Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team
After sampling Infiniti vehicles for the first time at a drive experience they hosted, it was finally time for us to get the keys and bring one home for the test of the daily grind. It was certainly a welcome respite from the hard-riding, take-no-prisoners nature of our daily ride, sitting in the cosseting interior of the Q50 and softly caressing the padded leather lining the doors. It’s not overtly luxurious, but enough to feel quite expensive.
But then, you would expect it given the market positioning of Infiniti. The luxury arm of its parent Nissan, Infiniti has found relatively good success in the United States, together with Lexus as one of the luxury exports from the Far East that made it big. However, it is still a relatively small brand in Europe and here in Singapore, despite what the stellar local sales results recently would have you believe. That said, the Q50 we had over the two days had all the correct ingredients to find acceptance in the local market – a small, relatively tax-friendly engine, a strong dealer representative, aftersales support and value for money.
You might not agree with the last point given the car is asking for close to $200,000 (depending on which variant you go for). But compared to its German rivals at least, it is more well-equipped, and in terms of cabin real estate you get something in between a C-Class and an E-Class.
But it is related to Mercedes a lot more than you would believe. The engine is from Mercedes, the 7-speed gearbox is sourced from Mercedes and even some of the interior trim. Tactfully, the resemblance is well-hidden beneath the surface unlike in the new Infiniti Q30 where you would not be far-fetched to say you thought you were sitting in an A-Class.
While I would not consider Mercedes cutting-edge technology-wise, there are worser brands to learn from and be associated with. So it’s not surprising to find that the engine and gearbox work well together, and offer a truly punchy delivery that quite befits the sporting nature of the Q50. The engine sounds good when stretched to its fullest, but potting around town it can sound uninspiring. This does egg you to drive it hard, as does the suspension. In the particular one we drove (Sport trim), paired with the large rims the ride was a bit too harsh for our liking. It does give the car a very sure-footed, unflappable way about it, but for a daily commute it can be jarring especially over broken roads and potholes. For this reason alone I’d pick a trim level that comes with smaller rims.
It also makes sense to go for a more comfortable setup, because as much as you’d like to drive the car quick, the gearbox slurs its shifts and encourages you to go slower instead of faster. Fuel consumption would weigh on your mind too – even with a fairly frugal style of driving the car averaged 12L/100km, which is acceptable for what it is but it’s definitely not that efficient.
When you’re not focused about how it drives, you start to look at the interior and that’s the next most important thing for you will be spending all of your time in it. Generally, build quality is good – the interior parts all feel well screwed together and seem unlikely to spring a rattle any time soon. It feels more American than Japanese in its architecture though, and that starts to become more obvious when you delve into the complicated dual-screen infotainment system.
Despite taking up most of the space of the dashboard, the functionality of the screens are rather limited. But you would be spending more of your time trying to figure it all out anyway. It is not the most intuitive of systems around, and the graphics are a tad dated next to the snazzy systems in a BMW or a Merc. That said, you don’t even get these features in a comparable German car at the same price, so perhaps the Infiniti’s option is the better one.
Rear passengers get a unique experience as their seats seem to be set slightly higher than the front seats, so their view of the front of the road is excellent. The seats feel comfortable and well-padded, although with a sloping roofline those who are taller than 1.7m might find the headroom a tad cramped. However, it’s still a cosy place to be in.
So, which Q50 would we buy? If you want a ride that is more befitting that of a luxury sedan, we’d recommend the base trim that comes with 17” alloys. If you top up for Premium, you’d get LED headlights, “Kacchu” aluminium interior trim, an Around View Monitor and 18” alloys. We’d not get the Sport trim unless you want a very focused, harsher setup. Our pick – the base Q50 to enjoy the best value, and in our opinion the best ride and handling compromise too.