The result is an often-overlooked contender that might just surprise you.
Infiniti may be Nissan’s luxury brand but the engineering here is anything but mainstream. It’s not only that this 2. 2-litre diesel variant borrows its engine from Mercedes: it’s also that some of the technology potentially available in this car is genuinely cutting-edge. Take the steering system. It’s the thing people have talked about most when it comes to the driving dynamics of this car. That’s because this model was first launched with the option of what Infiniti calls ‘Direct Adaptive Steering’ - or ‘DAS’ - the first ‘drive-by-wire’ system to steer a car. Using this set-up, your intentions aren’t transmitted to the wheel via the usual steering column. Instead, inputs from the steering wheel are processed via electronics, then motors replicate your commands at the wheels. The advantages of this system lie in the fact that steering inputs should be quicker, plus steering kickback and vibration should be all but eradicated.
Away from steering, there’s plenty else to talk about. The 170bhp diesel unit isn’t class-leadingly efficient but its returns – up to 65. 7mpg and 114g/km of CO2 – will probably be acceptable for most potential users. Of course, the more powerful petrol variants further up the rage can’t match that. There are three to choose from, a 211PS 2. 0-litre turbo variant, a 400PS 3. 0-litre V6 twin turbo model and a 306PS Hybrid derivative that can also be ordered with AWD. Users get a ‘Drive Mode Selector’ that can tweak steering, throttle and gearchange feel. And the top 3. 0-litre variant showcases a clever ‘Dynamic Digital Suspension’ system that constantly reacts to the road surface.
Styling is these days something of a unique Infiniti selling point. This is what draws people to the brand’s smaller Q30 hatch and it’s certainly always been an attraction of this Q50 saloon. It’s common in the compact executive class for any given contender to be merely a visually scaled-down version of a larger full-Executive sector model, which isn’t really very imaginative. It’s a welcome change then, to see that Infiniti has cut the Q50 from a different cloth. There’s certainly nothing else in the segment that looks quite the same.
Time to take a seat behind the wheel, where the premium feel you get on this upper-spec model is also reflected right down the range – in contrast to German rivals where base models tend to make it very clear how little you’ve spent. Leather upholstery is standard providing you avoid entry-level trim and ‘Sport’ models like this one get emphasised side bolsters that provide a little more cornering support.
The first thing you’re likely to notice in this cabin though, lies in the centre stack. Infiniti has decided that Q50 drivers need not one but two infotainment screens, an 8-inch upper one and a 7-inch lower one. The higher monitor deals mainly with the navigation and surround view camera systems where fitted, the display of which you can alter via this rotary controller below the gearstick. Below that is the rocker switch for the ‘driving mode selector’ system, the options for which also display on the upper screen. Switch your gaze to the lower 7-inch display and you’ll enter the world of Infiniti ‘InTouch’, a set-up that not only delivers the usual Phone, stereo and information functions but also allows you to run your life as effectively from inside your Q50 as you can from your smartphone.
Time to take a seat in the rear where you’ll find one of the more spacious rear cabins in the sector. As usual in a car of this class, there’s a high central transmission tunnel to prevent the comfortable carriage of three adults, but two folk get reasonable leg and shoulder room by segment standards.
We can’t help liking the Q50. It does, after all, offer an intriguingly different option in what can be a rather predictable segment. And in contrast to obvious rivals who feel the need to slavishly follow the dominant brands in offering perceived ‘sportiness’, it brings an unashamed focus on refinement and luxury that we think most typical buyers would actually rather appreciate.
It’s not an obvious choice but, for the right kind of user, it could be a very satisfying one.