A new name and a slew of techno enhancements are the first clues that Infiniti's Q50 sedan is something special.
But with nearly every member of Nissan's upscale division switching to new alphanumeric identification along with, in most cases, reconfigured sheetmetal, it isn't the only interesting car on Infiniti's plate for 2014.
However, a total rebranding strategy could leave buyers feeling especially perplexed in the Q50's case since the G37 sedan it was to have replaced this year will now remain in the fleet until mid 2015. Concurrent with this decision, Nissan has reduced the G37's base price by $4,800 (to $33,400). The G37 remains Infiniti's entry-level model until an all-new Q30 replacement arrives.
Since the Q50 and G37 share the same basic dimensions, platform, suspension and powertrain and offer the same all-wheel-drive option, the differences between the two boil down to style and standard and available content. In both categories the Q50 outshines the G37 by a wide margin and should experience little trouble attracting buyers desiring a well-equipped rolling fashion statement to tool around in.
Another important point of differentiation is the addition of the Q50 Hybrid that combines a potent mix of fuel economy and performance.
As for looks, the Q50 shows off its top form with tasteful curves, swirls, bulges and angles that make the not-yet-outgoing G37 seem downright dated and frumpy by comparison, and that car was considered attractively hot not so long ago.
The Q50 is also set apart by a hunkered-down stance that reaffirms its sport-sedan status, in particular when wearing the optional 19-inch wheel-and-tire package.
A cabin that elevates tastefulness to a new level reaffirms the car's luxury-vehicle cred. This is especially in evidence with a dual-cockpit-shaped dashboard with both seven- and eight-inch touch-screen displays that operate the climate, communications and optional navigation systems.
Going forward, the Q50 employs a 3.7-liter V6 (same as in the G37) that makes 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, while the Q50 Hybrid combines a 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with an electric motor rated at 67 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque to produce 360 net horsepower. The Q50 Hybrid's gasoline-electric powertrain is virtually identical to that used in what was previously called the M35h, but for 2014 is labeled the Q70 Hybrid. Its 50-kilowatt electric motor uses energy stored in a 346-volt lithium-ion battery pack located behind the rear seat. The stowage-space penalty is significant, but apart from the performance gain the Hybrid rates an impressive 29 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. The gasoline-only Q50 earns a 20/30 rating.
The Hybrid uses the same seven-speed automatic transmission as the regular Q50, as opposed to a less-than-sporting continuously variable unit found in most other hybrids. As well you can specify all-wheel-drive for the Hybrid, which is not available on similarly propelled Lexus or Lincoln models.
Befitting of any luxury sedan, the Q50 arrives properly attired, however the Q50 Premium adds heated front seats, power moonroof and Bose's 14-speaker "Studio on Wheels" audio system. Note that the Q50 Hybrid starts at the Premium trim level.
The Q50S adds metal-trim accents, 19-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension and brakes and a different front bumper.
Your Q50 can also be ordered with any number of option groupings, including a Technology Package with all the latest electronic safety enhancements such as blind-spot, lane-departure and forward collision warnings.
The Q50's $37,600 base price ($44,850 Hybrid Premium) is competitive with similar North American, German and Japanese marques, but with elevated content and eye appeal that communicates a unique luxury presence regardless of what name appears on the truck lid.
What you should know: 2014 Infiniti Q50
Type: Four-door, rear- /all-wheel-drive mid-size luxury sedan
Engines (hp): 3.7-liter DOHC V6 (328); 3.5-liter DOHC V6 + electric motor (360, net)
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Market position: The Q50 plays in a league with plenty of variety and prices, making direct comparisons tough. That's where brand loyalty makes a difference and what Infiniti seems to be focussing on with its new naming conventions.
Points: Gorgeous sheetmetal/design; V6 isn't the most powerful around, but it's smoother than most; Hybrid offshoot should prove popular for power and its modest fuel consumption; Cabin an appealing spot, especially for the driver; If buyers can get past what to call it and the G37 doesn't siphon off too many sales, the Q50 should find significant acceptance.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 20/30 (3.7)
Base price (incl. destination) $37,600
Base price: $36,800
Popular mid-size model comes loaded in front- and optional all-wheel-drive.
Cadillac CTS sedan
Base price: $42,000 (est.)
An new third-generation CTS arrives for 2014 with 420-hp twin-turbo option.
Base price: $33,400
A roomy, luxurious sedan available with one of the best AWD systems.