Used Vehicle Review: Infiniti Q50, 2014-2018

Vehicle Type

Luxurious cabin and quality feel, a dense and solid but comfortable drive on almost anything, a nearly invisible AWD system…

Compact sedan

History/Description

The Infiniti Q50 hit dealer lots in 2013 in advance of the following model year, replacing the popular G37 with an all-new model and incorporating a name change that referenced a more unified direction in nomenclature at Infiniti.

The Q50 showcased many styling elements inspired by the Infiniti Essence concept car and hit the road with a sculpted and athletic appearance that was both modern and dynamic. A departure from the traditional looks of many competitors, Q50 also boasted a fresh new cabin set off by dual touchscreens and a long list of advanced high-tech features.

Feature content included all luxury-sedan must-haves, including the Infiniti InTouch connectivity system, full capitalization of the latest smartphone connectivity, a high-end, specially developed Bose audio system, and a slew of the market’s latest safety features – including a radar collision warning feature that could see two vehicles up the road. Elsewhere, expect climate-controlled leather memory seating, a full driver computer, navigation, high-output headlights, automatic wipers, push-button start, and more.

A drive mode selector was available to let drivers fine-tune the Q50’s operation to their specific tastes at any given moment, and both conventional and hybrid-powered models were on offer. All models were four-door sedans.

Engines

Many used models will pack Infiniti’s award-winning 3.7-litre V6 engine, good for 328 standard all-motor horsepower. Noted for its free-revving character and rewarding power curve, this engine seems like a solid performer and one of the most reliable in the luxury car scene – both in the Q50 and other applications. It’s teamed up with a seven-speed paddle-shift automatic.

The also-available Q50 Hybrid used a slightly smaller V6 than standard Q50 models (with 3.5 litres of displacement) but saw that engine teamed up with a hybrid electric drive system to simultaneously boost performance and fuel efficiency. The resulting Q50 Hybrid is a compelling pick: it’s easier on fuel than the standard Q50, and cranks out 32 more horsepower.

Like other models, the Q50 Hybrid can be had in rear- or all-wheel drive (AWD), and with the optionally available Sport Package (designated by a red letter “S” on the name badge) for added performance touches including a more athletic suspension, and bigger wheels.

Model year 2016 saw a re-vamp of the powertrain lineup, with the earlier 3.5L V6 Hybrid driveline carried over, and the 3.7-litre V6 retired to clear room for a new 3.0L V6 unit, with twin turbochargers. This new turbocharged V6 could be had in either 300 or 400 horsepower configurations, depending on the model. Using the keyword search in the autoTRADER.ca search tool, use “Red Sport” if you’re set on a Q50 with the 400 horsepower engine. A new 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine was also made available for model year 2016. That refresh also saw the demise of RWD models in Canada, with all Q50s from that point forward offered in AWD only.

What Owners Like

Owners tend to comment positively on the Q50’s luxurious cabin and quality feel, a dense and solid but comfortable drive on almost anything, a nearly invisible AWD system that enhances driving thrills and security in slippery conditions, and powerful headlights. The premium Bose audio system is another feature favourite. Performance and an engaging feel are highly rated across the line, including from the potent Q50 Hybrid, which is also noted to be great on fuel.

What Owners Dislike

Gripes include a possibly too-stiff ride on some models when travelling over rougher roads, heavy fuel consumption from V6 (non-hybrid) models, and a few too many warning systems that may prove too fussy or sensitive in certain situations. Rear-seat headroom tightens rapidly for anyone at or above average height, and the Q50 Hybrid’s trunk is partially chewed up by the battery pack, reducing usable storage space.

Here are some owner reviews.

Pro Tip

If you’re casually curious about hybrid cars, but haven’t yet made the jump into one, a Q50 Hybrid from the used market might make a great place to start. Fear not: in this model, the hybrid system is used as both a fuel-saving and performance-enhancing measure. The Q50 Hybrid is easier on fuel than the standard Q50, meaning shoppers can expect fuel mileage similar to a big family sedan with a four-cylinder engine, despite packing a serious performance punch. The Q50 Hybrid uses the same seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift as regular models, not a CVT transmission, which is a good thing for the driving enthusiast. The Q50 Hybrid is every bit as thrilling to drive, if not more so, as the standard model – and offers solid fuel savings, too.

Here’s Your Test Drive To-Do List

Wear and Tear

Start outside with a full inspection and scrutinization of the Q50’s paint, rims, tires, and chrome accents, if equipped. Look for signs of excessive wear or damage and call this into your pricing negotiations if required.

Inside, examine the seats, steering wheel and dashboard for signs of abnormal wear as well. Be on the lookout for any peeling and chipping interior trim, rips, tears, or abrasion in the leather seating surfaces, and any visible damage or wear to the outboard driver seat bolster.

Which Year for Reliability

If you’re shopping for an earlier copy of the Q50, you may want to check out this discussion, in which owners debate whether the first year’s model (2014), or the 2015 makes a better bet. Some slightly revised features and system optimizations may lead shoppers towards the 2015 model, though the 2014 will typically be less expensive. Note that owners of the 2014 Q50 complain of extended loading times for the central infotainment system and back-up camera system, though this seems to have been resolved for 2015.

