By on July 21, 2017

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Power and performance. Luxury and emotionBalance and elegance. These are the seductive adjectives experts in automotive marketing insist can be found in a company’s newest offering, especially in the premium sports sedan segment.

After spending time on the back roads of Tennessee with the revised-for-2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, is the marketing hype true? Does it really deliver all the desirable adjectives you’d like in your premium sports sedan offering?

In a word, no.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Before we delve too deep, there’s a note to be made about this particular First Drive. All Q50 testers were top-trim Red Sport 400s. This Q50 is the only variant with 400 horsepower under the hood, while all others make do with 300 or less. This isn’t the volume model most people will buy. If you go check out a Q50 and it’s not a Red Sport 400, it won’t feel like the car that’s outlined below. With that said, read on for some basic facts before we dive into the review.

Pricing

For 2018, new trim levels appear, for a total of six. The Q50 ranges from $34,200 for a base 2.0t, up to $51,000 for a Red Sport 400. My Red Sport 400 example had nearly all option boxes checked except for all-wheel drive, and totaled just over $59,000 including destination.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Exterior

Walking up to the Q50 for the first time, I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely bowled over. The sparkling white paint looks nice, but the dark wheels and optional carbon fiber mirror caps and spoiler takes some getting used to.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Throughout the day the Q50’s looks grew on me. It’s cohesive and the lines generally make sense to the eye — or mine, anyway. The white paint here is much less aggressive than the Dynamic Red, an extra cost option. Infiniti’s signature design kink at the rear of the greenhouse appears toned down when compared to the automaker’s crossover offerings, and that’s just fine by me.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

All angles say “sport,” and the wider stance in the rear is noticeable if you’re paying close attention. I did like the lower valance between the exhausts, which is color-keyed on Sport and Red Sport 400 models.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

The grille is very nearly vertical, adding quite a sharp edge to the front end when viewed from the side.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

The trunk closes with a reassuring sound — a trait I always notice. Its doors made a similar “clunk” upon closure, though the pull action and the door handle itself felt downmarket. The handles are plastic, and simply do not feel substantial in the hand. Call me nitpicky, but there isn’t a good linear or solid return action when the handle retracts after pulling. A chintzy, plasticky sound feels unwelcome here. But the door’s open, so let’s step inside.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Interior

The Q50 Red Sport 400’s interior differentiates itself nicely from other models. You’ll first notice the contrast stitching threaded throughout the cabin — it’s red, naturally, on all Red Sport models, regardless of exterior color. For 2018, the Q50’s interior comes only in black, though Infiniti plans to introduce additional colors the following model year. The nicely padded door armrest proved comfortable over a long drive.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Quilted leather seats are available only on the Red Sport 400, coupled with power side bolsters — another top-trim exclusive — that ensures the seat feels like it’s tailored specifically for the driver. Leather, which abounds in this cabin, is soft, with a thick but slightly rubbery feel to it. I’d put the quality marker right at “good.”

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Dark, aluminum-look plastic trim appears on the doors, though the main-event door and center stack trim is a diamond-print, aluminum-look material. Plastic, once again.

One feature missing from the interior was present even in cars like the Q50’s predecessor, the G37, and as the temperature headed into the low 90s, its disappearance became apparent. There are no ventilated seats in the Q50 (or Q60, for that matter) at any trim level. It’s a serious luxury oversight.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Front legroom is good, and sitting behind a six-foot driver isn’t an issue for those of average-or-lower height, though the center rear seat is punishment born of Transmission Tunnel Hell. Headroom however, is another matter. For drivers and passengers over about 6’2″, contortions are necessary to fit into the Q50.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Trunk volume is 13.5 cubic feet. A rival Lexus IS has 10.8 cubes, with the Audi S4 boasting 13. A competitive cargo area for the class, and Infiniti furnished it with handy straps for folding the rear seatback. And look, unobtrusive struts for the trunklid!

Electrical Bits

The Infiniti InTouch system serves as the foundation for climate, radio, and navigation functions, and is reasonably simple to use. Redundant physical button functions flank either side of the screen for climate control. Unfortunately, there’s a lag between button presses (when selecting temperature, for example), meaning the change in temperature displayed on the dual screens lacks synchronization. There is no Apple CarPlay, for the record. Throughout, menu items are large and well-marked, and easy to navigate.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Drive It

Power. We have to talk about power first, as the Q50 Red Sport 400 shines in this regard. As the current owner of a 2009 Infiniti equipped with the VQ35 engine, I can also attest to having experience with VQ37-equipped vehicles. This new VR-series 3.0-liter V6 feels smoother and more refined, emitting a far more pleasing engine note than either of those engines ever did. Even middling throttle applications garner an immediate and firm response from this engine. As well, the twin-turbo V6 displayed no noticeable turbo lag or turbo whine — just noticeable gobs of torque. At no point did any situation arise where power wasn’t sufficient.

