2018 INFINITI Q50 3.0t SPORT in SCOTTSDALE REVIEW FROM A SHUNPIKER'S JOURNAL
2018 INFINITI Q50 3.0t SPORT in SCOTTSDALE
Travel Review from A Shunpiker’s Journal
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Another visit to the Sonoran Desert filled our calendar at the end of January. We’re finished with the intense Detroit auto show and ready to spend some quiet, exploratory time where the sun shines nearly every day. My pretty wife, A sun lover, booked some time at a resort on the northern edge of Scottsdale where we are surrounded by local culture and some of the most beautiful desert scenery imaginable.
To facilitate our explorations on this trip the good folks at Infiniti loaned us the sport version of their mid-size, rear- or all-wheel drive, sedan called Q50 3.0t Sport. We’ll not be doing any off-roading in the desert to be sure, since its front spoiler is just inches off the ground. But, as is our pleasure, we’ll be exploring as far and wide as we can. We’ll explore the Q50 as well.
Q50, Infiniti’s best-selling product, experienced a modest mid-cycle update for 2018. You would have to look closely to tell the differences as they tweaked the details just enough to freshen it a bit. The Q50 fits nicely into the trendy Scottsdale scene of high-end cars where we may see a couple Tesla's, a Ferrari and an Aston Martin at any random stoplight – or a Bentley or Lamborghini. Scottsdale is a great place for a car lover.
Our first drive took us about a hundred miles northwest to the prosperous city of Prescott. We had not visited there in many years and our friend, Mojave Moses (whom some of you have read about here), is planning a move to that foothills city. We took the scenic route beginning with US Highway 60, much of which is too urbanized to be of much interest. Once past Wickenburg, though, we cut off onto AZ 89 for the second half the journey where it became a spectacular drive through two sets of mountains and high meadows. Winter was in evidence all around us while we gradually climbed to Prescott’s 5,500-foot elevation. The flora was like a sepia-tone photograph with earthy brown instead of sepia hues changing often in the soft winter light as we wound up and down the slopes. We had the road mostly to ourselves and the Q50’s handling felt as sophisticated as any luxury sedan, though not as stiff as the Germans.
We arrived in Prescott recalling a particularly pristine park from our previous visit. We wanted to photograph the Q50 there while it is still clean. With a huge, beautiful courthouse as centerpiece in the town square, Prescott is spreading out rapidly, particularly to the east along the main road to Phoenix. The south part of the city is still rustic, but urban sprawl plagues much of the town. We had lunch at the upscale, popular Prescott Brewery on the town square.
Watson Park was about where we remembered it on the north side of town on the road toward Jerome. The unusual granite formations, a vividly blue lake and a gaggle of quackers, made this an aesthetic backdrop for our photos where the Q50 proved photogenic on the Watson Park boat ramp. People who appreciate cars will immediately see the Infiniti design language with the puckery grille and squinty headlights. Judicious use of shinny trim and subtle sculpting give it a classy look, at least to my somewhat opinionated, eye. The styling does very little to call attention to itself, but makes a quiet statement about its identity.
The Q50’s cabin is up to par with what you might expect for a luxury sedan - comfortable, quiet and elegant with nice leather and other upscale materials, lots of stitching, mostly conventional gauges and enough style to be interesting. It was not always easy to manage the car’s functions, though. The learning curve will be substantial for those who have not been driving an Infiniti. We struggled to set a destination in the GPS and simply change stations on the radio. The auxiliary and USB ports are awkwardly hidden in the center console. The navigation screen is controlled both by touch and a remote knob and the apps screen is touch only. It will all take some getting used to. Otherwise, the ergonomics are mostly good, as is the tactile quality of all those things we touch.
We just need to get on the north side of the AZ-101 freeway to access a number of multilane, divided roads through areas still undeveloped enough to be uncongested. These mostly-straight roads often facilitate people with hot cars spiritedly interacting with one another. This Q50, with its 300 horsepower and 7-speed automatic with manual mode easily kept up with them all. Well, . . . most anyway.
Not far north of suburban Scottsdale are the gentrified cowboy towns of Cave Creek and Carefree. It’s a great place to see how the historic culture mixes with moneyed folks who’ve moved in, but are dedicated to preserving the culture. Artists who work in large metal, wood and stone sculptures, easily mix with working cowboys and the gentry. Lunch at the Buffalo Chip Saloon, largest and busiest restaurant in Cave Creek, is where that cultural mix could be studied, both inside and out. A table full of six dusty guys in well-worn boots and big hats, two of whom were in chaps and spurs, were surrounded by well-dressed, well-tanned rich folks, and a few tourists. In the parking lot an S-Class Mercedes was parked next to a dusty, rusty old work truck with a horse trailer attached.
Our test car’s 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6 was named one of Ward’s 10-Best Engines. You can have it in a 400-hp version if you like, or in the 300-hp one we have in our test car. With almost 300 lb.-ft. of torque, rear-wheel drive and sport suspension the driving dynamics of the Q50 will please most performance-oriented drivers. Too bad they don’t offer a manual transmission. The EPA says we can expect around 29 mpg on the highway, 23 in the city and 25 combined using premium fuel. We managed 27 mpg over our 800 miles spent, probably less than 20% on freeways.
On a drive south to visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens with some friends we had a chance to dice with urban traffic around Phoenix and high-speed, truck-intensive freeway traffic on I-10. We found the Q50 competent and fun in all those conditions. With good visibility, lots of power, and paddle shifters we were able to drive with the most-lively traffic. The Q50 starts at just over 34-grand for the reasonably quick 208-hp, four-cylinder version and just over 40-grand for this Sport model with the twin-turbo, 300-hp V-6 referenced above. Both get a 7-speed automatic transmission as do the two other powertrains offered in the Q50. This pretty silver one (Liquid Platinum, they call it) is loaded with options including premium sound, all the driver assistance tech, sport suspension and brakes, and special trim. The bottom line on the sticker shows $50,410.
Infiniti’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 4 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles.
While a bit pricey for many, this Infiniti Q50 3.0t Sport earns its stripes with premium content, excellent performance and enough personality be great fun. You can get it with four different powertrains and enough trim levels to boggle your mind. While it does not stand out appreciably in any category, compared to its competitors, it holds up well in just about all.
Oh, and since this is a travel story, too, I’ll report that Scottsdale is a great place to center a thorough exploration of the Sonoran Desert - from Tucson to Sedona, Prescott to Winslow. We’ll have more desert descriptions and a visit one of our other favorite destinations, Sedona, as part of next week’s review of the Audi A4.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved
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