Review and Photos by Jeff Wilson

First Drive: 2014 Infiniti Q50 luxury cars infiniti hybrids first drives
First Drive: 2014 Infiniti Q50 luxury cars infiniti hybrids first drives
2014 Infiniti Q50. Click image to enlarge

Let me set the record straight. Under no circumstances whatsoever does Infiniti – or the company’s legal experts – want you to do what we did.  It is irresponsible and reckless.  But it is also one of the most surreal motoring experiences we’ve ever had.

Somewhere south of Barrie, Ontario, on Highway 400, my driving partner on our Infiniti Q50 media preview event may have taken his hands off the steering wheel while it was in his control.  He may have done so while the car was traveling at a speed slightly above the posted limit.  And he may have not returned his hands to the Q50’s wheel until such a time as he had opened and eaten a chewy granola bar kindly provided by Infiniti’s PR team.  The duration of these events amounted to several minutes.

While it is assuredly not intended to be an autonomous car, Infiniti’s new mid-sized sedan (and replacement to the G37) is as close as I have ever come to experiencing one. As part of a suite of technological safety advances, the Active Lane Control system uses its fleet of cameras to watch the road markings and help keep the car safely within its lane. The system is intended to enhance on-centre driving capability and improve stability, and essentially eliminates the need for the driver to constantly correct and fine-tune the steering due to road surface changes or crosswinds. This, Infiniti says, effectively reduces driver fatigue.

Active Lane Control (a world’s first) is possible thanks to another Infiniti global first – Direct Adaptive Steering. This system takes electric steering to an entirely new level by removing the mechanical steering shaft out of the equation altogether. Well, nearly altogether – a redundant shaft system is on standby in the event of a power supply disruption to the system, where it’ll instantly snap into place to save the car and its occupants.

First Drive: 2014 Infiniti Q50 luxury cars infiniti hybrids first drives
First Drive: 2014 Infiniti Q50 luxury cars infiniti hybrids first drives
2014 Infiniti Q50. Click image to enlarge

Since there is no physical connection between driver’s hands and the road surface as there normally is through a mechanical steering set up, Direct Adaptive Steering eliminates all steering feedback, vibration and noise from the road surface normally transmitted through the steering shaft. With the interface being entirely electric, a continuous feedback loop monitors what is happening where the rubber meets the road and sends information back to the steering wheel digitally.

If you are thinking Direct Adaptive Steering must feel quite artificial to the driver, you would be right – but surprisingly it’s not as numb as other electrically assisted mechanical systems currently on the market. Still, despite being able to dial in your levels of steering quickness and the heaviness of the steering action, this system falls well short of the lively and precise-feeling setups in Cadillac’s ATS or the new Lexus IS.

The active technology goes on though. While adaptive cruise control systems – guided by sonar, radar or cameras – are becoming commonplace in luxury cars (and even some family sedans) these days, Infiniti has improved on the system further by having the car look beyond the car immediately in front. By running its radar just off the road’s surface, the Q50 is able to see not only what the car in front of it is doing, but also what the car in front of that car is doing too, meaning it can react to a dangerous situation even if the driver can’t yet see it.

Over the course of our media drive from Toronto to the picturesque Windermere House on Lake Rosseau, I drove the Q50 in two different setups.




About Jeff Wilson

Jeff Wilson is a Hamilton-based automotive journalist and accredited member of AJAC. When not pursuing his automotive passions, he divides his time between being a dad, husband and television producer.