The foundation for how this car feels, for better or worse, is via the drive mode selector switch located on the center console. I stuck to the Standard, Sport, and Sport+ settings. Standard mode netted me light, loose steering and a lazier throttle input, as well as a slower-reacting transmission. Sport+ made the steering heavier than needed, the throttle a bit angry at inputs, and downshifts excessively harsh. Sport mode was where I left things most of the time, and where I think the Q50 was designed to stay. Which brings us back to steering.

This is a drive-by-wire system called DAS or Direct Adaptive Steering. For 2018, Infiniti made improvements to the system after the last version was widely critiqued upon introduction. Perhaps a version 3.0 is in order, as the steering experience isn’t quite what you’d call desirable. Turn-in is sharp enough, and while I never had a problem placing the Q50 exactly where I wanted in a corner, the wheel feels entirely dead in your hands.

Numb.

The wheel is not interested in sharing today.

Tires presented another problem. In a cabin free from wind noise and rattles, the tires make their presence known on all but the most perfect roads. All testers came fitted with 19-inch summer performance rubber, so I can only hope whichever all-season run-flats Infiniti chooses are quieter.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

The white Q50 was one of two testers equipped with a new motorsports exhaust option, fitted at the port of entry, according to the build sheet. Unfortunately, while it does improve the audial experience when you’re accelerating by way of a nice growl, it also drones on endlessly in everyday driving conditions. As this is just an option, I won’t knock the overall experience. It bears mentioning that nobody with a regular-exhaust car wanted to swap after lunch.

Contrasting these prior complaints, I have none about ride quality. Firm and controlled, bumps don’t translate through harshly to the cabin or your seat, as is often the case when automakers design a sedan as a sports vehicle. The Q50 manages body roll quite well in sharp turns — it seems the Dynamic Digital Suspension carries out its job admirably.

Also comfortable are the seats, with firm and supportive bottom and back cushions. Following a day spent sitting in the driver and passenger seat for roughly five hours, I was still comfortable, with no stiffness or numbness. Well done there, Infiniti.

Braking action proved robust, bringing the heavy car to a halt in very short order. One gripe is the pedal’s touchiness, even after minimal travel, requiring some effort on the part of the driver to learn smooth braking. A little more pedal travel before serious brake force application would not go amiss. The first several stops for a new Q50 driver will likely give passengers a headache.

A final mechanical complaint concerns the transmission. The seven-speed automatic wants to be your friend. It wants to help you up and down the gears, and anticipate what you need. The problem, however, is the over-eager programming. While upshifts under hard acceleration are handled smoothly, the bad news comes when you desire to drive normally or slow down. Heading up a small incline and starting to lose speed, a very small depression of the accelerator will cause an immediate jump down two gears, resulting in too much acceleration. Some corners that would’ve been well handled by the suspension and tires were ruined when a downshift (or three) upset the vehicle’s balance and speed. Thus, I found myself on fun curvy back roads wishing for a straight highway where I could use that power.

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Verdict

Here’s where I have to bring this mixed bag of Japanese candies together. The Q50 Red Sport 400’s power is undeniable. The engine comes from a company which knows how to do V6 engines and put turbos on things. The Q50 is made well, in Japan, using good materials. But the lack of refinement in the transmission, NVH from the tires, and the dead steering are not really acceptable, especially so when you consider the model’s opposition. Infiniti is pitching this particular Q50 directly against the IS350 F-Sport and the Audi S4. Big luxury sport names there, and that’s a good thing. Aim high. The Red Sport 400 easily smashes its rivals in the power category, but needs more positive attributes added to the big positives of power and build quality.

Perhaps, though, there’s a different customer for this enthusiast model. The same conclusion kept creeping to mind: this Q50, in this trim and with 400 horsepower (and hundreds of additional pounds of weight over competitors), makes much more sense if you think of it as a Japanese muscle car. An alternative entry targeting the other kind of powerful sedan enthusiast. I just don’t know how many of those are out there.

