New Infiniti Engine Makes Q50 Smoking Hot Ride

The new Nissan/Infiniti VR engine is a winner in the refreshed Q50 sport sedan but its neck-snapping gobs of torque, not 400 hp, is the real story.

March 14, 2016

7 Min Read
Q50 Red Sport 400 on sale late spring in US
Q50 Red Sport 400 on sale late spring in U.S.

SAN ANTONIO – It’s no secret we at WardsAuto are big fans of Nissan’s VQ V-6.

The original, naturally aspirated VQ is what inspired us to create the Wards 10 Best Engines awards back in 1995.

The VQ made the list that year and the next 13 consecutive years. It had the perfect mix of power and refinement that we could not get enough of, typically experienced in the Infiniti G sedan and coupe.

But after decades of service, Nissan’s luxury marque is retiring the VQ, swapping it out for an all-new V-6, the VR, which has 85% all-new parts compared with its predecessor, a 3.7L VQ V-6.

After a day of driving the new 400-hp, 3.0L twin-turbo V-6 in a rear-wheel-drive Q50 sedan, successor to the G, we can say the mill is a worthy heir to the VQ. It makes the ’16 Q50 a stingingly fast, urgent and competitive entrant in the compact luxury sport sedan sector.

The VR in Q50 Red Sport 400, the only grade of the car tested here, achieves a heavily touted 400 hp at 6,400 rpm.

But for those times when you’re not screaming down the highway at wide-open throttle, the car’s 350 lb.-ft. (475 Nm) of torque is the real story. The old G37 could be weak on mid-range torque, with the 3.7L VQ not hitting its peak of 269 lb.-ft. (365 Nm) until 5,200 rpm.

Thanks to turbocharging, peak torque in the Red Sport 400 is delivered over a wide band, from 1,600 rpm all the way to 5,200 rpm. Testing supports this, as no matter the condition on the roadways here the car responds in a quick, no-fuss manner.

The carryover 7-speed automatic still is a fast shifter, although perhaps not as quick as DCTs proliferating in the luxury sector.

If there’s any criticism, it’s that the engine is one of the few components updated for ’16. This is a mid-cycle refresh, not a whole new generation of Q50, which makes the 3-Series and other competitors, including the relatively new Lexus IS, more alluring propositions.

With the exception of the spindle-grilled Lexus, this segment is void of styling risks. Even so, the Q50’s undulating sheet metal looks a bit tired. The styling of the Q50 partially is derived from the old G37 sedan.

The interior largely is the same, too – nicely executed with fine materials, but like the outside has an aging swoopy theme.

Like it or hate it, the dual-screen center stack remains.

While we appreciate the functionality of Infiniti’s 2-screen setup more than Acura’s, thanks to its clear-cut menus, one large screen would reduce confusion about what to find where.

Weight Not Watched

The Q50 still lacks some of the handling finesse of a 3-Series.

The Infiniti’s chassis gets tweaked – the double-wishbone front and rear multilink suspensions carry over, but now there are bigger front and rear stabilizer bars so as to “better…maintain contact between the tires and the road,” Infiniti says.

But the Beemer still seems the more agile of the two, perhaps because the new 320-hp 340i, with a MacPherson-strut-type front suspension and multilink rear, also is lighter than the Red Sport 400.

The RWD Red Sport 400’s curb weight is 3,853 lbs. (1,748 kg), 152 lbs. (69 kg) more than the 340i’s. Infiniti sees the 340i as a top competitor.

Like BMW, Infiniti offers an adaptive suspension for its compact sport sedan. Dubbed dynamic digital suspension, the Infiniti tech is on all Q50 Sport models, firming up adjustable shock absorbers when dialed to a sport setting. In sport, the car’s ride is taut but still forgiving.

As we said in 2013 upon the release of the Q50, the car’s Dual Flow Path shock absorbers can result in almost too-sedate handling for a sport sedan, seen here when the car is in standard suspension mode.

