There's just something different about sitting in an Infiniti.
It feels like being inside a structure shaped by nature; as if you are looking out on the ocean or an expanse of desert. All the hood shapes are gently curved, like stone carved by water or sand swells arranged by shifting wind. The visual effect is calming. Natural.
This week, Infiniti lent us a mid-priced Q50 sedan that shows off the model's 2018 design refresh. The Q50, Infiniti's most popular sedan, was introduced in 2014. For 2018, the styling has been tweaked to add visual interest to what was already an attractive package.
Our Liquid Platinum rear-wheel-drive tester stickers for $50,410 including about $10,000 in options. Q50s start at $35,105 for a Base version and stretches to $51,905 for the performance oriented Red Sport trim. Our tester, in Sport trim with a 300-horsepower V-6, notches just below the Red Sport.
Although technically a mid-size sedan, the Q50 competes alongside luxury compact sedans such as the BMW 3-series and Lexus IS. Its value quotient is high, offering a six-cylinder turbocharged engine for about the price of the competitors' four-cylinder turbos.
-Model: 2018 Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport
-Exterior color: Liquid Platinum
-Interior color: Graphite
-Engine: 3.0-liter V-6 turbo
-Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
-Fuel economy: 29 mpg highway, 20 mpg city
-Local Dealer: Infiniti of Chattanooga
-Price (as tested): $50,410
Richard Maddox, new car sales manager at Infiniti of Chattanooga, says his dealership has about 20 of the new Q50s in stock this week.
"The (V-6) turbo has plenty of power and the fuel economy is great, about 23 miles per gallon in combined driving," he said. "And they've made some changes to the car inside and out this year."
STYLING AND FEATURES
The nose of the Q50 has been updated to highlight the trademark double-arch grille, which remains prominent but tasteful. Meanwhile, recessed fog lights look a bit like a shark's gills. In the back, a small spoiler lip is built into the deck lid and the taillight assemblies are new. The design changes are subtle but may register with existing Q50 customers looking to upgrade.
Our tester is the Q50 3.0t Sport — 3.0t is short-hand for a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter, V-6 engine. The Sport trim includes handsome 19-inch wheels, along with new front fascia parts and and the restyled rear. Inside, there's a new steering wheel and a few switchgear tweaks, nothing dramatic.
The stance of the Q50 is long and low, with graceful side-view lines that look like tracks laid down by ice skaters going in opposing directions. Meanwhile, there is a race-car edge to the interior. The front seats are firmer than before, maybe even a bit over-firm for someone with back issues, like me.
There's room for five in the mid-size Q50, but three back seat passengers would have to get chummy on a long trip. Perforated leather seat coverings and a leather steering wheel cover add to the upscale vibe.
Standard equipment includes the 300-horsepower V-6 engine, seven-speed automatic transmission, summer-rated run-flat tires, LED fog lights, and Infiniti InTouch dual-screen infotainment system.
Several option packages augment our tester. An Essentials Package ($2,500) bundles navigation, heated front seats and remote engine start. A Proassist Package ($1,650) includes a basket of safety-tech features, including blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and a unique around-view monitor that works like a drone camera hovering over the vehicle.
A $1,500 Performance Package adds a self-adjusting suspension system, sport brakes with painted calipers and paddle shifters. A Sensory Package includes a 16-speaker Bose sound system, memory seats and an ambient lighting package. We're a little dubious about the $465 illuminated kick plates, which seem a bit pricey for such a tiny frill.
Q50 buyers have the choice of four engine options. Base Q50s come with a 208-horsepower four-cylinder turbo engine that seems a bit anemic for this package. Our choice would be a 3.0-liter turbo V-6, like the one in our tester, and indeed Maddox says this is the best seller at Infiniti of Chattanooga. Performance enthusiasts can reach for the Red Sport trim which tunes the 3.0-liter turbo to produce 400 horsepower.
In a week of Chattanooga-area driving, our tester proved to be a sturdy mountain-climber. The Q50 can be adjusted to any of several driving modes, including snow, eco, standard and sport. Although the stock summer tires would be a stretch in snow mode. All-season or dedicated snow tires would be a good investment for mountain dwellers — as would the all-wheel-drive option which can be added to any Q50 trim level for $2,000.
The Q50 is fun to drive, although we found the pinched-in A-pillars impeded forward visibility some. The ride is firm and planted, with just a little tire noise intruding on an otherwise quiet cruising experience.
Acceleration is sporty. One leading consumer magazine clocked an all-wheel-drive V-6 Q50 at 5.7 seconds in the 0-60 mph dash.
The Q50 is a compelling value proposition in a class dominated by the German makes, the BMW 3-series and the Audi A4. Too, the drift toward SUVs has led to some amazing lease deals on luxury sedans. If you are in the market for a sporty four-door, the Q50 should be on your must-drive list.
Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/ mkennedycolumnist.