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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

2021 Infiniti Q50: Luxury sport sedan challenges world’s best with great looks, terrific powerplants

The 2021 Infiniti Q50 is quick and beautiful. Its four-person cabin flirts with luxury and bristles with tech.

The Q50 is a compact luxury sport sedan, a segment dominated by high-profile Germans. Expectations run high here.

The Infiniti has the requisite trappings: terrific street appeal, a choice of two outstanding engines and a full menu of technology, ranging from driver-assist features to drive-by-wire-steering.

The Q50 is built on a rear-drive platform. All-wheel-drive is available for a $2,000 premium. 

The Q50’s suspension has the firmness needed to put the sport into a sport sedan and the compliance needed for a comfortable ride. 
 
Nimble, maneuverable

With its compact dimensions and sure-shifting gearbox, it’s nimble and maneuverable in traffic. On the open road, it feels steady and settled.

We tested the top-level Red Sport 400. Its adaptive shock dampers respond in real-time to changing conditions. Activated when the driver selects Sport or Sport-Plus from the drive-mode menu, they sharpen chassis responses to changing conditions.

The lightly weighted steering system is not as quick or accurate as the class leaders. An available Direct Adaptive Steering system lets the driver adjust the amount of steering assist and feedback but lays down another layer of electronic mediation between driver and machine.

A variety of factors — the decline of sedan sales, the pandemic, management turmoil — have disrupted the Q50’s life cycle. It debuted in late 2013 and, aside from the 2016 update, which brought the Red Sport 400 and steering system updates, has remained largely untouched.

It has grown a little too long in the tooth to be truly competitive with the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Dated but satisfying

Even so, I regretted having to return the keys at the end of my test week; I had grown fond of the smooth, strong push of the Red Sport's twin-turbocharged six and its lovely, rumbling exhaust tone. 

I had made my peace with its awkward two-screen infotainment system and the paucity of casual cabin storage. Good seats — the Red Sport has nicely bolstered sport seats — and a premium 16-speaker Bose sound system go a long way toward making things right.

Stitched soft-touch surfaces cover the upper dash and door panels. There are redundant infotainment and temperature controls. But a dearth of knobs and buttons relegate some key functions to secondary menus.

Fit-and-finish seemed sound in our tester but materials quality falls short of class expectations and the overall design is busy and dated.

There’s good legroom for a pair of backseat riders but the sloping roofline reduces headroom. The trunk is on the small side.

The Q50 is available in four trims, Pure ($38,600); Luxe ($41,700); Sensory ($47,600); and Red Sport 400 ($55,750).

Two great engine choices

All Q50s but the Red Sport 400 are powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 300 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. In the Red Sport 400, a twin-turbocharged version of that engine makes 400 hp and 350 lb-ft.

With the base engine, the Q50 zips from 0-60 in the low-5-second range; the Red Sport 400 does it in 4.5 seconds.

All Q50s are equipped with the two-screen infotainment and navigation systems, LED headlights, simulated leather upholstery, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated mirrors, a WiFi hot spot (it can connect up to seven devices) and forward-collision mitigation.
 
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard. 

The Luxe adds navigation, a sunroof and adaptive cruise control and opens the door to options not available on the Pure. New driver-assist tech includes a 360-degree rearview camera, automatic high-beam LED headlights, blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning.

The new-for-‘21 Sensory trim adds the Red Sport’s adaptive dampers, real leather, paddle shifters, sport seats with memory, high-performance summer tires, upgraded brakes, lane-departure warning and the Bose system.

The Q50 is slated for a full makeover in 2023. There’s talk that it may abandon its RWD, luxury orientation for a more practical and less sporty FWD format. 

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD
Vehicle base price: $38,600
Trim level base price: $57,500
As tested: $61,890
Options: Carpeted trunk-area protector; cargo net; first-aid kit; shopping bag hook; rear USB charging ports; illuminated kick plates; carbon fiber rear decklid spoiler and outside mirror covers; premium paint
EPA rating: 22 combined/19 city/26 highway
Premium gas specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.