Dynamic Digital Suspension, Direct Adaptive Steering, Active Lane Control, and a Drive Mode Selector with more than 300 possibilities. These are all available on the updated 2016 Infiniti Q50. But can a sport sedan with so many electronic nannies have a soul? I traveled to San Antonio, Texas, to drive the new Q50 Red Sport 3.0t 400 and find out.
The Q50 isn't all that new for 2016. It was completely redesigned for the 2014 model year and at the time it received an all-new platform, led the way with a new corporate face, and added several of those electronic aids. The 2016 model gets three new engines, the Dynamic Digital Suspension, a retuned version of the Direct Adaptive Steering system, and even more safety technologies. The body and interior carry over virtually unchanged.
It has a heart
The new engine lineup includes a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and a pair of twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6s. The V-6s are the first two engines in the new VR family that replaces the aging but still competitive VQ 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V-6. In base form, the VR makes 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. In the Red Sport 3.0t 400 models I drove, it spins out 400 hp at 6400 rpm and 350 lb-ft all the way from 1600 to 5200 rpm.
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Both engines use 85 percent new parts versus the VQ. Variable valve timing carries over, but they add direct injection. The exhaust manifolds are integrated into the heads, which helps reduce total weight by 40 pounds.
The differences involve the turbochargers. On the 300-hp version, the turbos spin out 8.7 psi of boost. Turbine speed sensors on the 400-hp version allow the turbos to spin faster and create 14.7 psi of boost.
On the road, the 400-horse VR is a delight. It provides willing, easy power and lets out a muffled howl when pushed. Power is accessible across the rev range, making highway passing a breeze. Zero to 60 mph takes less than five seconds, probably around 4.8 with rear-wheel drive and as low as perhaps 4.5 with all-wheel drive. If you are looking for reasons to buy the Q50 Red Sport, this engine is it.
But it has a bigger brain
Aside from the engines, the most important 2016 changes are the new Dynamic Digital Suspension (DDS) and the revised tuning for the "steer-by-wire" Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS).
DAS is the most controversial feature of the car. Infiniti says it has been revised to improve handling and impart a more natural feel. The brand also boasts that it can respond faster because there are no mechanical linkages, and it is very customizable. In fact, it is available in seven settings.
I tried the DAS in the Standard and Sport+ modes. Even within those modes it can be adjusted for weight and responsiveness. In the Standard mode it feels much like any other electric-assist power steering system, except there isn't as much feedback from the road. Infiniti put together an exercise to show how small bumps don't upset the steering wheel as they do in a system with linkages, claiming that this reduces fatigue. While that may be true, it also doesn't provide some of the feel that can make steering satisfying.
In the Sport+ mode DAS does many of the things you'd want from a steering system. It gets heavy and slower (read: stable) at highway speeds, wants to return to center, and gets quicker at low speeds. In fact, the ratio varies between 12:1 and more than 20:1.