Suspension settings, as well as powertrain, steering and vehicle-dynamic control, are changed via a drive-mode selector on the center console. Infiniti says there are more than 300 possible combinations when adding in active lane control and active trace control functions, the latter able to apply brake pressure to inside wheels while cornering.

The Red Sport 400 rides on Dunlop’s SP Sport Maxx 19-in. summer performance tires, that have a foam core to limit vibration and harshness, a gripe from the old G37. However, they’re not enough to silence the racket from the fun-to-drive but rough-aggregate roads around San Antonio.

Infiniti engineers have tinkered with the Q50’s optional steer-by-wire system, direct adaptive steering, or DAS for short. The technology, designed to work in concert with active lane control, made driving the Q50 at its 2013 Boston launch a sometimes frightening experience. In automated steering mode it reacted sharply to potholes, and the steering-dependent and camera-based ALC meant the Q50 sped up in corners when it lost vision of a car ahead.

Unfortunately we aren’t able to check its behavior on those Boston routes this time, but a simulated crater-riddled street on a closed course reveals DAS gives the car remarkable composure vs. an electric-power-steering-equipped Q50, keeping the wheel as steady as if on a flat and glass-smooth Kansas highway.

The main benefit of DAS according to Infiniti’s literature is to reduce steering effort common with EPS-equipped models. If you’re a long-distance driver, or having fun at the track, this may prove beneficial.

Contrary to what people think about software-based steering systems, both DAS and the Red Sport 400’s standard EPS have a natural, not-too-heavy, not-too-light feel.

Red Sport 400 Low Volume

The 400-hp VR, due late spring, is projected to have the second lowest take rate of all ’16 Q50 powertrains (behind the Q50 Hybrid) at 10%-15%.

Seen appealing to more than half of ’16 Q50 buyers is the grade with a 300-hp VR V-6 that has one water pump vs. two in the 400-hp VR and lacks an optical turbo-speed sensor that enables faster blade spin. The 300-hp model is due in late spring/early summer.

On sale this month is a 208-hp turbocharged 4-cyl. co-developed with Daimler and also used in the Mercedes C-Class. The Q50 2.0t, ranging from $33,950-$39,650, is expected to account for 20%-25% of all ’16 Q50s bought in the U.S.

Infiniti’s first turbo-4 for the Q50 fills an especially gaping hole for the brand in Europe, but also is critical in the U.S., where the vast majority of compact sport sedans now come equipped with such fuel-sippers.

Not that the 400-hp VR is bad in that department. We average 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km) and an eye-popping 28.9 mpg (8.1 L/100 km) on a mix of country roads and highways, well above the 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km) combined EPA estimate, and on par with or just ahead of the 27-mpg highway figure.

The comparison between the Red Sport 400 and the 340i isn’t an apples-to-apples one, as the Infiniti is something closer to the 425-hp M3. But Infiniti lacks a brand similar to BMW’s M, so the Red Sport 400 may get stuck in the middle ground, seen as too high-powered by 340i buyers and not powerful enough to M3 buyers.

Then again, money talks, and the expected below-$50,000 starting price for the Q50 Red Sport, rising to roughly $55,000 fully loaded, could be enough to sway a BMW intender away from a $63,500 M3.

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'16 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Specifications

Vehicle type

4-door, rear-wheel-drive car


3.0L twin-turbo DOHC V-6, all-aluminum

Power (SAE net)

400 hp @ 6,400 rpm


350 lb.-ft. (475 Nm) @ 1,600-5,200 rpm

Bore x stroke (mm)

86.0 x 86.0

Compression ratio



7-speed automatic


112.2 ins. (2,850 mm)

Overall length

189.1 ins. (4,803 mm)

Overall width

71.8 ins. (1,824 mm)

Overall height

56.8 ins. (1,443 mm)

Curb weight

3,853 lbs. (1,748 kg)

Base price

Below $50,000 (est.)

Fuel economy

20/27 mpg (11.8-8.7 L/100 km) city/highway


Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Mercedes C-Class, Volvo S60



400 hp

Falls between 340i and M3

Handling above average

BMW still gold standard

Below $50k to start

Infiniti brand image lacking


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