Test Drive: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD
The first time the automatic braking system in my 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD kicked in, I was surprised. The second time I was impressed.
I had been told the safety systems were unusually aggressive. In fact, some have to be turned on every time the car is started. Apparently, Infiniti engineers worry that people who buy sport sedans might be offended by anything that overrides their driving styles without their approval.
I disagree. The Red Sport is the most powerful version of Infiniti's best selling car. It comes with a 400-horsepower twin-turbocharged V6, a quick-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission and an upgraded suspension. But because it is an Infiniti, the Red Sport it is so quiet and composed that it is easy to drive much faster than it feels.
Not that I was doing that. I was coming up behind a truck stopped at a red light at the speed limit when the car decided it was too fast and began applying the brakes before I did. I realized what was happening, of course, but still waited until my usual braking distance to step on the pedal.
But the way the Q50 slowed itself was different than most front collision mitigation systems I had ever experienced. They tend to be abrupt and accompanied by flashing warning lights intended to scare drivers. Instead, the Infiniti slowed smoothly. Although no one else was in the car, there's no reason any passenger would not have known I wasn't doing the braking the entire time.
So at the next red light, I didn't touch the brake pedal at all. And sure enough, the Q50 gracefully slowed to a complete stop with a respectable distance between it and the truck. I wouldn't advise any owner to drive that way all the time, but the level of sophistication of the automatic braking system was definately above current industry standards.
Which is true of almost everything else about the 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport. It is designed by Nissan's luxury division to compete against the best sport sedans in the world, including those produced by the European powerhouses. And it accomplishes that goal, thanks to a mix of crisp styling, luxury appointments, and both standard and optional performance upgrades.
Best of all, it costs less than most the competition. Our test model was priced at $61,710, but that included $8,700 worth of options, including the an upgraded sound system, exterior carbon fiber trim pieces, and additional safety systems.
The essential hardware is packaged in the Red Sport's $53,000 base price — including the powerful V6, the seven-speed transmission, the Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive system, and the choice of five different driving modes, beginning with Eco and running up through Standard, Sport, Sport+ and Personal, which can be tailored to the driver's liking.
Both Sport and Sport+ offer quicker throttle responses and firmer suspensions for more spirited driving. Although Sport was best for day-to-day driving, the suspension in Sport+ was not as punishing as those in some competitors. But, like with the automatic braking system, the Eco settling was more aggressive than usual. All restrict throttle response to save gas, but in the Q50, drivers have to press the gas peddle firmly to overcome it. So if you're not serious about getting the best mileage, don't use it.
Infiniti knows that not all drivers are going to want everything that comes with the Red Sport package. There are actually 12 models available.
The base Q50 — called Pure — is still a very nice car that costs less than most competitors. It comes with turbocharged 20-liter four cylinder engie that a respectable produces 208 horsepower, paired to the same seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive for $34,200.
More upscale versions are designated Luxe. A version with a less powerful, 300 horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 starts at $38,950. All-wheel-drive is a $2,000 option with all of them.
A powerful hybrid version is also available.
Although the Q50 was introduced in 2014 and is an aging design by today's standards, we found nothing to complain about in a week of daily use. Infiniti is keeping it competitive with tweaks and upgrades, and the Red Sport 400 AWD version remains one of the best buys in the serious sports sedan market today.
2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD
Base price: $53,000
Price as tested: $61,710
Style: Mid-size sport sedan
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 (400 hp, 350 lbs-ft).
Transmission: 7-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted shift paddles
EPA fuel economy: 19/26
Length: 189.6 inches
Weight: 3,671 to 3,993 pounds
Final assembly point: Tochigo, Japan