By Patrick James on 2014-03-23 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Infiniti Q50 2.2d
FOR those people still in the dark about Infiniti, the start of the Formula 1 season will give ample reminders.
The Japanese car maker, the luxury arm of Nissan, sponsors the Red Bull racing team.
And while the brand, launched in the UK in continues to grow slowly in the public's condsciousness, it has been around for more than 25 years, gaining particular success in America.
The cars are at the executive, luxury end of the market and offer a combination of standout design, powerful engines and cutting edge techology, but are struggling to make a real impact in the UK, with dealers few and far between and low brand awareness
But they have advantages over the opposition, offering a high level of standard equipment across the range, which can add many thousands to the prices of their competitors.
No better example perhaps of this is the new Q50, a luxury saloon which is packed with technology and features a new, 2.1-litre diesel engine sourced from Mercedes, plus a 3.6-litre hybrid version.
It also marks the first car in the Q or QX range, which will brand all its cars, right up to the Formula 1 Q100 driven by Sebastian Vettel.
It is an eye-catching car both inside and out and definitely food for thought for its German rivals.
The turbocharged diesel gives the car decent acceleration and excellent economy, plus, importantly, low CO2 emissions which make it a real option in the all-important business sector.
Emissions of just 114g/km put it in the lowest benefit in kind taxation bracket and while the claimed 64-odd mpg average consumption seemed optimistic, the car was easily in the mid-50s range with a range of stop/start and motorway driviing.
The 170ps diesel has plenty of urge, propelling the vechile to 60mph from a standing start in just 8.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 144mph.
But it is not all about the power. This is a refined unit with little diesel clatter and what engine, road and wind noise there is, is effectively muffled by the car's soundproofing system.
Transmission is delivered via a slick-shifting six-speed gearbox sending drive to the rear wheels.
The car offers something distinct and different to the German market leaders and always attracted curiosity. It has flowing, yet muscular lines, eye-catching headlights and rear light clusters, twin exhausts twin, five-spoke 17-inch alloys and off course the Infiniti badge. The exterior is also protected with the firms ‘healing' paint, which self repairs small scratches.
Inside the car is both roomy and comfortable. It has the longest wheelbase in its class so both front and rear occupants get good head and leg room.
It also features a huge 500 litre boot and the rear seats split 60/40 for extra luggage space and there is also access to the boot through the rear centre armrest.
The layout of the dash and controls are neat and logical and features a battery of hi-tech equipment, dominated by the central dual touchscreen which looks pretty much like a computer tablet with its swipeable screen.
For those who likes gizmos and hi-tech wizardy, they will be in their element in this car.
For the most part fixures and fitting are high class, but the expensive feeling soft touch finish in some areas is let down by some lower grade plastics.
The steering wheel is also multi function and the car features the now-common push button starter.
Needless to say luxury cars need to ride well and the Q50 is a comfortable car to be a passengerer and driver and although perhaps not the most dynamic of models, it still feels sure footed and grips well on corners with good feedback from the drive by wire steering.
At just over £30,000 this is a lot of car for the money. Whether it can attract the potential buyers from the established German brands remains to be seen but throw in standard kit like Infiniti Drive Mode Selector, Bluetooth, rear view camera, follow-me home lighting system, zone adaptive climate control, six-speaker sound system with USB/iPod connectivity and heated leather seats, just to name a few, and you have a tempting proposition.
Infiniti Q50 2.2d Premium Saloon
Mechanical: 170ps, 2,175cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 144mph
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Combined MPG: 64.2
Insurance Group: 35
C02 emissions: 114g/km
Bik rating: 17%
Warranty: 3yrs, 60,000 miles
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