Infiniti Q50 Red Sport

Twin-turbo V6 a value-packed powerhouse

ASH WESTERMAN

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

THE most noteworthy aspect of the new Infiniti Q50 Red Sport is not that it’s fitted with v2.0 of the company’s controversial no-one-elsedoes- it ‘by-wire’ steering.

And it’s surely not the newto- Q50 two-mode electronically adjustable dampers. It may not even be the new twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6, which cranks out a class-leading 298kW and 475Nm.

No, most compelling is that it’s finally an Infiniti that feels as though it has a USP, a proper reason for being, rather than just making up (minuscule) numbers.

And that it’s actually quite a likeable premium sports sedan, if ultimately a little underdone in a couple of key areas.

The engine is an extensive redevelopment of Nissan’s venerable VQ-series V6, now with twin turbos and a pair of water-toair intercoolers. Power is not far short of M3 territory, and better than BMW, Benz and Audi manage from the same capacity without using their tuning divisions. It comes on progressively via a nicely calibrated throttle and builds quickly into a muscular mid-range, holding on to a cultured, slightly snarly peak at 6400rpm.

The seven-speed torqueconverter auto does a mostly agreeable job, auto-blipping on downshifts via magnesium paddle shifters, or responding intuitively in Sport. The only bum notes are that it auto-upshifts in manual mode instead of holding your chosen gear, and the software occasionally denies a downshift even though it could handle it.

It’s all pretty engaging, though, and doesn’t turn to porridge when you point the Q50 at a corner.

Software revisions make the steer-by-wire system feel less game-like and more feelsome. It’s quick at just 2.1 turns lock-to-lock, but still has way too many modes (five), as well as the patently ridiculous ‘response’ setting for each. I looked for one called ‘non-contrived chassis engineer’s choice’ but failed to find it.

At least the modes can be individually configured, allowing sharp powertrain mapping and steering without the sports suspension, which is a bit stiff for lumpy Aussie backroads.

What ultimately stops the Red Sport rising to AMG or M level, though, is the lack of an LSD and an ESC sports mode. Yep, a dozen ways to try and make the steering feel non-weird, yet no way to ease the throttle-clamping. I don’t get it. The extra shame is that it feels a little under-tyred at the rear, which could have worked in its favour from an involvement point of view if the ESC had a bit more latitude.

So what we’re left with, in sports sedan terms, is an eight-tenths car – albeit at a seven-tenths price compared to the Euro opposition. Not such a bad deal in that light. alled

PLUS & MINUS

Steer-by-wire; no limited-slip diff; overeager ESC with no sport setting Zesty V6; strong performance; mostly sorted chassis; quality; value Model Infiniti Q50 3.0tt Red Sport Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Infiniti Q50 3.0tt Red Sport 2997cc V6 (60°), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo 298kW @ 6400rpm 475Nm @ 1600-5200rpm 7-speed automatic 1784kg 4.8sec (estimated) 9.3L/100km $79,900 Now

Less boost, still juiced

From the ‘worth a look’ department comes the cheaper, detuned version of the Red Sport, referred to as the S Premium, hobbled by 9.5psi of boost (instead of 14.7) to trim its outputs to 224kW/400Nm while pruning the price $10K to just under $70,000. It’s otherwise identical in terms of equipment, so gets the adjustable dampers, strong Akebono brakes, excellent 10-way electrically adjustable seats with under-thigh extension, electric column adjustment, auto-dipping headlights, and a full suite of safety/driver aids.