by Roger Biermann
If Nissan's luxury arm, Infiniti, is to successfully compete in the luxury midsize sedan segment against rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, then the Q50 has to be highly competitive. As part of the first model generation released for 2014, it's now one of the oldest models in the segment. The latest year model features mostly technological upgrades and a simpler base model structure. Three engine options are available, ranging from the more efficient 208-horsepower, 2.0-liter to the powerhouse 400-hp Red Sport variant, with rear-wheel and all-wheel drivetrains available. Pricing ranges from $35,550 - $53,250, with six package options available to allow for customization and fitment of various features. The Q50 is no longer available in a Hybrid variant, leaving only the combustion models with economy figures subpar for the class, while performance and driving experience remain decent, but not quite explosive. With a new 3 Series arriving, the battleground has just become a lot trickier for the aging Q50.
After receiving a major refresh for the 2018 model year, the 2019 line-up has been streamlined and pared back to four basic trim levels and six upgrade packages instead of the previous year’s twelve packages and six base trims. Forward collision warning has been added as a standard feature to all trims, as well as automatic emergency braking. The Hybrid variant has fallen away, while the Luxe model receives a sunroof, 18-inch wheels, and maple wood interior trim. The Sport trim now has navigation, a premium sound system, heated front seats and 360-degree camera as standard.
While maintaining the typical Q50 design that has been relatively standard across the last few years, only the Luxe model has been updated with a standard sunroof and 18-inch wheels for 2019. The base 2.0t Pure features 17-inch alloy wheels, while the 3.0T Sport gets 19-inch alloys, matched on the Red Sport 400, while the Sport and Red Sport trims also receive bespoke sporty front and rear bumpers and side skirts. The Red Sport 400 has unique badging and Red Sport 400 exhaust tips. Automatic LED headlights are standard across the lineup, while a power sunroof is equipped to all but the base 2.0t Pure.
The 2019 Q50 has a wheelbase of 112.2 inches, with a body length of 189.6 inches making it longer than most in this segment while matching rivals with a width of 71.8 inches. Built on an older platform, the Q50 is heavier than the competition in general, with curb weights ranging between 3,671 lbs and 3,991 lbs depending on trim level and drivetrain options. Standing at 57.2 inches tall, the Q50’s dimensions place it firmly in the midsize luxury sedan segment, albeit on the larger end of the spectrum.
There are ten overall exterior color options available, although some of these are exclusive to specific trims. The base colors are Pure White, Liquid Platinum, Graphite Shadow, and Black Obsidian as the only four available on the base 2.0t Pure, while higher trims receive Hagane Blue, Majestic White, Mocha Almond and Midnight Black as available colors, available at an additional $500. The Iridium Blue exterior is only available on the 3.0t Sport and Red Spot 400 also for an extra $500, while both these trims aren’t available in Mocha Almond or Hagane Blue. The sporty Dynamic Sunstone Red color is exclusive to the Red Sport 400 model and also increases the overall price by $800, while Pure White and Black Obsidian are cut from the color palette.
Among the three available engine options and various trims, one stands out above the rest as a true performance halo for the Q50 range. The Red Sport 400 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine developing 400 hpr and 350 lb-ft of torque, mated to a seven-speed gearbox and driving the rear wheels as standard. It’s the all-wheel drive option, however, available across the Q50 line-up, that performs the strongest, with extra grip off the line ensuring a 0-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds in the most aggressive Sport+ driving mode. But in spite of M3-matching power, the numbers the Red Sport puts down on the asphalt lag behind genuine performance marques such as the M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63, both of which only rely on rear-wheel drive.
The entry-level Q50 is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, while both the 3.0t Luxe and Sport trims feature a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 developing 300 hp and 295 lb-ft. The range-topping Red Sport 400 turns the wick on the V6 way up to generate 400 hp and 350 lb-ft, while all models make do with the same seven-speed automatic gearbox with no manual option.
