First model from all-new, Chinese-owned, Volvo-engineered brand is a sharable crossover
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The Top Gear car review:Infiniti Q50
For:It's different without being oddball. Feels well-made. Hybrid's performance
Against:Navigation option is a crazy price. Auto box on diesel is sluggish to over-ride
2.2 CDi Premium 4dr
An uneasy mix of sports saloon and self-driving future-pod. Maintains Infiniti’s reputation as purveyor of the nichest nichemobiles.
Comfy company car, nicely made, high-tech, distinctive if a bit operatic-looking. Not the sports car they pretend
Seb Vettel helped in the development of this, Infiniti’s answer to the BMW 3-Series…
What we say:
Infiniti puts itself on the radar of 3-Series buyers with the impressive Q50 junior exec
What is it?
You might not be familiar with Infiniti because it’s newish to Britain and has few dealers. It’s Nissan’s posh brand - the same relationship as Lexus has to Toyota. It’s also got its name on the side of the all-conquering Red Bull F1 team, if that makes you take it more seriously.
The Q50 is a mid-size rear-drive saloon, and the mainstream version has just the specification to rake on the established and obvious rivals including the BMW 320d and Mercedes C220. It uses a four-cylinder diesel (borrowed in fact from the Mercedes). But the top-end version is more of an oddball, a ‘performance hybrid’ with a V6 petrol plus electric assistance.
Despite having the same brand name as Vettel’s Sunday car, the Q50 isn’t quite the most sporty drive in the class. A bit of last-gasp understeer and grabby brakes take the shine off a twisty road. Never mind, cars like this aren’t driven sportily in the main. Instead enjoy the refinement, the fine seats and soothing ride.
Most intriguing is the Direct Adaptive Steering option, which entirely severs the mechanical link between your hands and the tyres. Its artificially generated feedback is a bit odd, but it allows you to tailor your choice of weight and ratio, and is very good at filtering out tramlining and shocks - good for long distances, plus its auto lane-keeping works well. There’s a suite of other crash-avoiding options too. The 170bhp diesel isn’t whisper quiet but it’s competitive with rivals, and the same goes for its performance. The V6 hybrid really is quick, and gets a more entertaining ‘sport’ chassis developed with Vettel’s input, but it’s a bit wasted in the UK as almost nobody will buy it.
On the inside
It’s beautifully put together, as you’d expect of one of the Japanese premium nameplates, and uses woods and leathers and metals well. Infiniti makes a lot of its technologies, so there are two big colour central screens, plus a smaller one between the dials. It takes a while to master their operation, but it works well enough when you do, although the graphics are a little messy.
Rear room isn’t bad for two, but of course the central passenger has a transmission tunnel to cope with. The optional Bose hi-fi is brilliant.
Infiniti aims to give industry-leading customer service. But it’s compromised by the fact its dealers are miles apart. There are just eight at the moment. Reasonable lease prices show experts expect tolerable depreciation. The CO2 and economy of the diesel are par for the class, and the V6 hybrid’s combination of 144g/km and 5.1sec 0-62mph is impressive.