Infiniti has been around for a long time, but like Toyota’s LEXUS, has low sales figures. What is bad news for the car maker is very good news for those of us who like something with an air of exclusivity about it.
I’ll be honest: I once detested Infiniti styling. There, I’ve said it. But, not any more. I once thought the curves and lines looked odd, and the face presented by the grille, looked pudgy and rather silly.
What’s changed, well you may ask. The answer is simple: the drive.
Not only did I take the old girl for a spin around the block, any fool can do that, but a good run up in t’ country. We spent time together getting to know each other’s foibles. After being in the beautifully appointed cabin, the bodywork went from being difficult and odd, to curvaceous and voluptuous. The face went from looking strange and foreign, to exotic and expensive. How does this happen?
The sweeping lines of some of the Infinitis are shared by co-branding with Nissan. Q50 and Q60 share a long an illustrious past with Nissan’s laudable Skyline stretching back to the early 70’s.
The formula is a relatively simple one. There is an engine in the front, driving the wheels in the back. There is an AWD option, but only in the hybrid model. You can have any transmission you like, as long as it is the 7-speed auto with adaptive shift control.
We drove the 224 and 298kw models, both with the twin-turbo VR30 V6 engine. With a price difference of about 108,000 over the lower powered engine, the 298kw range topper is vicious. It is a rabid wolf in sheep’s clothing. It spends most of its time thinking of ways to kill you. That kind of thrill money just can’t buy.
The exterior, as I’ve already said, has interesting odd angles and flowing lines, and an hourglass grille nestles between heavily sculptured headlights. The rump sits pert with voluptuous LED tail lights, and the whole package looks top shelf.
The cabin is absolutely stunning. The cream interior of the S highlights a sensation of luxury and class. All models are trimmed with old-school machined aluminium that has a tactile aspect you would expect in a car costing twice as much.
The double cockpit dashboard surrounds each occupant in the style of a small private jet where no expense is spared. The centre console also has an aeronautical feel. Unusually, there are two LCD screens for menus, settings, and SatNav. They’re set one above the other, and one wonders why Infiniti didn’t just install one large screen, Tesla-style. Data entry via screen touch, or console mounted dial, allows a certain amount of haptic feedback meaning a driver can manage simple changes on the go.
The switch gear is well set out and everything has a quality feel. What you see, touch, and feel, is premium and high-end.
The menu system is fairly easy to understand.
The drive is what an Infiniti is all about. Since launch, the Q50 has had several enhancements and now has auto high beam and direct adaptive steering as well a veritable cornucopia of 21st century goodies..
The 224 and 298kw direct injection V6 engines have twin-turbos. If the 224kw has plenty of poke, the 298 is positively lethal. Keep in mind, it is only 3kw less powerful than Holden’s hulking 6.2L V8. Let that sink in for a minute. With 475Nm, the V6 feels like a rocket strapped on a roller skate. The power delivery is smooth from down low and if you punch it hard enough, would have the tail out were it not for the traction control. You have a lot of leeway before the traction kicks in, so there is plenty of fun to be had if that is your thing. For god’s sake leave the traction control on unless you’re Alan Jones. It really is a scud in sheep’s clothing. The sound is reminiscent of sporty Jags of the 60’s. It adds a touch of verisimilitude to your motoring experience.
In a straight line, the 0-100 is properly blistering, and our somewhat inaccurate iPhone time trial showed a spritely 5.5 seconds, but it was hardly scientific. The top speed of 250 feels easily doable making the Q50 a GT in the great tradition of continent-crossers since motoring began. You could easily do the Sydney to Melbourne dash, and feel tickety-boo at the end of it. The claimed 9.3 L/100km heads north the minute you sink the boot in. That’s to be expected, but if you wish, you can waft round town in comfort and slendor. The ride in normal mode is simply delicious.
The whole chassis bristles to attention in sport mode, and sport+ sharpens the steering, throttle and suspension to the point of being usable only on a track. Bumps, even on a highway, are felt through to your core. Our time with the Infiniti was spent mainly in town, where great care is needed, and the drive mode is best left in normal. The body sits very low. Note to self: take care in shopping centres. Those random bits of concrete curbing cause havoc with the front splitter. Do not, under any circumstances, park nose in at an angled curbside spot either.
The steering and brakes are excellent with feel that lets you know exactly what you’re doing. The steering feel changes depending on driving mode selected.
I mentioned our much anticipated mini-roadtrip, and run-flat tyres. Well, come till I tell you:
As we headed out of Sydney early Friday afternoon, the weather was perfect. A balmy day with a light breezewass perfect for an autumn drive. Our Central Coast destination was about 2 hours out of town, more than enough time to evaluate high speed driving.
The “active steering” is part of the protection suite. Your variable setingst include: lane control, distance control, and blind spot monitoring. You can have any, or all, or none of them. The distance control acts like active cruise control, but works whether the cruise is on, or not. The difference being, you have to keep your foot on the peddle. As well as dabbing the brakes when needed, it also lifts the accelerator under your foot. It’s an odd sensation at first. It works right down to a full stop, and is meant to help the driver monitor his surroundings. I worry that it might make you lazy, and you have to activate it every time you restart the engine, so may forget it is off. It all started so well, and we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, and looked forward to spending the night with the mother-in-law.
