THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: A muscular blend of fuel efficiency and added power from a combined V6 and electric motor powertrain.
- What’s Worst: Infiniti makes much of its responsive Direct Adaptive Steering system but the feel seems almost nervous and too direct. It takes some getting used to.
- What’s Interesting: How Infiniti took hybrid performance to a new and more exciting sport level.
The last time I was at the wheel of an Infiniti Q50, former Formula 1 ace David Coulthard was sitting in the passenger seat, trying hard to be diplomatically and conversationally encouraging over the background noise of a roaring engine and squealing tires as I swept the car through the slaloms of a pylon autocross course.
That kind of situation tends to up your game a little, although I was nowhere near to plumbing the real capabilities of a contending sport sedan that easily rivals competitors like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.
For this more recent test, however, I was on normal city streets without a pylon in sight, sans racing celebrities, and at the wheel of a hybrid version of the car.
But lest anyone starts yawning here, we’re not exactly talking about penny-pinching performance, acceleration rates timed with a calendar, or “futuristic” styling that looks like an offshoot of some nerdy kid’s science project.
When the Infiniti Q50 hybrid was launched a year or so ago, there were a lot of jokes about “having your cake and eating it too”, due to the robust nature of its hybrid powertrain combo.
Normally, the Q50 harnesses a 3.7-litre DOHC V6 rated at a very satisfying 328 hp and 269 lb/ft of torque.
And, at first, the hybrid seems to back off a little from that power baseline, starting with a smaller 3.5-litre version of the storied VQ engine series, making lesser numbers of 302 hp and 258 lb/ft.
But that slightly smaller engine was just a modification to make room for the addition of an advanced 50 kW electric motor that ups the ante with an added 67 hp and 214 lb/ft of torque that combines with the V6 effort for a net power rating of 360 hp.
It certainly feels like it. Acceleration pushes you briskly into the back of your seat, the electric power characteristically peaking quickly at a low 1,650 rpm and blending seamlessly with the gasoline-powered V6 grunt.
Yes, the added hardware and the extra bulk of the 1.4Wh high-output Lithium-ion battery pack adds about 77 kg of curb weight (1,853 kg), compared to a similarly equipped Q50 AWD Sport model (1,776 kg). But the power-to-weight ratio still registers in the plus column and the Q50 AWD hybrid maintains a sporty 55/45 (front/rear) weight distribution.
And the hybrid carries over the sport performance characteristics of the 2015 Infiniti Q50, incorporating a sport-tuned lightweight aluminum suspension and standard and available technologies that include Direct Adaptive Steering (drive by wire), a camera-based Active Lane Control, Intelligent Cruise Control, Forward Emergency Braking, Distance Control Assist, Blind Spot Warning and Intervention, Backup Collision Intervention, Adaptive headlights and the world’s first Predictive Forward Collision Warning system, monitoring traffic behaviour beyond the car in front of you.
RELATED: 2015 Infiniti Q50 Review
The Infiniti Q50, starting at $37,500 and topping out at $48,950, normally comes in rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive configurations and in a choice of premium or sport-oriented trim levels.
While those same choices are offered for hybrid models in other countries, here in our smaller Canadian market we are limited to a one-choice AWD hybrid model, starting at $49,500 and coming complete with many of the features of upper trim levels.
The “S” for “Sport” badging on the back of our Q50S AWD hybrid model comes courtesy of a Sport and Deluxe Technology Package ($6,950) that adds most of the dynamic technologies listed above, along with extensive trim some of which includes: Magnesium Paddle Shifters; Sport Type Leather Seats; Sport Brakes; Aroundview Monitor and Advanced Climate Control
And all of this is wrapped in a stylish exterior package featuring the classic long hood, short rear deck proportions iconic to sport sedan design and bolstered with Infiniti’s trademark styling cues – the distinctive double-arch mesh grille, strong chiselled character lines and a sleek, aerodynamic profile bejeweled with LED lighting.
This is a good-looking sport sedan, unique in its styling and, with the addition of a hybrid powertrain, it offers fuel efficient performance along with the extra power, benefitting from regenerative braking, auto start/stop technology, and occasional electric-only performance at low or steady speeds. All those factors contribute to an 8.7/7.7L/100km (city/hwy) fuel economy rating, compared to the regular gasoline-powered Q50 AWD rating of 12.5/8.7L/100km (city/hwy). My real world results with the hybrid averaged out to 8.3L/100km (comb).
Outside of the added price premium for eco-minded sport sedan enthusiasts, there are few tradeoffs here, except for the loss of a 60/40 rear seat and pass-through, and a somewhat reduced trunk space (266 litres, down from 328 litres), both reductions due to the added hybrid battery pack.
The Q50 lineup will probably be revised in the coming future with a rumoured 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder addition and speculation about other changes that might affect future hybrid applications but, for now, the Q50 AWD Hybrid offers an intriguing blend of performance values with both power and fuel economy benefitting from this uniquely stylish and technologically advanced sport sedan alternative.
RELATED: Top Five Hybrid Sedans of 2015