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Cool and Calculated: Infiniti Q50S Hybrid Struggles With Its Inner Self PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Maynard, Creative Syndicate   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 21:56

Photo Credit Creative Syndicate.

The Q50 was renamed this year from what was the G37.

The re-engineered Infiniti Q50 is trying to be all things to all luxury buyers in the midsize sedan segment. It elegantly pulls alongside the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The Q50, renamed this year from what was the G37, has the styling to get noticed and an impeccably trimmed interior. It is sold in rear- or all-wheeldrive models with V-6 and hybrid V-6 powertrains, both with a proper seven-speed automatic transmission, not a CVT.

Pricing starts at $38,055 for the entry gasoline model and ranges to $49,505 for the Q50S Hybrid AWD. As tested, the rear-drive Hybrid tester was $53,665 and the Q50S 3.7 was $51,805.

Infiniti promotes the Q50 Hybrid as high performance, because most hybrid sedans use a four-cylinder engine. This one is studded with a 302-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 integrated with a 50 kilowatt electric motor and lithium-ion battery that pack for a total of 360-horsepower. Infiniti claims 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

There are driving modes for standard, eco, sport and snow. The standard setting is hesitant to waste fuel until you push hard on the accelerator and then the engine shrugs off concern and cuts loose. Sport mode adds some eagerness to throttle response and shifting. But eco mode is frustratingly numb.

In EV mode, the Hybrid can be driven about a mile (which covers decent ground in city driving or commuting) and it can get up to about 60 mph -- but not at the same time.

The brain of the Q50 Sport Hybrid seems torn between being a hot Infiniti and a hand-wringing fuel miser. And it doesn't do both well. Fuel economy, on the recommended premium, is not stellar at 28 mpg city, 34 highway and 30 mpg combined.

The base hybrid weighs 3,913 pounds, plus 172 pounds for AWD. The Sport Hybrid weighs a substantial 3,973 pounds. And that's nearly 300 pounds more than the 3.7 gasoline Sport model, which has fuel economy of 20/29 city/ highway.

But the true sport sedan is the 328-horsepower, gasoline Q50S V-6. The harder you push it, the more its engineering demonstrates visceral control and flat-out finesse. The steering takes just small inputs to hold course and it never fights back when aiming for an apex. Throttle response is absolute when the pedal goes down and so is braking from hefty 14-inch vented front disc brakes and 13.8-inch rear.

The S model's taut suspension may be too firm for those who just crave this car's dynamic styling and luxurious appointments. The cabin is well soundproofed, but the S model's Dunlop run-flat tires are noisy on the Interstate.

Inside, there are helpful electronics, including electric uptake (snugging) to the seatbelt. But there is a manual, foot-pumper parking brake, which is out of place in this temple of advanced technologies. And while heated seats are nice, for $53,000 they should be vented, too.

And the center console space is poorly used. Drivers need a convenient space to plug in and charge their devices, and while there are plug-in ports hidden away in the armrest console, the trend is to carve out an e-bin for suitable space to hold a phone. The Q50 still reserves space for an ashtray, though it is a lined box, but it could have been that e-bin.

The back seats have generous support and comfort, but the center position is compromised by a tall drive-shaft tunnel. The Hybrid's 9.4 cubic feet of trunk space, is down from 13.5 cubic feet in the gasoline model, but there still appears to be room for a bag of golf clubs. And the standard model gets a 20-gallon fuel tank versus 17.8 for the Hybrid, which diminishes its value for the long-range commuter.

The test car included the mega Technology package, $5,000, which includes Predictive Forward Collision. The system can warn of risks beyond the driver's field of view, Infiniti says. It also can sense the relative velocity and distance of a vehicle directly ahead, and also that of a vehicle traveling in front of the preceding one.

The Tech package also includes Intelligent Cruise Control with Full Speed Range, Forward Emergency Braking, Distance Control Assist, Blind Spot Warning and Blind Spot Intervention, Backup Collision Intervention, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention with Active Lane Control, Adaptive Front lighting System and high beam assist technology.

And, remarkably, all of those systems worked without badgering the driver about ever-changing conditions.

This car has most of the technologies needed to drive itself, which can be advantageous in daily rush hour. But the Q50 is too much of a driver's car to let it be a robot all the time.

Mark Maynard is online at mark.maynard@utsandiego. com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/ MaynardsGarage

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 22:04