2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport Review
Isaac Bober’s first drive 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Tweaked exterior with a bolder look hides key improvements to the suspension and steering on the Q50 Red Sport… it looks good, is grunty and the price is unchanged. There’s a lot to like.
2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport
Pricing $79,900+ORC Warranty four years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP (2014) Engine 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol Power 298kW at 6400rpm Torque 475Nm at 5200rpm Transmission seven-speed automatic Drive rear-wheel drive Weight 1784kg Spare run-flat tyres Fuel Tank 80L Thirst 9.3L/100km
NOPE, I DON’T FULLY understand the point of this car’s name either but let’s not let that get in the way of what is a machine that more people in this country should be paying attention to. Meet the updated Infiniti Q50 Red Sport…
What is the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport?
The Infiniti Q50 first launched here in 2014 with the model notching up 900 sales through to the end of September this year (2017). At the local launch, Infiniti was proud of the fact it took Lexus 15 years to sell 1000 vehicles in Australia (in a single year), and Infiniti has been able to achieve that number much more quickly.
Getting to the magic 1000 sales this year will be a whole lot easier now that the updated Q50 has arrived in the country. There are three variants in the line-up, the entry GT, Sport Premium and this, the range-topping Red Sport. We’ve only driven the latter but will be sampling the rest of the range later this year.
The updated Q50 has copped vital tweaks to the suspension and steering, as well as some work on the body and the interior. Pricing is up by between $500 and $1000 depending on the variant; the Red Sport, however, holds steady at $79,900+ORC despite copping extra kit.
The Red Sport, as mentioned, is the range-topper and the most powerful Q50 in the range and is clearly setting its sights on vehicles from Germany, but it’s not an M or AMG competitor, rather it’s going after the likes of Audi’s S4, Lexus IS 350 F, the BMW 340i, and the Jaguar XE R Sport.
All Q50 models copped a new-look front and rear bumper, while the Red Sport features a more angular bumper with wider and lower intakes with an aerofoil at the base of the bumper for both improving aerodynamic efficiency and giving it a more aggressive snout.
What’s the interior like?
Infiniti is clearly trying very hard to make the interior of the Q50 Red Sport feel like a more expensive vehicle than it is and, overall, the interior designers have managed to pull it off. Over the old Q50, there’s more soft touch materials, contrast red stitching and leather just about everywhere in the cabin.
Twin screens dominate the centre stack with infotainment on the lower screen and navigation on the one above. There’s an incredible amount of functionality on offer and, in my three days with the Q50 Red Sport, I barely scratched the surface of what the thing can do, but on first acquaintance this is an incredibly daunting system that seems overly complicated. Familiarity would make it easier to use, but I found audio streaming to be a little glitchy when using both Apple Music and Google Play; the system would occasionally jump out of audio streaming and try and default back to album selection. But it’s impossible to fault the sound from the Bose sound system.
But, credit where it’s due, the system is easily the fastest I’ve ever used to pair a phone and the navigation is quick and easy to use but the graphics look a little old-school and lack the quality of Audi’s sat-nav graphics. Infiniti would do well to adopt Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity too because streaming music from your phone via, say, Google Play or Apple Music requires too much device time if you need to switch from one station to the next. Beyond this gripe, though, as I said, this is a system I’ll need to spend more time with to fully understand its capability.
Beyond the infotainment, there are a lot of controls and buttons scattered around the cabin and, if I’m honest some of them detract from what is an otherwise quality cabin, like the climate control switches and indicator and wiper wands. The steering wheel is a new design and feels good in the hands although I couldn’t get enough height out of the adjustment.
The seats are both beautiful to look at and comfortable to sit in; the seats in the Red Sport are beautifully trimmed in leather with quilted pattern inserts and the perfect amount of bolstering to keep you in place when galloping along a twisting road.
There’s good vision around the vehicle from the driver’s seat and the 360-degree camera makes kerbing a wheel rim a thing of the past but, the camera quality was reminiscent of the camera and display in the Nissan X-Trail I just jumped out of at the start of the week (review online next week) and that means in low-light it tends to grey out making it hard to see the gutter when parallel parking.
Climb into the back seat and the look is just as delicious as the front seats. You’ll fit two adults across the back seat but no more than that, the middle seat is far too cramped and there’s no foot room anyway. The seat backs are reclined to help provide head room and it’s worth noting the angle of the seat can make getting a booster seat to sit snugly a bit tricky. There’s an air vent at the back of the centre console for those in the back, but no rear USB outlets. Boot capacity is a decent 500 litres with ski-port style through loading.
What’s it like to drive?
The Q50 Red Sport gets a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine making 298kW at 6400rpm and 475Nm of torque at 5200rpm which is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with steering-mounted paddle shifters. Fuel consumption is a claimed 9.3L/100km (combined).
