Remember the Infiniti Performance Line? You know, Infiniti’s equivalent to BMW’s M-Sport and Audi’s S-Line? Yeah, me neither. IPL recently suffered a quiet death with the replacement of the aged Q60, but that doesn’t mean Infiniti is done with performance. In keeping with the brand’s gradual push toward establishing a brand identity, the oddly-named Red Sport line of 400-hp models goes above and beyond what the ill-fated IPL attempted to do. After a week with the 2016 Q50 Red Sport 400, we’re not sure if Infiniti has the hi-po sports sedan formula figured out quite yet.
Visually, the Red Sport isn’t too far off the regular Q50. Modifications arrive primarily in the form of slightly more aggressive wheels and red brake calipers. Unless passersby notice the “3.0t S” badges on the front fenders, this 400-horse sedan is a total sleeper.
The real changes lie under the sculpted front hood. In place of the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, Infiniti slotted in a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine, the first turbo-vee for the 27-year-old company. In the Red Sport, its power is routed to either the rear or all-four wheels through a traditional seven-speed automatic transmission. Power a-plenty? Check.
It’s fiery stuff when you point it down an on-ramp or a long straight. 0-60 arrives in the mid-four second range, with top speed climbing well above that magic 150 mph mark. It pulls hard and strong at any speed. The seven-speed is eager to downshift and upshift, retaining drivability and daily usability despite the triple-digit power boost.
If straight-line point-and-shoot is all you need, quit reading and pick up a Q50 Red Sport 400 from your friendly neighborhood Infiniti dealer. It’s a comfortable, stylish, well-built and well-equipped long-distance cruise missile.
However, if you’re looking for something sharp, responsive, and engaging, look elsewhere. Like the rest of the Q50 lineup, the direction of front wheels is managed by the second-generation of Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering system. It’s a steer-by-wire system that eschews the traditional rack-and-pinion for an entirely electric setup. As a result, the front wheels are not turned by mechanical inputs from the driver, but instead by a processor making angle adjustments based on the driver’s steering input through the wheel.
It’s an interesting and relevant technology, but one that still has a chunk of bugs to work through before it makes the hydraulic systems of the past entirely obsolete. Even with Infiniti’s extra push for tuning steering feel on the Red Sport, it still feels artificial and lifeless. Still, dialed up to maximum sportiness, it has a decent weight and quickness that belie the light one-finger effort of the normal comfort setting.
We’re not grumpily decrying the march of progress in this scenario, as electric steering makes an absurd amount of sense for the future of autonomy, safety, and connectivity in the auto industry. We wouldn’t be surprised in the least to someday encounter all-electric steering that provides more “feedback” than a sport-tuned hydraulic rack.
Aside from the steering, it is a well-composed, fast-driving car. Thanks to undefeatable on-board stability and traction-control settings, it has the propensity to roast the brakes when pushed to the limit, but that’s nothing a stouter set of pads couldn’t fix.
If you’re looking for a competitor to the BMW M3, Mercedes-AMG C63, or even a four-door GT-R, move on. This isn’t on the same level, but after driving it on and off-track, we’re convinced that’s not the target Infiniti was aiming at. Instead, it was a toe-in-the-water, a sounding charge to build upon. The 2016 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 isn’t perfect, but it presents a future-forward argument worth discussing.
2016 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Specifications
|Engine:||3.0L DOHC 24-valve twin-turbocharged V-6/400 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 350 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm|
|Transmission:||7-speed automatic transmission|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA Mileage:||20/26 mpg city/hwy|
|L x W x H:||189.1 x 71.8 x 57.2 in|
|0-60 MPH:||4.4 seconds (est)|