2017 Infiniti Q50 2.0t AWD
The Infiniti Q50 and Q60 duo, on the other hand, made a slight gain from 47,823 unit sales in 2015 to 47,977 last year, seriously bucking the trend, but it was alone in the segment. True, there wasn’t a single competitor that improved D-segment sales last year, unless you count Buick that had to introduce a new model, the Cascada convertible, to do so. I suppose we should lump Jaguar into that group too, because it’s XE was entirely new with 6,656 sales to its credit since May, and Alfa’s new Giulia found 36 buyers since September, but Acura found just 37,156 buyers for its TLX despite enjoying 47,080 the year prior, Audi’s A4 and A5 models dropped to 38,252 units from 44,765 in 2015; Lincoln’s MKZ finding just 30,534 customers despite selling 34,009 in 2013 and being cheaper than average; Cadillac sold just 21,505 ATS sedans and coupes last year after managing 26,873 in 2015 (and 38,319 in 2013, ouch); and Volvo’s S60/V60 sedan and wagon combining for just 15,179 units in 2016 after achieving 24,131 sales in 2015.
If you thought the Infiniti’s D-segment cars did well last year, the QX50 compact SUV went from 5,468 units in 2015 to 16,973 in 2016. That’s more than 300 percent growth, while the majority of its peers so their sales rise too, although Infiniti’s upward trajectory was by far the steepest. Such is the state of the SUV industry right now, but at least in Infiniti’s case the Q50 remains number one.
With a focus on remaining competitive, Infiniti changed up its most basic Q50 offering last year with a new turbocharged four-cylinder dubbed 2.0t, while saying goodbye to its faithful 3.7-liter V6 and hello to two new 3.0-liter turbocharged units, the topmost model sporting 400 horsepower, plus a new Dynamic Digital Suspension was also added. New for 2017, 2.0t Sport and 2.0t Sport AWD models get added, while a new Design Package becomes available for V6-equipped Sport models.
I’ll leave the higher end models for another review, because this time around Infiniti supplied me with a just above base 2.0t AWD, which once again starts at just $35,950 plus freight and fees, $2,000 higher than the $33,950 rear-drive model, yet now boasts more equipment including rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, and a HomeLink universal garage door opener.
It was already one of the best values in the premium auto sector, the rest of its standard list including items like LED headlights, LED fog lamps, LED brake lights, UV-reducing solar glass, powered heated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, dual chrome exhaust finishers, front door handle courtesy lights, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, aluminum front doorsill kick plates, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob with aluminum accents, genuine Kacchu aluminum inlays, Fine Vision electroluminescent primary gauges featuring a large color multi-information display, eight-way powered front seats, dual-zone auto HVAC, InTouch dual infotainment displays (including eight-inch upper and seven-inch lower color LCD/VGA screens), a rearview camera, voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, six-speaker audio with satellite and high definition AM/FM radio, a CD, RDS and speed-sensitive volume, two USB ports, InTuition that lets up to four drivers store preferences within the InTouch infotainment system, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, and all the expected active and passive safety features. Other than AWD the only options available in base trim are seven colors and a $1,000 powered glass sunroof, that latter item pushing my tester’s price up to a grand total of $36,950.
If you’re still craving features like navigation with lane guidance and 3D mapping, Bose Centerpoint surround audio (upgraded to 16 speakers this year), Infiniti Connection telematics, driver’s seat memory, front and rear parking sensors, and active safety features such as predictive forward collision warning, autonomous forward emergency braking, blindspot warning, and back-up collision intervention, not to mention Infiniti’s superb 360-degree Around View Monitor with moving object detection, you’ll need to move up to Premium or Sport trim with the 2.0t, or one of the 3.0t models.
This impressive load of standard features comes with a particularly well-trimmed cabin, the Q50 2.0t incorporating plenty of brushed and polished metals, the just noted Kacchu aluminum inlays nicely textured for a rich look and feel, while most surfaces receive padded synthetics for an upscale ambience overall. Really, Infiniti goes above and beyond most competitors when it comes to soft touch pampering, including the dash top, instrument panel and door uppers, with stitched quilting for the door inserts and leatherette covered contrast-stitched armrests, as well as natural feeling leatherette seat upholstery. The glove box lid is made from high quality pliable plastic too, not always the case, while best of all, the sides of the lower console are more luxuriously finished than the majority of challengers thanks to contrast stitched, padded leatherette that matches the seats, armrests, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Hard shell plastic lower door panels are the Q50 cabin’s only obvious weakness, but it could be argued they’ll hold up better to scuffs and scrapes. Of course, the segment’s usual fabric-wrapped pillars extend front to rear, and Infiniti’s switchgear is always good.
The Q50’s rotating and touch-sensitive infotainment controller is a personal favorite, even boasting glittering knurled metal edges, but it’s the dual stack of infotainment displays this circular dial operates that immediately wow upon entry. To be clear, the console-mounted controller and its surrounding buttons only connect to the top display, the lower monitor a touchscreen. No matter, as the quality of both is superb. Again, you’ll need to upgrade beyond the base 2.0t in order to get navigation with mapping or Infiniti’s InTouch apps, which include Facebook and an Online POI search, but the system works brilliantly for audio, climate, and car settings, while its three quick-access buttons for the first two screens and menu interface made it easy to use.
