2016 Infiniti Q50 2.0T: Tiny turbo has what it takes
By Jil McIntosh
May. 13, 2016
One of the cool things about driving a lot of cars, over a lot of years, is that I often get to see new vehicles arrive and then evolve—and in some cases, definitely improve. That’s the case with Infiniti’s Q50 sedan. It morphed from the G37 to the Q50 for 2014, and now gets some updates for 2016.
These include my tester’s new turbocharged four-cylinder, the first time an Infiniti has carried such a unit, as well as vastly improved steering. When I drove the 2014 version, my major complaint was what I felt behind the wheel. The vague, numb feel of its electronic drive-by-wire steering just didn’t measure up. The 2.0-litre gets an electro-hydraulic system that finally makes this midsize worthy of a twisty road.
The 2.0T comes only in all-wheel drive, starting at $39,900. My tester had an additional $4,000 Premium Package, which included such features as a premium Bose stereo, leather seats, navigation and power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, and $2,000 Driver Assistance Package that included blind spot warning, forward emergency braking, and Around View Monitor, bringing my tester to $46,185 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Advanced safety features
- + Ride comfort
- + Steering feel
- - blind spot monitoring not standard
- - Auto start/stop system
- - Paddle shifters
One issue with most Infiniti models is that they usually don’t photograph very well, looking bulgy and nose-heavy. The Q50 is sleeker in person, and those raised fenders and hood make for a great view when you’re behind the wheel. The headlights are standard LED on the 2.0T, while the Premium Package adds a sunroof and auto-dimming side mirrors.
The wheels are 17-inch rims on the 2.0T, tucked nicely into the wheel wells and with well-defined rear haunches over the back rubber.
There’s just enough chrome at the rear, which includes twin pipes—one of my favourite looks—even though there are just four pistons in the engine.
The interior is a mix of elegant simplicity and a large centre console stuffed with a cascade of screens and buttons. It’s a bit overwhelming at first glance, but it turns out to be fairly simple and intuitive.
The top screen handles the navigation, while the bottom one tackles climate, audio, phone, and other duties. It’s a touchscreen, but it’s made easier by three hard buttons for bringing up the desired application. It’s minor, I know, but it does help to reduce the distraction a little. The heated seats are operated by hard buttons as well, which all of them should be, although you do have to delve into the screen to operate the heated steering wheel. Cabin temperature, climate mode, and fan speed are buttons as well.
The seats are as comfortable as they look, although they’re bolstered more for luxo-cruising than for sporty driving. Power lumbar and memory for the driver’s chair are part of the optional Premium trim, as is the 60/40 split-folding rear seat: if you don’t order the package, you only get a fixed seat with pass-through. The rear seat offers midsize-style legroom, and a six-foot-four passenger back there just cleared the headliner.
I’ve heard people complain about vehicles with double centre screens—Honda uses them as well in some models—but I like the idea. With only one screen, the navigation map disappears whenever another function is required. With two screens, the map is always visible, as is the lower-screen information, such as what’s currently playing on the stereo.
My tester was equipped with a Driver Assistance Package, which adds several technologies. These include rain-sensing wipers (which, like all wipers of this type, work well in heavier precipitation but can’t figure out drizzle), a 360-degree camera that includes warnings for moving objects, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, and collision-aversion systems that can automatically brake the vehicle, not just for potential forward collisions, but also if you’re about to back into something.
The car’s Predictive Forward Collision Warning is a pretty cool system. It monitors under the vehicle in front, checking out the vehicle that’s ahead of that one. If that first vehicle slows or stops, the Q50 does as well. This gives an extra level of protection, since if the driver directly ahead of your vehicle isn’t paying attention, he or she might jam on the brakes so suddenly that you might not be able to stop in time. The system does have its limitations—the car ahead may have too little ground clearance, for example—but it’s still a good idea overall.
Since these predictive systems rely on sensing traffic ahead, they’re usually bundled with adaptive cruise control, but that’s not available on the 2.0T. I’m okay with that, since I’m not a fan of that type of automatic cruise, but many drivers are and its omission is puzzling, especially since it was included on a Nissan Sentra I recently drove.
The 2.0T is one of three new turbo engines for the 2016 Q50, along with two variants of a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 that go as high as 400 ponies. A hybrid version is also available.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder, designed in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz and built in Tennessee, whips up 208 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque that peaks at just 1,500 rpm, mated to a seven-speed automatic and with all-wheel drive. It’s certainly no screamer compared to the 3.0-litre, but it’s a beautiful little unit nevertheless. It includes idle start/stop, and the cluster reminds you of how much CO2 you’ve saved, although start-up is a bit noisy each time. Acceleration is strong and linear, with just enough of a growl, and the transmission rev-matches for tight, smooth downshifts. I did wish for wheel-mounted paddle shifters, though.
After the disappointingly vague steering of the 2014 Q50, this updated version is a joy. Infiniti’s new adaptive electronic steering is restricted to the 3.0-litre, but the 2.0T’s electro-hydraulic system is beautifully weighted, with quick response and stable performance around curves. It may be Infiniti’s entry-level car and trim, but it’s an impressive daily driver. Against published figures of 10.6 L/100 km in the city and 8.4 on the highway, I averaged 10.7 in combined driving.
The Q50 2.0T starts at $39,900, while the add-ons of its premium and driver assistance packages took mine to $46,185. Between its driving performance, its comfortable interior and the features it had, it felt like a solid deal for that price.
Still, on the open market, it can be a bit pricey compared to some others in the segment when they’re outfitted similarly to my tester, including its all-wheel drive and many of its features. You can get into Acura’s TLX, with a V6 and premium package, for $44,390, while a 180-horsepower BMW 320xi with navigation clocks in at $45,849, and Lexus’ 255-horsepower IS 300 AWD is $47,400 with optional items tagged on.
It’s been interesting to see Infiniti’s path over the last few generations. For a while, it seemed that the cars were testbeds for every electronic nanny the engineers could dream up, to the point that I often quipped that they were “drivers’ cars” that wouldn’t actually let you drive them. Then came the disappointing drive-by-wire steering, but now, Infiniti has pretty much nailed the Q50 to my satisfaction. Check it out: for smooth performance and a comfy interior, this one’s a contender.