Driver's Seat: Infiniti Q50 boasts advanced tech, but limited drivability

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Inside, the car is outfitted with advanced digital tech, but some functions are puzzling.

Three-way luxury battle: 2015 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Performance Collection vs. Lexus IS350 F-Sport AWD vs. 2015 Infiniti Q50S 3.7 AWD.

This week: Infiniti Q50S.

Price: $47,955 as tested ($45,450 base price, plus $1,400 for Navigation package and $200 for a temporary spare tire).

Marketer's pitch: "Not all reflexes are biological. Some are digital."

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds.com liked the "many standard high-tech electronic and safety features . . . muscular V-6 engine; roomy trunk" but not the lack of "a frugal four-cylinder engine; disappointing handling when pushed."

Reality: Not as fun as it looks.

Up to speed: So far, Mr. Driver's Seat could have put a lot of money into the luxurious CTS or saved a little but had tons of fun in the Lexus.

Skin deep: The Infiniti - in its second year in this incarnation - may be the bargain of the three, but its exterior has arguably the most elegance.

But on the road? As the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat well knows, sometimes to get something this handsome, we must endure some quirks.

What a blast: The Q50's 3.7-liter V-6 engine creates 328 horsepower, and this rockets the sedan to Infiniti - and beyond.

On the road: The handling is top notch. Country roads are a blast, especially in sport or personal modes. But uneven highway surfaces led the Q50 astray more than I'd expect from a luxury sedan.

Overwhelming choices: The five, count 'em, five driving settings all seemed part right. Sport was fast but stiff on the highway; standard felt like a compromise; eco was dogged.

Shifty: The seven-speed automatic transmission seems a little behind today's eights and nines.

Shiftability on the lever and on fixed paddles offers drivers choices. However, the lever is fairly mushy and the paddle fairly stiff.

Getting adjusted: I expected the Infiniti to leave me a little overwhelmed; the company's reputation as providing the latest advanced technology (digital reflexes and all that) precedes it.

True to form, handsome buttons across the bottom of the dashboard control the touchscreen and also power the heated seats. But the three-stage seat heaters are served by single-stage buttons.

When it's cold outside, I usually need only a touch of seat heat for a few moments. So I hit the button, waited a few minutes, and then turned it off when I was warm, but continued to feel warmer. "Hmmm," I looked over and saw the light on. "Thought I turned that off." I hit it again. The light stayed on. Once more. Still lit.

Finally, on the fourth press - by this time closer to a punch - the light shut off. Only later when I accessed the heater through the touchscreen did it show me hi-med-low.

Play some tunes: A single volume control dial sits alone outside the touchscreen. A tuning dial would be such a delightful addition.

The radio station list needs to be repopulated at the start of the drive. No full station list was readily apparent, or even apparent after 400 miles of driving. Fortunately, XM's list was easier to find.

Sound was clear but not quite up to the level of Acura, for example.

Friends and stuff: The outspoken Sturgis Kid 1.0 wishes to applaud Infiniti for trying to build stronger leg muscles among its center rear seat passengers. Between the high-riding seat, the forward tilt on the seat bottom, and the way the passenger's legs are left to straddle the large hump, this is barely even a place for a quick trip for ice cream.

Everybody else enjoyed nice accommodations. The corner rear seats look snug at first, but 6-foot-tall boyfriend of Sturgis Kid 3.0 found the legroom and foot room fairly generous.

Night shift: The map lights in front and corner lights in rear cast a pretty illumination on the cabin. But the special LED headlights sit a little low.

Fuel economy: I averaged 20.5 miles per gallon in the usual mix of highway and suburban driving, a fair comparison to the Cadillac and the Lexus.

Where it's built: Tochigi, Japan.

How it's built: Consumer Reports puts the predicted reliability of the Q50 as much worse than average.

In the end: For my money, it's the Lexus. The Lexus IS350 F-Sport was a delight on the road.


ssturgis@phillynews.com 215-854-2558