Back in 2009 Infiniti presented its Essence concept car at the Geneva Auto Show, where it generated enthusiastic interest (although the custom-fitted Louis Vuitton luggage, while très chic, was a bit distracting). The Essence was then dispatched to car shows around the world, making it to Canada in 2010.
This was a car that hinted at a new design direction for Infiniti, a brand that has long coveted an identity to match its ambitions in the luxury sector. In the Essence, Infiniti appeared to find a very engaging new look, but the question remained, “Would anything from that car make it into production?”
Enter the Q50, Infiniti’s newest sedan, a replacement for the highly successful G37. It’s not quite as swoopy as the Essence, it’s got four doors rather than two (so far), and it doesn’t appear to include the fancy luggage. But it wears very appealing sheet metal that looks sportier, more luxurious and more youthful than past and current Infiniti sedans.
Making its Canadian debut at the 2013 Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, the Q50 features obvious “Essence” cues in its grille, aerodynamic body and coupe profile. According to Infiniti Canada, “The look sets the design, performance and technology direction for new generation Infiniti vehicles and [the Infiniti] brand.”
2014 Infiniti Q50 . Click image to enlarge
It got a lot of positive attention from journalists attending the Toronto show’s media preview, as did the diaphanous nymphs from Cirque du Soleil who floated around the car during its introduction. You can’t go wrong with cars and nymphs, I guess.
The Q50 comes at the right time. In my opinion, the best-looking vehicle that Infiniti now has to offer is its G37 Coupe, which is admittedly aging like a fine wine. The G and M sedans, however, now lack the athleticism expected of true sports sedans that the Q50′s styling direction should bring. They look heavier and more conservative in comparison.
“Strength and agility,” is what senior vice president and chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura was after, and the Q50 looks the part (although the grille – and it’s a fine grille, indeed – bears something of a resemblance to the new Lexus “spindle” grille, as does Q50′s front fascia).
The “Q” designation, by the way, will identify all new Infiniti sedans henceforth, while “QX” will identify the company’s future SUVs.
The North American Q50 will initially be V6-powered, offering a choice between a 3.7L DOHC making 328 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque, or a 3.5L Hybrid rated at 296 hp and 255 lb-ft with a 50-kW electric motor boosting net power to 354 hp. Other engines are planned for global markets, including a four-cylinder diesel. We, too, may see a small four-cylinder turbo in a couple of years.
Both V6 powertrains feature a seven-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with manual shift mode and available magnesium paddle shifters. Rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are likewise available with both powertrains. The V6, by the way, is an example of Infiniti’s ubiquitous and well-regarded VQ series.
The Q50 platform is an evolution of the current “G” platform; although the G37 and Q50 share the same wheelbase, the Q50 adds length and width, while reducing height. The slippery body generates a claimed 0.26 coefficient of drag, which should contribute to fuel economy and quietness on the highway.
Where the Essence rode on massive and attention-getting 22-inch wheels, the Q50 downsizes to a more realistic 17-inch alloy with a machine-finished surface (I recently noted that 17-inch wheels looked too small on the new Cadillac ATS compact sedan, so on the larger Q50 we’ll have to see). Nineteen-inch alloy sport wheels are available, however, and those were fitted to the Toronto Q50 Hybrid show car.
The Q50 is the first consumer vehicle to use Direct Adaptive Steering technology, which independently controls tire angle and steering inputs. It’s basically a full drive-by-wire system that enables the driver to customize the steering effort and steering gear ratio as desired. Faster than a mechanical system, a backup mechanical system is nonetheless included to supplement the electronics.
Also new – a world first, according to Infiniti – is Active Lane Control, an evolution of lane departure systems described as a “camera-based straight-line stability system.” It reads the road ahead for lane drift and makes small steering input adjustments to counteract direction changes due to road surface irregularities and crosswinds.
The Q50 interior is all-new, but retains the Infiniti “double wave” design tradition. The centre stack features dual touch-sensitive display panels that function similarly to a tablet, allowing the driver to sweep, expand and minimize data as required. This “InTouch” system is described as an “optimized human-machine interface that connects drivers to their lives outside the car.”
The two screens work together so that the navigation map, for example, can be displayed on the upper screen, while setting destinations or finding a point of interest can be displayed on the lower screen. Owners will be able to download and synchronize apps from their smartphones, while other apps will be preloaded. Let’s hope it’s all as intuitive as promised!
The seats are redesigned, using a new ergonomic design that helps distribute body pressure across the upper seating surface. The idea is to increase comfort and reduce stress while driving.
Active Noise Control is standard, cancelling intrusive noises with the use of four door-mounted speakers. A 14-speaker “Studio on Wheels” audio system by Bose is available.
The Infiniti Q50 also offers available Intelligent Cruise Control with Full Speed Range, predictive Forward Collision Warning (world’s first technology), Forward Emergency Braking, Distance Control Assist, Blind Spot Intervention, Back-up Collision Intervention, Lane Departure Prevention and Active Lane Control.
How does it drive? We don’t know yet, but Infiniti has used its partnership with Red Bull Racing to press three-time Formula One champion Sebastien Vettel and the team’s test and reserve driver, Sebastien Buemi into service as test drivers. The goal, according to Infiniti, was to, “make the new model the most dynamic and exciting sports sedan on the market.”
To that end, Vettel provided input based on his experience of Q50 prototypes at Infiniti’s performance and handling facility in Tochigi, Japan, while Buemi tested at Nurburgring.
The Infiniti Q50 debuts as a 2014 model in summer, 2013. It has big shoes to fill and tough competition ahead. Autos.ca expects to provide a First Drive report in spring, 2013, and you can expect that with this car, a racetrack will be involved.