What is it?
The Infiniti Q50 is a new rival for the BMW 3-series and point one in a plan that, if it happens the way Infiniti predicts, will see sales increase five fold within the next 5-10 years. Infiniti says the Q50 is an all new car, albeit one that still uses elements of the platform architecture of the outgoing G37. Make of that what you will.
What is beyond doubt is that Infiniti is serious both about this car and its prospects in Europe where you still need an electron microscope to see Infiniti sales (around 6000 units last year) relative to those of any of the vast German establishment figures it intends to tackle. To prove the point, Infiniti has bought diesel engines from Mercedes-Benz complete with their transmissions so it can at last enter the part of the playground where the big boys play.
In addition to the 2.2-litre diesel that is anticipated to take between 80-90 per cent of UK sales, there is also a petrol-powered hybrid using a Nissan 3.5-litre V6 coupled to a seven-speed auto gearbox and boosted by a 67bhp kick from its electric motor. Infiniti reckons to sell 1500 Q50s in the UK in its first year on sale – small beer for sure but still contrasting starkly with the fewer than 600 cars from all ranges sold in the last 12 months.
Infiniti has a long list of potential claims to fame for the Q50, but the most headline grabbing is the provision of the world’s first drive-by-wire steering system to be fitted to a car. Optional to the tune of £800 on the lower and medium grade models but standard on the Sport model, there is no mechanical connection at all between the wheel you hold and those that actually steer the car.
The manufacturer says it has enabled them to eliminate friction and kickback while allowing the driver to configure both the weight and response of the helm. Feel is digitally synthesised and should the system fail, a fully mechanical failsafe will automatically engage.
Prices start at £27,950 for the SE diesel, just undercutting the £28,410 asked for its key rival, the BMW 320d SE and rise past a Premium grade to £32,750 for the Sport. Options on all include navigation and various packages to enhance entertainment, safety, comfort and so on.