SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) — I rarely gush about a car.
Infiniti's Q50S deserves it. From the moment I laid eyes on it, I was smitten. Its exterior styling is sleek, sporty and sexy in all the right ways. It's not overdone, but rather makes a classy, stylish statement the way a pricey sports sedan should.
Then you open the door, turn on the ignition and can't help but be momentarily mesmerized by the large, bright dual LCD screens on the console. Many cars have one LCD screen these days. The Q50's two screens are just one more added luxury that sets this car apart.
Once you manage to pry your eyes off all of the technology the car is packed with, you begin to notice you're surrounded in rich leather with shiny aluminum accents, a tinted glass moonroof and power heated seats.
Then you put the car in drive and pull away from the curb. The Q50's pickup is serious. Throw-you-back-in-your-seat serious. Its tight handling of the road reinforces what a well-made sports car this is. And that's when you really know for certain it's going to be a fun ride.
The Q50 is a sequel to Infiniti's G-series sedan, now known as the Q40. Its base price is $43,000.
Many reviews of the car have said the Q50 is Infiniti's attempt to hold its own among the likes of BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. Infiniti says that's not necessarily the case.
"I wouldn't say we were aiming for one thing or another. I think Infiniti is trying to be Infiniti," the automaker's spokesman, Kyle Bazemore, says of comparisons to other well-respected luxury cars.
Be that as it may, the carmaker has done a more than adequate job with the Q50 in giving luxury competitors a run for their money. When compared with many other cars I've test driven this year, the Q50 is the best combination of style, technology, luxury, performance and price.
There are several technological offerings in the car that Infiniti describes as world's firsts.
First, the Predictive Forward Collision Warning system.
This system warns you of risks that lie beyond the driver's field of view. Not only can it sense the relative velocity and distance of a vehicle directly ahead of you, but also of a vehicle two cars ahead of you.
"We take it one step further," Bazemore says. "If the car two cars in front of you is slowing, there is a warning ... so you get to react first. It works through radar that bounces off the asphalt [and] goes under an 18-wheeler or if there is a low-slung sports car, it will go up and over."
The Q50's Direct Adaptive Steering is another technological first that Bazemore says the carmaker is particularly proud of.
Developed after more than 10 years of research, the system allows independent control of the Q50's tire angle and steering inputs, transmitting the driver's intentions to the wheels faster than a mechanical system. Various reviewers have described this feature as fully electric, drive-by-wire technology — or as an elimination of the physical connection between the steering wheel and the car's front wheels. Steering actions are instead piped through an onboard computer to the wheels. A backup mechanical steering system, however, is provided with models using the new technology.
Finally the Q50 includes Active Lane Control. This feature relies on a camera-based system to keep you in your lane. Not only does it adjust for unintended lane drift, but it also makes finer adjustments for minor road surface changes or crosswinds.
"We provide all of this technology to make the driving experience more fun, safer and take the stress out of it," Bazemore says.
Other important notes about the car include the choice of powertrains — 3.7-liter V6 and 3.5-liter Hybrid. Both are matched with an advanced 7-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with manual shift mode and available steering column-mounted magnesium paddle shifters.
A few minor downsides — with all the technology and thoughtfulness this car comes with, there is no cooling function for the seats. And the legroom in the back seat seems a bit tight.
The car is aimed at high-income 30- to 40-year-olds.
And while it may not be a car I could see myself putting a baby seat in and using to run around with kids, it's definitely a car I'd keep around for all those other driving moments, when I simply want to have fun and enjoy the car.
Critiques say it doesn't quite offer the same experience as its luxury competitors. But I maintain it's done an admirable job of packaging a car that combines many great qualities. Clearly I'm not alone in that feeling.
Nissan's Infiniti owns about one-quarter of the luxury segment that the car competes in, Bazemore says.
"It's a pretty strong statement for us," he says.