2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid First Test
Hot Hybrid Leaves Us Cold
Not too long ago the idea of a performance hybrid like the 2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid seemed as ridiculous as a government shutdown. Nowadays they're showing up just about everywhere, with big names including Porsche, McLaren, and even Ferrari producing hybrid supercars. Though performance hybrids are now readily available to the one percent, there are only a handful available to the masses, and the 2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid is one of the cheapest ways to get behind the wheel of a gas-and-electric-powered sports car.
Powered by the M35 -- excuse us, the Q70 -- Hybrid's 3.5-liter V-6 and electric motor combo, the 2014 Q50S Hybrid is the most potent member of the Q50 lineup. Its drivetrain is good for a combined 360 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque – 32 horsepower more than the non-hybrid Q50. As is the case with the rest of the Q50 lineup, power is routed through a seven-speed automatic. Our tester was spec'd with rear-drive, and all-wheel drive is available.
It's no surprise that the Q50S Hybrid not only is the quickest Q50 we've tested, but also one of the fastest hybrids on the market. The 0-60 mph run takes just 4.9 seconds to the non-hybrid's 5.2-second run. The Infiniti Q50S Hybrid's 0-60 time not only beats the non-hybrid Q50, but it also edges out the Infiniti M35h's 5.1-second sprint, the Porsche Panamera Hybrid's 5.2-second time, and smokes the Lexus GS 450h's 5.2-second run. The Infiniti takes care of the quarter mile in 13.6 seconds at 103.6 mph, which is just a tick faster than the rest of the performance hybrid segment. The 60-0-mph panic stop test took the 2014 Q50S Hybrid 115 feet. Shod with the same sport brakes and sport-tuned suspension as the Q50S, the Q50S Hybrid outperformed the non-green version on the figure eight with a 25.8-second time, averaging 0.70 g. The best the non-hybrid version could do was 26.3 seconds at 0.71 g average. The only performance hybrid to outperform the Infiniti Q50S Hybrid on the figure eight was the Panamera Hybrid, which put down a Porsche-like 24.7-second at 0.78 g (average) time.
While the 2014 Q50S Hybrid certainly puts up the numbers of a performance hybrid, it doesn't exactly drive like one. The brakes are one issue. Though they obviously stop the car well enough (our 60-0 mph braking test proves that), the Q50S Hybrid's brakes exhibited some of the worst pedal feel we've experienced since the first-gen Toyota Prius. The handoff from regenerative braking to mechanical braking is incredibly abrupt, with the brakes seemingly not slowing the Infiniti down in regenerative mode before quickly engaging in mechanical mode, throwing the car forward on its front wheels. Testing director and dynamics guru Kim Reynolds summed up the brake transition woes quite well: "Basically, their crazy initial bite renders the car unacceptable. I'd hate to be a passenger in this car in city traffic." As senior features editor Jonny Lieberman put it, "Performance hybrids require performance brakes."
And then there's the Infiniti's Direct Adaptive Steering -- steer-by-wire – which feels neither direct nor adaptive. We've already gone on record saying that Infiniti's steer-by-wire system makes the Q50 exceptionally capable at drifting, and that's still the case with the Q50S Hybrid. But while drifting is great and all, that's not how the Q50S Hybrid owner will spending most weekends – he or she is going to spend most of the time in the city or on a highway, with sporadic trips to favorite back roads. Cruising about town isn't where the problem lies, as the Infiniti hybrid feels rather smooth. "They've managed to dial out bumps in the road," said MT editor-in-chief Edward Loh. "[It] creates an odd sensation when you see bumps, feel/hear them hit the tires, and come up through the suspension." Steer-by-wire shows its limitations on back roads. "Weirdest feeling ever," said technical director Frank Markus. "It almost feels like I'm in a classroom simulator, and the instructor is constantly modifying my steering inputs." "Steering wheel feels like the column terminates in a jar of molasses," said Loh. Lieberman: "Steer-by-wire needs a serious rethink to be viable."
Though members of staff felt the Infiniti had some strong points, such as its exterior and interior design, most were let down when it came to driving the Q50S Hybrid. Many editors noted having difficulty getting the Q50 to stay in EV mode, with Markus speculating that Infiniti's high-performance aspirations for the Q50S Hybrid mean the battery is tuned to stay full for max boost capacity under hard driving. While it's nice to have the battery's juice in reserve, it's a feature owners likely won't use that often. "Very telling of the peculiar high-performance aspiration of this odd duck," says Markus.
The 2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid commands a $3150 premium over the non-hybrid Q50S. Though both the Q50S and Q50S Hybrid come with the same standard equipment, the Hybrid boasts significantly improved fuel economy. The non-hybrid Q50S is EPA rated at 19/28 mpg city/highway, and the 2014 Q50S Hybrid nets 28/34 mpg. The Infiniti Q50S Hybrid starts at $47,255, and our tester was loaded with the $5000 Deluxe Technology Package, which includes Infiniti's full suite of active safety tech, and the $1400 Navigation Package, bringing our tester's MSRP to $53,655.
Though impressive on paper, this performance hybrid is ultimately in need of a rethink. Markus sums up the 2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid best: "I get the sense that they've built this car to appeal to feuding couples where one party wants a hybrid, the other a sports car. I can assure them that both will be disappointed."
|2014 Infiniti Q50S Hybrid|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$53,655|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.5L/302-hp/258-lb-ft Atkinson cycle DOHC 24-valve V-6 plus 67-hp/214-lb-ft electric motor, 360 hp comb|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4017 lb (54/46%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||189.1 x 71.8 x 56.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.6 sec @ 103.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||115 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.89 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.8 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||29/36 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||116/94 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.61 lb/mile|