Infiniti Q50 Red Sport Review

This is going to be one of those stories that starts out ambitious, then gets sad, then gets awesome. If all you’re looking for is the Q50 review, scroll down a few paragraphs. If you want the full story, read on.

It all started in the late winter of 2017 in the South. We had an abnormally warm winter, often reaching into the mid to upper 70s during the day. Sensing the warmer weather was approaching (and along with it, massive crowds at the Tail of the Dragon), a friend of mine (who has never been) suggested we get a group of enthusiasts together and book a weekend before it fills up. “Great idea!” I thought. Sounds like a blast, plus it would be good to stretch the legs of my C7 Corvette after a winter of relative inactivity. Apparently some other friends had the same idea, and the roster grew to include a lightly modified BRZ, a stock BRZ, and an E46 M3.

As February faded and March set in, the warm weather started to fade. A look at the weather a few days before the trip showed a cold rain Saturday night through Sunday. “No matter,” we thought. “These weathermen can’t predict what’s going to happen this afternoon, let alone almost a week away. Plus, we’ve already booked the rooms”. Friday came and was a beautiful 66 degrees and sunny. I hopped in my C7 and headed east to the rendezvous point in greater Nashville. (Bonus – got stuck behind some giant space capsule type looking thing.)

I met up with my friends and discussed the plan for the next day. “Wake up early and hit the road” was the general plan. I got up and looked outside. Cloudy. No big deal. Hopped in the shower and when I came out, there was an inch to and inch and a half of snow covering everything.

The stock Michelin Pilot Super Sport ZP tires on the C7 essentially turn into bricks at anything under 50 degrees F. Driving on them in the snow (assuming I could even make it out of the driveway) would be irresponsible. My buddy agreed, and benched his lightly modified BRZ as well. Its in tip-top shape, and he didn’t want to spoil it with road salt. Understandable.

Luckily, his wife just got a brand new 2017 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport. “Let’s just take the Q” he said. “Isn’t that just the 2.0T model?” I asked. “Hell no man, we don’t fool around in this household” he answered. “This is the Red Sport”. My eyes lit up like I was 9 years old and had just spotted a Red Rider BB gun under the Christmas Tree. “I’M IN!” I exclaimed.

Messages began to roll in from the rest of the crew. “Its snowing lightly here… are we still doing this?”. “Yeah, radar shows its local and won’t last. It wont be a problem”. So we hit the road…

Nobody seemed to want to drive in the snow, so I volunteered. Might as well get used to the girl before I take it on a thrash, I figured.
We met up with the BRZ and the M3 at a gas station and proceeded to convoy further east, towards Deal’s Gap. By this point, the storm was mostly rain, although the Q and a few other cars showed signs that they had come from an area where it had been snowing relatively hard.
The M3 accelerated fairly aggressively on the onramp in order to merge. “Its going to be one of THOSE convoys!” I thought. I fed the Q some throttle and the back end immediately stepped out, even with a trunk full of luggage and wine mass, and the vehicle in ECO mode. “Whoops… there will be none of that!” I informed the passengers.

Once on the highway, we settled to a fairly steady 80-ish mph cruise through some mostly minor hills and traffic. In Eco mode (which basically de-sensitizes throttle response and holds a lower RPM), the Q delivered 27-28 MPG. This particular Red Sport was optioned with the Premium Plus package, which includes a mostly useless navigation (more on that later), remote start, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and a couple other insignificant items.

Being that it was snowing out, I thought it was appropriate to sample the heated seats and heated steering wheel. I’ve driven other vehicles that only heat certain sections of the wheel, as to suggest that that’s where you should keep your hands. The Q played no such games, and heated the whole 360 degrees. Other standard features included Infinti’s BEAUTIFUL Iridium Blue paint, 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters (more on that later as well), and illuminated kick panels (not exactly a “standard” feature, but good luck finding one without this option).

Notably absent was Infinti’s awful “Direct Adaptive Steering” system, AKA steer-by-wire. This system has been complained about since it was just a concept, and I’m thankful this vehicle didn’t have it. If you don’t want that option, you aren’t allowed to have the technology package, including lane departure prevention, distance control cruise, adaptive headlights, blind spot warning, etc. Overall, this smartly optioned Red Sport came in at a touch over 52 grand.

It was around this point that I asked if the center arm rest could move forward. “That’s a big negatory” my friend said. The problem is that with the steering wheel telescoped out as far as it will go, your elbow STILL lands on this unpadded hard corner section of the arm rest. This is unpleasant for a luxury car. Minus 1 for Infiniti here. 6-foot-plus people with long forearms might not have this problem.

The front seats are excellent. Adjustable side bolstering and tilt lets you really dial in the feel for cruising vs aggressive driving. The rear seat predictably had essentially no “bucketness” to its cushions. Dropping the center arm rest provided a structure for back seat passengers to brace themselves on in the twisties.

One major contention I had with the car during my drive was the windshield wipers. As far as I could tell, there was no “intermittent” setting. There was off, “auto”, and Warp 10. Auto is supposed to be some kind of rain sensing system that flat out does not work. Minus 1 more point for infiniti. The worst part is that they still give you the dial on the stalk to adjust what would normally be the intermittent time, so you THINK you have that feature, but apparently it’s just to adjust the sensitivity of the automatic system…

By the time I got done pushing all the buttons in the car, we had arrived at the mouth of the dragon. We stopped one last time to top the tanks off with premium, and warn the passengers that shit was about to get real. We put the car in sport mode and gave chase to the M3. We immediately noticed the clanging of wine bottles in the trunk. A mile or so in, there’s a scenic lookout spot. We pulled over to re-group, re-pack the wine, and reiterate to the passengers about the realness of the shit. It was at this point that I noticed a distinct yet faint smell of cooking brakes coming from the Q.