On the base trim, the engine is focused more towards economy than performance, but it still responds well and gets up to speed quickly about town as well as on the highway. Overtaking prowess is decent, too, but for proper speed-freaks the V6 powertrains are preferable. They’re quick off the line and provide vastly improved overtaking ability, along with a mildly more entertaining soundtrack to boot. There’s not much lag in the base iterations, however in the Red Sport 400 where higher outputs depend on more boost, it’s marginally more noticeable. However, the Red Sport’s potency far outweighs the sense of lag as it offers truly swift performance. But it lacks in character, even in Sport+ mode with the Red Sport-specific exhaust in its loudest setting, and given the outputs, it’s disappointingly not a genuine BMW M3 rival.
With the fundamental chassis remaining unchanged based on engine choice, base models tend to ride and handle much the same. There’s a fluency to the ride, but a definite erring towards the softer side of things as opposed to the harder-edged nature of the BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE. The steering is light but direct, even if devoid of feel, but it’s best to stick to the standard steering setup rather than the available Direct Adaptive Steering system. The latter varies weighting and responses based on speed, making it difficult to trust with its inconsistent responses.
The fun begins on the Sport and Red Sport trims, however, where firmer suspension gives the Q50 some handling prowess found lacking on the lower trim lines. The Red Sport 400 amplifies the sense of performance, while still riding softer than most rivals. But in doing so, it lacks their outright competence. The Q50 lacks true driver engagement, even in the Red Sport trim, which is a genuine pity, because with such power on tap it could be a true sports sedan but it just falls short of expectations.
The elimination of a hybrid powertrain option for 2019 detracts from one of the benefits the Q50 had over competitors: fuel efficiency. The estimated fuel economy on the remaining three engines is average, or just below, depending on trim level. The 2.0-liter variant is by far the most economical of the range, with estimates of 23/30/25 mpg for city/highway/combined cycles. Second to this is the more powerful 3.0-liter engine, achieving gas mileage of 20/29/23 mpg. The Red Sport 400 trim boasts the highest output and as such, carries much less attractive gas mileage at 20/26/22 mpg.
On the all-wheel drive variants, gas consumption for the 2.0t trim increases to 22/28/24 mpg, whereas the 3.0t achieves 19/27/22 mpg for city/highway/combined cycles. The fully-loaded Red Sport with all-wheel drive configuration achieves the least efficient gas mileage scores of 19/26/22 mpg. All engine types use premium unleaded gas, and the gas tank size is the same across the range at 20 gallons. Buyers in the more frugal 2.0t Pure RWD can expect a range of 500 miles in mixed driving conditions, whereas Red Sport drivers can expect to reach the 440-mile mark before needing to refuel.
The Q50 interior appears somewhat dated, although still presents as high-quality with premium-feel finishes. The cabin is spacious and there is enough room in the rear for taller passengers, although three adults across may be a tight fit. There is good visibility due to the placement of the driver’s seat in an optimal position, as well as a large rear window and low cowl over the instrument cluster. The general feel of the interior is pleasant with soft-touch materials throughout, but the design and ergonomics don’t feel as well thought out as modern rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, both of whom also tend to feel better in terms of build quality.
The Q50 seats five in a generally spacious interior given the large exterior dimensions. General access to the cabin is easy and the driving position feels great with good visibility and a good amount of adjustment to cater to taller and shorter drivers. But the front seats lack appropriate bolstering, even on the Red Sport 400, meaning spirited drives don’t give the same support the comfortable seats do on long-distance cruises. Rear legroom is more cramped than up front, but there’s ample headroom for six-foot-tall passengers, but sitting three abreast is a tight squeeze and best reserved for smaller occupants in that scenario. Two full sets of LATCH anchors allow for the fitment of two child seats, with enough space to face them rearwards.
Interior styling remains classy, albeit slightly dated, with leatherette seating as standard on both the lower and mid-range models, available in colors such as Stone, Wheat, and Graphite. Two additional upholstery options, Gallery White and Graphite Semi-Aniline Leather are only available on the Red Sport 400 and feature distinctive red stitching. Lunar Black trim options are standard across the range for door and dash inlays, although Maple Wood and Kacchu Aluminum inlay can be added at an additional cost, with the latter only available for the 3.0t Sport and Red Sport 400.
