UNITED STATES—The Q50 is more than just a new mid-size luxury sedan from Infiniti. It was the first offering to signify Infiniti’s desire to go in a new direction. It paved the way for the rest of Infiniti’s lineup to change from the “G” prefix to the “Q” prefix. The change from “G” to “Q” is affectively an image adjustment. “G” has long been slang for big money. Often a term used by ostentatious celebrity types (primarily in the music industry) while “Q” has long been associated with understated sophistication (just ask fans of the James Bond OO7 franchise).
The prefix change can also be viewed as Infiniti’s desire to get back to its roots. The original Infiniti, the Q45, was a well-kept secret prior to its official launch. The commercials themselves merely hinted at the vehicle soon to be released. They were covert. They were clandestine. They were simply intriguing. The Q45 seemed like something OO7 himself might drive. This vehicle (the first to be marketed under the Infiniti brand) was also very high-tech, much like the vehicles Q-Branch customizes for the famous secret agent from Britain (irony intended).
The Q45 featured HICAS 4-wheel steering and Full-Active Suspension (FAS) to go with an understated appearance. Not only was the exterior devoid of flashy chrome accents, grills, and hood ornaments, but the interior also avoided the luxury clichés of wood paneling, chrome accents, and cushy seating. This vehicle represented a new definition of luxury. It was a decidedly Japanese definition of luxury. In other words, there is more to luxury than aesthetics. The driving experience should be made more pleasurable in a true luxury car.
Unfortunately, Americans weren’t biting. The lack of market success could be partly contributed to the cagey television commercials, but most of it had to do with the fact Lexus had built the car Americans had always wanted: A Mercedes-Benz S-Class without the S-Class price tag. Infiniti attempted to remedy the situation by tacking on a chrome grill, slapping on some wooden dash panels, and softening up the seats after a few years into the Q45’s production run, but it was too late. Lexus had firmly established itself as the new luxury car to buy.
With the Q50, Infiniti is clearly showing the world it has not given up on technology. While the relatively new mid-size luxury car offering sticks to convention when it comes to styling, it does feature a cutting-edge albeit controversial steering system that works hand-in-hand with some equally impressive active safety features. Direct Adaptive Steering, as Infiniti calls it, is essentially a steer-by-wire system that eliminates the mechanical linkage between steering wheel and steering rack. As one would expect, this system is able to filter out much of the bump steer and vibration associated with traditions steering systems. However, some driving enthusiasts may not be so enamored with a steering system that filters information from the road.
To know just how this new steering system performs, we will need to perform a full road test of the Q50. Until that occurs, feel free post questions and comments below.