Early in its time in our Four Seasons fleet, the 2014 Infiniti Q50 made a reputation for itself that’s been tough to shake. As it turns out, a good car trying to be a great car through software-engineered trickery is a recipe for exasperated auto journalists.
“Arghhh,” croaked executive editor Todd Lassa. “Call me a Luddite. Tell me I don’t embrace the New Technologies. So be it, but I think sport sedans should be tuned for handling and ride as a given. It’s a luxury not to be playing with a dial while you’re driving.”
I was convinced that despite these criticisms, the 2014 Infiniti Q50 could strike the right chord if we strummed it the right way. So when the Q50’s number was called to go on a photo shoot that began in Las Vegas, I wanted to be the one to take it there. “I will take it!” I said, doing my best impression of Frodo Baggins. “I will take the Q50 to Sin City!”
Ann Arbor to Iowa City: Cruisin’ USA
Even during the first leg of my trip, it started to hit me that we were looking at the 2014 Infiniti Q50 all wrong. Infiniti says this car is a sport sedan (after all, racing driver Sebastian Vettel did tune the steering settings), but on a long-distance drive through the endless flatness of the Midwest, the Q50 became a refined luxury cruiser.
The whole way straight across Michigan and Illinois to Iowa City, I was perfectly comfortable in the Infiniti’s supple leather seats (the handy adjustable lumbar support helped). No bump or road blemish fazed the Q50’s well-tuned suspension. Wind and road noise was minimal (we swapped back over to the stock all-season tires before departure), which meant I could enjoy every last bit of Eric Clapton pumping through the premium sound system.
In fact, the only disruptive noise came from the relentless torrent of insects thwacking the windshield of the Q50. After spending the night in Iowa City with some college friends, I came out in the morning to find the front of the car a Fauvist graveyard of sickening red, green, and yellow bug guts.
Iowa City to Denver: A Little Time on the Treadmill
No road trip is complete without the right company, and I was feeling proud that I’d persuaded my brother to fly to Des Moines from Philadelphia to join me for the drive to Las Vegas. Once I exited the highway to the airport, I was pleased with how clearly the 2014 Infiniti Q50 communicates navigation guidance. In addition to the voice commands that give clear and timely directions, pictorial aids in the instrument cluster provide additional detail without being overzealous. On the map, the process of finding the right section of the airport looked like it would be a bit of a hassle, since arrivals, departures, and parking lots were all in one area. Then I remembered that I was in Des Moines, not Philadelphia.
Brother on board, I finally got a chance to ride shotgun as he took the wheel. Through the eternal cornfields of Iowa and Nebraska, I stretched my legs and fiddled with the Infiniti’s infotainment system. Satellite radio means that even in the middle of nowhere, Howard Stern is still spewing filth in crystal-clear HD. It also occurs to me that driving through Nebraska is like being on a gigantic treadmill in front of a greenscreen that depicts bucolic scenery on an endlessly repeating loop.
This car’s driver assistance systems were extremely useful during a long drive, but they sure freaked out my brother. With the adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist fully activated, the Q50 literally drove itself for 18 miles. It was easy to adjust the car’s following distance, and even on long, sweeping curves the Q50 stayed on track without ping-ponging back and forth too much between the road lines. My only complaint is that the power surged repeatedly as the cruise control tried to maintain a set speed.
At a rest stop, I noticed how good the 2014 Infiniti Q50 looks. Its chrome trim and smoke-grey wheels speak to its premium personality, while the combination of smooth and sharp body lines help it stand out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until the Nebraska State Police took notice, too.
Somewhere just past Omaha we saw those disheartening flashing lights in the Q50’s mirrors. We were barely speeding, and the fuzz were far more interested in what drugs we might be carrying on board anyway. After a lengthy conversation in which we had to disappoint the officers with the admission that we were carrying neither cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, marijuana, meth, nor cash exceeding $10,000, we were on our way scot-free with no more than a warning. We arrived in Denver that night feeling relieved that the Midwest was in our rear-view, and we could look forward to the Rockies, the dusty-red plateaus of Utah, and the open Arizona desert.
Denver to Flagstaff: Changing Scenery
Through the stunning mountains, valley passes, and lakes of Colorado, I popped the 2014 Infiniti Q50 into Sport mode. The day was new, the air was fresh, and I was ready to carve some curves. I was quickly disappointed.
Sport mode makes the throttle a bit more responsive and the transmission shifts more aggressively, while the steering becomes comically heavy and unnaturally quick. It’s painfully plain just how hard the 2014 Infiniti Q50 is trying to be sporty, as if it’s attempting to compensate for luxury looks with an overly aggressive attitude. While the Q50 handled the steep, winding mountain passes near Vail, Colorado, without slipping up, it felt like a lot of work for what was largely an unpleasant experience. Defeated, I spent the rest of the trip with the mode selector in Normal.
As my brother and I made our way into the empty desert in Navajo nation, I began to truly appreciate just how solid the Q50’s 3.7-liter V-6 feels. I can’t even count the times we were stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle and then punched the throttle to unleash all 328 horses as we switched lanes and passed. Even at redline (or at more than 100 mph), the engine never felt as if it were being punished. Even better, the giant 20-gallon fuel tank let us cruise long distances while the V-6 averaged about 27.5 mpg.
Flagstaff to Las Vegas: Home Stretch
After we woke up early for a quick detour to Grand Canyon National Park, it was time to make our way to Sin City. Nevada is pretty bleak until you get to Vegas, so I was most appreciative of the navigation system, which kept us visible on the map even when our cell phones were totally out of service for hours at a time. When your only landmarks are the beef jerky stand and the guy selling industrial-strength chloride on the side of the road, it’s a relief to know exactly how many miles you are from civilization (and how long it will take to get there).
Once we entered Las Vegas, it wasn’t long until I pulled up to the valet at the hotel and handed him the key fob. After 2300 miles in the 2014 Infiniti Q50, I gained a lot of respect for it. When there’s a long stretch of open road to conquer, the Q50 is solid enough to convert even the grumpiest of Luddites like us.