Adventurous, slightly odd Infiniti burst into the U.S. 30 years ago with an ad campaign featuring a rock in a creek with a leaf.
Seriously. It didn’t make much of a splash, landing with all the clarity of a Japanese existential novel.
Was Infiniti building cars or brewing fertilizer, I wondered?
The vehicle that I think really embodies Infiniti’s recent resurgence is the edgy, often-growling Q50 Red Sport 400 sedan.
My hick friends and I figured that Infiniti’s cars – once we finally saw one – must be strong as a rock or windswept and slippery or just look darn good wet.
Beats me. But these days, I see new life in that strange old creek.
Most of the bubbles come from crossover vehicles, of course, but the vehicle that I think really embodies Infiniti’s recent resurgence is the edgy, often-growling Q50 Red Sport 400 sedan.
It makes no secret of its bad intentions.
All I needed was one glance at the car’s dual four-inch diameter exhaust pipes to guess what it had planned.
But first, I puzzled over the mysterious color of the 2017 Q50 I had recently. Nothing’s easy with Infiniti.
The pumped-up sedan absolutely glowed in a shade of wine-red shot through with what looked like candy apple, purple and maybe even a dash of pink in some direct light.
It seemed appropriate. Unlike many of Infiniti’s dowdy sedans from the past, the mid-size Q50 bristled with fine lines and great proportions.
A powerful sculpted hood, for example, slid down to a broad, low-slung grille that shouldered up to piercing, wraparound headlamps.
The mid-size Q50 bristled with fine lines and great proportions.
Meanwhile, the Q50’s taut, muscular sides featured a prominent character line above the door-handles and a second, slightly lower line that formed a shoulder over the short rear fender.
As a performance model, the Red Sport sits low, settling tightly onto 245/40 tires up front and 265/35s in back wrapped around multi-spoke 19-inch gray wheels.
Those wheels, incidentally, were positioned at the far corners of the body, giving the Q50 the appearance of something poised to pounce. I gave it wide berth for the first few days.
Appropriately, given the car’s lean lines, a tiny, tasteful lip-spoiler in carbon-fiber clung to the trunk, complementing carbon-fiber-sheathed mirrors and a small carbon-fiber splitter up front.
Just for the record, I’m not sure what Red Sport signifies, but I guess it sounds better than Rock and Leaf in Creek.
But, hey, all I really wanted to hear was the Q50’s twin-turbocharged 3-liter V-6, humming darkly at idle with impatience.
Throaty down low, the heavily fortified engine gets more insistent with speed, swelling to almost a hoarse shriek at 6,000 rpm.
Thanks to some very stout boost from the turbochargers, the 400-horsepower engine shoves the Q50 away from stops with a dusky howl, all elbows and anger.
The jewel of an engine was paired with a mostly decent 7-speed automatic.
I never noticed any turbo lag – only instant, fairly explosive response from the throttle that often left the meaty rear tires scratching for traction.
The jewel of an engine was paired with a mostly decent 7-speed automatic that could be slow to downshift but didn’t impede the Infiniti from blasting to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Fuel economy was an OK 20 miles per gallon in town and 26 on the highway.
The 3,900-pound Q50 also rode pretty well for something with solid sports-sedan credentials, stepping firmly over bumps but never lapsing into low-class stumbles.
Moreover, the rear-wheel-drive sedan seemed to like corners, turning quickly and athletically into them without any body-lean and maintaining a clean line throughout.
That could occasionally be a challenge, though. While quite quick, the Q50’s steering felt really numb, leaving me to wonder sometimes if the wheels were on concrete or a corn field.
Fortunately, it didn’t cause much squirming inside the car’s well-executed black interior.
Although a little heavier in plastic than I had expected in a $60,000 sports sedan, the interior looked properly high-end.
A curved dashboard in pliable plastic, for example, flashed red stitching on its edges and curved around a large center-stack with two display screens to keep you busy.
Quirky Infiniti bolted most of the right parts and pieces together with the hot Q50 Red Sport.
As is becoming way too prevalent, the audio system had to be tuned with dopey touchpads. At least the stack offered blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and backup collision intervention.
The upper dash, meanwhile, wrapped around the base of the windshield, flowing gracefully into the Q50’s door-panels, which were trimmed in a fake aluminum trim that looked fairly good.
Better still, the swaggering sedan featured highly supportive black-leather seats with unusual quilted bolsters and smooth centers.
Even the back seats felt reasonably comfortable, providing good leg- and head-room.
I got it this time. Quirky Infiniti bolted most of the right parts and pieces together with the hot Q50 Red Sport and seems to be flowing nicely – just like a creek, I suppose.
2017 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400
What I liked most: The Q50’s lusty, highly responsive 400-horse V-6.
What I would change: The vague steering, which just doesn’t measure up to the car’s well-tuned suspension.
MSRP: Base price, $51,000; as equipped, $60,510.
Fuel economy: Rated at 20 miles per gallon in town, 26 on the highway and 22 mpg overall with the fuel filler on the right.