Executive wheels: Can you hear me now? No
Is the 2017 Infinity Q50 worth the ride?
When I found out that I was going to get the Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport AWD sedan, I thought, “Okay, it will be cool to drive around in a luxury sedan with all-wheel-drive for a week.” It’s always fun to pretend that a test-drive car is really mine, and I could see myself in this car, at least as far as the pictures I saw went.
Then I got the car – a $55,620 car, mind you – and from the get-go all I could think was, “Geez, who would buy this car?” Maybe someone who took it around the block from the dealership and was wowed by the leather and all of the electronics. This goes to my standard admonition: test drive a car in all of the places you intend to go in it. Drive it on the highway. Drive it up into the mountains. Take someone to the airport.
That last thing is what I did, take someone to the airport, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. This car is unbelievably noisy. My daughter and I were pretty much screaming at each other on the drive to DIA, so much so that she commented on the noise, saying her Subaru Outback is so much more quiet – and, $20,000+ less expensive, by the way.
Too bad. I have always liked Infiniti among the luxury divisions of the main Japanese care companies – Infiniti/Nissan, Acura/Honda, Lexus/Toyota – because in general terms Infiniti/Nissan has always displayed more styling acumen in its offerings, although not always successfully. A good case in point was the 1992 launch (Infiniti launched in the US market in November 1989) of the first entry-level luxury car, the J30, which for my money was way ahead of either Acura or Lexus. It lasted only 4 years, with sales that always lagged behind the competition. At the time it was a very stylish vehicle, and nothing like anything in the Nissan line – quite unlike both Lexus and Acura, both of which had entry-level vehicles that were just Toyota/Honda models dressed up as if they were going to the prom. Don’t get me wrong, Infiniti did this too – I once described an early model, the M30, as a Nissan Maxima in a tuxedo. But the J30 was special, and so were a couple of the early Infiniti SUVs.
Styling remains above the crowd at Infiniti, and is displayed nicely here in the Q50. The double-swoop hood and some impressive sweeps of texture along the sides of the vehicle (which are both beautiful and, I presume, aerodynamic), make the exterior styling of this vehicle stand out among its direct competitors at Lexus and Acura. Style stands out at least in the exterior, as the cockpit of this Q50, without badging, could easily be confused for any Lexus I have driven; the Japanese just have a way of doing things inside that are nice, mind you, but not terribly distinctive. To be fair, I haven’t driven any Acura models in quite some time, but I have seen the ads and they just look like beefed-up Hondas to me, albeit with some great technology (can you says All-Wheel-Steering?).
About four years ago Infiniti, like many other carmakers over the years, went through a rebranding and renamed all of its vehicles in a new mode: Q for the sedans, QX for the crossovers/SUVs. So it looks as though this Q50, launched in 2013, is a relatively new vehicle, but it’s not. It is basically a new name for the discontinued Infiniti M series which has its origins with the company, way back in 1989. I bring this up because I think this Q50 suffers from a syndrome that many car companies are afflicted with, what I call SPS, for Stand Pat Syndrome. They must have spent a lot of money in renaming and rebranding the line, and in the process they put few resources into actually making the cars more updated. This Q50 – oh sure, it has all the bells and whistles the public demands – just feels dated and it needs not just a refreshment, but a total redesign. They could start with some more insulation so the thing isn’t so noisy.
Okay, so the Q50 has, as I said, all of the modern bells and whistles that are required in today’s cars, especially so-called luxury cars, and this one is packed with electronics and safety equipment. The ubiquitous LED screen in the middle of the dash – a distraction, like most of them – splits into two screens, one for the sound system and climate controls, and one for the map and destination. There are also cameras front and back, and the now also ubiquitous “bird’s eye view” virtual overhead view that helps in parking. Oh, and yes, this has All Wheel Drive, my favorite accessory. It’s all there.
What I wrote in my notes – other than the noise – was that the interior of the car was fairly plain Jane as these things go, and the 3.0-liter twin turbo V6, featuring 300 horsepower, is quick, but the car is no speed demon. Plain Jane there too. It handles fairly well, nothing special. For a luxury car in this price range I was underwhelmed by the small, no-imagination sunroof that almost seemed like a perfunctory accessory.
When I began to research the Q50 on the Infiniti website, I was shocked to find out there are 16 different models available – four with A 2.0-liter turbo engine with 208 hp, and then basic, AWD, premium and premium AWD, then the same line-up in the regular Q50, then the Q50 Sport, then some Signature editions, and then a couple of hybrids. No wonder they haven’t updated the model – there’s way too many of them. Maybe they do it so they can say the base price of the Q50 is $33,950.
The one I drove carries a base price of $46,650, then they added on a bunch of stuff to get the price to $55,620. This car isn’t special enough – if I drove the competition, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes et al, I am quite sure this one wouldn’t make the cut.
And on the noise factor alone, I wouldn’t pay 10 grand for this car.
As they say these days, “Can you hear me now?”