The Q50, which makes its U.S. debut at the New York International Auto Show, is Infiniti’s BMW 3 Series rival. It focuses on performance and technological innovation in a bid to win over the competition, but also features a pretty bold design, from the distinctive twin creases in the hood to its muscular flanks.
At launch in North America, two engine options will be available. The gasoline powered 3.7-liter V6 has 328 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque and features Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System and Variable Valve Event and Lift.
Also available is a hybrid version, which combines a 296 hp, 3.5-liter V6 with a 50kW electric motor. 50kW is equivalent to 67 hp, so when the two motors are working in tandem, they provide a total output of 353 hp.
Both powertrains are matched to a 7-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and steering column mounted paddle shifts. This system is inferior to others, which mount the paddles to the steering wheel. Column-mounted paddles don’t turn with the wheel, which makes mid-corner gear changes problematic. Last year’s FX Vettel Edition was let down by it’s column-mounted paddles.
The Q50 comes with either rear or all-wheel drive. Handling should be good, as it has independent multi-link suspension at all four corners.
The interior is driver-focused, with plenty of luxury as well as Infiniti’s InTouch connectivity system, which allows hands-free phone calls, smart phone apps, mapping, and entertainment systems, all controlled by voice recognition or the touchscreen.
For the first time on a production car, the Q50 gets Infiniti Direct Adaptive Steering, which seems to be the steer-by-wire technology that Nissan previewed in October 2012. The system is reckoned to transmit driver intentions to the wheels faster than a mechanical system. It also comes with Active Lane Control and Lane Departure systems, which don’t actually drive the car, but adjust the steering to improve stability. A back-up mechanical system is on standby should there be any problems with the electric system.
In keeping with its Red Bull partnership, the Q50 was refined by Sebastian Vettel at the Tochigi track in Japan and by Red Bull F1 test driver Sebastian Buemi at the Nürburgring in Germany.
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 replaces the G sedan and will be available in summer 2013, with prices starting from $37,355.