2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400: First Drive Review
Infiniti’s best-seller just got its mid-cycle refresh. Is this a mid-life crisis, or a second wind?
The Infiniti Q50 has been on sale since 2013, and received a massive powertrain refresh in 2016 with three new engine options. Just one year later, the car is getting its mid-cycle update, but with the constant improvements it’s seen since its inception, how do you mid-cycle update it? You don’t, really. Instead, you treat it like the Constitution and continuously feed it upgrades.
When the Q50 was first introduced, Infiniti had a problem. The luxury automaker’s third-generation (V37) BMW 3 Series competitor was panned by the media as having lost the special sauce of the first- (V35) and second-gen (V36) Infiniti G-series cars. Critics loathed the Q50’s new electronic power steering, and overall less-sporty nature.
Enthusiasts deeply in love with the first two generations cried foul when they discovered the third-gen car lacked a limited-slip differential. But then Infiniti took a page out of the Nissan GT-R playbook and began incrementally upgrading the Q50 with each model year. In 2015 the steering got better. In 2016 they dropped the aging VQ37 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V6. Despite its age, the old mill was still terrific with an impressive 328 horsepower; however, torque was only 269 lb-ft.
In the VQ’s place came the cutting-edge VR30 3.0L twin-turbo V6 with 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. While I was a fan of the VR30 in the 2016 Q50 Red Sport 400 I drove early last year, there was a problem with the engine note: there wasn’t one. In keeping with the incremental improvement, for 2018 Infiniti is offering two versions of a louder dealer-installed exhaust.
ALSO SEE: 2017 Nissan GT-R Premium Review
I think that’s the biggest news when it comes to the 2018 facelift. Yes, the updated front clip looks more aggressive, the rump looks cleaner and more sophisticated, and there are some minor updates to the interior, but those visual tweaks pale in comparison to how much a proper exhaust transforms this car’s driving experience. What I love most about the upgraded exhaust noise, and what you may have already seen me demonstrate in the video above, is that the Q50 Red Sport 400 now sounds a lot like the Nissan GT-R.
While our test car had the quieter of the two dealer-installed exhaust systems on offer, I was still impressed with its volume and exotic personality. Here’s a link to how our test car’s dealer-installed sport exhaust sounds up close. Compare that to the loudest, muffler-free option below that almost rivals V8 perfection.
If you buy a 2018 @INFINITIUSA Q50 Red Sport 400, you have to get this dealer-installed sport exhaust. It gives me the feels. pic.twitter.com/JKCSLcZh3u
— Manuel Carrillo III (@mc3films) August 11, 2017
If you like your loudness in the form of music, too, there’s an available Bose Performance Series audio system to keep you entertained via its 16 speakers, three of which are 10-inch neodymium woofers — two in the front doors, and one on the rear deck.
For 2018, Infiniti also says it’s tweaked the Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) so that when you’re drifting the living hell out of this thing as God intended, you have more control at the limit. I would have like to have drifted the living hell out of this thing in order to scientifically validate Infiniti’s claim, but unlike my time with the car in San Antonio last year, they offered no track time this year.
Still, there was plenty of opportunity for spirited driving on our picturesque Tennessee drive route where I got to test the 2018 Infiniti Q50’s suspension tweaks. While tackling turns at 8/10ths, the car still wanted to move around a lot, but it wasn’t enough to scare me. It felt controllable, and if anything, it made the driving experience feel a little more lively. Where I really noticed the suspension tweaks was under high-speed braking.
The Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is better than ever,
especially now that you can hear its 400 hp singing hymns as it thrusts you to stratospheric speeds.
My complaint with the 2016 Q50 and the 2017 Q60 was that the rear end felt unstable under heavier braking from high speeds. This year, it felt as though Infiniti suspension engineers addressed this issue. The Q50 now feels planted when braking heavily from freeway speeds. My drive partner was more liberal than I with his speed on the interstate. When he saw a police officer, he had to panic-brake from 135 mph. The Q50 didn’t miss a beat. I was sitting in the back seat when this panic braking occurred. While I was caught off guard, the car wasn’t, and best of all, we didn’t get pulled over. I’ll attribute that to the Q50 Red Sport 400’s excellent brakes that can make speed disappear long before the highway patrol’s radar or lasers bounce you off to jail.
Speaking of jail-related activities, if you saw the donuts at the beginning of the review video above, you’ll have noticed both rear tires had no trouble producing prodigious billows of smoke. Yes, G enthusiasts, the Q50 still lacks an LSD, but for the occasional hooligan, the brake-based limited-slip setup does just fine. There’s no need to cry about the lack of an LSD unless you’re a competition-level drifter. Even then, you’d be using a locked rear diff anyway.
To sum up, the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is better than ever, especially now that you can hear its 400 horsepower singing hymns as it thrusts you to stratospheric speeds … or at least to 60 mph in less than five seconds. Is it objectively better than the second-gen car? Yes. It’s faster, quieter, roomier, more comfortable, safer and more efficient. Has it surpassed the previous-gen car’s magic? No, but I haven’t given up on this one. Case-in-point: the DAS has improved significantly since it was first introduced for 2014. I believe the power of software engineering can make this system rival or exceed the magic of hydraulic systems from the good ol’ days. We simply have to give Infiniti’s engineers more time. After all, they’ve got a formidable second wind in their sails.
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