As noted earlier, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder was introduced for the 2016 model year, an engine sourced from strategic partner Daimler AG. This is basically the same power unit found in Mercedes-Benz’ C 300 4Matic, although the Q50 2.0t’s is tuned identically to the German brand’s CLA 250, with 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. I’m not sure why Infiniti chose to be down some 33 horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque from its most directly competitive Mercedes, or if it was simply a clause of the agreement stipulated by Daimler, but the result is better fuel economy for the Q50 2.0t than it would’ve otherwise had, if not better than the C 300 4Matic.
The Merc achieves a claimed 24 mpg city, 31 highway and 27 combined, whereas the Q50 2.0t AWD gets 22, 28 and 24 respectively. Like the C, the Q utilizes an auto start/stop system that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, but unlike the Mercedes, Infiniti also offers a Q50 Hybrid that gets an estimated 27 mpg city, 32 highway and 29 combined rating, not to mention considerably more power.
We’ll leave that model for a future review, instead focusing on the new 2.0t AWD’s straight-line performance and overall driving dynamics. Its 7.0-second sprint to 60 mph won’t elicit too many superlatives from the passenger’s seat, but it certainly feels quicker off the line and more capable on the highway than the numbers suggest. Then again, I’m old enough to remember being excited at the 121 horsepower in my ’82 528e, although it was the engine’s 170 lb-ft of torque that really made it go, which I suppose is the same for the 2.0t AWD. It doesn’t hesitate one iota off the line and pulls strongly through its seven forward gears, Infiniti including lever actuated manual mode for DIY shifting, but no paddles. That’s a shame as the gearbox gets class-exclusive downshift rev-matching and adaptive shift control resulting in a fun car to drive that even sounds great when getting on and off the throttle, while standard AWD makes light work of deep, crunchy, ice-topped snow banks, my tester’s stock Bridgestone Potenza RE97AS 225/55RF17 all-season run-flats feeling more like full snows until it came time to take to a curving back road.
That’s where the Q50 stuck to its lane like the sport sedan it’s always been, the lighter four-cylinder reducing weight over the front wheels for lively, tossable, fun-loving performance. The 2.0t AWD is the only Q50 trim to use speed-sensitive hydraulic electronic power steering instead of RACK EPS found on the next level up, or optional Direct Adaptive Steering, but it was still wonderfully reactive to input.
No doubt Active Trace Control helped matters. The standard system automatically modulates engine torque and braking to improve cornering feel, but most of the credit should be given to the Q50’s double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, both ends including coil springs over dual flow path dampers and stabilizer bars. I left it in Sport mode for such duties, although default Standard mode is still plenty capable while Snow mode was helpful in the previously noted slippery conditions. You can also set it to Eco mode for eking the most from a gallon of fuel, although be forewarned the accelerator pedal will press back on your foot if you get aggressive, while alternatively you can set up Personal modes to better suit your own unique tastes. Back to speed, stopping power was also strong, the base Q50 benefiting from 12.6-inch front and 12.1-inch rear ventilated discs that resisted fade well despite hard use during testing.
While performance is certainly strong enough for ample enjoyment when called upon, the Q50 2.0t AWD is quite comfortable and quiet too. This is where all of those soft touch surfaces come into play, as well as more than enough sound insulation and an inherently stiff body shell that also helped it earn five stars in NHTSA rollover tests; its frontal, side and overall crash test scores are not yet available. Last year’s identical car received five stars for side tests as well, however, while the 2015 model achieved five stars overall. Likewise the IIHS gave it top “Good” marks for small overlap front, side impact, rear crash protection, and roof strength tests, whereas moderate overlap front test results weren’t available. The 2015 car had a good result for the latter test, mind you, so we can expect good things for the 2017 model when full tests are completed.
Now that we’re talking practicalities, the Q50 offers comfortable accommodations for most body types front to back, the latter certainly providing more space than my five-foot-eight medium-build frame required. I adjusted the driver’s seat for size and still had around four inches remaining ahead of my knees when sitting behind, not to mention three inches over my head. There was plenty of thigh and lower back support too, plus the foldable center armrest with twin integrated cupholders added to the comfort quotient.
Unlike most European rivals that offer flexible 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to make their trunks more usable, the Q50 makes do with a 60/40 split configuration, although a center pass-through allows longer items like skis through the middle while rear occupants enjoy the more comfortable window seats. That’s a good thing, as its 13.2 cubic-foot volume makes it a bit light on storage space.
I haven’t touched on the Q50’s other trims in this review, so suffice to say that some of the aforementioned optional features get joined by a 300 horsepower 3.0-liter V6 in the 3.0t AWD and 3.0t Sport, while the Red Sport 400 uses a specially tuned version of the same engine to make 400 horsepower, while styling remains much the same albeit some of the base car’s plentiful chrome accenting gets replaced with body-color and black paint.
I find it easy to recommend all of the V6-powered Q50s, but I really like the base 2.0t AWD as well. It’s a different type of car focused on real-life wants and needs, yet at the same time it’s wonderful to drive, delivering strong performance and exceptional comfort, it’s beautifully finished from the outside in, its standard feature set is truly exceptional, it’s very efficient, and it provides excellent value. If you’re still loyal to the sport/luxury sedan market and not just reading this review out of curiosity from the elevated seating position of your new SUV, the Q50 2.0t AWD is a very good choice.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press