With the introduction of the 2014 Infiniti Q50 at the Detroit auto show, we see the direction that Nissan's premium car division is charting for the future, as this replacement for the Infiniti G37 sedan presents a new face and new technology in effort to capture a new market.
The 2014 Q50's sensuous new style brings more drama to Infiniti's persona, recalling the Infiniti Essence show car that was revealed at the 2009 Geneva auto show to commemorate the anniversary of Infiniti's creation in 1989. The Essence created a new styling vocabulary for the brand, one that attempts to move further upmarket to the position once occupied by the original Infiniti Q45. Indeed, all future Infiniti sedans, coupes and convertibles will carry the "Q" designation followed by a number, while Infiniti utility vehicles will carry the "QX" description.
As the replacement for the very successful Infiniti G37 sedan, it's no surprise that the five-passenger 2014 Infiniti Q50 incorporates an updated version of the current car's platform. Power comes from a 328-hp version of the familiar Infiniti 3.7-liter VQ37 V-6, and it's been matched with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid version of the Q50 is propelled by a powertrain that combines a 302-hp 3.0-liter V-6 and a 50 kW (67 hp) electric motor, and a seven-speed automatic is also used. Both versions of the 2014 Q50 will be available in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
Longer, Lower and Wider
Infiniti president Johan de Nysschen (formerly Audi of America's president) is quick to note the car's bold look. Nissan chief designer Shin Nakamura says the Q50 makes its first impression with a fluid character line that rises at the double-arch grille and then flows energetically through the through the sides of the body. The front end is meant to be aggressive, and especially so on the Infiniti Q50 sport model. And as with so many new cars, LED headlights, taillights and turnsignals are featured.
The 2014 Q50 attempts to be athletic as well as sensuous, as its slippery aerodynamics combine a 0.26 Cd with zero lift both front and rear. At the same time, this car looks longer, lower and wider than the G37 it replaces because it is indeed so, measuring 188.3 inches long, 71.8 inches wide and 56.8 inches high. Nevertheless the new car rides on a wheelbase of 112.2 inches just as before.
The standard Infiniti Q50 carries 17-inch wheels that carry 225/55R-17, all-season run-flat tires, but you can step up to a more sporting setup with 19-inch wheels and 245/40R-19, all-season or summer-performance run-flat tires.
The Engine Connection
For all the gestures that the 2014 Infiniti Q50 makes toward style and prestige, this remains a car built with the special enthusiasm for high-tech hardware that Nissan engineers have always had.
The Q50's 3.7-liter VQ V-6 has been around longer than most of its V-6 competition, yet it continues to have an alert, responsive character that few other car-makers have been able to capture. In this application the direct-injection DOHC V-6 has variable valve timing and lift, and it makes 328 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. The seven-speed automatic transmission offers a manual shift mode that will deliver rev-matched downshifts, plus there are optional magnesium shift paddles on the steering column.
Infiniti is equally proud of the performance offered by the 2014 Infiniti Q50 hybrid, since this calibration of its 3.5-liter V-6 develops 302 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Once this is matched with the electric motor rated at 50 kW (67 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque) that is powered by a compact lithium-ion battery pack, the result is 360 hp to propel this heavier iteration of the Q50 package.
As before, electronics deliver a variety of different modes for driving - Standard, Sport, Custom, Eco and Snow.
You won't find many surprises in the chassis hardware, as the Infiniti Q50 is based on the same platform used by the G37, although naturally the performance of the independent multi-link suspension front and rear has been revised slightly, notably in the rear. Standard and sport calibrations are available, as are standard and sport brake packages and tire choices.
Yet you will be surprised by the first appearance of all-electric steering in a passenger car. While a power-assisted rack-and-pinion setup remains standard equipment, you can choose the optional Direct Adaptive Steering. This all-electric technology has been under development by Nissan for some time (we drove a car with a prototype system two years ago), and it's been blessed by no less than Sebastian Vettel, the Formula 1 world driving champion who drives for the Infiniti Red Bull Racing. He experienced it at Nissan's proving ground in Tochigi shortly before last year's Grand Prix of Japan.
The concept here is to offer a wider range of integration between the steering gear ratio and the level of steering effort.
Meanwhile, the 2014 Infiniti Q50's electronic steering setup also incorporates an elaborate system to improve straight-line stability. It uses a camera-based technology to not only prevent of lane departure but also look ahead and adjust for either changes in the road surface or even crosswinds.
Infiniti president de Nysschen comments, "The beauty of these advanced systems is to allow a more personal driving experience, with more input when desired and less intrusion of road imperfections in the steering wheel. These are just the start of a range of future technologies that are becoming a point of differentiation for our Infiniti customers."
In keeping with Infiniti's past innovations in voice-activated electronics, the 2014 Infiniti Q50 has an intelligent ignition key that a driver can use to pre-set driving position, ventilation temperature, navigation, audio and assorted telematics. It sorts through some 96 different parameters.
As before, the driving mode selector lets you calibrate the engine's throttle response, the transmission's shift schedule, the chassis damping, and steering effort.
Just as important, designer Shin Nakamura's designers have given the Infiniti Q50 a more welcoming and stimulating driving environment, moving away from the G37's somewhat austere presentation. A new high-tech seat design is part of this effort. Some cleverness with body architecture, seat design, and seating position are meant to fractionally improve roominess as well.
As part of better living through electricity, the 2014 Q50 has not one but two touchscreen interfaces, splitting frequently used applications to the upper screen and other content to the lower screen.
Driving Into a New Market
While the 2014 Infiniti Q50's hardware remains familiar, there's no question about the change in the way it is presented here. This begins with the new look for the bodywork, includes a more humane cabin environment, and then finishes with a very elaborate menu of features, most of them electronic.
Infiniti has won many enthusiasts for the way its cars go down the road, yet it's fair to say that it has never quite lived up to the standard of prestige set by the very first Infiniti Q45. When the 2014 Infiniti Q50 goes on sale in summer 2013, we'll see if the company makes the breakthrough that Renault-Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has long envisioned.