2014 Infiniti Q50 first drive review Page 2

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Infiniti's new Drive Mode Select also helps make sure you get the driving personality right for the driving mood. With Standard, Sport, Eco, and Snow modes—as well as a customizable Personal mode—the system changes shift patterns, the sensitivity of the throttle, and even the Direct Adaptive Steering's effort and ratio.

True steer-by-wire—but not as binary as it sounds

Yes, you read that right. You can actually change the effective ratio of the steering. With what Infiniti believes is the world's first true steer-by-wire technology in a production model, driver input is carefully measured, converted to steering rack inputs, while feedback is relayed back to the steering wheel. Three different parallel processors provide lots of redundancy for safety, and if the system entirely fails, the steering column is clutched back into lock with the rack via a mechanical connection.

The other big advantage of this system is that it allows the steering rack to be hard-mounted—in a way that you would never be able to do with any kind of mechanical linkage. The system also has a set of complex filters that take out so-called dirty-noise vibrations while keeping some feedback from the road.

And the geometry of the rear suspension has been altered to provide a little more compliance. We’re not yet sure how that manifests in body control and dynamics, as our preliminary drive was on semi-residential, quite heavily patrolled New England backroads.

We drove both an Infiniti Q50S with no major option packages, as well as a Q50 Hybrid with Direct Adaptive Steering and found the systems to be very, very different in behind-the-wheel character. Infiniti seems to have reduced the effort of the much-loved base steering system while leaving the steering ratio rather quick, and the result is steering that feels great around town and on the backroads but needs frequent small adjustments at highway cruising speeds.

Opt for a car with Direct Adaptive Steering (on all Hybrid models, or optional on others), and you get from what we could tell on this short drive, nice weighting, and a mix of quick ratio when you need it and a longer one for the highway. Off-center, you do indeed get a feel of the road surface, although that disappears on center and the steering wheel feels a little too rudder-like and stoic—read, numb. Meanwhile a new Active Lane Control system makes it easy to glide along in your lane on the highway, with seemingly no small adjustments needed for the pavement surface or crosswinds—and the system uses a camera system to fine-tune your lane placement in an oddly unobtrusive way.

Yes, you can turn that lane system off—it helped on the highway, where we felt at times at odds with the adaptive steering—and the Q50 otherwise offers quite the mother lode of active-safety technology that should be there if and only if you're really getting into trouble. With Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Blind-Spot Intervention, and an Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, is has you covered—in a less scolding way than the systems of just a few years ago.

Anticipating the vehicle ahead of the vehicle ahead of you

Otherwise of note is something called Predictive Forward Collision Warning, a world-first system that warns the driver of risks far ahead of what he/she might otherwise see—by sensing the second vehicle ahead, and warning the driver visually and audibly, while also tightening the seatbelt.

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