We got back in our respective vehicles and hit the road. Another 10 or so miles of the twistiest motion-sickness-inducing-somehow-still-free road in the country. Mind you, it’s still wet out, and there’s actually flurries and snow falling from he sky. Another mile or so in, and the tires were warm enough to push the car a bit more. Around this time is when I realized this big girl has some moves. The transmission is still an automatic, but in the grand realm of automatics, its not bad at all. You might remember my review of the 7 speed auto in the G37 here. Whatever issues they had then, they’ve been fixed now. The transmission does a decent job of determining when you’re pushing it and should hold a gear, etc. That being said, I still left it in manual mode. The paddles do not move with the wheel, so in some turns you find yourself downshifting with your opposite hand. The shift schedule differences between Eco, Standard, Sport, and Sport Plus are very distinct. The automatic shift setting for Sport Plus does a great job holding revs high to keep you in boost when you get back on throttle.

Remember that mostly useless navigation I was talking about? It isn’t good at turn by turn directions, but up here in the mountains where there is no cell service (and therefore no Google Maps), you can still look at it and see whether the next turn will be a hairpin, or open up to a straightaway. One feature on new vehicles that I tend to like is accelerometers that show how many G’s you’re pulling at any given time (and the peak you hit in the curve). The problem with the Q’s gauge is that it doesn’t display an actual number, only a graph or G circle, which, again wouldn’t be a huge problem, but the graph/circle only goes to 0.5 G.

After hammering down for the last 10 or so miles, we pulled off at the Dragon’s Den Grill for lunch. Aside from two bikers in rain gear, we were the only ones there. Upon exiting the Q50, we were greeted with a horrendous stench coming from the vehicle. I had literally driven the “new” clean off the car. All the barcode stickers, rust preventatives, coatings, and little Japanese fingerprints were cooking off the vehicle from the hard driving. (We later determined that the smell was mostly from the brake pads – we’ll take brake smell all day long, because the brakes performed FLAWLESSLY, with literally zero fade over repeated stints through the mountains.)

We quickly evacuated the area and went inside for some lunch. By this point the owners of the vehicle were quite jealous of the drive and really wanted to take over, so I handed the keys over. The entire area is nothing but amazing roads, with the Tail of the Dragon being the cherry on top of the “sundae drive.” Our destination for the night was Fontana Village Resort. The trip there from the Dragon’s Den was less severe, but higher speed (and shorter).

When we booked the rooms in February, we had been experiencing very warm weather, and were told that there were no cabins available. We arrived to a virtual ghost town, most likely on account of the snow, and through some smooth talking and bartering, ended up with a cabin for not much more than our combined individual rooms. Bonus – it came with a hot tub!

After getting the room situation squared away and unpacking the vehicles, the vehicle owners decided to go out for another round on the amazing local roads. Fighting off a headache (and what would undoubtedly become motion sickness from back to back to back runs as a passenger), I decided to hang back and go for a hike around the resort. The driver’s sentiments about the vehicle echoed my own, if not higher. With longer straights on some roads, he was free to really punch the throttle and unleash the fury of the 400hp twin turbo 6. “This thing really rockets out of the hole!” he told me. The car still smelled like burning fingerprints when he returned.

The rest of the night was filled with various types of wine, snow/rain/sleet, dinner and drinks at the resort, hot tub shenanigans, and stories of the day. Around this point is when we checked the weather and saw we were predicted to get 4-6 inches of snow. We didn’t mind getting stuck for another day or so. A few of us tried to notify work (to no avail due to lack of cell signal and spotty internet) to let them know we might not be making it to the office on Monday if the snow really did hit…

We woke up to nowhere near the projected amount of snowfall, and it really wasn’t very cold out at all. Some of us had a quick snowball fight while others were asleep. After that, we cleaned up the cabin, checked out, packed our stuff, and hit the road again. By this point, the roads were mostly clear, however they did lay salt down on the Dragon the night before.

Again taking it easy at first to feel out the road situation (and let the tires warm up), we progressed past the Dragon’s Den Grill and onto the Dragon itself. This time, I was in the back seat. The rear seat isn’t exactly the place you want to be for this kind of driving, as the seats aren’t bolstered like the fronts are, but after dropping the center arm rest down to give me something to brace against, I found it to be perfectly adequate. The return trip through the Dragon led us back to the same lookout point where we got out to discuss breakfast plans. The Q STILL smelled horrible, although it was improving.

The temperature was quickly rising, and after we finished breakfast, we headed back towards Nashville. I alternated between the back seat and shotgun, and realized there really isn’t a bad place to sit in this car. Rear legroom is perfectly adequate, and certainly doesn’t lead the rear passengers to feel like they are in the “penalty box”.

After being “code yellow” for the last 40 or so miles of the trip, we got back to Smyrna where we unpacked and said our goodbyes. I loaded up the now snow-free Vette and started my 5 hour journey home.

In conclusion, I’m quite impressed with the versatility of the Q50, but I can’t stress enough to buy a model without the Direct Adaptive Steering (aka DAS) if you like steering feel… which you should. The Q struck a fantastic balance between comfort and performance, I just wish they’d fix some of the smaller details… and of course offer it with a manual transmission.

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