2014 Infiniti Q50S AWD
Steer-by-wire hits the market.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: March 14th, 2014
I'll just get this out of the way now - I really, really enjoyed the infotainment system on the 2014 Infiniti Q50S AWD. Watch out, MMI, somebody's finally come up with something equally good. The resolution on the second screen (the top screen only displays the navigation) is crisp and everything is arranged in a sensible manner. But that makes sense; on a car that brings with it a big technological innovation, you want everything to be looking fresh and new.
That big technological innovation - the one that helps separate it from other cars in its class like the Cadillac ATS and BMW 3-Series - is steer-by-wire, in which the traditional solid steering column is replaced by a series of sensors and electronic control units (ECUs) that translate steering-wheel movement to actual-wheel movement. Infiniti has been working on this tech for nearly a decade, and it's leapt ahead of the competition by releasing it first, as an option. But as every early adopter knows, there are perils along the way.
It's luxurious, there's no doubt about it. The leather is soft and fun to touch, and there are a number of interesting features that keep the eye entertained, like the small band that separates the upper and lower dashboard on the passenger side. Our tester was equipped with a slightly-off-white leather interior, which led to some odd clashing with the black-leather inserts in the door panels, but on the whole it's easy on the eyes and on the derriÃ¨re. In our navigation-equipped model, there were two screens; the top screen dealt with the map only, while the lower screen covered the climate control, audio, settings, and other apps. The headliner is a little on the thin side, but it too was white, and therefore we didn't dare place our unwashed mitts on it more than once or twice.
If you remember the G35 and G37 of old, then you'll realize just how much of a departure the Q50's new styling is. Everything gains a more aggressive look, with the front bumper of our Q50S AWD tester carrying a few cues from the tarmac-pounding Nissan GT-R. The headlights are streamlined into an angrier shape, as well, following along with the trend of everybody loving skinny headlights. The rear end is a little smoother than the front, but the two extremes (and the body lines in the middle) make for an overall congruous look that doesn't hide its sporting pretensions, but rather exemplifies them. It looks as new and sharp as the technology underneath all that skin.
On the Road
The Q50S manages to toe the line between sport and luxury quite well. The drive-mode selector lets you choose between Snow, Eco, Standard, Sport, and Individual (a user-selected mix of other modes to suit your personal tastes). Snow and Eco keep power delivery to a minimum, focusing on traction and efficiency, respectively. Standard is nice, with a perfectly-weighted steering feel and throttle mapping that gives you more than enough power to get to work and back without creating a fuss.
Throw it into Sport, though, and then the fun begins. The steering is tight; so tight, in fact, that it feels barely power-assisted at all (in terms of weight, not road feeling - there still isn't any). Throttle and transmission maps sharpen up, and the tranny will hold gears just a little longer to let you listen to that 3.7-liter V-6 wail. The exhaust note is not as crazy as it used to be (we'll miss you forever, VQ35), but it's enough to encourage lowering the window even when it's cold out. No matter the mode, the suspension provided a low-body-roll experience, never once giving you the feeling that the powertrain is more than the suspension can handle.
Now, let's address the steer-by-wire system. It's the first of its kind on a production vehicle, and so it will take a little getting used to. However, once you relent and accept the lack of steering-wheel play at dead center (the sensors pick up any manner of movement off center), and the lack of road feeling through the wheel, you'll find that it's very easy to put the car where you want it. And trust me, I did plenty of that while trying to keep Chicago's potholes from eating the Q50S whole.
Despite all that's good with the car, we must do our journalistic duty and report on what we didn't exactly enjoy all that much. The transmission was a little lazy on downshifts - an issue we had with the seven-speed automatic on the M Hybrid, as well. There was a little more wind noise from the driver's door than we would have expected in a luxury car at this price point. As we mentioned, the steer-by-wire system provides little in the way of road feel through the steering wheel, something that's weird but not impossible to get over (we got over drive-by-wire, didn't we?). Also, the steering wheel made little clicks while turning, again more of a little nuisance than a major issue.
However, no car is without fault, and even with these transgressions, the Q50S is a solid contender amongst its German and American competitors. It drives nicely, it has one of the best infotainment screens we've seen, and it's a comfortable place to spend some time.
Specs & Price
Engine: 3.7-liter, naturally-aspirated V-6
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Power Output: 328 hp / 269 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 19 city / 27 highway
Base Price: $45,000
As Tested: $50,605 (incl. $905 destination)
Optional Features: Technology Package (adaptive front lighting, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, forward collision prevention, advanced climate control with auto-recirculation and air purifier), Deluxe Touring Package (Around View Monitor, power tilt/telescoping steering columns, steer-by-wire, auto-dimming mirrors, split-folding rear seats, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing front wipers), Navigation Package (navigation system, satellite-based traffic updates, voice recognition for navigation), Spare Tire Package (temporary spare tire, jack)
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Infiniti Q50, click here: 2014 Infiniti Q50.