[Images © Corey Lewis/The Truth About Cars]

Full disclosure: Infiniti provided travel to Nashville, as well as hotel accommodations and meals. 

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57 Comments on “2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 First Drive Review – All About the Power, but at What Price?...”


  • avatar

    $60,000?

    F*** that noise.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I think this car makes a lot more sense with the more basic 3.0t at a high-$40,000 price point.

    And thanks for the “manufacturer provided the ride, hotel, etc” disclosure at the end, Corey. That’s become inconsistent on this site.

  • avatar
    scott25

    I was going to correct “audial” to “aural” but apparently they’re both words that mean the same thing.

    Great review, addresses most of the TTAC B&B complaints that appear after most reviews.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    More than most manufacturers, Infiniti has been pushing driver “assists” for years. Ten years ago, four wheel steering and adaptive cruise control were options on the G37. Lane keeping assistance was available on other Infiniti models. All such options interfered with motivated drivers’ control. Skipping them gets you a more driveable car. One option well worth getting is all wheel drive. It makes far better use of power on any surface than does rear wheel drive.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Seriously, I can post in this article now Oh Glorious Website? Hen ku!

    This is very well done piece Corey. How spacious was it for front passengers? How many feet wide was the shifter console?

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Thanks! At the front I could stretch my legs all the way out as passenger. The console is not huge – that’s a little 11 oz bottle of water there.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Looks like TTAC has left the days of rental and reader’s ride reviews, which is sad in a way. But you’ve done a nice review here Corey, thorough and willing to point out faults. You should do more of them.

    The Big Wheelz, blacked-out trim, lamentable-sounding DAS, and inability for the transmission to suitably transfer that power doesn’t make this seem like a tantalizing use of 50-60K. I’m more drawn to the 3.0t with hydraulic steering and rationally-sized wheels for $41k. That’s a very handsome car without the RedSport’s agro touches, but good luck finding a review of that one.

    But ultimately I’d be interested in one with 2 years of depreciation and soon you’ll have to wade through a sea of turbo fours in this car to find one with a proper engine. I’m guessing the V6 versions will be thinner on the ground than when the G37 was in production.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Thank you, I hope to do more.

      Unfortunately, I do believe they said in the marketing presentation that DAS is standard on the upper trim models for 2018. I think it’ll be difficult to find a 3.0t without it.

    • 0 avatar

      Rental review, you say?

      Hang tight.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I wasn’t aware that rental reviews were gone, but I welcome more reviews like this. I’m not advocating for “no rental reviews”, I like them too.

      Yes, hearing about why a Chrysler 200 isn’t *that* bad is interesting and makes for good discussion, but so are Japanese muscle cars (lol). Especially ones none of us have driven, or probably will drive anytime soon, as in the case of this Red Sport 400.

      I don’t care much about the latest Ferrari, but something like this could creep up later in life. I welcome this and any more sub-$100k (pretty much) vehicles.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    4DSC? – Sorry I’ve got to rib Nissan a little.

    Sadly with each successive generation of Infiniti (non-M) sedan I’ve had to look more and more closely to know I wasn’t seeing a highly trimmed Altima or Maxima.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “equipped with a new motorsports exhaust option”

    “think of it as a Japanese muscle car.”

    These things are relevant to my interests.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      I’m not sure you can hang with the steering on it.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      So would 400 HP I would think. Lol

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        I kind of like this car and this one would almost suit me if I wanted to spend close to $100k on a car that will depreciate like crazy (yes this is a $100k car here).

        I come from an age where the Nissans had speed sensitive hydraulic steering that was pretty decent with feel and weight… now they are all electric with all the feel of an arcade driving game.

        I personally dont mind that too much, I’m not a huge proponent of that porsche or BMW like ‘accurate’ steering so for some people who dont mind artificial steering then yeah, a car w/ DAS and paddle shifters does well… as long as it has 400hp.

  • avatar
    dmoan

    Spending over 25k more than the Base variant for new vehicle is insanity, most luxury brands base variants ( compared to Subaru for example) are pretty equipped so why spend so much?? Just as well move to next luxury level and get a Q70 or get a used Q50??

