Last week, I was strapped up, put in a crate and flown to Spain where I'd get to test out Infiniti's new BMW 3-series rival, the Q50. The mountains surrounding Barcelona looked like the ultimate playground for something rear-drive, lightweight and raucous; a Caterham would have done nicely. But a heavy, luxo-barge like the Q50? I wasn't convinced I'd emerge on the other side with a smile on my face... The specs, at least, were in the Q50's favour: AWD, 3.5-litre V6 hybrid, 359bhp, 402lb ft torque, 155mph (limited) and 0-62mph in 5.4sec (the RWD manages 5.1sec). Then there's the small fact that four-time F1 champion and Infiniti Director of Performance Seb Vettel was involved in the car's development, which must count for something, right? Either way, a set of keys were now in my hands and I was making myself comfortable - something that's no chore inside this thing. As you'll have noticed, yes, that's a pair of touch-sensitive screens in the cabin (eight inches on top, seven inches below) that display and control everything from nav to apps, G-forces to Google Mail. The leather seats are pretty special too and apparently 'improve a person's circulation by 15 per cent.' Probably thanks to their NASA-inspired witchcraft. With the open, twisty road ahead, a quick stab of the accelerator revealed a constrained V6 roar, but the type of acceleration that feels like you're not really going that fast until you look at the speedo and laugh nervously. Power is transferred via a slick, dual-clutch, seven-speed 'auto, so something told me we'd be getting through a tank of fuel pretty quickly, despite Infiniti's claimed 41.5mpg figure. Then came the corners and the Q50's trump card: Direct Adaptive Steering. DAS - controlled via the Q50's touchscreen - uses an actuator which drives the steering rack. It's a seriously impressive bit of kit that speeds up steering response and completely eliminates steering wheel vibration, no matter how harsh the road surface. Through twisty mountain roads, it was a system that allowed the Q50 to hot-foot its way through bends unnaturally quickly. The only thing that let the Q50 down was its brakes, which you could have used to roast a chicken with after 20 minutes of spirited
hooning driving. Not surprising, though; Infiniti likes to make a lardy car and this hybrid's 1860kg kerbweight is positively obese.
As a comfortable cruiser, the Q50 is a great companion. It's smooth and effortless to drive. As a sports saloon? Thanks to its power reserves and DAS system, you'll certainly have fun behind the wheel, until you cook the brakes that is...
The Q50, then, is a well-rounded and classy saloon. A recommendable alternative to the 3-series the Q50 hybrid isn't - nobody these days wants to run a 3.5-litre V6, after all...
The bigger seller (approximately 85 per cent of predicted Q50 sales) and true 3-series rivaling car is Infiniti's 168bhp, 2.2-litre diesel-engined Q50. The Mercedes-powered oil-burner I drove briefly on the same day is just as comfortable to drive and costs around £28,000. (Prices for the hybrid start from £40k).
If you're concerned that you'll be labelled a jerk for owning a Beemer, or if you're simply after something a little quirky, then you really can't go wrong with the right Q50.
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