2017 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400

Top-class sleeper car

"A red 'S' logo is added to the Q50 badge on the boot, which helps identify the Red Sport from the entry level models."

"The only highlights on the Red Sport variant would be the large wheels and red brake caliper paint."

"One of the key improvements on the Q50 Red Sport is the second generation Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) which is a drive-by-wire steering system which had its share of niggles in the past."

"This is the first vehicle from Infiniti encompassing 'Empower the Drive' to position the Infiniti as a strong driver's brand in this region."

Its predecessor falls on the list of must-have cars for every car enthusiast. Those who own it love to thrash around. Street mods like big wheels, blacked out lights and loud exhausts feel at home on this model, and you may not find too many in stock factory specs these days. It is the Infiniti G37 and today we drive its successor: the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. This is the first vehicle from Infiniti encompassing 'Empower the Drive' to position the Infiniti as a strong driver's brand in this region.

The Q50 borrows its visual cues from the bigger Q70 sedan, and hence, is instantly recognizable as an Infiniti. There is zero similarity to the older G35 or G37 series in appearance and it is well evolved. The Q50 is now a sleek looking sedan with less sport visual cues and also shares some design inspiration from the Nissan drawings.

Viewed up front, the beautifully sculpted hood merges into the well-designed front bumpers. The grille is a simple affair with a concave shaped profile and black mesh filling its inners. There is a tinge of sadness sprinkled on the otherwise intimidating front-end view of the Q50. As you approach the car from the side, you get a sober, and I would say, uninspiring shape. A couple of character lines help spice things up, but the silhouette remains the largely 'usual' three-box shaped. The only highlights on the Red Sport variant would be the large wheels and red brake caliper paint.

The 3.0t badge near the front wheel arch gives you a hint of what's under the hood. Swing around to the rear and you see a bulbous rear bumper with two tiny horizontal reflectors that help in reducing the visual mass of the rear bumper. Twin tailpipes are generously sized and fit well into the rear diffuser, which is incorporated as part of the rear bumper. Getting the right sized exhaust tip in the right place makes a huge difference in the visual appeal of any car and the Infiniti got it right! Taillights are horizontally slated wraparound units with lighting elements in a circular fashion. I would have preferred horizontal lighting elements for a snazzier look and to give a flatter perception. The boot has an integrated lip spoiler which gels well with the overall rear geometry. A red 'S' logo is added to the Q50 badge on the boot, which helps identify the Red Sport from the entry-level models. Horizontal chrome strips adorn the number plate area, which looks similar to the front grille design. Nice touch there!

Stepping into the Q50, you are suddenly reminded of the G37 interiors. The interiors carry the basic form of the G37, which I think will be something attractive for buyers looking for a G37 replacement. Settling into the well-shaped and padded seat, there is an instant shrouded feel which I love when I drive something fast and nippy. A bit more bolstering would help boost driver confidence. The seats are powered for all adjustments and even offer under-thigh support, which is a lovely add-on for long drives. The center console features two touchscreens that look high tech but feel confusing to operate, at least on a first drive. The only advantage of twin screens I could see is that the navigation system can run uninterrupted while the audio system and other ancillaries run on the secondary screen. I could see a big difference between the display qualities on the two screens; I don't know why it's like that. The steering is a three-spoked affair, well padded and can aid sporty driving. You get all the usual buttons on the steering with controls for audio volume, cruise control etc. Rear seats are definitely not for the tall ones. Headroom and legroom is not the best, and that cocooned feel in the driving seat can be a disaster for passengers. Soft touch materials are used in the interiors and lend that feel of luxury. I would have liked a trim or two finished in carbon fiber and red for a bit more Red Sport-iness.

A gentle push on the start button cranks up the not-so-gentle 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo engine to life. In the Red Sport avatar, this engine fires out 400 horsepower to the rear wheels. All-wheel drive is optional. A seven-speed automatic transmission takes care of transferring the generated horsepower to the 19-inch wheels. The gearshifts could be a bit crisper and then I would spend more time with the manual gear-shifting mode. In rear-wheel configuration, the Q50 Red Sport features a staggered wheel configuration running 245mm tires up front and wider 265mm tires on the rear. As of now, it is best left in auto mode.

One of the key improvements on the Q50 Red Sport is the second-generation Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS), which is a drive-by-wire steering system (that had its share of niggles in the past). The new and improved version, however, provides much better feedback, but still leaves a lot to be desired compared to conventional steering. For this, Infiniti had the new DAS system tested for over 600,000 real-world miles around the world. Above speeds of 70 km/h, DAS works along with Active Lane Control to maintain lane position in the event of heavy crosswinds; more like a semi-autonomous system. Before driving off, you can select the preferred preset drive mode or select your personal favorite combination of engine, suspension and steering settings.

The 2017 Q50 Red Sport features Dynamic Digital Suspension (DDS) for the first time on an Infiniti. The suspension promises a blend of agility and comfort with the possibility of a variety of settings to suit your personal taste. In Sport and Sport+ modes, the suspension is largely jittery with minimal body roll and excellent road-holding characteristics. Flooring the throttle is met with immediate response, with a hint of lag, and the Q50 pushes itself to 100 km/h in around five seconds. With the ESP off, the Q50 can slide out the rear in pretty much every corner.

This V6 twin-turbo is the first such unit from Infiniti, and they have miles to go before they perfect the trick and match themselves to the competing Germans. The car feels lively in Sports mode and one thing I miss on the new Q50 is a good exhaust note. Even when pushed hard, the exhaust feels restricted and sounds wheezy. A result of downsizing and forced induction in the new-gen engines, maybe.

Verdict
The Q50 Red Sport is a quick car and qualifies as a top-class sleeper car. However, some key improvements in engine response and steering can close the gap between the Q50 Red Sport and its rivals. The car is a definite improvement over the old G37, but lacks the thrash-happy character. This is one car for the G37 enthusiast who wants to buy an updated model and we would look forward to more tweaks from Infiniti on this car.

Pros: Posh and neat interior, sleek exterior design, decent handling, happy to play RWD tricks
Cons: Infotainment needs improvement, steering feel
Rivals: Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS, Audi A4
one word: super sleeper
3 stars

Specs
3.0L V6 twin-turbo, 400 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 475 Nm @ 1,600-5,200 rpm
RWD, 7-speed auto
0-100 km/h: 5 sec, top speed: 250 km/h, fuel consumption: 11 L/100 km
Weight: 1,764 kg

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