-seat split and folding capabilities to the vehicle at a cost of $2,450. On the 3.0t Luxe, it also adds remote start and costs an extra $200. On the 3.0t Sport trim, it adds power driver’s lumbar adjustment at $2,500 for the package.
The Performance Package is available only for the 3.0t Sport model and requires equipping the Essential Package first. It includes Dynamic Digital Suspension, sport brakes with silver calipers, and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the automatic transmission at a cost of $1,500.
The ProASSIST Package equips additional safety and assistance features and requires the Essential package for the lower Luxe models and the Performance Package for the Sport trim. This includes features which are standard on the Red Sport, such as blind spot warning, a surround view monitor, front and rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, and forward emergency braking. This package is priced at $1,650.
The Sensory Package can only be added if the ProASSIST package is already equipped and is exclusive to the 3.0t Luxe, Sport, and Red Sport trims at $2,650-$2,950. Upgrades here include a Bose Premium Sound system, air purifier and filter, ambient lighting, and power-adjustment for the driver’s seat and steering wheel.
The ProActive Package is priced at $2,700 and requires the Sensory Package to be equipped first. This package is focused on adding safety aids and features such as adaptive cruise control, adaptive steering, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, adaptive headlights, and high beam assist.
With a fairly hit-and-miss mix of models in the line-up, buyers should choose a trim carefully. We’d recommend the 3.0t Sport, which strikes the best balance between cost, performance, and standard equipment, but can also be upgraded with a number of packages like the ProASSIST package and Sensory package. The V6 engine is potent and responsive, while the suspension is capable without disappointing in any particular way.
In comparison with the entry-level Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, the base model Infiniti Q50 undercuts the C-Class in terms of price by $5,000. The C-Class offers a broader range of engine when considering the more powerful AMG line-up. It also scores better gas mileage estimates in general than the Q50 and boasts more safety and convenience features. The Q50 offers more interior space for passengers and has the bigger trunk space, but the C-Class feels more luxurious and premium inside with a superior infotainment system. In terms of ride comfort and drive, the C-Class has a more refined driving experience with greater levels of comfort and less road noise, while both vehicles handle rather adeptly. The Q50 is a good car, but the C-Class feels more luxurious and premium overall, and matches the Q50 for a great range of engines, while AMG derivatives offer true sports sedan performance compared to the Q50 Red Sport’s lukewarm mentality towards performance.
The Audi A4 is the strongest competitor to the Q50, boasting superior safety ratings across the board. Priced at only $800 more at the entry point of the range than the Q50, the A4 also has better gas mileage estimates and higher trims are exclusively available with all-wheel drive as standard - an option on the Q50. The Q50 range gives buyers greater performance potential, too, as the Audi RS4 isn’t yet on sale Stateside, giving Infiniti the upper hand. But the Audi range rides more comfortably, with greater composure, and greater depth, yet neither are the sportiest offerings in the segment. The Audi furthers its lead with a classier interior, easier to use infotainment, and a greater variety of available features. It might not quite be as large as the Q50, particularly in its trunk volume, but it’s a small price to pay for a vehicle that in most aspects is better than what the Infiniti Q50 offers.