by Michael Hines
“Being average” sold a lot of Q50s for Infiniti last year.
If we had to describe the 2017 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport AWD in one word it would probably be “adequate.” That’s not a very sexy word and it won’t put a smile on the face of the executives, engineers and designers over at Nissan’s luxury arm. But it’s true. After spending a week behind the wheel of the 300-horsepower Q50 we weren’t blown away. We also weren’t left with a feeling of disappointment or longing. The feeling was one of satisfaction.
This one-word review is obviously a mixed bag for Infiniti. No company wants to hear that its flagship sedan is just “good enough.” Still, it could be worse. In 2016 “good enough” helped Infiniti sell 44,007 Q50s making the model third place in the segment. That topped the Audi A4 (36,987 sales) and Lexus IS (37,289 sales). As expected the Japanese automaker was still far off the pace set by the BMW 3 Series (70,458 sales) and Mercedes-Benz C-Class (77,167 sales). Infiniti’s sales surge was likely driven by the fact that the Q50 got a host of new engines last year. That’s not to take away anything from the model itself, but it’s worth mentioning because in 2017 there’s been a marked drop in sales.
By now you know that all anyone wants to buy are crossovers, which is one of the reasons why Q50 sales are down 16.3 percent year-to-year through April 2016. But the rise of crossovers and the resurgence of SUVs doesn’t fully explain the drop. Equally important is the fact that the Q50 is just adequate, and in such a competitive segment that’s not enough to keep customers coming back and certainly not enough to pique the curiosity of brand newbies. To be fair, Infiniti’s entry-level luxury sedan ranks above adequate in a few areas, starting under the hood. Its twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 makes 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine is the sweet spot between the entry-level 2.0t (208 hp) and hybrid trim (360 hp).
It has some nice pull, especially once the turbos spool up. That happens quite quickly, and once they’re primed, the Q50 is ready to rocket past slow pokes on the street or highway. Those obsessed with high horsepower numbers will be pleasantly surprised at just how capable the Q50 is with “only” 300 ponies in the stable. The only transmission on offer is a seven-speed automatic, although you do get paddle shifters to play with. Shifts are smooth and there is rev-matching on downshifts. There are multiple driving modes to choose from, with Sport+ being the best of the bunch. In Sport+ shifts are made at more aggressive points in the rev range, the throttle is more responsive and the steering actually gets some weight behind it.
It also adjusts the dampers, a nice surprise, which in conjunction with the paddle shifters, makes the Q50 pretty fun when you find the space to get on the gas. The steering could be better but the chassis is solid. Another area where the Q50 comes in better than satisfactory is in the looks department. It’s handsome, though not a neck-snapper. The front end is uncomplicated with sinister, sloping headlights. At 189.1 inches in overall length the Q50 is almost a full seven inches longer than the 3 Series. This gives it a leaner and more athletic look when compared to some of its more compressed competitors. It also means more rear legroom. Headroom isn’t a huge issue, unless you’re sitting in the middle seat. Then it’s nonexistent.