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I want to argue that the price is OK, but you can get a similarly loaded 340i with a BMW Performance LSD and the 6MT for very similar money. Sweet spot is probably the 3.0T regular/Sport, which really makes about 350HP at the crank… that’s a better choice than the 2.0T alternatives out there. And truthfully as a G37 owner I can’t think of a time I’ve ever wanted more power. I do shake my head at the transmission on a daily basis though.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      Manual or automatic? The dealer’s loaners have all be automatics. Other than being slower to shift than I prefer, they haven’t been bad. Mine is a manual. The ideal would have been a manual with all wheel drive but Infiniti has never offered that combination.

      As far as the BMW is concerned, not if you plan to keep it past the end of the warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Mine is an automatic. I skipped the manual so my wife could drive it, and because every Nissan manual transmission I’ve owned/driven (a few Maximas/Sentras and a 350Z) were pretty awful compared to all the Hondas I’ve owned/driven.

        Looking at CR/True Delta the current 3 series doesn’t look too bad. Even the last one seems OK… my old boss has one and it’s been OK for him. I’m not a fan of IDrive though.

  • avatar
    John R

    I will always applaud Nissan/Infiniti in making the G3X (I refuse to say Q this or that. “His momma call him Clay, I’mma call him Clay” ).

    The hotted up versions are, to me, the Mendoza-line of sports sedans. If you car can’t hang with it you aren’t making them right.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    If I were doing a review, I’d put a table up front with basic facts about the car.

    Perhaps I’m stupid, but I was wondering as I read if this car is front or rear wheel drive. It never says in the review; I had to glean that from one of the comments.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      “nearly all option boxes checked except for all-wheel drive”

      FWD only with 400 HP? Holy Torque Steer, momma!

      “…though the center rear seat is punishment born of Transmission Tunnel Hell. ”

      I’m guessing he ment driveshaft tunnel, unless it has a very long rear transaxle? Either way, power didn’t get sent to the rear wheels of a 2/FWD car.

      If you can’t glean which wheels get power from that, or that all Infiniti sedans of this size or bigger are RWD and have been for quite a while (since the original G35 and progressing from there, so 2004? 3?), then maybe you were too busy looking for a reason to master bait for all the world to see.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Black trunklid spoiler is reminiscent of late-90s Ford Taurus!

    The 6th photo is rather unfortunate.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    So for the correction however I think your trunk volume is off by 4 cube feet.
    On their site it states that the trunk or boot as we from NC call it is about 13 cube feet.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Corey, you mentioned plastics and lack of previously-available option of vented seats, does the car feel like it was bean counted down a few notches?

    Like when old GM built….anything. Okay, bad example. But, do you think Infiniti (and by relation, Renault-Nissan) cut some corners to save a few bucks, compared to where they had been?

    Sorry if I’m reading too much into it.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Based upon being in a G37 previously, and also a new Q70, I think that is a fair assessment.

      I was not able to see one of the regular versions (which still have real wood in them). That would help matters at least with regard to trim.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Thank you for mentioning the G37 in terms of this car. At least now I know what class, size, and market the car is intended for.

    Infiniti’s change of nomenclature has got to be the stupidest one in the industry. At least in the old days, when different cars got a different letter, you automatically knew where in the marketplace the car was intended. Now? You know whether its a sedan or a crossover.

  • avatar
    JRobUSC

    For $60k I’d take a BMW 340 Track Pack or an Audi S4 without thinking twice. Based on other reviews I’ve seen of this car, either it’s the weakest 400hp ever or the Germans horses are thoroughbreds, because both those vehicles would run rings around this one despite being (supposedly) substantially down on power.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      What review have you seen where the RS400 is substantially slower than the S4 or 340i?

      Both Motor Trend and C/D had the Infiniti at 4.5 0-60 and 13.0 1/4 mile. Which is right around the numbers they got on the S4/S5 and 340i/440i. The Q50 does trap slightly higher than the Germans, so I think it is making a little more power (not sure how much more though).

      caranddriver.com/reviews/2016-infiniti-q50s-30t-red-sport-400-test-review

      caranddriver.com/reviews/2018-audi-s5-coupe-full-test-review

      caranddriver.com/reviews/2018-bmw-440i-rwd-coupe-automatic-test-review

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Weight. It’s very heavy, like all FM platform vehicles.

  • avatar
    VTECV6NYC

    Good article, Corey!

    No Apple CarPlay and ventilated seats at 59K is a seemingly fatal omission in a modern-day luxury car.

