Hubert Burda Media

Test-drive: Infiniti Q50

The automaker has entered a more competitive, faster moving segment with the Q50. But how does it measure up?

While it’s been in Singapore since 2012, Infiniti — the luxury brand of Japanese carmaker Nissan — has yet to truly make a splash. Chalk it down, perhaps, to the COE system, which can leave big cars out in the cold. Having watched its locally well-received 3.7-litre luxury sedan and five-litre SUV fail to replicate the same level of success here, the marque has now introduced a make that could well swing the love its way — the brand’s first two-litre model, the Q50.

Competing with the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C Class, the Q50 is fitted with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine. And though it wears the Infiniti logo on its bonnet, under the hood, it bears some of the hallmarks of a Merc, thanks to its collaboration with Daimler. This also means the car has been tuned to deliver 211bhp, 320Nm of torque, has a maximum speed of 245km/h and the ability to go from 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds.

Apple to apple, it compares well to the others in its field. Merc’s C-Class sedan and Bimmer’s 3 Series hit 100km/h from zero in approximately the same amount of time. But fellow Japanese automaker Lexus’s IS betters the Q50, just marginally, by hitting it in seven seconds flat. Audi’s A4 takes the lead, delivering approximately 270bhp to complete the century sprint in under six seconds.

Drive-wise, the car’s handling is decent, taking on most road surfaces with aplomb. It is, however, unlikely to get motorheads overly enthused. That being said, Infiniti offers the Direct Adaptive Steering system in the Q50, in which the drive-by-wire option gives drivers the ability to customise the steering feel. What it does is allow the driver to tailor the steering weight and response via touch-screen controls  — a first for a car of its class. But truth be told, I myself did not discern much difference in terms of feel or quality of the drive with the setting switched on.

As one would expect of a premium Japanese brand, the interiors are beautifully put together, with natural wood, leather and metals upping its style quotient. At 4,790mm long — a good  100mm more than the others in its class — the Q50 will also appeal to buyers who desire a little more space. After all, few would find fault with having a bigger boot or more legroom in the rear.

Adding to its luxurious setting is a commendable array of technology, including two touch screens with appropriately large icons on the centre console that help declutter the dashboard. The top screen, measuring eight inches in length, allows the driver to access the car’s driving performance and maintenance schedule, among other apps, while the lower seven-inch display controls ancillary systems including climate and music.

Other technology the car is fitted with includes high-tech safety systems — such as Electronic Stability Control, High Beam Assistant, Active Lane Control and Around View Monitor — to enhance the driving experience. Commited to enhancing safety, the automaker has also packed in six airbags, a tyre pressure monitoring system and traction systems to help drivers maintain control of the car in poor road conditions. All this has led to a maximum safety rating awarded by Euro NCAP, where it scored 86 percent for driver/passenger protection and 85 percent for child protection.

Few automakers successfully conquer a newly entered segment on a first try, but Infiniti has certainly made an excellent effort with the Q50. With a little more time, the marque may even see greater success with its larger capacity models.

Wearnes Automotive, 45 Leng Kee Road

Engine: 1,991cc, 16-valve turbo engine with aluminium alloy block and heads
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control and downshift rev matching with manual override
Max power: 211bhp @ 5,500rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1,250-3,500rpm
Max speed: 245km/h
Acceleration: 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds
Combined fuel consumption: 7.3L per 100km
CO2 emission: 168g/km
Kerb weight: 1,700kg