The Infiniti Q50S Hybrid offers a reasonably successful compromise between performance and frugality. A sharp design, refined road manners and huge standard kit help stand it out from German rivals.


Capable of covering ground fast but with no real involvement, undermining its appeal as a driver’s car. Those with a heavy right foot will also pay the price at the pumps, as the V6 is thirsty when on song.


BMW sold just over half a million examples of the 3 Series last year, drawing envious glances from Japan. The Munich manufacturer’s junior saloon is unsurprisingly popular – it delivers on fuel economy, performance, and involvement, often simultaneously – and it’s a recipe that Infiniti is keen to emulate. The new Q50 is the result of that aspiration.

If you’ve not heard of Infiniti that’s probably because the brand has only been in Europe for six years. As Nissan’s luxury division, the company’s models have considerable expertise behind them and are considered reliable and safe, but breaking the status quo in the profitable executive saloon market isn’t at all easy. The Q50S Hybrid is a sterling effort, however.

Three versions of the Q50 are available, of which this, the ‘S Hybrid’, is by far the most exciting. The spec-sheet is compelling enough: a 3.5-litre V6 engine is mated to a small electric motor to deliver a peak 360bhp yet return a combined 45.6mpg on the European cycle. That makes the Infiniti marginally more powerful but equally a little less economical than the BMW ActiveHybrid 3, and considerably better than the non-hybrid 335i in both respects. It’s certainly in the right league, then.

On a cross-country test route of 180 miles the Infiniti returned an impressive 40.1mpg despite frequent throttle-wide-open overtaking and extended periods of cruising at the national speed limit. This is largely because of the car’s ability to quickly and effortlessly decouple the engine from the transmission and turn if off at times when the driver isn’t using the throttle. Call for more power than the electric motor alone can provide and the engine reignites equally fluently. The complex drivetrain can sometimes confuse itself – momentarily indecisive of which power source to turn to – but this is infrequent, fleeting, and ultimately forgivable.

Either through its regenerative brakes or via the engine, the Q50S Hybrid is almost always recharging its lithium-ion battery, facilitating zero emissions driving for a couple of miles at a time under light throttle loads. Over the course of many miles this, and the aforementioned ability to decouple the engine, are what allows the Infiniti to return fuel economy figures totally out of kilter with its frankly brutal power output.

If you can’t be trusted with 360hp on tap then it’s worth selecting ‘Eco’ mode, which blunts throttle response and prompts the car to operate electrically whenever possible. Fuel economy not far short of 50mpg without sacrificing too much speed is possible if you’re diligent. It’s in this setting that the Q50 illustrates what an accomplished mile-eater it is, easily mopping up imperfections in the road surface and insulating passenger from outside noise admirably.

It’s a real contender if you’re unencumbered by brand loyalty, then, but the most contentious aspect of the Q50S Hybrid is its steer-by-wire – a first for production road cars. Put simply, there is no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the steering rack, with all inputs electronically transferred. The system is incredibly accurate and bump-steer that would usually cause a car’s steering wheel to jingle under the hands over rougher surface is non-existent, as are the disconcerting effects of usual cambers. It means the Infiniti is incredibly easy to put down a given road at real pace and with confidence, which will appeal to many of those looking for a fast, proficient saloon.

Not everyone wants speed alone, however, and this is where the Infiniti comes undone against BMW and Mercedes models as well as even four-wheel-driven Audis as a driving proposition. While precise, there is no steering feel, only an electronically replicated weight that feels as artificial as it truly is. Activated in ‘Sport’ mode, the heavier steering setting isn’t even preferable at high speed, lacking the silky smooth nature and ease of use inherent of the standard setting.

That connection with the road through the hands and the back of the thighs is what enthusiasts willing to shell out for the performance version of these cars rather than the equally capable turbodiesel models really crave, and in the Q50S Hybrid half of that is notably absent.

In the Infiniti’s favour is an avalanche of standard kit, including two LCD VGA touch screens and voice recognition. The hybrid model also gets a 14-speaker BOSE sound system and a host of safety equipment. This includes warnings for approaching vehicles and pedestrians, which prompts the car to brake automatically if it think the driver has left it too late. Although useful, the system can be overly sensitive.

Though a slightly left-field choice, the Q50S Hybrid goes and sounds like a bona fide £42,000 performance saloon. Plenty of grip and a slick seven-speed transmission mean it can be effortlessly hustled along at a license-losing speed, but with plenty of refinement and gadget it’s an excellent cruiser to. The Infiniti is a worthy addition to the niche, if not quite as desirable to purists as various German offerings.

Comfort 4.5 stars

Style 4 stars

Handling 4.5 stars

Depreciation 3.5 stars

Economy 4 stars


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