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2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Test Drive Review

First impressions are powerful, informative experiences. They determine whether or not you ever want to meet someone or do something again.

The 2016 model of the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 made its first impression on me last year at the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Texas Auto Roundup. I was jumping into and out of cars as quickly as possible so I could get the best idea possible of which one should take home the top honor of the event: the title of “Car of Texas.” Before getting into the sedan, I had a vague idea of how much power it had, but my flurry of activity blew the figure to the back of my mind.

The second I stepped on the gas, I remembered I was driving a car with 400 horsepower. The shove back into my seat helped my memory banks fire back up in a hurry. I was thrilled… and convinced that Infiniti significantly understated how much power their performance sedan really generated. If they had done that, I wouldn’t have been mad at all. I loved the Q50’s ferocious appetite for vanishing points. I wasn’t the only writer who had a great first encounter with the car. After 57 of my fellow automotive journalists and I voted, the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 was crowned the top Mid-Size Luxury Car of the competition.

That was then. For the 2018 model year, Infiniti has kept the Q50 Red Sport 400 just as powerful as it was when I rocketed it down the straights and through the curves of the Texas Motor Speedway, but changed it and its Q50 cousins in other ways. Designers have updated the entire Q50 range’s exterior styling. According to a press release, “The refined Q50 interior offers a new stitched upper instrument panel, red seat stitching and seat quilting on Red Sport 400 models. The available paddle shifters have been moved from the steering column and are now incorporated in a new steering wheel.” Q50s with the turbo four-cylinder engine are now known as the 2.0t PURE and 2.0t LUXE. New package names are also part of the Q50’s 2018 refresh.

The newest version of the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 recently got a chance to make a first impression on me. Like its older sibling, it wowed me with its power. However, I was able to spend an entire week with the 2018 model, not just a few fast minutes. My subsequent interactions with it were also pleasant.

2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Exterior

The 2017 Q50 Red Sport 400 was already a handsome vehicle. For 2018, all Q50s get tweaked front and rear fascias, an altered front grille, and revised headlights and taillights (all LED on the Red Sport 400). The Red Sport 400 gets black mirror caps. My test vehicle had the optional Carbon Fiber Package, which switched out those covers for carbon fiber units and added a carbon fiber decklid spoiler. Those accents and the graphite 19-inch wheels coordinated perfectly with the cranberry-like color of the optional Dynamic Sunstone Red paint. I thought it was the perfect color to draw attention to the Q50’s muscular and athletic lines. It was hard to ignore, especially when the sun was shining on it and highlighting its sculpted physique. It’s too bad the perforated dual exhaust tips didn’t pump out a sound that was as easy on the ears as they were on the eyes. At night, my Q50 loaner stood out more than it normally would have because it was outfitted with an optional lighted Infiniti grille emblem.

2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Interior

My seven days with the Q50 gave me an opportunity to notice and appreciate its cockpit. The way its quilted semi-aniline leather sport driver’s seat held me in place. How the shifter looked like a precision instrument and was the perfect distance away from my right hand. The unusual textured Kacchu aluminum trim on the center console and doors, and the brightness it added to the black surfaces around it. The downside was that I had plenty of time to explore the back seat and notice that it came up a little shorter on legroom for someone of my height (5’10”) than I expected it to.

With the exception of ventilated front seats and Wi-Fi (which Infiniti does offer), my press vehicle had everything I needed to stay comfortable and entertained. I could unlock and start the Q50 without taking its key out of my pocket. I had no problems connecting my smartphone to the car’s Bluetooth phone system. The same goes for entering an address into the Infiniti InTouch navigation system with voice recognition. Thanks to the optional Sensory Package (Sport), I had a 16-speaker Bose Performance Series audio system with Bose Centerpoint surround sound, upgraded interior ambient lighting, and memory settings for the driver’s seat, steering column, and outside mirrors.

Along with many other features, the Proactive Package (another option on my review vehicle) contributed Intelligent Cruise Control, which made highway travels a breeze. I told it which speed to hold and which following distance to maintain. Instead of using my right foot to dance on the gas and brake pedals, I just steered while the system did the rest.

2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Performance

I said it before and I’ll say it again: First impressions are powerful. As attractive as the Q50 Red Sport 400 is, the most enjoyable part of it was and remains its powertrain. Four-hundred horsepower (and 350 lbft of torque) never loses its appeal. Too bad I live nowhere close to the Autobahn. All I wanted to do when I was behind the wheel was drop the hammer, watch the traction control light flash as the rear summer run-flats clawed for grip, and feel the manic thrust of the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 shoot me forward.

The Infiniti Drive Mode Selector offered a variety of profiles which adjusted different vehicle settings, such as throttle response and steering, accordingly. The most aggressive of those was Sport+. I found the steering had a confidence-inspiring weight to it when I was pushing the Q50 through S-bends. The brakes were easy to modulate and linearly progressive in applying stopping force.

During normal driving, shifts from the seven-speed automatic were smooth and timely. However, they could have been a little quicker when I used the right shift paddle to jump up gears during more enthusiastic trips down back roads.

2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Safety

The list of standard safety equipment inside the Q50 Red Sport 400 is a long one. There are front airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side-impact curtain airbags for both rows of occupants. ABS, Brake Assist, and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution help scrub off speed safely. The tire pressure monitoring system makes sure every one of the tires has the right PSI. Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Backup Collision Intervention, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and Forward Emergency Braking watch out for the Q50 from all angles.

The Q50 Red Sport 400 that Infiniti allowed me to evaluate was equipped with the Proactive Package. Inside of that was an Adaptive Front lighting System, Lane Departure Prevention with Active Lane Control, and High Beam Assist, as well as other bits of tech.

2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Overall

I already knew the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 was a 400-horsepower road rocket. After spending a week with it, I learned that it was also a well-designed, generously equipped, and safety-minded luxury sedan. The one I tested had a final price of $60,510, but prices for the rear-wheel-drive 2018 Q50 Red Sport 400 start at $51,000.* Visit an AutoNation Infiniti dealership to let it make its first impression on you. It might just be powerful enough that you end up driving a Q50 home.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

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