First Drive: Infiniti’s 400-Horsepower Q50 Red Sport Sedan

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Infiniti Turbo Power
2016 Infiniti Q50 | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

When people ask me what my favorite review vehicle has been, I’m usually drawn back to thoughts of the Infiniti Q50 S sedan I drove last summer. There have been a slew of automobiles at our disposal since then, many of them being more potent, but I’m consistently nostalgic for the Q50. It may not have been able to keep up with the likes of the supercharged Jaguar XF sedan, but to this day it retains a top spot in my book.

We got a second whack at the Infiniti, and this time around the Q50 does have the prowess to keep up with the XF: The new Red Sport version has two angry turbos and 400 horsepower on tap. By taking technology that has proven to be a winning approach to power in the mighty GT-R and turning it into something more refined, Infiniti has addressed the shortcomings we found in our initial review.

Leather interior
Q50 Red Sport leather interior | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

We were able to take Infiniti’s new sedan on a short drive recently, and although the recent rain kept me from pushing the sedan to its full potential, we still got a good feel for Infiniti’s latest spin on performance. Everything good from the old model is all still there, so good for Infiniti for sticking with what works.

While the previous Q50 used a naturally aspirated V6, the Red Sport features two turbos and 400 horsepower. While it may not have XF owners swapping sides suddenly, its modest $48,000 starting price tag and array of amenities offer a compelling case for those casually cross-shopping potent luxury sedans with a speed habit.

Q50 sedan
Q50 sedan | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Externally, the Red Sport 400 is similar to the old Q50. This has pros and cons; while it may have a strong snout, in “Venetian Ruby” the soft rear end’s tail lamps tend to fade into the paint, but this is by no means a deal-breaker. Outside of the signature RS dual exhaust tips out back, it’s still rather passive, though the RS 400’s exclusive 19-inch staggered alloys and bulging “Zero-lift” front air dam tell a different story. This is a complete sleeper, because while some people may notice the unassuming “3.0t” badge on the front fenders, few would know what that means in relation to the base Q50.

That 400-horsepower, 350 foot-pound tempest does sensationally well on the open road. Infiniti has nailed the powertrain right out of the box; the engineering team that made this seven-speed, twin-turbo V6 combination a reality put their all into it. It has very little lag, numerous traction management and customizable drive mode options, and just enough tail slide under throttle to remind you that this is the rear-wheel drive version.

Twin-turbo V6
Twin-turbo V6 | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

The cabin of the Red Sport is a straightforward and well-placed performance cockpit, with well-padded surfaces and nicely bolstered seats. Infiniti’s double-stacked screens tend to reflect and could take a little getting used to, but outside of that, the cabin is essentially the same interior we fell in love with last summer. There’s a lot that can be said for not trying to be too flashy, and I like that there aren’t a bazillion red badges everywhere to remind me of what I’m driving. With its power steering wheel adjustability, classy aluminum sill plates, one-touch moonroof, and the seamlessly jointed interior panels, it’s hard to hate the cabin of this car.

Tech-wise, the Red Sport is both performance-focused and comfort-committed. Buyers will get multiple collision warning systems and customizable driving modes, and Infiniti’s “InTuition” smart key will store audio, driving, and climate preferences. The tech game is strong with this one, and like the old Q50, the RS rocks some seriously swanky graphics, numerous slick switches and touchscreen options, and can be easily outfitted with various safety and entertainment upgrades.

Infiniti Q50 driver's seat
Infiniti Q50 driver’s seat | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

In typical driving conditions, the Red Sport is silky smooth. Regular and green driving modes keep things under control and quiet, with a reported 29 mile per gallon highway estimate being an underlying selling point. It shifts smoothly and offers a luscious, supple ride when cruising, and the seven-speed automatic keeps things in line for both on-ramp activities and around-town adventures alike.

But no one is buying a twin-turbo V6 Infiniti just to fuddle their way through rush hour traffic, and by opting for one of the sport modes, drivers can get more than a little overzealous while behind the wheel. The Infiniti grants instant gratification to speed junkies, top end pull for horsepower freaks, and everything in between once the custom setup page has been pulled up. It’s one of several Japanese sport sedans that might have German performance enthusiasts questioning their allegiances.

Alloy wheels
Infiniti Q50 RS’s alloy wheels | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

In the corners, the Red Sport offers a planted feel, with its snub-nosed multi-piston brake kit offering the kind of clamp one would expect out of something this powerful. Infiniti’s “Dynamic Digital Suspension” is a real winner too, offering feelings of connectivity and confidence that are hard to shake. Not once did I feel like the car was too soft or solid, even as the back end began to slightly snake sideways off the line.

There’s so much to this car that warrants praise, and it crushes me that I was only able to spend a short period of my day with it. Even though there were a lot of familiar Q50 touches in the Red Sport (as you would expect there to be), I felt like I was just scraping the surface of what it signifies to the people who engineered it. So hats off to you Infiniti, and we can’t wait to experience what kind of “Inspired Performance” you have in store next.