Perseverance is a commendable trait and one Infiniti needs as a defining principle.
The prestige arm of Nissan is still on a slow burn five years after its launch in Australia. There’s little wrong with its products but it is fighting to gain traction in a market locked down by its direct rival, Lexus, and a tranche of well-established European rivals.
A nip-and-tuck for the Q50 compact sedan isn’t going to steer the customary prestige buyers towards the brand but it should draw the attention of newcomers to the premium segment who prioritise value over venerated badges.
The refreshed range starts at $54,900 and winds out to $79,900. That undercuts Lexus by about $4000 — not small change at this price point.
Changes to the car include the predictable front and rear bumper revisions and new wheel designs as well as minor interior updates.
In the case of the range-topping Q50 Red Sport in which we had a brief foray, there’s now red stitching on the leather upholstery and the seat foam has been changed to improve comfort.
The highlight remains the standard features list which embarrasses its prestige rivals. The Red Sport has a full active safety suite, 14-speaker audio, power front seats, front and rear sensors, 360-degree camera, digital speedo and noise cancellation.
ON THE ROAD
The big ticket item is the update to the steer-by-wire software that Infiniti says is a “precursor to future steering systems that form the building blocks to achieving fully autonomous driving”.
The old setup was criticised for lacking steering feel, if not precision. This is an improvement but the key word here is precursor — it is far from the final, polished product. There’s still an unnatural change in weight to the steering wheel over mid-corner bumps, making it hard to build trust in what the front end is doing.
The twin-turbo six-cylinder is a genuine weapon, even if it lacks the aural edge of its German six-pot rivals. When you’re pumping an artificial sound into the cabin, there’s no excuse for not making it sound seriously good as opposed to digitally contrived.
Hit the throttle and peak outputs 265kW/475Nm ensure solid acceleration across the rev range. Infiniti doesn’t quote a 0-100km/h sprint time but we suspect it will be about 5.0 seconds.
The seven-speed auto isn’t rapidly reactive and can be caught in the wrong cog under hard acceleration or braking. Thankfully, those brakes are first rate.
The adaptive dampers, like the steering response, react to changes in the drive mode. Also like the steering response, they’re still not best in class. The variation between the comfort and sport isn’t as pronounced as it could be and the rear end will twitch over road ripples. It does the job but doesn’t encourage the driver to tap the car’s performance potential.
As a stylish, sumptuously appointed prestige car the Q50 Red Sport ticks all the boxes. As an engaging driver’s car, Infiniti still has some work to do.
INFINITI Q50 RED SPORT
PRICE $79,900 plus on-roads
WARRANTY 4 years/100,000km; servicing $1292 for 3 years/45,000km
ENGINE 3.0-litre 6-cyl twin-turbo, 298kW/476Nm
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, active safety suite