- New Car Test Drive
With 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the base 2.0-liter turbocharged engine doesn’t lack for power.
With the twin-turbocharged V6 engines, the difference between 300 horsepower and 400 hp is mostly in turbo boost, with 8.7 psi available in the regular V6 and 14.7 psi in the faster-spinning Red Sport V6, whose 350 pound-feet of torque (vs 295 lb-ft) is available all the way from 1600 to 5200 rpm. It redlines at an exciting 6400 rpm.
We said the Q50 had brilliant road manners, but that only makes it a close match for its competitors. It stays fairly flat in corners, has quick response from either of its two steering systems, rides comfortably, and is stable at high speed. But when it’s pushed though a curvy canyon, flaws appear. It doesn’t want to take a set in a turn if it’s at the limit of grip. It’s not in the same league as the BWW M3.
And under heavy braking, it shimmies. On the track, not even the bigger Sport brakes are up to the task, as they fade after too few laps. But the 7-speed automatic transmission provides nice throttle-blipped downshifts and remarkably little driveline shock.
The Drive Mode Selector offers a bewildering capability of more than 300 settings to set response from the throttle, steering, transmission, stability control, and suspension. Maybe we just never found the right one.
And the handling can be improved with options. There’s the Dynamic Digital Suspension, with its electronically controlled valves in the dampers, to stiffen the ride in Sport or Sport+ modes. It’s not too firm on the street in those modes, and they reduce body roll, but they also make the car jiggle a bit in the corners.
There’s also the steer-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering, with seven settings within the Standard and Sport+ modes, for resistance and responsiveness. In Standard mode it feels much like any electric-assist power steering system; it erases some bumps that can jerk the steering wheel, along with some of the feel that makes cornering fun.
In the Sport+ mode, it does what you want it to, but maybe too much. It gets quicker at low speeds, and heavier and slower at higher speeds, for stability. The ratio varies a remarkable amount, between 12:1 and more than 20:1; it’s almost too quick at low speeds, while being darty and too weighty at speed. You might be happier in Standard or Sport mode, while avoiding Sport+. If not avoiding Direct Adaptive Steering altogether.
The base steering in the Red Sport has a 15:1 ratio. It’s noticeably lighter and more natural feeling than the optional DAS.
We haven’t had the chance to drive the 300-horsepower V6, only the terrific 400-horsepower version (that’s 25 hp less than the BMW M3), which is reason alone to buy the Red Sport. It delivers willing power (as it should) and lets out a muffled howl when hammered.
Too bad the Red Sport 400 doesn’t have track-ready hardware, and its Dunlop run-flat summer tires that don’t provide a lot of grip (245/40R19 front, 265/32R19 rear). Even on the road, it’s easy to break the rear tires loose, although stability control saves you.
The Hybrid is also quick, with 360 horsepower from a special version of Infiniti’s 3.5-liter V6 and a 50-kw motor. Its unique dual-clutch hybrid system uses a dry clutch in front of the transmission and motor, with a wet clutch behind it. This smoothes the transmission of power from one source to the other, and allows the car to gently take off on electric power alone; it also shuts off the engine so it glides more.
The throttle response is well coordinated to the clutches, but the braking doesn’t quite measure up, as it gets a bit murky under the pedal, just before the car comes to a complete slow stop.