298kW hit: Infiniti Q50 Red Sport road test and review
BANG for your buck, power for your dollar.
Crude it may be, but isn't there something irresistible about seeking out the most kW for the money you have to spend?
Does more power equal a better car? Of course not, but we're all competitive human beings, and bragging about the size of your power output has been with us since the dawn of the automotive age.
For under $60k you can hop in a Ford Mustang GT V8 and let your right foot control a whopping 306kW. Not a great car if you want rear passengers though. Or boot space. Or a luxury finish inside.
Which makes the performance small executive sedans so appealing in their wonderful all-roundedness. I'm not talking your V8 Merc AMGs, Audi RS4s and BMW M3s here - you've really gotta save your pennies for those - I mean the family sedans that top their respective performance trees without the need for a second mortgage.
They can carry three across the back seat, the boot should swallow a couple of suitcases and the interior should be swathed in leather, feature plenty of toys and clever active safety inclusions. Oh, and knock over the 100kmh sprint in around five seconds these days.
I know what you're thinking. BMW 340i. Fair call, and it's hard to look past this delightful driver's car with its 240kW straight-six for $89,900.
There are alternatives however.
Think Audi S4 ($106,110), Jaguar XE S ($105,350), Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG ($101,900) or Lexus IS350 Sports Luxury ($82,500).
The left-field choice
As if your choice wasn't tough enough between that talented lot, how about an Infiniti Q50 with no less than 298kW for $79,900 before on-roads?
The new rear-wheel drive Q50 3.0tt Red Sport has just joined Infiniti's ever expanding range, and its twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 offers the same power - good pub bragging this - as a $220,000 Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
Now there may still be some blank faces in the room when it comes to Infiniti. Nissan's premium sub-brand has been with us in Australia for four years, sales are slow but increasing, dealer numbers are improving, and the range expanding to suit our market.
Just so you know, the Americans buy around 100,000 Infinitis annually. Here, they managed 574 in 2015 - about the same as Maserati.
Current best-seller is the Q50 small exec sedan, and it's just been given something of a refresh and revised model line-up, including the addition of this mad dog Red Sport.
I'm very familiar with the Q50 model having had a long-term test example - a fully loaded hybrid S Premium - for three months. My thoughts? Beautiful body design, impressive cabin comfort, high spec, oodles of active safety inclusions and bloody fast.
On the flip side, it lacked the real driver enjoyment and dynamics of its German rivals and struggled with a feedback-robbed steer-by-wire steering system.
New car improvements
Positively, said steering has been improved in the new cars to give a more natural feel, plus there's a fancy sounding Dynamic Digital Suspension (standard on V6 Q50s) where you use a drive mode selector to electronically adjust the shock absorbers depending on your preference for comfort or agility.
Like toys? Like safety? Prepared to be spoiled. Unless you're in an entry-level Q50 GT (from $53,900) you score 19-inch alloys, ten-way electric leather seats, magnesium paddle shifters for the seven-speed auto, 14-speaker Bose sounds, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and intervention and forward emergency braking.
Meanwhile, all Q50s score an Around View monitor, a pair of touchscreen displays, dual zone climate and navigation.
Really, you could fill a newspaper with the goodies on these Q50s.
On the road
Our test drive focused on the range-topping 298kW Q50 Red Sport, as despite it being the costliest in the range, Infiniti expects it to be the top seller such is our insatiable desire for performance. Not least when it's delivered through the rear wheels.
The result? Brutal acceleration, incredible mid-range pull and the ability to get up to naughty speeds at a surprising rate. If nothing else, this is a ballistically quick sedan.
Our test route was through some beautiful sections of bitumen in Victoria's Yarra Valley, the roads slightly damp due to recent rainfall.
Select Sport Plus mode and the chassis reveals a playful side, and the stability control in this setting allows a nice amount of rear end movement before the Red Sport's brains trust tidies it all up again. It is genuinely fun to throw around, and thanks to a mighty big brake kit, hauls to a stop impressively too.
Such is the thrust from that twin-turbo V6 though that a bit more of an aural treat would be expected. Jag and Merc do this very well, adding a bit of mongrel to the exhaust note on overrun to emphasise that performance motor. The steering is an improvement over old, delivering a decent amount of feedback despite not feeling in the same league as, say, a BMW 3 Series which does natural and responsive feel so very well for a small exec sedan.
As I discovered during my Q50 Hybrid three-month tenure, these Infinitis can be blissfully comfortable to drive though. Sit on the highway, engage the smart cruise control and lane keep assist function and you can waft along with minimal effort, arriving at your destination in fine fresh fettle.
Same in the city too. Seating comfort is superb, you never feel hard done by on the luxury inclusions front and the Bose sound system is quite brilliant.
All the Premium Q50s - and the Red Sport - roll on 19-inch run-flat tyres, so the only occasions things get a little crashy are on the really poor surfaces, especially if you're out exploiting all that horsepower on offer.
A value proposition? For we mere mortals $80k is still a hell of a lot of money, especially to drop on a car brand that's far from properly established and accepted in Australia. Resale values? They won't match an Audi's or Benz's I'm afraid.
But the Infiniti Q50 in Red Sport guise has plenty to offer at this price point, and in Australia perhaps more than any other global market, performance is a clear brand builder. Offer us nearly 300kW through the rear wheels and Aussie ears prick up.
The Q50 looks good, doesn't have you scratching your head at endless pricey options (as practically everything is standard anyway), it does comfort and luxury well and this Red Sport genuinely goes like the clappers.
It will still be hard to pull buyers away from the traditional small exec performers - there's a lot of well-established quality players in here - but certain shoppers may be swayed by the sheer exclusivity of these Q50s, not least when you can brag about that power figure.
Ready to give the new player in town a chance? At the very least it's worth a test drive to compare against those pesky Germans.
Model: Infiniti Q50 3.0tt Red Sport.
Details: Four-door rear-wheel-drive small premium performance sedan.
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol generating maximum power of 298kW @ 6400rpm and peak torque of 475Nm @ 5200rpm.
Transmission: 7-speed auto with Adaptive Shift Control.
Performance 0-100kmh: 4.9-seconds (estimated).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $79,990 ($87,790 estimated driveaway).
What matters most
What we liked: Brutal acceleration, power for the money, Q50's attractive styling, excellent standard inclusions.
What we'd like to see: Tougher exhaust note, steering is better but not perfect, not as dynamic or rewarding to drive as other premium small exec cars.
Warranty and servicing: Four-year/100,000km warranty, servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months.