Detroit 2013: Infiniti Q50
Do you know the Infiniti G37? How about its immediate predecessor, the G35? As we’ve talked about before, you can just forget about that name (as Infiniti meanwhile hopes that buyers don’t forget about their brand), because the G is no more. Long live the Q. Q50, that is.
The G37, indeed the Infiniti brand in the U.S., has spent its entire time with us as a second-tier luxury brand. A friend once told me that the old G37 was a “spreadsheet car.” When you stack up the G37 against a BMW 335i on a spreadsheet, it looks like you’re getting more for your money in the G37. Throw in cheaper maintenance (at least before BMW started no-cost maintenance) and Japanese reliability, and the car should have sold much better than it did.
Yet it still wasn’t a 3 Series. For every 3 Series intender who buys a G37, it seems as if there are ten Jersey Shore gold chain-wearing types who drive G35/G37 coupes with tinted windows, oversize rims, and lowered suspension. This is what Infiniti is up against, not BMW, not Mercedes-Benz, not Lexus.
When the previous-generation G35 launched for the 2006 model year, the car packed a giant dollop of technology, much of which hadn’t been seen in the compact-luxury segment before. Clad in an overtly organic shape, Infiniti did sell a lot of Gs, just probably not as many as it hoped to.
Plus, as always happens in this industry, there’s always something newer and better around the corner trying to steal your lunch – or your buyers. For Infiniti, that was the Cadillac ATS, a reinvigorated M-B C-Class, an all-new F30 3 Series, and now an all-new Lexus IS coming to market as well.
Aside from the name change, Infiniti’s answer to the challenge is to improve upon nearly every aspect of the G37 with the new Q50. While the 328-horsepower 3.7 liter VQ V6 and 7-speed automatic remain the standard powertrain (gone is the small-displacement, small-power 2.5 liter V6 in the old G25 that nobody loved), the chassis, body, and interior are all new.
The new car casts a similarly-sized shadow to the old one; wheelbase remains at 112.2 inches, overall length grows by one inch to 188.3, width grows by 1.5 inches to 71.8, and height shrinks from 57.8 inches to 56.8. We don’t have official interior measurements (legroom, hiproom, headroom, etc.) but the car is more spacious inside than the outgoing Lexus IS and the Cadillac ATS.
Infiniti has moved on from its previous “human-machine interface” (which was a high-mounted touchscreen navigation system and a joystick, plus redundant steering wheel controls and rudimentary voice activation) onto a new dual-screen setup that it calls Infiniti InTouch. The upper screen displays navigation information, audio data, or trip data, while the lower screen is a capacitive touchscreen that is app-enabled. When paired with your smartphone, you can swipe from app to app (for instance, Pandora, phone, etc.) or control various functions from the lower screen (which will definitely be a fingerprint magnet, as a similar screen is in the Cadillac ATS/XTS, and as you can see in the photos). Infiniti also added a secondary knob behind the gearshift, similar in function to BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s MMI, or Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND, but much simpler in operation.
Interior materials are now (again) among the best in the class, where the old G35/G37 began its life cycle, but not where it ended. There are perhaps a few too many buttons on the steering wheel, which may be because so many have been removed from the center stack.
The Q50’s exterior design goes with more exaggerated curves, similar to the direction that competitors over the past few years have gone in. There are strong haunches over the front fenders, exaggerated swage lines atop the front doors and just above the rocker panels, and dramatic hips at the rear quarter panels. The shape of the Q50’s front fascia appears to cut a wide path, and the car has a nice interpretation of Infiniti’s trademark C-pillar shape (which manifests itself in the JX35 and QX56 pretty strongly. Another interesting detail of the Q50’s C-pillar is the line that cuts across it, from the chrome trim at the rear of the door into the decklid, forming a triangle at the edge of the trunk.
Along with the traditional V6/7-speed powertrain, the G50 will also be available at launch with a performance hybrid drivetrain. Rather than the gasoline engine’s 328 horsepower, the hybrid system boasts a net 360 horsepower, along with either all wheel drive or rear wheel drive with either powertrain.
The Q50 is a critical car for Infiniti, since the brand intends to up its game and compete against top-tier luxury brands around the world, and not just in the U.S. where Infiniti planted its roots. Infiniti’s management has high hopes for its brand, and with a future global lineup filling in both below and above the Q50, there should be plenty of room for growth. I liked what I heard about keeping performance and luxury the guiding principles the brand is based upon, but Infiniti is certainly not the only brand trying to offer that to buyers in the luxury market.