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Switch in names, but still a winning sports sedan for Infiniti

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2014 Infiniti Q50

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When he took over global operations for Infiniti in July of 2012, Johan de Nysschen took a look at the alphabet soup-like mishmash of the luxury arm of Nissan and essentially said, “No more.”

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In December that year, the South African who engineered Audi’s resurgence at his previous stop announced that from now on, Infiniti sedans, coupes, and convertible no longer would carry G, M, J or I designations as they had in the past but would simply bear the letter “Q” followed by a numerical suffix. SUVs and crossovers would be labeled QS followed by a double digit to represent their position in the Infiniti lineup.

Why Q?

“Q,” de Nysschen said in news release announcing the change, “captured the inspiration within the next generation of Infiniti models as well as emphasizing our performance credentials while harking back to our heritage with the Q45 -- Infiniti's first iconic flagship product in 1989.”

The first model to bear the new designation is the Q50 sedan, a successor to the well-received G sedans, coupes, and convertibles of recent vintage.

An all-new model, the Q50 comes in three trim levels -- base, Premium and Sport -- with either a standard gasoline engine or a gas-electric hybrid power train that, unlike typical hybrids, packs a pretty good punch (zero-to-60 mph in 4.9 seconds in rear-wheel drive models, 5.2 in models with all-wheel drive).

This review deals with the gasoline Q50, which features a 3.7-liter V6 power plant.

Perhaps you were expecting something in the 5.0-liter range because of the “50” designation, no? That’s another change in Infiniti’s new nomenclature.

In an email, a company spokesman explained that no longer will numerical digits in model names refer to engine size but instead will represent the vehicle’s place in the company hierarchy. Thus the midsize Q50 falls between the Q70 (the former top-of-the-line M) and the soon-to-arrive Q30 compact sedan with the other slots to be filled.

This also will help eliminate confusion in the future as smaller engines with more horsepower and better fuel efficiency are developed, making say a 3.5-liter V6 a step up from a 5.6-liter V8 when the numbers in the game (56 over 35) would seem to indicate the reverse.

And there’s also the issue of future electrical power trains that make moot the whole issue of basing model names on engine size.

But getting back to the Q50, the 3.7-liter V6 under its hood is rated at 328 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 269 pound-feet of torqure at 5200 rpm, matching power numbers for the 2013 G sedan’s V6.

It is mated with a seven-speed automatic transmission with steering column-mounted -- not steering wheel -- paddle shifters for manual gear selection if desired. Alas, the six-speed manual in Sport versions of lG models has been discontinued, a disappointment for those who like to drive with three pedals.

The 3.7-liter engine drinks the recommended premium fuel at the rate of 20 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway in base trim with RWD and 19/27 in RWD Premium and Sport models. Figures for AWD are 19/27 in base trim, 19/27 in Premium and Sport.

Infiniti doesn’t provide zero-to-60 times for the V6, but there are no issues with its acceleration. It’s very quick off the line. You can also get a bit more kick by switching the transmission from Standard to Sport mode.

Yet even though the Q50 is a bit lighter in RWD configuration than the 2013 G sedan (which had no AWD offering), the Q50 doesn’t seem quite as agile as its predecessor.

The Q50 seems to lean a bit more toward the luxury side of the equation with the generous use of leather and other high-quality materials throughout the interior. It’s also packed with the usual array of technological features operated by the Infiniti InTouch dual display system.

The dual screens allow you to perform a function on the lower screen, say changing the audio system, on the lower screen without switching from the navigation system’s map on the top screen.

And Infiniti had the good sense to allow some basic controls to be operated with simple knobs and buttons on the attractive center stack.

Pricing for the 2014 Q50 starts a $37,150, not including the $905 destination and delivery charge, for the base trim with RWD. RWD Premium and Sport models start at $40,000 and $43,650, respectively. AWD models add $1,800, and options can get you quickly over the $50,000 mark.

For a quick look at the Q50 and stats, check out the accompanying slide show.

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