The Q50 has one of the larger trunks in its class, offering 13.5 cubic feet, about enough for two large suitcases with a broad opening for easy loading. But there’s a drawback in the form of a lack of standard folding rear seats - a feature only available with the addition of the Essential package on the 2.0t and 3.0t Luxe trims, which adds a 60/40 split to the rear bench, but which is standard from the 3.0t sport. With the package equipped, there’s a greater range of versatility for larger items at the expense of rear seat space.
In-cabin storage is average, with small door pockets for personal goods such as smartphones or keys, two cupholders, seatback storage pockets behind the front seats, and a mini-overhead console that would fit a pair of glasses. Bins in the center console are small too but can still be found useful.
All four base models are equipped with keyless entry and push-button start, a well as dual-zone automatic climate control, and cruise control (available as adaptive on the 3.0t Sport). A rearview camera is standard across all Q50 derivatives, as is an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat. A power sunroof is available from the 2.0t Luxe, while heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are optional on Luxe models and standard from the 3.0t Sport. A surround-view camera is available on the Luxe trims and standard from the 3.0t Sport, while power steering adjustment is only available from the Sport model.
The basic infotainment system is composed of an eight-inch upper and seven-inch lower set of touchscreens, which are awkward to use at first. A six-speaker sound system and AM/FM/MP3/SiriusXM functionality features on the entry-level trim, while 3.0t Sport and Red Sport variants have the benefit of Bose’s premium 16-speaker audio system. The Infotainment system itself seems a little dated as well, although once mastered, it serves its purpose. The navigation screen, mounted on top, feels dated, but functions well, while the lower screen’s low contrast buttons are difficult to see, particularly in harsh or dim light.
Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone integration are standard (although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not included). Navigation is standard, but traffic information is only available on higher trims.
The Q50 range is covered by a four-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, as well as a six-year/70,000 mile powertrain warranty. The vehicle scores a 3.5 out of 5 based on the J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study rating, which is above the industry average but is no higher than the standard set for this vehicle segment. There have not been any safety recalls for the 2019 model, although a recall was issued for various 2.0t models from 2016 - 2018 for problematic fuel pump control modules.
The IIHS awarded the Infiniti Q50 best available scores of Good in most tests with Superior front crash prevention. The NHTSA has not evaluated the Q50 in full for the last three model years, but prior to that, it achieved an overall score of five stars out of five.
For all models, standard safety includes dual front airbags, front side impact airbags, and side curtain airbags, taking the number to six. Other standard features include a rearview camera - surround view on higher trims - forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. Adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, blind spot intervention, backup collision intervention, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, and active lane control are all available optionally through the ProASSIST package or are equipped on higher trims only.
With above-average trunk space and a refined interior, the Q50 is well suited to its luxury midsize sedan segment. The cabin is relatively spacious and well equipped, although the infotainment system is not exceptionally user-friendly, while material quality and interior design feel dated compared to segment rivals. But it does offer class-leading trunk space, and seating is h and comfortable, and accommodates larger adults with ease. There’s a good deal of available tech, too, all while undercutting rivals from a price perspective.
The upper-range models provide good amounts of power and responsiveness from strong V6 engines, but they lack the same sportiness as more experienced rivals like BMW, and the poor gas mileage across the range isn’t impressive. Handling is competent but uninvolving, and models equipped with variable steering are best avoided for their inconsistent feel and responsiveness.
Ultimately, the Q50 feels dated against the newer competition, and the approach to performance dulls the initial excitement of the range-topping Red Sport 400.
The entry-level Q50, the 2.0t Pure rear-wheel drive, remains the cheapest model, with an MSRP of $35,550 excluding license, registration, tax, and a $995 destination fee. Moving up to the 3.0t Luxe increases the price to $38,300. The Sport variant on the 3.0-liter model is substantially more, with an MSRP of $47,950, while the range-topping Red Sport 400 carries a price in the USA of $51,250 before options. Converting to an all-wheel drive system costs an additional $2,000 on all the models, and exclusive exterior paint colors also impacts the final price.
The Q50 range includes four basic trim levels: 2.0t Pure, 3.0t Luxe, 3.0t Sport, and Red Sport 400.
The base model 2.0t Pure has a 208-hp engine, LED headlights, 17-inch 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, a rearview camera, dual screen display, and six speakers, while safety is taken care of by forward emergency braking and forward collision warning.
