Review update: 2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport hits the mark, misses the cut

I enjoyed my week in the 2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport. The streets were clear of winter, except for the chalk dust residue of road salt, the sun emerged from hibernation, and a 400-hp twin-turbo V-6 provided enough spring zing to forget the long winter’s march of dull crossovers. Yet I wouldn’t buy it. 

The Red Sport variant of the Q50 and its TCC Rating of 6.0 out of 10 turns the anonymous compact into a performance sedan that bumps into the podium of the BMW 3-Series. The acceleration, grip, outward vision, and sure-footed handling encouraged me to drive hard and drive again, but the Q50 Red Sport has grown old yet remained expensive while new models have been introduced and redesigned models have been improved. 

In a vacuum, the Q50 Red Sport launched for 2016 spikes the adrenaline behind the wheel. But stacked up against a BMW M340i xDrive that’s $1,000 cheaper, or a Genesis G70 or Kia Stinger that’s nearly $10,000 less expensive, the Q50 Red Sport cannot overcome the cash-for-splash disparity. 

A week around town with the aging performance sedan, including fitting my daughter’s hockey gear in the trunk, gave me a newfound hope for a brand that lately has been washed out of excitement by uninspired crossover SUVs. Here’s where Infiniti is strong, and where it could be stronger.

2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD

2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD

 

Hit: Performance

The Q50 Red Sport uses a 400-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with a quick 7-speed automatic made quicker still by paddle shifters that better modulate downshifts and expectations. The tester came with all-wheel drive and a quoted 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. The twin turbos negate lag, so it jumps off the line, then slingshots ahead with the available 350 lb-ft of torque coming on as early as 1,600 rpm. The engine is a delight, with a distant warble at low speeds around the neighborhood in Comfort mode, but tapping the rocker switch to Sport fires up a whirring howl, where it feels happiest. The drive modes adjust both throttle and steering response that carried more weight in Sport mode. The tester was not fitted with the available drive-by-wire steering system. 

Hit: All-wheel drive

Standard with rear-wheel drive, the tester added AWD for $2,000. It remains rear-wheel powered until the system detects slip and sends up to 50% of the torque to the front wheels. The tester had all-season Dunlop tires wrapped on 19-inch alloy wheels, and the grip was impressively stubborn. Even on a cold night in an empty parking lot, the Q50 Red Sport maintained a line without any kick or slide from the rear. 

Miss: Outdated dual screen interface

2021 Infiniti Q50

2021 Infiniti Q50

An 8.0-inch touchscreen for navigation or Apple CarPlay sits above a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment and vehicle functions. A dial in the center console enables easy zooming on the map, but the lower touchscreen’s small icons and overall layout feels a generation old, because it largely is. Launched for 2014 and updated in 2018, the Q50 will likely stick around in its current form at least through 2022, and that makes it even harder to keep pace with the redesigned 3-Series, Genesis G70, and forthcoming C-Class. 

Hit: Seat comfort

Despite a firm ride that can also be loud, the power front seats covered in semi-aniline leather struck the right balance between support and comfort. A thigh extender and power lumbar support, and a lack of big side bolsters, gave the thickly padded seats enough flexibility to let the driver make small adjustments for the situation. 

Miss: Price

The tester cost $62,355 with destination. Remove the carbon fiber package that added nothing to the performance, as well as premium paint and other inessentials, and the Red Sport costs $58,775. It’s not as composed or athletic as the M340i, lacks the overall class of the AMG C43, and the tech falls way short of the S4. And the Red Sport is more expensive than all of them. Infiniti has priced it out of consideration, as illustrated below. 

no title

2021 BMW M340i xDrive

Drivetrain: 382-hp 3.0-liter turbo-6 with 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive

0-60 mph: 4.1s

Price: $57,695 (all prices include destination)

no title

2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG C43

Drivetrain: 385-hp 3.0-liter bi-turbo-6 with 9-speed automatic and all-wheel drive

0-60 mph: 4.5s

Price: $57,550

no title

2021 Audi S4

Drivetrain: 349-hp 3.0-liter turbo-6 with 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive

0-60 mph: 4.4s

Price: $50,945

no title

2021 Genesis G70 3.3T

Drivetrain: 365-hp 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive

0-60 mph: 4.5s

Price: $49,225

Same plant as in Kia Stinger, which also costs less than $50,000. 

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport

Drivetrain: 472-hp 5.0-liter V-8 with 8-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive

0-60 mph: 4.5s

Price: ? Arrives this fall

_______________________________________

2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD

Base price: $58,775, including $1,025 destination

Price as tested: $62,355

Drivetrain: 400-hp 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 7-speed automatic and all-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 19/26/22 mpg format

The hits: Acceleration, handling

The misses: Price, infotainment

Comments are closed.