Nissan's premium offshoot, Infiniti, is still very much a minnow in the UK automotive pond but it's starting to see its profile steadily increase thanks to the gradual expansion of its dealer network and an exciting partnership with Red Bull Racing. Here we test the latest model to join the Japanese automaker's line-up – the stylish Q50 sports saloon equipped with a new 2.0-litre petrol engine.
What is it?
The Q50 is an alternative option for those who might naturally be drawn towards a sports saloon from the teutonic trio of manufacturers who reign supreme in this part of the market (you know who we mean). It's an interesting proposition for those who want to be a bit different. Its oil-burning sibling in the range has been criticised for being a little rough around the edges but that can't be said when it comes to this new, and far more refined arrival. The car comes with lots of clever tech too, and by that we mean not just clever, but proper brain-box stuff.
What's under the bonnet?
As we've indicated, a modern, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine designed to bring further power and economy to the Q50 range, with 208bhp and 350Nm of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. The fuel economy figures (43.5mpg combined) are impressive, thanks to the engine's turbocharger and direct fuel injection. The car joins the Q50's 2.2-litre direct injection turbo-diesel and flagship V6 hybrid models.
Well, we're talking the premium end of the market here, so not surprisingly, there's no shortage of equipment and technology. We could rabbit on for ages but will restrict ourselves to a few highlights, so here goes: A clever 'zero-lift aerodynamics system' manages the airflow to ensure the car is balanced when in motion while double-piston shock absorbers continually adjust damping forces to maintain ride quality. On the inside, Infiniti's Intouch software integrates your digital life, including apps, using a touch-screen system. And Intouch navigation offers an intuitive three-dimensional view and a simple interface to meek negotiating unfamiliar roads easier. Intelligent cruise control automatically slows you down when the traffic in front grinds to a halt while LED headlights and smart beam assist are helpful touches too.
Yes, mainly from our German friends. The petrol-engined version of the Q50 is a vastly more attractive proposition than the diesel-powered or hybrid variants in the range, but Infiniti is still up against established cars from BMW (3 Series), Mercedes (C-class) and Audi (A4), each of which a distinctly unique take on what a compact executive saloon should be all about.
What's it like to drive?
Pretty much every part of the driving experience can be adjusted to suit the preferences of the person behind the wheel thanks to the car's Drive Mode Selector system. We had no trouble organising ourselves with a set-up we liked. New owners will need a couple of outings to fully familiarise themselves with the technological side of things, but it's not difficult to find your way around the touch-screen system and simple to get back to the 'home page' if you find you're a bit confused. As well as being economical, the engine provides a refined ride with a sporty feel and the cabin is suitably sumptuous, if not the roomiest.
The AOL Cars verdict
This new petrol-powered Infiniti is pretty much everything a luxury car should be and is definitely worth a look if you don't want to follow the herd. There's no question, however, that Infiniti have their work cut out if they're to make any meaningful inroads into a crowded sector of the market. However, with a car as pleasingly accomplished as this, they might just be onto a winner.
Model: Infiniti Q50 2.0T Sport Automatic
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Power: 208bhp, 350Nm
Max speed: 152mph
Author: Dave Brown