The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid, with its 364PS 3.5-litre V6 petrol-electric powertrain, combines impressive performance, the potential of good economy, and individuality that is very welcome in this sector.
When we tested the Infiniti M35h back in July 2011 we liked it a lot. It had performance, luxury and individuality in a sector dominated by similar German cars, and the hybrid system did improve the economy from the 3.5-litre V6 powerplant. The Q50 is the latest hybrid from the upmarket brand of Nissan and it aims to bring a hybrid offering as a rival to the highly popular BMW 3 Series.
The Infiniti Q50 combines a 306PS 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with a lithium-ion battery and a 68PS electric motor (and a 7-speed automatic transmission). These elements combine to give a total system output of 364PS. There’s a similar story in the torque department. The petrol engine delivers 350Nm of torque and the electric motor delivers a whopping 270Nm, giving a total system output of 546Nm. These are impressive figures.
The Q50 is an all-new car. Like the M35h, the exterior looks upmarket and has individuality in the face of German rivals. However, many people who saw the car thought it was a Lexus – mainly due to the grilles of both cars being a similar shape.
The interior feels classy, and has lots of technology. There are two information screens, the top screen for satnav, and another screen underneath for various vehicle settings, featuring extremely sharp graphics. The seats are also comfortable, however the driver’s seat automatically moves forwards/backwards when you get in/out, which isn’t to everyone’s taste. The hybrid battery sits between the boot and the rear seats and so the boot is smaller than the class average as a result (as well as being a strange shape).
On paper, the Q50 has a lot going for it. There’s the powerful 3.5-litre V6 engine, the hybrid system, and rear-wheel drive. And the statistics: 364PS, 546Nm torque, and 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds.
In practice, there’s good performance, you can change gear manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, and you can reduce the interference of the traction control, so it does have many attractive elements for driving enthusiasts. It’s also comfortable and generally quiet, although it can also make a pleasant sporty noise when required. However there can be tyre noise on some road surfaces.
The car works well in motorway traffic jams as long as there is sufficient battery capacity to provide all-electric running (one of the various information screens allows you to view the battery charge state). The Q50 can also stay in electric mode when coasting at motorways speeds; such ability is a sensible way of improving fuel economy.
However there is a sense that the different elements of the powertrain system combine together in a way that doesn’t deliver the most direct and seamless end result – for instance the changeover between the petrol engine and battery power, and gear changes, can both be a bit hesitant. This comment needs to be tempered by saying that the Infiniti does deliver a more direct hybrid drive system than a Lexus, which features a CVT along with its rise in revs and noise when accelerating; presumably this is why, in comparison, Infiniti calls its own system a ‘direct response hybrid’.
The Q50 also has ‘direct adaptive steering’. This ‘drive by wire’ steering has been designed so that one day Nissan can take control of your steering when you’re driving. Sounds scary? Welcome to the prospect of autonomous cars. A result of this for today’s driver is that the steering doesn’t feel as natural as other systems. As well as being able to change the engine/transmission settings (but not the suspension), you can change the steering settings between light, standard and heavy, the latter feeling artificially heavy.
You can deactivate the traction control, but it’s never fully off, and when it kicks back in, it can do so in quite a jerky way – a description that can also be levelled at the brakes.
The official combined economy figure of 45.6mpg and emissions of 144g/km CO2 are good relative to the car’s performance. However, as with all official economy figures, it has to be remembered that the NEDC test is carried out in a lab over a very short distance with very gentle acceleration. In real life, with a 3.5-litre V6 engine on tap, most drivers won’t have the restraint to avoid using the performance. And if you’re not going to use the performance, why buy a car with such an engine? So, although most cars fall way short of their NEDC figures in real-life driving, the Q50 Hybrid has even less of a chance of coming close to matching the official figure. During our week with the Q50 we saw a wide variety of economy figures (reflecting our wide variety of driving conditions), ranging from 19.7mpg to 46mpg, however the overall average ended up as 33.8mpg.
The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid costs £39,995. However our test car cost £47,415, with options of multimedia pack (£2,760); safety shield pack (£2,080); visibility pack (£1,040); electric glass sunroof (£880); and metallic paint (£660). This is quite a lot to pay for a car that is very good but that doesn’t quite have the dynamic sharpness of some rivals. The Q50 Hybrid has a company car tax liability of 21%.
If you like the idea of the Q50 but don’t want the hybrid then there is also the 2.2-litre diesel (from £27,950 for the manual or from £29,500 for the automatic), and there’s also an all-wheel drive Q50 Hybrid, costing £41,640.
As an interesting comparison, the cheaper Q50 170PS 2.2-litre diesel has an official combined economy figure of 64.2mpg, supporting the argument that the hybrid is designed primarily for the North American market, and the diesel will sell better in Europe.
The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid is a welcome addition to the class. It has a lot going for it, including in the areas of performance, comfort and exclusivity. If you drive it carefully, then you might come close to the NEDC economy figure, but if you drive it carefully, why buy a car with such a powertrain? So the Q50 promises a lot, but all of its individual components and systems collectively don’t quite deliver a sharp and direct driving experience in the way that a BMW 3 Series does – although the Q50 feels more upmarket and more individual than a 3 Series. The Infiniti Q50 Hybrid is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.