Road Test: Infiniti Q50S Hybrid
That’s a tough segment to crack. Volvo and Lexus have struggled in the past, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo are readying new models, and Infiniti is a relative unknown at present. UK sales last year were in the hundreds, and residual values have been tricky with an engine range tailored more to Asian and North American tastes than European ones.
But the groundwork is underway, the dealer network is expanding its coverage and senior-level appointments are frequent as the carmaker sets out its stall. Infiniti also isn’t looking to knock the dominant players off the top of the sales charts, which should keep the Q50 an exclusive, avant-garde choice. It’s a sensible approach which should pay dividends later on.
Unlike fellow Japanese premium brand Lexus, hybrid technology brings high performance rather than class-leading CO2 emissions to the Q50 range. So this shares its drivetrain as the much larger Q70, combining a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with an electric motor to produce 360bhp and 402lb.ft torque.
At more than double the 2.2-litre Q50 diesel’s power output, 62mph arrives in 5.1 seconds, yet its pricing, fuel economy of 45.6mpg and CO2 emissions at 144g/km aren’t far off its closest competitor, the BMW ActiveHybrid3.
It feels every bit as fast as it sounds. Where the diesel is a smooth, if noisy, motorway car, the Q50S offers long surges of muscular acceleration with a far more appealing soundtrack, yet becomes silent and refined on urban routes as the engine switches in and out of operation to allow the motor to take charge. As a refined performance saloon, it’s a fairly convincing package.
Good looks are also on its side, particularly with the Q50S’s bodykit. This is a really well-proportioned saloon, with swooping bodylines and its own sense of style which markedly non-German. The longest wheelbase in its class has resulted in plentiful rear leg room, and most cabin materials are of a high quality. There are a few hard plastic parts dotted around, but it’s clear that the Q50 was benchmarked against European rivals, rather than Japanese ones.
But perhaps the most noticeable difference inside is the infotainment system. The Q50 groups most functions into a tablet-style high-definition touchscreen in front of the gear lever, with the option to download additional apps, and only basic controls are assigned to the rotary commander on the centre console. This had the potential to be a real headache but InTouch is attractive to look at, intuitive to use, and the real-time traffic information is very accurate.
The steer-by-wire system is a little more divisive. This removes the mechanical connection between the steering wheel and front wheels, though there is one as an emergency backup, and allows a number of unique points. It reduces vibrations through the steering wheel to nothing, can automatically correct weaving and crosswinds and allows the driver to dramatically alter the steering feel. But it’s a system which will polarise opinions, and worth trying on a mix of roads to see if it suits you.
The Q50S fills a gap in the range where rivals would offer a high-powered diesel engine. This is definitely a niche product in the corporate market, particularly when the 2.2 diesel makes so much financial sense, but it’s an exclusive choice with plenty of interesting technology to entice drivers.
Segment: Compact executive
Type: Petrol-electric hybrid
Electric range: 1 mile
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 144g/km
Charging port: N/A