The local launch of the updated Q50 was done a little differently to the usual one-day affair with journalists being loaned the Q50 for a three-day period under embargo which lifted today (Friday). Practical Motoring got behind the wheel earlier this week and managed to get as much seat time as was possible with plenty of highway cruising, some around town and school runs as well as a quick run around our test loop out the back of the Blue Mountains. Still, there’s so much to unpack with the various settings on the Q50 Red Sport that, like the infotainment system, I’m sure I barely scratched the surface.
The old Q50 copped a bit of stick for its wooden steering and suspension that didn’t easily cope with quick changes in direction and the resultant body weight transfer. So, for this updated Q50 those were two key areas that copped plenty of attention and we’ll come back to whether we reckon the changes have helped or hindered the thing.
First, to the motor. Look at the numbers at the top of this section and they’re big but they also arrive quite high in the rev range which means this is a machine that doesn’t mind being poked. No matter what you’re doing or where you’re driving this engine has more than enough grunt and is matched to a transmission that’s quick to shift down when you give the throttle pedal a prod; and I love the rifle bolt-esque sound as this thing slots a gear when it’s being leaned on. The paddles work well enough when you’re pushing it hard, but it’s probably quicker left to its own devices given how responsive it is to the throttle.
But, this isn’t an engine or a car that’s going to snap your neck with acceleration. Don’t get me wrong, stand on the throttle and the Q50 will launch itself towards the legal limit toot sweet, but this is a vehicle that accumulates speed and it accumulates it quickly too. There’s no change in its nature, no sudden step up in ferocity just a constant pouring on of oomph. Indeed, you’ll be hard up against the legal limit before this thing’s even into its stride.
So, what about the steering? Well, that was one area that definitely needed work and I’m pleased to say that while so-called ‘driving enthusiasts’ will be disappointed to hear this runs a drive-by-wire adaptive steering set-up (albeit the second-generation) because systems like this tend to lack real feel and connection to the front wheels, the rest of us will probably be okay with it. See, this type of set-up means there’s no kick back, no matter how big the mid-corner hit, and vibration through the wheel is all but eliminated. Okay, that might not sound like the best set-up for a performance car with the sort of firepower this one has, but while there’s a lack of feel through the wheel, no matter the drive mode you’ve selected, the steering action is consistent, quick and meaty in its feel. And I reckon that’ll be more than enough for 99.9% of drivers.
And then there’s the ride. The Q50 Red Sport gets adaptive suspension (Dynamic Digital Suspension in Infiniti-speak) and it’s good. The tune errs towards firm (despite Infiniti claiming that in Normal it adjusts for a comfort-oriented tune) which suits the muscular look and nature of the Red Sport and while in most situations, in Normal mode, there’s enough give to iron out the worst of the roads imperfections larger pot holes can catch it out. Even in Normal mode there’s very little body roll.
Dial up Sport mode and the exhaust note becomes beefier, the suspension firmer, the transmission faster and more willing to hang onto a gear, and the steering weightier (but not artificially so), turn it up to Sport+ and everything gets even harder. Personally, I found the Sport mode too extreme for schlepping around town (although out of it, it transforms the Q50); with everyone turning to watch the dill creeping down the road while the car revs hard in second gear just waiting to be unleashed. Sport+, Infiniti says, is intended for track use.
On our test loop, in Sport mode, the Red Sport felt good. It had enough punch between corners to blur the scenery, a good progressive brake action, great body control and a transmission that happily kept the thing in its sweet spot, allowing you to fire it out of corners and towards the next one. But, the Q50 Red Sport ain’t light and the chassis isn’t overly communicative so you tend to rely on the tyres squealing to tell you when you’re pushing it towards its limits and if you get too ham fisted with it, it will happily try and hang its tail out. In all, it’s a fun performance car that will happily tone itself down in Normal mode for the school run.
What about safety features?
The updated Q50 range carries over the old car’s five-star rating from 2014 when it achieved score of 35.76 out of 37. Don’t let the old rating put you off, because the Q50 gets plenty of active safety kit like, lane departure warning and prevention, blind spot monitoring, reverse collision intervention (meaning it’ll hit the brakes if it detects an obstacle behind you when you’re reversing) – the same system will also detect a pedestrian or cyclist, intelligent cruise control, 360-degree around-view monitor, reversing camera, and autonomous emergency braking. The Q50 also offers dynamic headlights that turn and angle depending on the corner, tyre pressure monitoring, airbags, ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats, traction and stability controls.
So, what do we think about the Q50 Red Sport?
Infiniti has only tweaked a few things, but those things were key in changing the whole car from one that was a little wooden to one that’s got soul. This is a machine that’ll schlepp along in traffic and go corner carving on the weekends. And with the amount of standard kit it comes with it represents proper value for money against its key competitors.