Executive cars like the Infiniti Q50 live in a world dominated by diesel. Corporate fleet managers and company car buyers all obsessed with CO2 emissions only want to know exactly how many miles they can eke out from every tank of the black stuff and how much it will cost them every month in tax.
However, for a left-field brand like Infiniti – most of whose buyers are private – this new turbo petrol version of the Q50 could address quite a few of the criticisms that we levelled at the 2.2-litre diesel version, especially when it comes to refinement.
Happily, there are also far fewer rivals around for that rare breed of buyer who is looking for a punchy 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol saloon with some premium glitz.
The new 2.0T is available from Premium trim upwards, with a seven-speed automatic ‘box; prices start at £31,755, a significant £8240 less than our current pick of the Q50 range, the sporty but expensive S Hybrid.
What’s the 2014 Infiniti Q50 2.0T like to drive?
Ultimately, still a bit of a mixed bag, but the new direct injection engine has made a real difference. The clattery, harsh engine note of the diesel is gone, replaced by a far smoother, sportier soundtrack.
It feels a bit like the motor has been borrowed from a hot hatch, both in terms of its surging power delivery and rorty exhaust note, which feels a little odd in an executive saloon.
Refinement at idle and when cruising the motorway has been vastly improved, though, and there's none of the harshness or vibration through the controls that was an issue in the diesel. Some niggles remain; the standard 19-inch alloys of the Sport version we tried do the car no favours, pushing CO2 emissions up a road tax band and generating a lot of road rumble on coarse surfaces.
Performance is strong, though. There is little sense of any turbo lag as the revs increase, and the scenery starts to move past pretty rapidly when you do put your foot down. The 0-62mph dash takes just 7.2 seconds – on a par with a BMW 320i – but some way shy of four-wheel drive alternatives such as the Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI.
Initial throttle response is a tad sluggish, even in Sport mode, and the fault lies with the auto gearbox, which pauses momentarily before kicking down, and often struggles to find the right ratio when you’re tackling a demanding country road. This makes trying to drive smoothly a bit of a challenge, although things are a bit easier when using the steering-wheel mounted paddles.
Throw the Q50 in to a corner and it grips gamely to the road. However, the odd steering setup (our car was fitted with the optional Direct Active Steer system, which uses an electric, rather than mechanical link to the front wheels) feels decidedly artificial; despite a variety of weights via an array of settings and modes, it never inspires much driver confidence. It has a trick feature that steers for you to keep you in lane on the motorway, but we'd prefer if the standard setup was better resolved.
The ride is very choppy too, rarely settling, and shuddering dramatically over typically scruffy town roads. You can feel every lump and bump coming through the bottom of the seats, although we suspect that the Premium model’s standard 17-inch wheels would do a much better job of dealing with broken and potholed surfaces.
What’s the 2014 Infiniti Q50 2.0T like inside?
Much like the driving experience, there are positives and negatives here. The Q50 does – certainly in the higher trims at least – look and feel expensive behind the wheel.
There are two huge screens for controlling the infotainment system, a touch-screen mounted flush with the centre console, and a larger display above it mounted in the driver’s eye line. The touch-screen has bright colourful graphics, a smart Bluetooth system, a reversing camera and parking sensors as standard.
Some of the menus are not all that easy to fathom, though, and despite reasonably quick responses, the display is impossible to read in direct sunlight, and shows up fingerprints easily too.
Material quality and general fit and finish is good though; there’s plenty of leather and soft touch plastic to give the impression of a classy driving environment, and only a few cheaper plastics on the vents and switches spoil its otherwise smart appearance.
The leather seats are comfortable and supportive, and there is a wide enough range of adjustment to suit most drivers. The multifunction steering wheel is festooned with buttons - and a little confusing at first - but the Q50 comes with a decent amount of standard equipment.
The 2.0T petrol is not available as an SE, but the Premium trim comes loaded with goodies, including luxuries like leather upholstery, heated front seats, dual zone climate control, and Bluetooth and USB connectivity. It is worth noting that DAB digital radio (standard on most premium rivals regardless of trim) can only be had as part of the eye-watering £2,760 Multimedia Pack.
Other niggles include a driving position that is mounted a little too high, which may be an issue for taller drivers, and lanky adults will find themselves short of headroom in the back. There's also not much room at all for a central passenger on the back bench.
Space in the boot is decent though, with a 500-litre capacity, 60:40 split-folding and a ski-hatch for carrying longer items, although again the awkward shape of the boot and a high loading lip means that loading bulky items could be a pain.
Should I buy one?
If you are genuinely looking for a sporty petrol saloon with eye-catching styling and lots of gadgets, then you could do worse than this new Infiniti Q50 2.0T.
It’s the best version of this car we’ve tried so far, because it’s quicker and more refined than the diesel, yet also a lot cheaper than the hybrid version. It has the weakest predicted residuals of any Q50, though, which may put some private buyers off in the long run.
Issues with the cabin and infotainment system remain, and both the Audi A5 Sportback 2.0 TFSI and BMW 320i are more rewarding to drive, and the 3 Series has the added benefit of being cheaper too.
Still, if you do find yourself charmed by the Q50, this is the one to go for. The gains in refinement and performance outweigh the higher price and lower fuel economy.
What Car? says...
Infiniti Q50 2.0T
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol turbo
Price from £31,755
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 7.2 seconds
Top speed 152mph
Fuel economy 44.8mpg