2016 Infiniti Q50 3.0tt Review

The closest thing to the Infiniti Eau Rouge concept has landed in Australia, and it's called the 2016 Infiniti Q50 3.0tt.
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When Infiniti first unveiled its impressive Q50 Eau Rouge concept back in 2014, the world took notice. A Nissan GT-R engine, sharper styling, and legitimate European sports sedan-killing potential. Now, the closest thing to the Eau Rouge has landed in Australia, and it's called the 2016 Infiniti Q50 3.0tt.

To be more specific, the 2016 Infiniti Q50 3.0tt consists of two models: the Sport Premium and the Red Sport.

Both are part of a 2016 model year update to the current, first-generation Infiniti Q50 – which first launched locally back in 2014 – and both are powered by a new twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine. There are, however, some key differences.

The Sport Premium starts at $69,900 (before on-road costs) and comes with 224kW of power and 400Nm of torque. With 298kW of power and 475Nm of torque, the Red Sport is priced from $79,900 (before on-road costs). The former claims 9.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, the latter 9.3L/100km.

The flagship Red Sport also features dual water pumps (to the Sport Premium’s single), a specific mid-pipe exhaust design, higher turbo boost pressure (14.7psi up from 9.5psi in the Sport Premium), and a 3.1:1 final drive ratio, compared with the Sport Premium’s 2.9:1. Other than that, the only other real difference is the Red Sport’s unique, black boot-lip spoiler and red ‘S’ rear badge – the Sport Premium garnished with a silver ‘S’.

Getting the chance to experience both rear-wheel-drive variants at the pair’s twin local launch, we first slide into the heated, 10-way power-adjustable leather driver’s seat of the Sport Premium.

Up front, the nicely finished leather seats are comfortable, if a bit shy on bucketing and bolstering.

With a largely unchanged cabin, the cockpit of the 2016 Q50 is once again home to a mix of grey, black, silver, gloss black, and brushed aluminium trims and materials – some feeling more ‘premium’ than others. Frustratingly, a foot brake and a manual sunroof blind work together to let down what isn’t a half-bad interior.

The new 3.0tt Sport Premium continues with the existing Q50’s dual-screen setup, teaming a crisp and sharp 7.0-inch lower touchscreen with a lower resolution 8.0-inch upper touchscreen.

Tied, in part, to a transmission tunnel-mounted ‘Infiniti Controller’, made up of a rotary dial and three buttons, the paired system features a gamut of applications, functions, and displays – including the standard satellite navigation and rear- and around-view cameras. It is, however, dated and fiddly to operate.

Storage is adequately addressed with two shallow cup holders and reasonably-sized door pockets, although the glovebox and centre console bin are both relatively small.

In the back, the flat and wide stadium-style raised rear bench offers plenty of seat base, but little shape, support, or bolstering.

Rear air vents, two map pockets, and a fold-down centre armrest with two small cup holders and a lockable ski port are positives, as is the Q50’s 500-litre boot, though, rear toe-room is tight and rear legroom and head-room are okay but not great. A broad and tall transmission tunnel also limits middle-seat practicality.

Standard on both Q50 3.0tt variants is a seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode and magnesium paddle shifters.

Infiniti’s ‘Drive Mode Selector’ allows drivers to choose between Snow, Eco, Standard, Sport, Sport +, and Personal modes, while the Sport Premium and Red Sport are equipped as standard with not only the range-wide second-generation version of Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS 2.0), but also the brand’s adaptive ‘Dynamic Digital Suspension’.

Partnered with an independent double-wishbone front end and an independent multi-link rear, Infiniti says the adjustable shock absorbers are designed to give drivers the opportunity to “shift from a comfort-biased ride to enhanced dynamic response”.

Constantly adjusting the shock absorber valve regardless of the mode selected, Infiniti says the system “monitors body roll, pitch, and bounce rate to restrain body motion for a comfortable, confident, and insulated ride in all conditions”, while in Sport and Sport+ modes, the suspension constantly adjusts “to provide ideal performance and a flat ride”.

Over the variety of road surfaces encountered on the local launch, however, the Q50’s ride failed to broadly impress.

At its peak, covering smooth tarmac, the suspension in Standard mode proved largely comfortable. Shift to the noticeably firmer and tauter Sport and Sport+ modes, though, and the ride becomes busy and unsettled, with ruts and larger imperfections resulting in the car losing composure further, and at times feeling quite skittish.

