SAN DIEGO — It’s been a rough few years for Infiniti. The luxury sibling to Nissan saw overall vehicle sales drop by 30% from 2019 to 2020, moving just shy of 80,000 cars last year.
Those aren’t great numbers, but this also presents an opportunity. There is no light without the dark and Infiniti can’t have a turnaround without first having a rough go of things. And it also provides a chance to do something I love: building a fantastic, underrated car.
A friend recently asked me about buying the Lamborghini Huracán (which I reviewed last week, not coincidentally) and I pointed out that while it’s truly excellent in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a particularly uncommon car. Lamborghini sold nearly 2,200 of them worldwide last year, and I pointed out that something like the Polestar 1, which is limited to just three years of production at 1,500 units per year, will be a much rarer vehicle if that’s something you’re interested in.
I like cars that are different from the ordinary. Drive around any well-to-do neighborhood and you’ll see a ton of Mercedes E-Class and BMW X5 and GMC Yukons. These are all very good luxury vehicles, but they don’t really stand out as unique — and that’s something that’s worth considering when buying an automobile, especially if want to set yourself apart from the crowd.
And that’s where we come to the Infiniti Q50. In 2020, Infiniti moved 16,533 of these sedans which is more than I would have guessed. You just don’t see them very often, which is unfortunate because it’s an incredibly well-sorted sports sedan. Though Infiniti offers the Q50 in a mind-boggling ten different trim levels depending on how many wheels you want to spin and how much luxury and sport you want to pay for, my test unit was the top-shelf Red Sport 400 AWD, and it’s clearly the one to get.
It’s sporty, luxurious and understated, yet fast, fun and perhaps the biggest surprise I drove this year.
My test car was painted in Slate Gray which was one of those colors that sounds boring but is actually the opposite. It reminded me of the sort of makeup that women wear that makes it look like they aren’t wearing makeup. I still don’t understand it.
The fantastic paint ($695) was combined with a tasteful carbon fiber package ($1,520) that equipped the car with a carbon fiber rear decklid spoiler and side mirror caps. At first glance it looked like a normal sedan, but then if you look for a second you can see the sculpted nips and tucks on the hood and side skirts and the lovely 19-inch wheels and the bright red brake calipers. It’s an incredibly pleasing effect without being too shouty.
Inside the luxury continues with lovely leather touchpoints and very comfortable seats and a well-laid out interior. The infotainment system is a bit dated, I’ll admit, but I liked the dual-screen much more than I thought I would. And the Q50 has Apple CarPlay now, which is a huge addition, and you can have your phone (with nav, as I usually do) on the top screen while the lower screen shows your currently playing track. It’s dated, but with CarPlay available, it’s more than adequate.
And now we get to the pièce de résistance, and the reason why I loved this car so much: the engine and the chassis are massively, incredibly, wonderfully well sorted. The 400-horsepower twin-turbo three-liter V6 is a dream (and the same engine is offered in the Nissan 370Z coupe), offering delightful punch at any speed and handling corners with aplomb. Say what you will about Infiniti’s cars as they’ve aged but the Q50 Red Sport is a champ.
It held corners on tight on- and off-ramps on the highway. It zipped from red light to red light like an excited cat. It impressed at the Volvo dealer when I had to bring my personal vehicle in for service, with the jaded salespeople coming outside to inspect it (which is an accomplishment all its own).
I don’t really know how to sum it up — the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is a really, really good driver’s car and, with Apple CarPlay on board as well as very decent incentives from dealers to buy one (my tester MSRP’d for $61,890 but you should be able to do better), this might be the sleeper sports sedan of the year.