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2021 Infiniti Q50 review: Cheating Father Time – Roadshow

The Q50’s styling has aged gracefully. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

In automotive terms, the Infiniti Q50 is ancient, dating back to 2014 in its current form, though the car’s foundations are much older than that. Sure, changes and improvements have been made along the way, but the Q50 hasn’t really kept pace with its ever-evolving competition. Yet despite some significant shortcomings, I still appreciate this four-door’s smooth, responsive powertrain, sumptuous styling and premium interior, especially in Signature Edition trim. The Q50 may fall short of rivals, but in other ways it’s proof you can cheat Father Time.

Like

  • Comfortable seating
  • Handsome styling
  • Premium interior

Don’t Like

  • Weird infotainment system
  • Anesthetized steering
  • Questionable tech

Even though it’s basically a senior citizen in automotive terms at this point, the Q50 still looks graceful; more attractive (at least in my opinion) than some other luxury sports sedans like Acura’s new TLX or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This Infiniti’s long hood, sumptuous curves, alert headlamps, large but not Lexus-size grille and flowing bodywork still look great. Setting it apart from other trim levels, this Signature Edition tester features a dark chrome grille surround and 19-inch wheels treated to the same smoky finish. Four curated paint colors are offered on this new trim, including Grand Blue, which is the one you see here. Curiously, there’s an upcharge for each of these exterior hues.

Inside, the Q50 continues to impress — mostly. Signature Edition variants come with upscale saddle-brown leather, which looks nice and feels good. You also get black, open-pore wood accents as well as a standard 16-speaker Bose audio system. The car’s prominent center stack and sweeping dashboard design still make a statement, while the attractive soft plastics and meticulous assembly quality remain competitive today. Comfort is another area where the Q50 excels. Like other Nissan and Infiniti vehicles, the front bucket seats are super comfortable, soft yet supportive, plus the rear seat is plenty spacious and quite relaxing, thanks to the position of the lower cushion and a nicely angled backrest.

One area that could be improved, however, is storage space. There’s precious little room in the center console for stashing stuff, just a tiny cubby ahead of the shifter and a small bin underneath the center armrest. As for the trunk, it clocks in at 13.5 cubic feet, less than you get in mainstream sedans like a Honda Accord or Kia K5. For added versatility, the split rear backrest folds down, revealing a modestly sized passthrough.

Where the Q50’s gray hairs really start to show is when you check the tech. Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warning and something called Predictive Forward Collision Warning, which ingeniously keeps tabs on the vehicle that’s in front of the car or truck you’re following, so you can preemptively hit the brakes if they start slowing down. Opt for a higher-end Q50 and you can get a 360-degree camera system with moving object detection, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams and adaptive headlights, features that should probably all be standard in this segment. Adaptive cruise control is included on all but the most basic model, and it works OK. It’s not the smoothest system around, but it will slow the Q50 down to a stop in heavy traffic, it just won’t hold the car there. After a second or two, the system beeps and the car starts rolling forward. Curiously, lane-departure warning is standard, but lane-departure prevention is not offered on the Signature Edition Q50; it’s only available on top-shelf Red Sport 400 models.

The tech ain’t great, but this car’s interior is still comfortable and welcoming. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Q50’s InTouch infotainment system is an odd duck. It features two separate touchscreens: an 8-incher up top that handles navigation functions and 7-inch unit on the bottom, which is where the audio system and vehicle settings live. This multimedia array looks like it was designed by two different teams on opposite sides of the planet. The user interface is disjointed and not immediately intuitive. I must say, however, this system’s performance is quite good. It responds promptly to inputs and pinch-to-zoom on the navigation map is quick and smooth. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, as are two illuminated USB ports (one Type-A and a Type-C). Also, for 2021, a Wi-Fi hotspot is included in the Q50 at no extra cost.

Hauling this car around is a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V6. As refined as granulated sugar, its 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque provide decent, if not explosive, acceleration. Red Sport 400 models feature the same basic engine, but thanks to a few technical tweaks, they’re endowed with an additional 100 hp and a heaping helping of extra torque. The standard drivetrain is perfectly fine, but if you can swing it, grab a Q50 with the more powerful engine. It won’t disappoint.

No matter the model, this Infiniti comes standard with a tried-and-true seven-speed automatic transmission. Quick-witted and smooth, this gearbox gets the job done with little drama. You can shift yourself by sliding the selector lever over to the manual gate, but curiously, my Signature Edition tester does not have paddle shifters, which is a peculiar omission in 2021, especially for a luxury car.

This twin-turbocharged engine provides an even 300 horsepower. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Q50’s ride is definitely on the firm side, but these stiff suspenders keep the body well controlled over undulating pavement. There’s little roll in corners, minimal squat or dive and zero float. As for the brakes, they’re powerful and the pedal is easy to modulate, more progressive than Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, the tires aren’t afraid to let their presence be known. This example’s P245/40RF19 Dunlop rubbers broadcast the roadway in high fidelity. Red Sport 400 models offer a Dynamic Digital Suspension, which automatically adjusts the shock absorber valves for varying road conditions.

The tire noise is a bit disappointing, but unquestionably this Infiniti’s greatest weakness is its wonky power steering, which is like a CIA agent: sworn to secrecy. The standard setup (I’m not even talking about the Direct Adaptive Steering system you can get on Red Sport 400 models, which has its own issues) telegraphs zero information to your hands about what the front tires are doing. Toss the Q50 into a corner and there’s no sensation of weight transfer, the wheel doesn’t get heavier as you turn in more aggressively, it all just feels completely synthetic, like you’re steering the car with a video-game controller. Another problem: The Q50 also tends to wander. The car doesn’t have a good sense of straight ahead, requiring small course corrections all the time.

A mixed bag, that’s a good way of summing this car up.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The 2021 Infiniti Q50 starts at about $38,000 including $1,025 in destination fees, which is not a bad price these days. As it sits, though, the high-end, all-wheel-drive Signature Edition model you see here checks out for around $52,000, a figure that’s a bit harder to justify.

If you’re one of the half-dozen or so people still interested in driving a luxury sedan instead of an SUV, there are plenty of good choices out there, though the Infiniti Q50 isn’t necessarily one of them. I appreciate this car’s style, comfort and agreeable drivetrain, but there are a few significant weaknesses that detract from an otherwise pleasant package. If you don’t need the latest tech, can live with anesthetized steering and appreciate unusual infotainment systems, give it a shot. If you want a car that’s a bit more modern, consider something else.