Scott Sturgis’ Driver’s Seat: Infiniti Q50’s handling disappoints


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Sport luxury sedans square off: 2014 Infiniti Q50 AWD Premium vs. 2014 Acura TL SE

This week: Infiniti Q50

Price: $51,955 as tested ($41,350 base price). The technology package added $3,200 to the price, and added blind spot warning, backup collision intervention, intelligent cruise and more. A navigation package added $1,400. (Still more packages are explained below.)

Marketer’s pitch: “Convention can’t keep up.”

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds.com liked the “many high-tech electronic and safety features; nicely detailed interior; excellent fuel economy from available hybrid model; muscular V6 engine; roomy trunk” but not the “no option to get a frugal four-cylinder engine; disappointing handling when pushed; ride quality isn’t as smooth as expected; hybrid version’s odd steering and braking dynamics.”

Reality: Q is for quirky, as in handling.

The pairing: We’re pitting the all-new Q50 up against Acura’s aging bread-and-butter TL. Both luxury sport sedans provide plenty of comfort for the driver, but the similarities end there.

First impression: Pretty inside and out, kind of a squeeze in the back. Sport mode is difficult to control.

Up to speed: The powerful 328-horsepower V-6 provides plenty of head-snapping momentum, feeling as fast as some of the hot rods I’ve tested. If an all-wheel-drive model is not selected, power comes from the rear wheels, though — great for automotive enthusiasts, but not so much for practical people who like to stay on the road in the winter.

Shifty: The ShiftTronic 7-speed transmission can be a little difficult to push and feels awkwardly located; I found myself happier leaving it in automatic mode.

On the road: Several modes of travel allow the driver to control the feel of the handling. Unfortunately, I found none of them satisfying — eco and normal were still quirky to me, and sport required more attention than an aging actor on a talk show. This could be due to the all-wheel drive, or the Direct Adaptive Steering, part of the $3,100 Deluxe Touring Package, which also added AroundView Monitor, front and rear park sensors and rain-sensing wipers.

Display: Sliding into a hot car on summer day, nothing feels more rewarding than blasting the air conditioning and feeling the heat disappear. At first I worried I’d be at the mercy of the display to operate the HVAC, because the display takes awhile to warm up — how ironic. (And a watched LCD display never switches on.)

Fortunately, the Q50 has enough buttons outside the display for the HVAC: temperature, fan speed and the source of the air. It took a little while to notice them and I think the air adjusted as directed while I was waiting for the display, but I was too hot to really notice. You’d think cooled seats would be included for $50 grand, but no such luck.

Comfy seats: I tried to make the best of it as I began that first hot trip, so I focused on maintaining my inner cool and getting the seat adjusted the way I like it. It’s easy to do, thankfully.

The controls on the side of the seat are the usual setup: Seat bottom control along the bottom; seatback control above and in the back vertically; lumbar behind that. And the seat does it all. The entire seat bottom raises straight up and down, not on an axis, and the lumbar support shuts off entirely. (The lumbar controls come as part of a $1,000 package, which also covers all the seats in dead cow.)

Friends and stuff: The console is a little on the small side, but a few CDs will come along for the ride.

The rear seat? Sturgis Kid 4.0, now 5-foot-9, reports rear seat room not that bad. I found legroom and foot room snug, although headroom is fine.

The center seat is there just for emergencies. The hump grows large for the all-wheel-drive components, and the console — small as it may be for CDs — is a big way into the back. Some smart engineer needs to come up with an adjustable console — room for junk when you need it, room for feet when you don’t. (And s/he also needs to acknowledge this column and send me a cut of the profits.)

Play some tunes: The LCD also controls the stereo, but at least the CD player is outside the unit so I can enjoy Tom Petty’s new “Hypnotic Eye” without waiting upon initial startup as well.

The steering wheel controls take a little getting used to, but eventually I figure out that the “OK” button in the middle will show me the list of songs and I can scroll through them. Using the display below the navigation can be complicated while in motion. The source changes via a tiny row of on-screen buttons across the top, and like the distant cousin the Nissan Rogue, the Q50 requires Mr. Driver’s Seat to steady his hand and aim carefully while the vehicle is in motion.

Enjoy the view: The AroundView monitor, that is. The backup camera also includes a view where drivers can see the car and everything from all sides, a great enhancement. I also recall seeing this setup in Audis.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 22.5 mpg in a suburban-heavy mix of driving. Feed the Infiniti premium.

Where it’s built: Tochigi, Japan.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports has no predicted reliability for the all-new Q; the similar G37 sedan has long been a best bet.

Next week: 2014 Acura TL SE.

“Wheels,” a special advertising supplement, appears inside today’s Post-Gazette.


Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at mrdriversseat@gmail.com

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