2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD Review

High-tech, low stress

2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD Review

If you’re interested in a luxury sport sedan and are totally obsessed with technology, the Infiniti Q50S Hybrid is a must-see.

FAST FACTS

Engine: A 3.5L V6 pairs up with an electric motor for a combined 360 HP.

Transmission: All versions of the Q50 get a seven-speed automatic.

Fuel Economy: This model is rated to get 27 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

Price: Q50S Hybrid models start at $46,700, while our model with AWD and options came to $55,805.

Crammed with the very latest in technology and a potent powertrain, the Q50S Hybrid is something to get excited about.

Semi Auto-Pilot Engaged

 

The car can’t drive itself, but it feels darn close sometimes. Witchcraft, you say? Hardly.

It all starts at the steering wheel: the main form of communication between car and driver. Called “Direct Adaptive Steering,  the Q50S doesn’t feature a mechanical connection between the front-wheels and the steering wheel in the driver’s hands. By using digital signals the car can be extremely versatile in terms of steering feel and engagement.

Even driving straight down the street, the Q50 feels different; the wheel feels a little bit disconnected, like I’m playing a video game.  The road feel is almost gone. Potholes, manhole covers and rail-road tracks don’t send a judder into my palms like a normal steering system would. All that unnecessary white noise on the road that plays into the hands of the driver is gone;  resulting is an extremely calm drive. Surprisingly, the car still steers with consistency and predictability but there’s something missing.

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2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD Interior 3Fortunately, since this is a digital steering system, it’s as configurable as a smart-phone’s ring-tone. Flip between the four standard driving modes – standard, sport, eco and snow, and it’s the sport setting that feels the best – hefty with quick response.  There’s a personalized option too, letting users mix and match steering feel with reaction. The same goes for throttle feel and the transmission’s shift points: they’re all configurable. The spectrum ranges from heavy and sporty to light and effortless.

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Using a camera mounted to the front windshield, the car can spot and recognize lane markings on the road. It will then keep itself in the center of the lane, like a sci-fi tractor beam is pulling the car. The system even works on slight bends in the road, effectively steering the car. Combine that with Infiniti’s advanced adaptive cruise control and early morning commutes are suddenly much less stressful.

Even if you are awake and paying attention, the driver in front of you might not be. Infiniti’s collision mitigation system looks two cars ahead in order to prevent an accident by applying brakes as it sees fit. The active braking system is so good; it can bring the car to a comfortable stop from practically any speed. Although it’s meant for collision prevention, it actually does a better job of performing comfortable stops than I do. Brakes in hybrids are notoriously touchy.

2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD Interior 1As a result of all this tech, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety considers the Q50S a “Top Safety Pick Plus” making it just one of four other cars in its class to earn such high marks.

The Q50S Hybrid feels like a car outfitted with technology plucked from the future. But after a while, the enthusiast in me screamed to get some control back. Using a button on the steering wheel to turn off the safety shield of driver assistance systems, the Q50 gave me back the control my inner gearhead wanted so desperately.

Driving fun isn’t far away. Just turn off traction control, slot the shifter into the manual mode and stomp on the right pedal. The steering (in its heaviest, sportiest setting) is electronic, but it still feels very lively.

Canned Heat

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Besides turning off the safety features, very little has to be done in order to unleash the car’s fun side. The hybrid comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that, together with an electric motor, makes a total of 360 HP. There aren’t many hybrid sport sedans out there, but this one is the most powerful for its size and price.

The all-wheel drive equipped model surprises in terms of performance with its 5.2-second sprint to 60 MPH.  While the seven-speed transmission is no slouch, it can leave one wanting something a bit sportier and faster, while the leather-lined paddle shifters (standard on “S” models) are just begging for a dual-clutch unit.

2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD Review 3Infiniti uses the same seven-speed automatic in every Q50 powertrain including the hybrid, which uses a two-clutch system to combine power from the electric and gas engine. It’s called “intelligent Dual Clutch Control,” but shouldn’t be confused with an actual dual-clutch gearbox.

As punchy as the engine and steering feels, the 4,145-lb pound curb weight is hard to overcome. The Q50S Hybrid may be the most powerful vehicle in its class but it’s really heavy.

2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD Interior 9A refined and polished hybrid system, it’s not quite up to Lexus’ benchmark in terms of gas-electric smoothness. Then again, the two are trying to achieve very different goals. That shows nowhere more than with fuel economy.

The all-wheel drive Q50S Hybrid is supposed to return an average 28 mpg, but as we found, driving style and weather affects quite a bit in the real-world. The 25 mpg rate the trip computer displayed at the end of our test is a bit underwhelming but could be chalked up to the snowy weather and equipped winter tires.

Virtual Insanity

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Inside, the Q50S is an ultra-modern take on sport-luxury. Two touch-screens sit in the center stack and give access to a number of controls. Getting used to them takes some time, as the two screens have overlapping functions – for example, placing a phone call or changing the radio station can be done through either screen, which is a bit confusing. The top-most screen also has a rotary-dial controller that makes it easy to use while driving, and make for a good way to look around on the map, without having to take your eyes off the road for too long.

2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD Interior 2The Q50S can also integrate with smart-phones. Using a companion app on an iPhone or Android device, the car’s head unit can display emails, search Google and even check Facebook. Other media services can also be enabled like Pandora radio. With so many customizable settings, it’s easy to imagine that sharing the car would be a chore. For example, resetting drive mode and touch screen configurations would be a real chore if Infiniti hadn’t thought of that, too.

Save My [High-Tech] Seat

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Those settings are stored in the cars key, along with the position of the seats, mirrors and steering wheel. As soon the car fires up, it begins to ‘load’ all of the driver’s personal settings, just like a computer. First the seat is adjusted, nice and low in my case, while the steering wheel falls right into my hands. Finally, my customized radio pre-sets show up on the screen.  All of these, in addition to personalized drive modes, are stored in that key fob meaning that in a household full of different driving styles the Q50S is always exactly how you left it.  The car arrives with two main keys which automatically apply the profile last used with them. Additional profiles can be customized and accessed easily through the infotainment system.

2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD Interior 12The Q50 S Hybrid with all-wheel drive is the absolute top trim and with the deluxe technology ($5,000) and navigation ($1,400) packages, it costs $55,805. There wasn’t a feature I was left wanting. A heated steering wheel (standard on AWD models) and seats are included along with a moon roof, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a surround view camera system that makes parking a breeze. Interior space is up to snuff and the Q50S Hybrid keeps up with the BMW 335i and Audi S4. Sadly, the hybrid system doesn’t just affect weight but cargo space too, as the car has just 9.4 cubic-feet of trunk space.

The Verdict:

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The Q50S caters to drivers who love to customize every aspect of their life. If you love unique desktop wallpapers, Twitter backgrounds and tailored clothes the Q50S’ ability to be as personalized is a joy. But the fastest version of Infiniti’s high-tech sport sedan comes with a few compromises – namely below average fuel economy and underwhelming trunk space.

The sport-sedan segment is full of options and there are certainly competing cars that are prettier, more practical and sportier. However, when it comes to tech and safety features, the Infiniti Q50 can’t be beat.

LOVE IT
  • Powerful
  • Full of Tech
  • Customizable
LEAVE IT
  • Fuel Economy
  • Trunk Space
  • Very Automated

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