I’m not sure if it was the color-matched 19-inch aluminum alloys, the massive sport brake package, or the solid magnesium paddle shifters, but the second I laid eyes on the shimmering metallic blue 2014 Infiniti Q50S I went a little weak in the knees. I am admittedly a Nissan fanatic. I’ve owned the popular imports since they were known in the US as the bargain brand Datsun, but until this week I didn’t think that there was enough room in my heart for an upscale luxury brand Infiniti that costs $43,200 ($53,530 as tested). The all-new Q50 replaces Infiniti’s popular G37 sedan, the gas-only version is equipped with a 328 horsepower 3.7L V-6 that delivers the silky-smooth power to the rear wheels through a 7-speed downshift rev-matching automatic. Power is excellent, sending the car from 0 to 60 in a brief, manufacturer sourced, 5.3 seconds. Some publications have placed that number as low as 4.9 seconds, which seems reasonable based on my time behind the wheel, the Q50s is quick. The Q50 also comes in a hybrid version that combines a 3.5L V6 and electric motor to produce a significant 360 horsepower; both versions are available with all-wheel drive. The Q50S loves to be driven, the powertrain works in concert with Infiniti’s sport-tuned independent front and rear suspension and sport brakes to create a vehicle that is comfortable to drive, even when pushed closer to the Q50’s limits. The chassis has a balanced nature that made me continually utter descriptors like “smooth” and “agile” while passing on the highway or weaving through slow moving city traffic. I would go so far to say that the Q50 allows you to drive “aggressively” without having to be aggressive. Case in point, you have to continuously glimpse in the rear view mirror when someone is following you in traffic, the Q50 gives the impression that you are hardly slogging along, all the while your tail is struggling to keep up, curmudgeonly simulating a NASCAR race. My test vehicle came optioned out with the comprehensive Deluxe Touring Package. The $3100 bundle includes power tilt/telescopic steering, auto-dimming outside mirrors, dual occupant memory seats, maple wood trim, rain-sensing front windshield wipers, and 60/40 split folding rear seats. Also included is an entirely useful Around View Monitoring system that puts cameras on every angle of the Q50. When combined with the front and rear parking sensors, the Q50 makes the trickiest parallel parking job a cinch. Last, but certainly not least, the Deluxe Touring Package includes Infiniti’s controversial drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering or DAS. Many reviewers have found the optional DAS system, which uses a series of control modules, electric motors, and sensors, to be lacking; numb in comparison to the feel and dynamics of the standard conventional, although electronically assisted, hydraulic steering system. In my time with the Q50 it certainly took a few minutes to get used to the microscopically direct feel of Infiniti’s Direct Adaptive Steering, but once I began to get a sense for the vehicle and its limitations, I found Infiniti’s drive-by-wire experience to be quite enjoyable. When configured appropriately, the light touch that DAS allows the driver to use during casual around town outings and highway cruising gives the Q50 a feel of the steering comfort and quality that is usually reserved for oversized high-end full-size luxury sedans. By simply moving the center console switch to sport mode, the Q50’s leather-wrapped and illuminated steering wheel tightens up, reminding me of the steering dynamics found in many of the best mid-size sport sedans. Of course, a purist would contend that both modes are merely “simulations”, a claim to which I would agree to an extent. However, I would argue that the system adds a dual-nature driving dynamic to the Q50 that I truly appreciated and nearly impossible in a conventional hydraulic system; the Q50 gets pretty close to being both a rough and raucous yellow mustard sports car and, with the flick of a switch, a pampering Grey Poupon open road cruiser. The technology of the 2014 Q50 extends far beyond the drive-by-wire system. Loaded with app-based computers, the sport sedan is so tech laden that it actually uses a touch screen to control another touch screen. Drivers can set up and store individual preferences for climate control, audio, and driving dynamics that are instantly recognized and called up based on each driver’s Intelligent Key. I did find that the app-based system took a while to load when first starting the car. You can immediately drive off, but it felt like it took more than a few minutes for the climate, audio, and InTouch apps to come online. Major controls like audio volume and AC fan speed can still be controlled through the redundant tactile pushbuttons and knobs, but fine-tuning and adjustments require the entire system to boot. This was a minor inconvenience, but one I certainly grumbled about under my breath on more than one occasion. Interestingly, while speaking with a representative from Infiniti I learned that a software update would soon be available that addresses the issue. The standard Bose 14 speaker audio system, which is accurately named “Infiniti Studio on Wheels”, sounds excellent. The Bose reputation for clarity shines through, my test songs rarely sounded so good. The optional $1400 GPS navigation system was responsive to voice commands and operated as I have come to expect from a luxury branded GPS. Infiniti is widely known as an industry leader in driving safety technologies and the Q50 does not disappoint. The optional $3,200 Technology Package includes an adaptive front lighting system with high beam on/off assistance, a blind spot warning and intervention system, intelligent cruise control and distance control assist, lane departure warning and active lane control, an advanced climate control system, and predictive forward collision warning and emergency braking. All of the systems are highly configurable and, for the most part, intuitive. Blind spot monitoring may have saved me a few times over the years, but I have become a diehard fan of the convenience and value of intelligent cruise control. I have always appreciated traditional cruise control, especially in well built high horsepower vehicles where the vehicle speed can creep up without constant monitoring. Infiniti’s intelligent cruise adds a new dimension, increasing the usefulness and my appreciation of the highway travelers “set it and forget it” feature. Once the maximum desired speed is chosen using the steering wheel mounted buttons, the car continually regulates speed, even in dense traffic situations, allowing the Q50 to optimize fuel economy and avoid the driver fatigue that often sets in after an hour or so of congested interstate. The 2014 Infiniti Q50S 3.7 gets respectable gas mileage, 20 city 29 highway and 23 combined, on premium fuel.
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