By The Lenspeed Team
Lenspeed was thrilled when Infiniti invited us to come by for their drive experience last weekend. As one of the younger brands in Singapore, we were keen to learn what their cars were all about. After all, there must be something about the cars which contributed to the 384% year-on-year growth in vehicle registrations in Singapore for the brand. Granted, it started from a low base, but that is still a stunning figure.
At the admittedly early start to Saturday, we got to sample the Q50, Q70 and QX70 – but it really was the Q50 2.0t model which we were most interested in, since this is the model that has found most favour among Singaporean buyers, according to Infiniti.
The line-up of cars at first sight wasn’t a disappointing view. With cars in various hues, some from Singapore and some from Malaysia, sitting resolutely next to each other, it was a better wake-up call than caffeine.
Step inside the swanky indoor lounge area and you’ll be greeted by a setup that has completely transformed the area into an Infiniti aficionado’s dream. We of course gravitated towards the cars on display, the Q50 and Q70. As it was the first time we have ever seen a Q50 up close, we slowly laid our eyes on its swept bodywork and appreciated the lines. It is no doubt a good looking car, with wonderful proportions that hint of a rear-wheel drive chassis, thanks to wheels that are pushed to the edges of the car. The result is definitely arresting, but we are not sure if it is a design that will stand the test of time 15-20 years down the road.
Jumping into the interior, we were pleasantly surprised by the classy padded leather lining the door panels, a much better execution than the gathered leather style of some rivals. The centre console layout is alright but not inventive by any margin, and we did note that we preferred the classic Infiniti design of the Q70’s centre console with an iconic “hump”.
With that initial introduction to the car, we were more than ready to hit the road.
The drive experience consisted of testing the Around View Monitor (Infiniti’s version of a 360-degree camera), demonstrating Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS), doing an Avoidance Test and finally a road tour.
Around View Monitor
To be brutally honest, this technologically is not a novelty by any measure. From Volkswagens to BMWs, area view cameras have been around for quite some time now, assisting worried drivers all over the world when they park in tight spaces.
But this experience really demonstrated the accuracy and dependability of the system well, with climbing into a blacked-out cockpit of a QX70 being the first step of the exercise.
You will be disarmed and even confused, as you will be instructed to start driving without having any view of the road in front at all.
But Infiniti’s AVM is wonderful, working like a charm on the carefully laid out obstacle course. Sometimes, you will not put in enough steering lock, but the guidance lines on the screen will ensure you will drive with pinpoint accuracy and correct yourself.
It’s brilliant. Other than cutting off every 4 minutes or so as an automated function, the exercise really showed that one day, these cars can probably drive themselves because it’s so easy to do so.
But in order not to overstate it, we would say it is a good marketing exercise rather than showing anything revolutionary – it’s tried and tested technology after all.
Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS)
While initially looking like a gymkhana course, one instead was asked to experience a Q50 equipped with the DAS system and one without.
This was a very telling exercise, as you got to try both cars back-to-back.
In isolation, you would never notice DAS is there.
But when you try the Q50 without DAS, you will realise quite acutely how much the system assists you in your sharp turns. Having sampled both systems, we would say that if you haven’t tried DAS, you are unlikely to feel like you’re missing out on anything. However, if you do try it, you will probably want it in your Q50. We’re happy to drive one without though, as the non-DAS setup does feel more predictable and conventional, and thus perhaps more comfortable to use.
This is the part of the experience where you’ll be able to accelerate the car the most, having an opportunity to feel how the car tackles an emergency lane change situation.
This is where the car impresses the most. Although offering all the luxuries of a full-fledged sedan, the car is sharp in its responses, with the electronic safety systems reigning the car in admirably even in extreme situations. In my first try I was a bit too quick with my steering, yet the car remain composed and stable. In my second try I tried a gentler approach, and the car took it even better.
However, we did note that with the 2.0t engine, the car seemed to be able to handle a lot more torque than what it currently has. We quickly realised this too when we brought it out on the road.
Although we had a test route that was too short, at least to Lenspeed, it was enough to discover some nuances about the Q50 which we never knew about.
For instance, before you move off, you depress a foot handbrake which seems a little old school in what is supposedly a high-tech sedan!
The steering also feels artificially heavy, although when changed to normal mode it was much better.
The engine and gearbox are both items straight from Mercedes, which is a selling point oft quoted by would-be buyers. However, in isolation they are good, but not fantastic. The engine is smooth and sounds quite good if you push on a little harder, but it does seem to lack some torque. Where the previous 1.8T in the W212 Mercedes was a little too peaky in its delivery, the 2.0t feels a bit too leisurely. There is no mistake though that the car is fast; it just doesn’t feel that way, maybe because of its linear delivery.
There was no chance to test out the fuel consumption or indeed the finer intricacies of the ride quality, but do look forward to a more comprehensive test of the Q50 here on Lenspeed when we take the car out for an extended period after the drive experience.
With all of the technologies above, we found every single one of them to be directly applicable for Singapore driving, which is a boon, as some technology can find its way into cars without ever being used.
They all work in the background and are only called upon when you need them, which is how it should be. If the implementation of the future of technology in cars are all done like Infiniti’s execution, motorists should be very glad indeed.