Infiniti Aims at BMW With Expanded Q50 Lineup

The Nissan luxury brand will offer four powertrain choices, up from two, in its compact-sport-sedan lineup in the U.S.

February 29, 2016

3 Min Read
300 and 400hp versions of new V6 available in Q50
300- and 400-hp versions of new V-6 available in Q50.

SAN ANTONIO – Infiniti says the newest additions to its Q50 powertrain lineup are aimed squarely at BMW’s 3-Series buyers, a segment of the American auto-buying population Japanese luxury makes so far have had difficulty attracting.

“We are positioning this vehicle to compete against the 320i,” Anand Patel, regional product manager-Infiniti U.S. says of the new Q50 2.0t being launched next month in the U.S.

That model uses a 2.0L turbocharged and direct-injected 4-cyl. making 208 hp, outpacing the 320i 2.0L turbo I-4’s 180-hp peak.

The Q50 2.0t’s maximum torque is 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm), beyond the 320i’s 200 lb.-ft. (271 Nm).

BMW also offers the 328i, which generates 240 hp and 255 lb.-ft. (346 Nm) of torque from its 2.0L twin turbo I-4.

Infiniti briefly, from 2010-2012, had a lower-horsepower engine to match the downsized turbo-4s of the German sport sedans.

It offered a 2.5L, 218-hp V-6 in the Q50’s predecessor, the G, but the 2.5L was discontinued after two years due to approaching regulatory issues.

“(Nissan/Infiniti) didn’t want to reinvest in that powertrain so we had to go dark for a couple of years…until we got the new 2.0L,” Patel says. “That’s really what we needed. Where everybody is going is the downsized turbo (4-cyl.).”

The new 2.0L, developed with Daimler but assembled by Nissan in Tennessee, also gives Infiniti a lower starting price for the Q50.

Because the previously V-6-only Q50 was more expensive than the G when it launched in 2013, Infiniti decided to retain the old G37 sedan, renaming it Q40 as a way to retain price-sensitive buyers.

Now discontinued, the Q40 began at $34,000 in ’15, below the $37,000 staring price of the ’15 Q50.

Infiniti hasn’t released pricing for the ’16 Q50 lineup, but hints it will be competitive with BMW’s 3-Series.

The ’16 320i starts at $33,150.

Red Sport 400 Treads High-Performance Territory

Infiniti also is aiming the upper echelon of the Q50 lineup at BMW buyers.

The new Red Sport 400 grade of the ’16 Q50 is positioned as a 340i competitor, Patel says, although its 400-hp rating clobbers the 340i’s 320-hp peak.

He acknowledges the Red Sport 400, with Infiniti’s new VR 3.0L twin-turbo V-6, is verging on BMW M territory but isn’t quite there, as the M3’s 3.0L twin-turbo I-6 churns out 425 hp.

The Red Sport 400’s pricing will fall between the two BMWs, with a projected base of under $50,000. A fully equipped Red Sport 400 will fall in the mid-$50,000 range.

The 340i is $45,800 to start, while the M3 begins at $63,500.

Patel says the bulk of ’16 Q50 sales will be the 300-hp version of the new VR V-6. The 2.0t grade is expected to account for 20%-25% of total Q50 sales, while the Red Sport 400 could draw up to 15% of the overall mix.

The Q50 typically sells at half the 100,000-unit annual volume of the 3-Series in the U.S.

Patel says Infiniti wants to increase Q50 sales but can’t say what the top level is.

“I don’t know the limits (of our production capacity but), we certainly have plans to increase our volumes,” he says.

Japanese luxury makes have had difficulty attracting buyers of German brands, but Patel says that is changing with the first-generation Q50, which debuted in 2013 as a ’14 model.

“We’re starting to see more and more customers from the other side,” he says.

However, he acknowledges the hill still to climb for Infiniti and others trying to challenge BMW, as well as Mercedes and Audi.

“The German brands have high loyalty and their heritage is quite strong,” he says. Infiniti debuted in the U.S. in 1989. BMW, Mercedes and Audi officially arrived in 1975, 1965 and 1968, although sales for all three began in the 1950s via privately owned distributors.

The Q50 Red Sport 400, so named because of its red “S” exterior badging, goes on sale in late spring in the U.S. while the 300-hp Q50 arrives in late spring or early summer.

The 360-hp Q50 hybrid carries over for ’16 with no major changes.

[email protected]

Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.

You May Also Like