It's safe to assume that car manufacturers have mastered the art of building engines and powertrains. Not so long ago, it was common to ask if this or that powerplant was a good one, and some were definitely better than others.
Not so much anymore; whatever you buy, regardless of the market segment it is in, you can usually rest assured that the engine powering your vehicle of choice is bulletproof. Again, some are better than others, but, given proper maintenance, today's internal combustion engine is a paragon of reliability and efficiency.
Car makers have moved on, devoting much of their research and development to fuel economy, comfort and convenience, and safety. Especially safety.
Take the Infiniti Q50, for example. It's chock-a-block with safety and convenience features – almost to the point of distraction.
Upscale in nature, the 2014 Q50 can be had in four trim levels, and comes with a long list of standard equipment, including hill start assist, rear passenger ventilation/heating, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth and tilt/telescoping steering. My tester, the Premium AWD edition, also featured a leather interior, heated front seats, back-up camera and a four-setting drive mode selector that allows you to adapt the AWD system to various settings for snow/mud, sport, eco and so on.
The Q50 comes with what Infiniti calls a Safety Shield, which will prepare the car in the event of an unavoidable accident, and apply the brakes automatically to mitigate damage. Other manufacturers have similar systems. On top of that, the system will, if it determines that you need to slow down, alert the driver via the screen display and push the throttle pedal back up while gently applying the brakes. The Safety Shield will also calculate if there are upcoming dangers the driver may not be able to sense and will warn him/her accordingly. Infiniti claims that this is the first system of its kind in the world. Four cameras provide a 360-degree view around the car, and some of these safety features are keyed off of these.
And there's more: lane departure warning, blind spot intervention, intelligent cruise control and distance control assist. Infiniti hasn't missed much and the Q50 is arguably the safest four-door sedan it has ever put forward.
The Q50 also has apps galore. As well as adjusting throttle and steering response, you can build your personal calendar for various appointments and meetings, access Facebook connections and even use a keyboard. The Q50 is wired to the hilt and, according to Infiniti, you can stay connected at all times. Sounds exhausting.
Happily, Infiniti offers a non-gizmo version of the Q50, with rear-wheel-drive and fewer of the distractions. This model starts at $37,500, and is the most appealing of the four offered. My tester, for example, with the "deluxe touring package" ($3,000), navi system ($1,400) and technology package ($1,300), will cost you more than $50,000. Add taxes and various levies, and you're looking at sixty grand – or close to it.
The base model, on the other hand, retains the essence of this car, without the distractions.
2014 Infiniti Q50
Type: Compact luxury sedan
Base Price: $37,500; as tested: $51,095
Engine: 3.7 litre V-6
Horsepower/torque: 328 hp/269 ft.-lb.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 11.1 city; 7.3 hwy. Premium fuel.
Alternatives: Lexus IS 350, BMW 3-series, Acura RLX, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes C-class, Hyundai Genesis, Kia Cadenza.
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