  • avatar
    jrmcm

    I picked up one of these almost exactly a year ago, and figured I’d offer some thoughts.
    On the price / value front, I opted for the lower end of the Red Sport price spectrum, and there the car makes more sense. I skipped DAS and all of the driver aides. Simply, I didn’t want them. I’m not inherently driver aide averse, but I didn’t like the application here. The lane assist is obtrusive. When I bought mine you could still get the hydraulic rack, which is fine. After a little haggling, just over $49k out the door. 400hp makes a lot of sense at that price. Also, if you’re inclined to believe Stillen, all of the R&D testing they’ve done for future products for the VR30DDTT here have shown it consistently closer to 440 at the crank.
    Nothing else in the segment approaches that engine at this price. And that’s ultimately what you’re buying here. Because it’s not the best overall car in the segment. But it might be the most fun.
    The only tire option last year was the run flats, and they’re hilariously bad with this much power. But there’s something kind of entertaining about that for those of us who want to show up at the office looking civilized, but aren’t totally ready to grow up. The rear end of this car can go all over he place, if that’s your thing. It’s my thing. It’s a tired Clarkson-ism, but there’s something to it… It’s kind of good BECAUSE of what’s bad.

    The exception to that is the transmission. It’s just bad-bad. It’s lazy and stupid. It’s the weakest part of the car by a lot. It holds gears too long in Sport+ and the shifts are bafflingly slow. A better transmission and an LSD would do amazing things for this car’s reputation among the competition.
    But that’s the trade off, right? To get that kind of power at this price, something has to suffer. To a lot of people, it’s not going to be worth it.
    I’ve enjoyed it for this first year, warts and all. It’s still fun to have someone who doesn’t know anything about it see the exterior and assume “basic Japanese pseudo luxury”, get in, and rotate the back end around the first corner then punch them into their seat. The inevitable “wait, wtf??” reaction is a blast.
    I came out of an E60 550i (manual) before this. Despite being a good bit older, it was a nicer car and I liked it more. It was of course a better car all around. It wasn’t as fun. But, I’ll probably end up in another BMW when this is done, without any regrets of playing with this for a few years.

  • avatar
    jrmcm

    Lol 7 hours my comment has been “awaiting moderation”

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      There’s a procedure in place for new users, and their first comment has to be manually approved. This prevents all the spam bots which sign up having comments all over every article.

      Moderators are not really on duty on the weekends, and we have only three of them.

  • avatar
    indynick1

    I have the 2016 model and it is a great car. In Indiana, you need awd. Name another awd car with 400 hp at $50k? The all season Dunlop are loud and a harder ride than I would like, not just an issue with the summer tires. It is a few years behind with technology. I have DAS and you get used to it quickly. It works well on bumpy streets where you don’t feel as much.

    M, amg, ats v all rwd. This is the fastest, most practical and most reliable 4 door sedan out there. Period.

    You can pass a truck in about 2 seconds and has a ton of power from 60-90 mph.

    Great Bose stereo too.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    It’s amazing that Infiniti has fallen so far so quickly. The last generation G37 was an absolute gem and rival for BMW back when they made BMWs (I cross shopped them). Manual transmission, great steering, fun engine…the car had the whole package.

  • avatar
    Andrzej N

    Very good review,that’s a nice change for TTAC. Hope to see more like it :)

  • avatar
    bswanny

    Shocked I have to be the one to bring this up but the G35 with 287hp came with an LSD. The Q50/60 with 400hp, no lsd. One wheel peels for $6k. Nissan cost cutting at its finest. No Apple Carplay or vented seats in a luxury is unacceptable in my opinion.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I owned a G37 6MT Coupe for a few years and I would have loved to have purchased a Q50/60, but they didn’t offer a manual this time around and when I was in the market, the turbo motors weren’t ready yet. I wasn’t going to buy it with the 3.7L when a better option was on the horizon.

    No ventilated seats in this class of car isn’t out of the ordinary, but I can’t go without Apple Carplay. We have it in our Denali XL and outside of the rear seat entertainment for the kids, Apple Carplay is all we use for the infotainment system.

    For $59k, this car needs Carplay. We aren’t going car shopping for many years but we won’t ever consider a car without it.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Nice review.

    But when will we finally move past this fad of dark color/black rims?

    I hate them. They always look dirty to me.

    Now get off my lawn.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’ve owned a G37S 6mt, and driven the NA vq q50. I really do prefer the q50 appearance,interior etc. but dynamically it was a dud. I’m sure the turbo power would be nice , but I agree that I never really felt the g37 needed more power.
    I think the only hope now is Nissan finds a place for this powerplant in a 370z replacement w/ a 6mt


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