Haute Auto of the Week: Infiniti Q50S Hybrid

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“It’s not fair! I wait all my life for a shot in the spotlight and I have to follow a Ferrari!”

Being prone to anthropomorphisms, all I could think about during my first few minutes behind the wheel of the new Infiniti Q50S Hybrid was that it was not going to be happy following on the heels (exhaust pipes?) of the Ferrari California which I had just returned. In fact, I could find no other record anywhere of a person getting out of a Ferrari California and into an Infiniti Q50S Hybrid so perhaps I should have called Ripley’s rather than writing this article.

Nevertheless, my expectations were not too high, given from whence I came. But then, just when you least expect it, sometimes you’re the most surprised. The Q50S Hybrid is a nice car! It looks good, handles well, moves along smartly, delivers great mileage and overall does its job properly, all for just over $50,000 with all of the e-bells and i-whistles firmly in place.

The Q50 comes in five flavors, listed in ascending order of whoop-to-dos and price – the Q50 3.7; the Q50 3.7 Premium; the Q50S 3.7; the Q50 Hybrid Premium; and the Q50S Hybrid. “Mine” was the top of the line Q50S Hybrid. What does that mean? Interestingly, the hybrids have a slightly smaller engine – a 3.6 liter V6 instead of a 3.7 liter, but with the hybrid’s electric motor more than making up the difference — 360 horses for the hybrid compared to 328 horses for the other group. But it’s in the torque department where the real difference shows up – 472 pound feet for the hybrid compared to 328 pound feet for the gas-only models. What does that mean? More oomph, a quicker 0-60 time (“Take that, you WRX whippersnapper!”) and a car that feels more like it’s packing 460 horses.

This is not a lightweight in any sense of the word. For one, the hybrid, with its extra electric bits, weighs at least three hundred pounds more than its non-hybrid cousin, though that poundage is more than offset by the huge torque advantage. The car has a nice, substantial feel and handles smartly, too, no doubt thanks to Infiniti’s “Direct Adaptive Steering” (a drive-by-wire system that involves electric motors and actuators instead of a direct mechanical connection, though there’s a mechanical back-up at the ready), front and rear stabilizer and anti-roll bars, special shock absorbers and upgraded disc brakes all around.

On top of the base Q50S Hybrid, “mine” had the Deluxe Technology Package, a $5,000 option with (to list just some of the doodads) dual memory seats, auto-dimming mirrors, park sensors at both ends, auto high-beam adjusts, auto-leveling headlights (a favorite option for moonshiners), front and rear sonar with “Moving Object Detection”, blind spot warning, intelligent cruise control, pre-crash seat belts, lane departure warning and a kopi luwak maker (just added that one to see if I’d lost you yet). Seems like this car is related to an iPhone.

But wait, there’s more. It also had had the Navigation Package, which meant that it had a touch-screen mapping system with real-time traffic and a voice-recognition system for input.

This is no “basic” car. It has a seven-speed transmission with paddle shifters (when you want something more than just auto-motoring) and a mechanism to match the revs when downshifting. It also includes what’s becoming a standard feature on upper-end cars – LED headlights, fog lights and brake lights (rear and high-mounted center lights).

I liked how intuitive the car was. Boasting an owner’s manual that could serve as a child’s booster seat, many high-tech cars are so obtuse that they require a pretty steep learning curve. I am pleased to say (with some pride attached) that I didn’t need the book to figure any of that out, including syncing the phone (which worked great).

Although we started out a little shaky – I mean, who wants to follow a Ferrari? – we got along really well. This is a nice car with great features, plenty of pep (as my father would say) and fun to drive but which won’t set you back the price of a starter home to do it. Well done, Infiniti.

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