NASHVILLE – One way to fully appreciate today’s vehicle technology is to drive a car from yesteryear. The striking contrast shows how far the industry has come.
Vintage cars are wonderful, in their own way. Museums are dedicated to them. Clubs and collectors are devoted to them. They look retro cool. But by today’s advanced-technology standards, they are relics.
I have a sort-of vintage car, one that’s getting up there, anyway: a ’84 BMW 325i. In its day, it was considered high-tech. Its digital readouts display info such as fuel economy, range and outside temperature. That was novel 30 years ago, hardly so today.
My car’s steering is loose, something I’ve particularly noticed after driving a redone ’18 Infiniti Q50 on twisty and rolling roadways in eastern Tennessee during a media preview of the refreshed sports sedan.
Steering my old car isn’t like spinning a ship tiller, but there’s lots of give. I can turn to 11 or 1 o’clock without the car responding much.
In contrast, the Q50’s steering is stellar, about as good as it gets. It features the brand’s second-generation Direct Adaptive Steering, a steer-by-wire system that uses electronic connections between components.
Infiniti is the only brand with a system that relies on electrical signals sent from the steering wheel to front-wheel motors.
Gone is steering tug. Gone, too, is the reliance on mechanical connections. There is a mechanical rack-and-pinion setup, but it’s only there as one of the backups in the event of a system failure or catastrophic situation.
Theoretically the electronic steering wheel could go anywhere in the car (although the front driver’s side still seems like the best spot).
Infiniti first came out with Direct Adaptive Steering in 2013, heralding it as an industry first. A rap against the original version was that it kind of felt like it was driving you. The latest iteration cedes more control to the driver, but deserves an Oscar for best supporting role.
The system allows drivers to personalize levels of response and feel to suit driver preferences. It lets you pick levels of steering assistance, adjusting steering ratios and effort depending on speed and circumstances.
It rapidly transmits driver input to the wheels and makes up to 1,000 steering adjustments per second. It responds to varying speeds, road surfaces and chassis behavior.
It’s not just the steering, though. The Q50 is a modern marvel, with Infiniti throwing a lot of its engineering talents into it. It is the brand’s best-selling vehicle, with 44,067 deliveries last year in the U.S., according to WardsAuto data.
“We’re committed to this car, and we’ve committed the resources to make it world class,” Infiniti planning director Keith St. Clair says of the Q50.
The ’18 model features refreshed interiors and exteriors and a new trim nomenclature consisting of entry-level Pure and going up in order to Luxe, Sport and Red Sport for speed demons.
Prices range from $34,200 for the base Pure version with a 2.0L 4-cyl. engine to $51,000 for the high-output Red Sport. Add $2,000 for all-wheel drive in any of the models. Various option packages range from $1,500 to $2,950.
Leading the Q50’s four powertrain choices is the VR-series’ 3.0L V-6 twin-turbo engine. It is a 2017 Wards 10 Best Engines winner. It is available in two tune states: 300 hp and 400 hp.
Infiniti bills it as the most advanced V-6 it has ever made, and that’s not idle boasting. It’s smooth, not showy; quiet, yet expressive.
The entry-level engine is a turbocharged 2L 4-cyl. rated at 208 hp.
Among engine features is an integrated exhaust manifold built into the cylinder head. The catalytic converter is closer to the exhaust point, resulting in a shorter flow path for hot exhaust gases. The catalytic converter heats up faster and operates more efficiently.
Also faster are the twin-turbo system’s revolution speeds, aiding the cause of quick responsiveness. A turbine speed sensor allows the turbo system to perform at up to 220,000 rpm, delivering higher power and torque, higher than ever for a V-6, Infiniti says.
The old days of spray-and-pray turbo systems and turbo lag are a distant memory.
Among the Q50’s advanced safety features are adaptive cruise control, blindspot and lane-departure warning, forward-collision avoidance and Around View. (Infiniti notes it was first 16 years ago with rear-view backup cameras, which will be mandated on all cars sold in the U.S. beginning next year.)
Dynamic Digital Suspension is optional on the Sport and standard on the Red Sport. It features electronically adjustable shock absorbers. Dial down for comfort-oriented ride, up for tight agility.
Regardless of the selection, the active suspension system is constantly adjusting the shock absorber value within a wide range of damping forces. We took some sharp turns in Tennessee and body roll virtually was nonexistent.
In addition to being stuffed with the latest technology, the Q50 is eye-catching. It has a sculpted look to it, from the double-arch grill to side lines that look like waves to a two-tone rear diffuser.
The cabin is well-appointed, per luxury-car standards, displays fine material and high levels of craftsmanship. Double-stitched leather-like materials surround the instrument panel. Curated wood trims provide high-gloss accents.
This car could be a collector’s item one day.
Infiniti Q50 Specifications
|Vehicle type||Four-door rear-wheel-drive sports sedan|
|Engine||3.0L direct-injected twin-turbo V-6 (core powertrain)|
|Power (SAE net)||300 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque||295 lb.-ft. (383 Nm) @ 1,500-5,200 rpm|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||86 x 86|
|Wheelbase||112.2 ins. (2,849 mm)|
|Overall length||189.6 ins. (4,815 mm)|
|Overall width||71.8 ins. (1,823 mm)|
|Overall height||56.8 ins. (1,442 mm) with roof rails|
|Curb weight||3,186 lbs. (1,603 kg)|
|Fuel economy||20/29 mpg (14.1-9.7 L/100 km)|
|Competition||Lexus IS, BMW 330i, Audi A4|
|Packed with technology||Car in a CUV world|
|First-rate interior, infotainment||Tough competitors|
|Head-turning good looks||Tight backseat space|