Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: October 31, 2016
If we had to make a short list of the most defining cars of the early 2000s, anyone would be hard pressed not to mention the Infiniti G35 coupe. Launched in 2003, the G35 ticked all the right boxes for enthusiasts: a manual transmission, powerful V6 motor, and rear-wheel drive. Even the all-wheel drive (AWD) variant was enthusiast friendly – ripping the ATTESA system straight out of the Nissan GT-R.
Combined with the strong performance and sexy lines of the Nissan 350Z, the company was an industry tour de force. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end and the dominance of the VQ motor fell to better turbocharged offerings from its competitors. Nissan saw return with the R35 GT-R and its famous VR motor, however that never saw usage anywhere else in the corporate umbrella, leaving Infiniti in a sleepy slumber for the last eight years.
But the marquee has been quietly working away and in December 2015, Infiniti pulled the curtains off the successor to the VQ37 engine – the twin turbo VR30. VR you say? Yes, this powertrain falls under the VR family, meaning it shares design elements with the VR38DETT, Godzilla itself. Under a new designation, the brand says the Q50 will be the first to receive the new heart. It comes in two flavours: 300-hp (Sport) and 400-hp (Red Sport 400).
The question remains, is this Jordan’s 1995 comeback or Kobe’s post-Achilles injury? From the outside, the Red Sport looks almost identical to last year’s. The difference lay in the 3.0t side badges, unique 19-inch wheels, and baffled exhaust tips. Otherwise, this 400-hp sleeper lurks unnoticed in traffic.
The story continues inside with all of the same fixings found in a normal Q50. You won’t find any fancy badges signifying that this is the Red Sport 400 model, which is a good thing. It means that the average Infiniti owner doesn’t need to be reminded that they’re special with twenty BMW M badges placed in the cabin.
I do wish the brand would pick one finish and stick with it. The door handles are brushed aluminum, the ring around the engine start button is chrome, and there’s a messy combination of a matte and glossy screen in the center stack. Although, I think Infiniti has engineered a solution to their bewildering interior design choices.
See, the car comes equipped with a pedal that when operated correctly, sits under your right foot. Push it down, clench your sphincter, and wait as the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 delivers a whopping punch of torque to your eyeballs, pushing them so deep in their sockets you won’t be able to see let alone critique the inconsistent finish of plastic bits.
The shove comes quickly too. Due to the turbochargers being integrated inside the exhaust manifold, they are able to quickly spin up, thereby reducing the amount of perceived lag. Peak torque comes early, 1,600 rpms early, and the resultant 350 lb-ft donkey jab of torque is served on a flat platter anywhere between 1,600 to 5,200 rpms.
The motor however, will climb all the way up to 7,000 before topping out. It’s a ferocious V6 yet it feels more refined than the VQ37 it replaces, and it climbs to redline with a creaminess reminiscent of an inline-six.
To handle all that power, Infiniti has reworked their Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS, not to be confused with the popular vernacular YAS!), which is frankly the sedan’s biggest let down, as in “nobody will be screaming YAS for DAS!”
It’s the next logical step for the electronically assisted racks found in almost every car on the road today. Often called “drive-by-wire”, it utilizes electric motors that interpret varying degrees of steering wheel input and translates it to actual movement of the wheels.
DAS 2.0 if you will, now offers a bit more steering feel than the outgoing iteration. Despite the changes, the entire system is still devoid of the feedback you would feel in hydraulic units of the past, or even better electronically assisted racks from BMW.
It’s a nifty piece of technology and has plenty of positive real world applications though. Chief amongst them is the possibility of future cars not requiring a steering column; you know, so it doesn’t go through your chest in the event of a frontal collision. Perhaps this is Infiniti being brave and taking the first step into the realm of autonomy, kind of like how Apple took the first step to the future by eliminating the headphone jack.
In the meantime, it’s a bit jarring to steer a 400-hp sports sedan that offers as much feedback as my Gran Turismo steering wheel – and no, you can’t use the walls to steer in real life. The system offers multiple customizable options but none of them increase road feedback in a meaningful way. Even the sportiest setting (of the seven available) only increases steering effort, which for the most part felt nice until you really pushed the Q50.
Chuck the car into a corner, and the steering weight loads up to its peak then flat lines, even as the front tires surpass their limit of grip. The suspension works well to fight the understeer, and the AWD system shuffles power around appropriately to keep everything in check, but it’s a numb experience. Thankfully, you can opt out of DAS (by forgoing the Technology Package, $3,800) and be left with the standard electronically assisted rack.
While the Q50 certainly packs a mighty wallop, Infiniti says it wasn’t meant to strike at the BMW 340i, Cadillac ATS, or the C43 AMG, but I can’t help but feel that this was a missed opportunity. The Q50 Red Sport has real potential.
At an as-tested price of $58,685 the Q50 Red Sport undercuts the competition by several thousand and has tried to be equal parts sporty, luxurious, and innovative, but the main drawback is that the execution comes off looking unfocused and more of a jack of all trades, rather than a master of one.
型号 Model: 2016 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD
顏色 Paint Type: Platinum Ice ($285)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $54,600
試車售價 Price as Tested: $58,685
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,850
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,803 / 1,824 / 1,453
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,786
引擎 Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 400 hp @ 6,400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 350 lb-ft @ 1,600 - 5,200 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 7-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 12.3 / 9.1