2014 Infiniti Q50, steering by numbers: Motoramic Drives
Infiniti has a lot riding on the success of its all-new Q50 sports sedan. Not only is it replacing the beloved G37 Sedan in the Infiniti lineup, but it is the first vehicle to follow the company’s so called “controversial” new Q/QX naming convention, as well as the first vehicle built under the automaker’s new design and engineering philosophy. Infiniti hopes that by making its cars more luxurious and packing them with all kinds of technically-advanced bells and whistles it will finally join the premium luxury club with Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
After spending some time with the sporty four-door recently, we think Infiniti has little to worry about and a lot to celebrate. In fact, we tend to agree with the company’s assessment (there’s a first time for everything): The Q50 is the best sports sedan Infiniti has ever built, and it is fully capable of competing nicely with the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Lexus IS.
However, that's not what has us so stoked about this car. Instead, it is the vehicle’s uncanny ability to drive itself that had us giggling like excited girls backstage at a Taylor Swift concert — and a wee bit anxious.
Though none are standard equipment, the Q50 can be outfitted with one of the most comprehensive array of electronic driver aids we’ve come across to date. For a little as $3,200, you get Direct Adaptive Steering, Active Lane Control, Blind-Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Predictive Forward Collision Warning, among other bells and whistles.
When all of the aids are engaged, the car will automatically keep itself a safe distance from the vehicle in front, stay centered in the lane, and even navigate around sweeping curves without any input from the driver. My co-pilot and I were able to “drive” for about 35 miles on a somewhat hilly, not-so-straight-but-not-so-curvy section of I-95 just north of Boston without touching the steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal. It was incredible.
While other vehicles do feature similar “self-driving” experiences (the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, for instance), the Q50 is unique in that it uses Direct Adaptive Steering, Infiniti’s version of a drive-by-wire electrical steering system, to initiate course corrections instead of using its brakes to change the vehicle’s trajectory. The car steers itself. The driver is simply there to keep the vehicle from going completely off the rails.
Is it cool? Hell yes. Will it pose a potential problem for some drivers? Definitely.
Lane Control has particular radius of turn that it can tolerate before requesting driver intervention — it can only navigate around a certain angle before the system alerts and diverts back to driver control. Unfortunately, that angle isn't always consistent. My co-pilot and I both agreed that the vehicle often hugged the lane markers a little too close or too long for our comfort before steering back into the center of the lane. Even more concerning was that the system gives little notice when its limit is reached, letting the car simply drift into the adjacent lane whether there is a car in it or not.