Foul Smells

Numerous owners have complained of Q50 cabins that smell gross. The odour is described as “a combination of onions and BO”, or “a mix of dead walrus and melted diapers”. Though several causes are debated, it seems like the synthetic leather seat material used in some models may be to blame. Other owners blame certain adhesives used in the construction of the cabin giving off a noxious smell when they get hot. This may be a tricky problem to remedy, though some owners report that dealers can “ionize” the cabin to help eliminate odours, or use a combination of high heat and ventilation (ie, parking the car in the hot sun with the heat cranked and windows open) to reduce the unpleasantness. Here’s some more reading.

Oil Leaks / Fluid Leaks

Though reported relatively rarely, some owners have reported leaks of various forms from certain components beneath their Q50. These include timing-cover oil leaks (on the front of the engine), transmission fluid leaks (from the bottom of the transmission pan), and rear differential leaks (from the seals). Some of these have been caused by poorly performed previous repairs by non-dealer technicians, reinforcing the importance of having a certified Infiniti technician perform any such repairs to the Q50 wherever possible. Here’s some more reading. And some more. In any case, a full, on-the-hoist inspection of the Q50 before your purchase can quickly reveal leaks like these. Ask the technician to carefully inspect the rear differential, transmission and engine timing cover area.

Electronics Galore

Numerous Q50 owners have reported random, sporadic, and elusive problems that tend to come and go with many of the high-end electronic systems on board. As a result, we’d advise any shopper to plan 10 minutes of their test drive parked, and going through each and every feature within the vehicle that runs on electricity – including the power seats, climate control, sunroof, all windows and locks, the steering-wheel mounted controls, all lighting, all touchscreens, and especially, all safety features. Some owners have reported strangely non-functional back-up sensors, back-up cameras and blind-spot detection system sensors, that may suddenly begin working again after a few days. Here’s some more information.

Two notes here. First, in more cases than you think, random electronic problems like these are caused by a weak or dying battery. If the Q50 you’re considering starts acting up as described above, the battery and charging system are a great place to start. If the battery is weak, a new one may instantly solve all above-mentioned problems. Second, never try to fix niggly electronic problems like these by unplugging and reconnecting the vehicle’s battery.

Transmission

Pay close attention to the transmission in the Q50 you’re considering, and how it shifts at light, moderate and full throttle, several times. Shift “flaring” is something a few owners have experienced – where the transmission allows the revs to climb briefly without actually speeding the vehicle up. This sensation should be easy to detect if it’s present and may feel like the transmission is slipping or broken. Most owners who have experienced it say its very rare, and some have accepted it as part of the vehicle’s normal operation. In any case, have a technician address any transmission-related concerns you have, and note that often times, a transmission fluid change and software update or reflash is the fix for issues like this.

AWD

Some owners have reported an “AWD Failure” message popping up in their instrument cluster, referencing some problem with this system. In this condition, the vehicle can typically still be driven, though it will only drive the rear wheels, not all four. In most reported cases, the problem was electronic in nature and lay with a bad sensor used to provide information to the ABS brake and AWD system. Replacing this sensor, which may be covered by remaining warranty, usually solves the problem. Here’s some more reading.

Other Useful Information

Steer by Wire

Many Q50 models have a sophisticated “steer by wire” system called Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS). This system is one-of-a-kind, computer controlled, and uses a network of sensors and motors to steer the vehicle, instead of a traditional steering rack system. Though the vast majority of owners haven’t reported any problems with it, some have reported steering wheels that fail to centre properly, steering that feels sludgy, and steering that seems to drift to one side, or the other. Here’s some more reading.

Note that problems with the DAS system will typically cause a visible error message or warning light, and that in many cases, an electronic reset or recalibration procedure is all that’s required to fix it. If the DAS system requires servicing, it must be done at an Infiniti dealer, as other facilities neither have the training or equipment required to work on this system. Used car shoppers cautious of complicated systems like these may wish to opt for a model not equipped with it. Note that the Direct Adaptive Steering system was subjected to a safety-related recall for model year 2014 units.

If You’re Going Hybrid

When buying any used hybrid, consider a full inspection of the vehicle by a factory-trained technician to be absolutely vital before you buy. Purchasing a used hybrid without a full Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI), and confirmation that all safety recalls and software updates have been applied, is not advised. Note that the Q50 Hybrid was subjected to several powertrain-related safety recalls, which dealers must perform free of charge, to address possible issues with a cracked transmission, unintended acceleration and sudden power loss. These recalls affected some units, not all of them. Work with a dealer to determine which, if any, apply to the Q50 Hybrid you’re considering.

Twin Turbo Tips

Though the Q50’s twin-turbo V6 hasn’t been around long enough to glean any meaningful reliability information, we can still offer a few useful tips. First, ensure you only fuel with Top Tier gasoline from a reputable fuelling station, at the octane specified in the owner’s manual. Many enthusiast drivers gravitate towards Shell V-Power for its cleaning properties and lack of ethanol additives.

Second, religiously stick to all maintenance requirements set out in the owner’s manual, changing oil and spark plugs in particular not a moment later than specified in the maintenance schedule – and ideally earlier.

Recalls

Here’s a list of recalls. With the vehicle’s VIN, you can search for applicable recalls on the Infiniti website. With the owner’s permission, you can check at a dealership if recall-related repairs have been completed.

The Verdict

With a clean bill of health from a technician who has confirmed that the Q50 is free of leaks, and has a healthy battery, this looks like a solidly-reliable luxury sport sedan that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2014, 2015)
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars

Currently available on autoTRADER.ca
Beware of foul odours and fluid leaks. 8/2/2018 6:28:00 AM