It's been a long time since I've owned a car with a loud custom exhaust, and never one that was a factory upgrade. In the days before DEQ testing, I almost had muffle shops tear the factory exhausts off my cars and replace them with straighter pipes and less restrictive mufflers that made more noise — a lot more in a couple of case when I lived outside of town and didn't worry about waking up the neighbors too early or late.
But as I grew older, moved to Portland and had to live with more regulations, I left my cars alone to make sure I could keep them registered. Of course, after i began reviewing cars, I've tested several with loud factory exhausts. All of them were serious sports cars, including a handful of Corvettes, a McLaren and a Ferrari that was ear-splitting while idling at red lights.
So imagine my surprise when the next one was a subdued looking compact luxury sedan. The 2020 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD came with a factory Axle-Back Sport Exhaust Kit that put out a healthy growl when started that turns into a serious snarl on the road and a satisfying roar under heavy acceleration.
I might have expected that from a performance-oriented factory BMW or Mercedes, but not an Infiniti. Nissan's luxury brand is mostly known for quiet, well-balanced cars and crossovers that drivers appreciate and hardly anyone else notices. The exterior styling tends to be restrained, especially compared to the polarizing models being produced by Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand.
Despite the Red Sport name, my Q50 was a somber shade of grey appropriately called Graphite Shadow. I assume the word "red" refers to the color of the large brake calipers, just about the only outward sign that it is something special.
But don't be deceived. The "400" refers to the 400 horsepower produced by twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 under the long hood. Also producing 350 foot-pounds of torque, the pressurized power plant proves Infiniti is serious about competing against the best sports sedans in the world. A less powerful 300-horsepower is standard for those who don't need that much power.
During a week of test driving, the rest of the Q50 lived up to the engine. The suspension was firm without being stiff, an improvement over some sport sedans that are difficult to live with in the real world. The upgraded brakes also worked great, as expected. And other the steering wasn't anything special in th Normal drive mode, it tightened up in the Sport and Sport+ modes.
The interior was also up to luxury car standards, with comfortable and supportive leather sport seats and a full assortment of the most advanced automotive technologies. A dual touchscreen setup dominated the dash with a lower screen that handles all settings, including climate and audio controls, and an upper screen for backup camera and navigation display.
Our test Q50 also came with all-wheel-drive that provided impressive traction during occasional spring rainstorms. It could also be adjusted for snow.
Of the Japanese luxury brands, Acura has attracted the attention of performance fans with its NSX sport car while Lexus is pursuing them with its F Sport handling packages. But with the Red Sport edition of the Q50, Infiniti proves it needs to be taken seriously, too — especially for those who enjoy the sounds of a low-restriction exhaust.
2020 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD
Base price: $56,250
Price as tested: $57,645
Type: Luxury sport compact sedan
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 (400 hp, 350 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 19/26
Overall length: 189.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,998 pounds
Final assembly: Los Angeles, California
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