However, it was not to be.
It took an hour and a half to get 50k north of sydney, where a large friendly message illumined the driver’s cluster. It showed tyre pressurereadings, with a message saying “ inflate the tyre before proceeding”. We were quite some way from the one and only roadhouse on the M1, so mild distance anxiety began to set in. As it went down further over the next 10km, I thought I’d stop and have a bit of a look around. Anxiety level had risen to extreme.
We pulled in to the Ourimbah rest stop which was crammed full all manner of vans and campers. It seems most of Sydney shared our desire to desert the city. The tyre looked fine. Was it the sensor? After a call to Infiniti HQ, and considerable wait, I decided to press on as the phone reception is patchy when surrounded by sandstone cliffs. An air pump lay a mere 15km away and we couldn’t spend all afternoon standing around with our phone cords swinging in the breeze. The message bonged again as the difference in the tyre pressures increased when they warmed up again. Although I was fairly sure it was a sensor, how could I take the chance. Can you imagine the lambasting were we not able to complete our trip after travelling even further from town? It would be a bollocking to end all bollockings, and no man is that brave.
By now, hubby asked me why I didn’t just change the tyre. He commented that he hadn’t seen me so tense since that time we almost ran out of charge in an electric Beemer. I had been waiting for him to ask because I didn’t want to have to explain what “run-flat” tyres actually meant. His face dropped after I revealed our spare tyre status in a way only seen when a household appliance is given as a birthday gift. Once seen, it is not something you wish repeated.
The next 10km was a strained affair with “’im-indoors” getting tetchier by the metre. We made it to the tyre-pumper-upper-thingie as he calls it, and I did my marital duties, to the tyre, not hubby.
However the drama was not over. The manual made no mention of being able to reset the tyre gauge and it still showed a warning. We had no idea if the problem persisted or not.
We set off again, and again the bong, bonged. “No, no, no. Let’s go back. I’m not being stranded in outer b^%$*&k with a buggered wheel,” he exclaimed. So, with that, our weekend away drew to a close. We walked back in the door 5 frustrating, slow, quiet hours later. The mood shifted after a drink. None the less, the weekend was ruined. There were several crashes, breakdowns, and interruptions, as is Sydney Traffic’s want. To make matters worse, the warning vanished after 50km, just as we turned off the M1 on to the Pacific Hwy. I thought it best not to tell you know who.
We reflected on what had been an eventful day. We decided to change cars and head out for another crack at it the following day.
I’m not by any means singling Infiniti out for mention because many of the luxury car makers have run-flats. But, it has cured me of ever wanting a car sans spare. You can drive up to 80kph on a run-flat, but no distance is mentioned in the blurb, only that you should attend to it immediately. You can’t do that if you’re heading out of town. And, what if you were doing an inter-capital city run? You can have them mended if the puncture is not in the sidewall, but would you trust a repair? If not, you’re in for a very expensive trip. God forbid it should happen more than once on the same trip.
No, not for me thanks. The claim is that if you really get stuck, there is roadside assist. And they’re right, there is. And when it runs out after the warranty, presumably you’d need your own assistance package for the rest of the life of the car. The same goes for the cans of goo. Almost every car with very wide tyres is in the same boat. So the question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you would want you hunny out alone, in the dark, on a rainy night, doing 80kph in a 110 zone with B-Doubles zooming past as the speed of sound? No, I think not. So that lets space saver tyres out too because they are limited to 80kph.
My view of Infiniti was transformed, as if by magic, by the first kilometre in the Q50. The looks, the cabin, the electronics, all fabulous. The icing on the cake is the stellar performance. It begs to be taken by the scruff of the neck at the nearest private road. It’s beautiful, yes, beautiful. That wasn’t something I would have said before the fortnight together. I was decidedly cool on the looks, but the drive caught me in its web of desire and intrigue. For under a hundred grand, you can feel like royalty, because it really is that good. You simply can’t help but love it.
It did everything well, and I liked the fact that it was so vicious.It was rather Cato and Clouseau, and I was Clouseau. I was ok with the Q50 constantly keeping me on my toes. It makes driving feel like an experience rather than a chore. As good as the self-protection system is, it made me feel like a computer was driving. I don’t like feeling like an unwanted addendum to my own life. Still, it is good to have to keep you safe if you’re a little tired. And of course, you can turn off the bits you don’t want knowing it can be reactivated later.
The engine is silky, the 7 speed auto has crisp changes, and always has the engine in eco mode unless you say otherwise.
Flat tyres are rare, but on a trip I’d take a space-saver spare, and a bag in case the flat tyre needed to go inside the car with a full boot. There is more than one way to skin a cat.
I fell deeply in love with the Q50, and despite its foibles, would have one tomorrow. The price is steep, and in that range there is lots of choice, so car shopping would be a real hoot.
Price: $79,439- 87,790
Engine: 3.0L V6 twin turbo in either 224kw/400Nm or 298kw/475Nm tunes
Econ L/100k: 9.2 or 9.3
Transmission: Auto, 7 speed