The 3.0t Luxe variant is based on all the features of the entry level 2.0t Pure, but swaps out the smaller engine for a 300-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, while equipping 18-inch wheels, chrome exterior detailing, and allowing the fitment of options packages like the Essential and ProAssist packages.
For the 3.0t Sport model, the same engine remains, but 19-inch Sport-design aluminum-alloy wheels set this trim apart as well as Sport-specific front and rear fasciae and silver brake calipers. A Bose 16-speaker sound system, sports seats, and the Essential, ProAssist, and Sensory packages are standard equipment.
On the top-of-the-range Red Sport 400 model, a more powerful engine provides 400 hp and receives aggressive bodywork. Luxurious leather upholstery with Sport-detailing is present, as are sports pedals and dark chrome interior accents.
|2.0t Pure||2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$33,511||$35,650|
|3.0t Luxe||3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$36,096||$38,400|
|3.0t Signature Edition||3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$39,151||$41,650|
|3.0t Sport||3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$45,167||$48,050|
|3.0t Red Sport 400||3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas||7-Speed Automatic||Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$48,269||$51,350|
Additional packages for this year model have been substantially streamlined and many of the previously "optional” features are now included as standard on the base trims. Four main additional packages are available:
The Essential Package is available only for the 3.0t Luxe model and provides voice recognition, SiriusXM Traffic, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, as well as the rear-seat split and folding capabilities. Power lumbar and side bolster adjustment are also added to the Driver’s seat with this package at a cost of $2,650. Sport and Red Sport trims equip this as standard.
The ProASSIST Package is priced at $1,650 and is only available on the 3.0t Luxe, while the equipment is standard on the Sport and Red Sport trims. It adds blind spot monitoring, automatic reverse braking, a surround-view monitor, and front and rear sonar systems.
The $2,650 Sensory Package is included as standard on the 3.0t Sport model but is only available on the Red Sport, equipping a 16-speaker Bose audio system, power steering wheel adjustment, dual-memory functionality for the driver’s seat, entry/exit assist for driver’s seat as well as enhanced ambient lighting.
The ProACTIVE Package is only for the 3.0t Sport and includes numerous extra safety features, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot intervention, and high beam assist.
With three engine choices being the main difference across the Q50 line-up, we immediately recommend going for the 3.0-liter V6 in its lower state of tune in either the 3.0t Luxe or Sport. But between those two, the Sport is the better offering, equipping a greater range of standard equipment, and allowing for the addition of equipment no other trim boasts. Much of the standard equipment is available on the lesser-specced Luxe, but the additional price associated with those options packages nullifies any savings you might incur, while the Sport also looks better and gets a wider range of exterior and interior finishes.
Against the all-new seventh generation BMW 3 Series, the Q50 has the upper hand in terms of cheaper pricing and a wider range of available engines, at least until the M340i xDrive and new M3 arrives. The Q50 requires additional packages on lower trims, to match similar standards as the base 3 Series, while the BMW features a wider array of safety and advanced technological features, and a vastly superior infotainment system with higher levels of connectivity. The BMW boasts more cargo space and a much more refined, luxurious interior, with exceptionally comfortable seating and space for five adults. The 3 Series is also more frugal, even with limited engine variety. But where BMW firmly beats the Q50 is with the 3 Series’ standard comfort paired with its dynamic ability, impressive handling, and high levels of driver involvement. The newer BMW 3 Series is simply the better sports sedan.
The Q50 offers much more options in terms of engine configurations across the range than the Audi A4, but in comparing the two, the Audi comes out as the winner in most categories. Although the Q50 has not yet been fully tested to provide a comprehensive safety assessment, the A4 has impressive statistics in this regard, chosen as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS - and featuring higher reliability ratings - with many more standard safety features and driver aids than the Q50. It also offers a more fuel-efficient engine than the relatively fuel-hungry Q50 and offers a more precise, controlled drive. Handling on the A4 is much better, and convenience features such as heated rear seats are present on the Audi range which are not even optional for the Q50. In the vast majority of categories, the Audi A4 range is the superior vehicle, albeit slightly more expensive.