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Infiniti Q50 offers auto first: steer-by-wire

The Infiniti Q50 is the first model from Nissan's luxury brand to offer a diesel. The 2.2-liter engine comes from alliance partner Mercedes-Benz, which also provides 2 different transmissions for the car.
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With the Q50, Infiniti is counting on a world-first technology for a serial production car – steer-by-wire – and the addition of its first diesel powertrain to lure European premium-car buyers from the dominant German brands.

Q&A
Why the name change?
The Q50 replaces the G sedan. Infiniti now uses the letter Q plus a two-digit number for cars and QX plus a two-digit number for SUVs. That means the G coupe and cabrio became the Q60 and the EX SUV is now the QX50.
How does the steer-by-wire work and what does it cost?
There is no more mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels. Steering happens via electronically controlled motors. The option costs 1,000 euros.
Does steer-by-wire provide a noticeable difference?
Driving is more precise because the steering adjusts based on speed and road type. It is more comfortable than conventional systems because the wheels no longer transmit road defects to the driver's arms via the steering wheel.
How does the Q50 compare with the German premium brand?
Size-wise, the Q50 is like the Audi A6/BMW 5 series, but its powertrains are closer to the Audi A4/BMW 3 series.
How does the gasoline-electric hybrid compare with the diesel?
The hybrid offers more than twice as much power, 364hp vs. 170hp, while CO2 emissions are only 26 percent higher at 144g/km (6.2 liters per 100km) vs. 114g/km (4.4l/100km).
Is the gasoline engine only available as a hybrid?
Yes. There is a choice of either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

The Q50 will offer a 170hp 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel from Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, which is also supplying the Q50’s six-speed manual and its seven-speed automatic transmissions. Infiniti’s parent, Nissan, together with Renault entered into a strategic alliance with Daimler in 2010 that includes sharing powertrains and platforms.

The Basics
Launch date: December (Europe); July (U.S.); summer 2014 (China)
Base price: 34,600 euros (Germany)
Main rivals: Audi A4, Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 3 series, Mercedes C class
Annual production: 60,000 (2014, global)
Where built: Tochigi, Japan
Lowest CO2 emissions: 114g/km (170hp, 2.2-liter diesel)

The Q50 will be joined by the Q30 compact, which Infiniti plans to debut at the Geneva auto show in March 2015. The Q30 will use Mercedes’s MFA architecture and it will be the first Infiniti built in Europe. Infiniti has struggled to gain a foothold since its 2008 launch in Europe, where it has sold just 1,662 units through 10 months, according to JATO Dynamics.

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You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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