What is it?
The Infiniti Q50 is a mid-size executive saloon that competes in one of the fiercest categories in the new car market. We’re testing the top-spec, all-wheel-drive hybrid version.
- All-wheel drive
- Petrol-electric hybrid power
The Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD has cornered a (small) niche in the compact executive segment, being the only car to offer all-wheel drive and hybrid power in the same car.
In isolation, the Q50 is a very good car that you’d be quite happy to live with. It’s quiet, comfortable and has plenty of performance. The hybrid system means that you can trundle around town in near-silence. There’s plenty of standard equipment in the top-spec model, albeit with some noticeable omissions.
The problem is that there are several alternatives that do most of those things better, although none of them can tick every box. So unless you really need an executive hybrid saloon with all-wheel drive, you may be better off looking elsewhere.
The Infiniti Q50 is a niche player in a hugely competitive market segment, going up against cars like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and many more. It’s one of the toughest gigs in the new car market, which many manufacturers have tried and failed to conquer.
The Q50 is no spring chicken, either. It’s been around since 2013, although has been updated a few times over the last six years. But it remains one of the oldest cars in this segment, making the Q50’s task even harder when all its big-name rivals are newer.
Infiniti’s approach has been to concentrate on niches within the executive segment, which is probably a sound strategy. There is only one body style – a saloon – rather than an estate or liftback option. There’s only one engine choice as well, a hybrid unit combining a 3.5-litre petrol V6 with an electric motor, and a small number of trim levels that are all reasonably well-equipped.
And then there is the one niche within a niche that Infiniti seems to have to itself. It’s currently the only compact executive saloon that can be had with all-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain. Others give you AWD (Audi A4 quattro, BMW 3 Series xDrive, etc.) or a hybrid option (Lexus IS 300h), but none do both.
This window of uniqueness will close fairly shortly as the new Volvo S60 T8 arrives later this year, which will feature all-wheel drive and a plug-in hybrid powertrain. However, that will feature a different type of hybrid system (plug-in vs. self-charging) and a different kind of all-wheel system (the Infiniti can send petrol power to all four wheels, whereas the Volvo sends petrol power to the front wheels and electric power to the rear wheels).
We spent some time driving the top-spec Infiniti Q50S Sport Tech Hybrid AWD (to give it its full and formal title) in the snowy Swiss Alps, which was an ideal environment to test the all-wheel-drive system’s effectiveness – not to mention the seat heating!
So how does the Infiniti Q50 fare? In many ways, it’s surprisingly good, while in others it predictably falls a bit short.
Buying and owning an Infiniti Q50S Hybrid AWD
The Infiniti Q50 may be the most popular car in the company’s history (it’s popular in America), but it’s still a rare sighting on British roads. Sensibly, Infiniti has decided to ditch its diesel offering and concentrate on the petrol-electric hybrid powertrain.
Trim levels have also been streamlined for 2019, with three specifications of Luxe, Sport and Sport Tech. The latter two versions are also available in all-wheel drive.
The hybrid power unit brings together a 3.5-litre petrol V6 with a 50kW electric motor. Together, they produce 364hp of power and 546Nm of torque, which results in effortless performance in any situation.
The downside of that big petrol V6, in particular, is that fuel economy and emissions figures are not exactly stunning. The all-wheel-drive model returns a combined fuel economy figure of 26mpg under the latest WLTP standards, and CO2 emissions are high at 190g/km. The two-wheel-drive models are very little better.
Combined with fairly steep pricing, it means that the Infiniti Q50 is neither cheap to buy nor run compared to most of its rivals. The Q50 Luxe starts at £43,415 on-road, while the top-spec Q50S Sport Tech Hybrid AWD model hits the road at just over £50K.
If you’re buying the car for personal use and not doing enormous mileage, that may not be too much of an issue. However, company car buyers and those covering a lot of miles each year will find very good alternatives that cost less money.
The good news is that you are at least getting quite a lot of kit for your money, especially in the top-spec Sport Tech model that we tested. The leather seats are heated and electrically operated, the Bose stereo sounds great and the adaptive headlights steer into corners.
Safety-wise, the flagship Sport Tech models get the full dose of driver assistance technology with kit like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and blind-spot detection. It was crash tested by Euro NCAP way back in 2013, scoring five stars, but that rating is not particularly relevant today as the testing has got tougher in the meantime.
Continued on next page: Interior, drive experience and our verdict