2018 Infiniti Q50: Subtle Restyle

Strong points
  • High-performance engine
  • Advanced safety systems
  • Semi-autonomous driving systems
  • Standard features
Weak points
  • Very little feedback from the steering
  • Less dynamic than its rivals
  • Very minor changes to the body
  • Very minor changes to the cabin
Full report

Having premiered in March at the Geneva Auto Show and now scheduled to make its way into Canadian dealerships in August, the 2018 Infiniti Q50 has been restyled ever so subtly—to the point that the changes aren’t even noticeable. The brand’s sport sedan borrows its steering wheel and shifter from the Q60, and is now offered in five distinct trims: 2.0t Luxe, Hybrid, 3.0t Luxe, 3.0t Sport and Red Sport 400.

Let’s start with the cosmetic changes. Up front, the front fascia on the Sport versions is more aggressive than on the Luxe versions, but in both cases the changes are limited to the underside of the bumper. Same goes for the rear section, where the Luxe versions are equipped with a very subtle diffuser that’s colour-matched with the body, while the Sport variants get a black diffuser with more stylish exhaust tips.

What else? All versions are now equipped with LED headlights and taillights, and new rims. There are more minor changes in the cabin, where the gauges feature new colours. The base version now has wood accents instead of aluminum ones. In the Sport versions, the new steering wheel, taken from the Q60 coupe, has shift paddles mounted directly on the wheel rather than on the steering column. Basically, we’re dealing with details here and not major transformations.

The engines are unchanged. There was just one version available for our test drive in the Nashville area: a Q50 Red Sport 400 with a 400-horsepower, twin-turbo V6. It featured the U.S. configuration (meaning rear-wheel drive) while all Q50s destined for the Canadian market will have standard all-wheel drive. Since RWD cars handle differently than those with AWD, there's no point discussing our test vehicle’s dynamics which won’t be available in Canada.

Photo: Infiniti

In the end, the Q50 Red Sport 400 RWD turned out to be more pleasant to drive with the suspension calibrated in Standard mode and the steering and engine calibrated in Sport+ mode. Yes, the Q50 lets you customize handling characteristics to that degree. However, you’ll have to find your way through several menus and sub-menus to access these settings, which is no easy feat while driving.

That said, we can definitely comment on the modifications made to the adaptive steering—known as steer-by-wire—which has no mechanical link between the steering wheel and the front wheels. Even though they reconfigured the software that controls the steering, it remains artificial and doesn’t provide very good feedback.

In fact, the only advantage is that the ride is slightly less irritating when driving in a straight line on poor surfaces because the steering wheel doesn’t shake, even when the front wheels follow the road’s undulations. The electronic driving aides are still there, which means you can let go of the wheel and let the car follow the lines painted on the highway. In fact, the Q50 is even able to follow the occasional wide curve all by itself.

Like its predecessors, the 2018 Infiniti Q50 has more powerful engines than its direct rivals and more advanced passive safety and driving aid systems. However, its handling still comes up short. Choosing a 2018 version doesn’t add much to the conversation, as it’s just been restyled and not revamped. To be honest, we expected more.

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