When I read recently that the mid-sized sedan was heading for extinction, pushed aside by the surging consumer lust for crossovers and SUVs, my initial inclination was to consider it fake news. But the evidence is everywhere: the hulking, slab-sided SUVs released, however grudgingly, from Bentley (and, soon, Rolls-Royce); smaller fare eagerly hawked by everyone from Jaguar to Alfa Romeo to BMW to GM to, well, everyone else. But are sedans really doomed? We’ve already mourned sport wagons and manual transmissions — now this?
So it was with a tinge of sadness that I recently climbed into Infiniti’s freshly facelifted Red Sport 400 Q50 sedan — and sighed wearily. “What’s the point?” I thought, rueing the imminent loss of all four-seat, low-center-of-gravity machines even as I admired the Q50’s red contrast stitching and grippy new steering wheel. The Q50’s 400 horsepower, twin-turbo V6 helped, of course. Diving into the first few real turns outside of Nashville lifted my spirits further, and after a few hundred miles through lush, rural Tennessee, I was willing to accept our collective fate. If cars like the Q50 become the fringe darlings of the automotive elite… fine. Screw ’em. They can have their crossovers. I’ll take something lighter and lower and leaner any day.
Engine: twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6
Transmission: seven-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive
Torque: 350 lb-ft
0-60 MPH: 4.5 seconds
Price: $57,300 (as tested)
In the Q50, the payoff — already abundant in the original Q50, honed in this one — is ridiculously gratifying. From a purely visual perspective, the styling has been enhanced both inside and out: a crisper cut on its front bumper, more prominent air intakes, an airfoil at the base of the front bumper. Inside, there are new materials, more supportive seats, and a re-molded steering wheel that provides comfortable spots for your thumbs to either rest or grip furiously, depending on what you’re up to. Infiniti’s infotainment system, InTouch, remains a hair inscrutable — and I’ll be forever skeptical of dual-screen systems being in any way better than a single big screen.
Out in the wild, the car feels powerful and smooth, with none of the inherently limiting behavior that higher, heavier crossovers and SUVs possess when you’re pushing hard. The Q50’s surprisingly taut steer-by-wire system — there is no direct mechanical link between the steering wheel and the wheels — grows more refined with every release and has been retuned yet again to be a hair tauter. It’s precise, tunable based on your drive mode, and natural.
Diving into the first few real turns outside of Nashville lifted my spirits further, and after a few hundred miles through lush, rural Tennessee, I was willing to accept our collective fate. I’ll take something lighter and lower and leaner any day.
The engine — recognized recently as one of the 2017 Ward’s 10 Best Engines — offers this 400 horsepower incarnation, but also a 300 horsepower variant and options for a 208 horsepower two-liter four and a 360 horsepower V6 hybrid. There are other enhancements beneath the skin in the suspension, stiffness and exhaust — all of which contribute to a complete upgrade that’s worth the wait.
But whither the lowly sedan in general, and the Q50 specifically? I managed to calm down a bit about the future of low-profile four-doors as the Q50 lulled me into blissful driving enjoyment in Nashville. Yes, Crossovers and SUVs are indeed carving out massive slices of the U.S. market, but trends shift, and everyone has their preferences. (It wasn’t too long ago that pickup trucks reigned supreme.) The pendulum may indeed swing back in favor of sedans. What will truly define their future is whether the configuration continues to feed the corporate bulldog. With the Q50 leading the way at Infiniti in sales, and the style still drawing not-insignificant love from consumers, it’s safe to say we won’t have to bid adieu any time soon, which is a very good thing.
Infiniti hosted us Nashville to experience the updated Q50. Opinions are that of the author.
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