Given the car’s intended audience – and importantly its intended rivals – the Q50 simply should have better composure, better body control, offer more comfort, and inspire more confidence than it does.

A likely factor not helping the Q50’s cause here – and possibly adding more road noise into the cabin than we’d like – are its standard 245mm-wide, 40-aspect Dunlop SP Sport Maxx run-flat tyres.

With expectation high, we swap into the boosted-up Q50 3.0tt Red Sport.

Interestingly, despite its 74kW/75Nm rise in outputs over the Sport Premium, the Red Sport comes equipped with the same 19-inch light alloy wheels and run-flat Dunlops as its less powerful and more affordable sibling, as well as the same four-wheel independent suspension, and limited-slip rear differential. It also relies on the same performance brakes comprising four-piston calipers and 355mm discs up front and two-piston calipers and 350mm discs out back.

The cabin is identical too, yet, somehow, given the Red Sport’s more sporting slant and more aggressive engine tune, the Q50’s lack of any variable stability control modes for varying levels of ‘spirited driving’ seems a miss, with only a basic ‘On’ or ‘Off’ offered.

The Red Sport’s big drawcard, though, is its 298kW engine. And it is unquestionably a fair step up on the Sport Premium’s 224kW unit.

Delivering its 298kW of power at 6400rpm and 475Nm of torque between 1600-5200rpm – identical revs to the Sport Premium’s 224kW and 400Nm peaks – in Red Sport spec, the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6’s additional punch and grunt is immediately noticeable, with the engine itself seeming more eager and willing.

From inside the cabin, however, the uprated engine sounds like a 12-year-old playing last year’s driving simulator while sat next to you.

Whether Infiniti’s Active Noise Control technology – designed to neutralise undesirable engine noise – is helping or hindering here, is hard to say. But given the new VR-series engine is a revised successor to the old VQ-series of powerplants, we know there’s potential there for some quality automotive music to be made.

Engine noise isn’t the only thing to miss the mark in the Red Sport, either.

The same disappointing ride quality and questionable body control over chopped or poorer quality roads experienced in the Sport Premium carries over, and when pushing on through tighter, twistier roads in patchy conditions, the flagship Q50 not only feels its 1784kg kerb weight, but it starts to be let down by too much bodyroll and not enough rear-end grip.

Further hindering a truly enjoyable connection between car and driver is Infiniti’s DAS 2.0 steering system.

Lacking feedback and feel, the consistent yet doughy steering is designed to reduce or eliminate “unnecessary steering kickbacks or vibrations” felt by the driver through the wheel. However, it makes for a detached and sterile experience, short on fun and engagement.

Unfortunately, too, as you switch the Drive Mode Selector through Snow, Eco, and Standard modes to Sport and Sport+, rather than becoming significantly more communicative, the steering simply gets heavier and doughier.

As seat-time in cars is always limited on launches – local and international – Infiniti Cars Australia has offered CarAdvice a longer-term test of the new-to-the-range Q50 3.0tt, to see if more time behind the wheel of a DAS 2.0-equipped car changes our initial impressions. Stay tuned…

Regardless, back in 2014, Matt Campbell thought the 2.0t Q50 was the best Infiniti Q50 yet. And now, with the arrival and launch of the two cars driven here, there’s little doubt the new 3.0tt can lay claim to that title. Both the 2016 Infiniti Q50 3.0tt Sport Premium and 3.0tt Red Sport combine decent amounts of standard equipment and a mostly high-quality cabin with a welcome boost to outputs.

But, our view is, for the Q50 to make a bigger impression on the sales charts, the Sport Premium needs to offer better value and more comfort for its price, and the dearer Red Sport needs some genuine Q50 Eau Rouge-style excitement and performance behind it.

All of that said, less than $80k for a premium four-door sedan with 298kW of power might be a compelling enough argument on its own for the right buyer – Infiniti suggesting you’d have to look at the likes of a circa-$106,000 Audi S4 (260kW), $89,855 BMW 340i (240kW), $143,900 Maserati Ghibli (243kW), or $101,900 Mercedes-AMG C43 (270kW) to see similar power levels.

Of course, depending on your badge preference, a 6.2-litre LS3 V8-powered Holden Commodore offers up 304kW of power and 570Nm of torque in a four-door sedan for around $48k…

Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Infiniti Q50 3.0tt images by David Zalstein.