2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD Premium
2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD Premium
2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD Premium. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Justin Pritchard

My Grandfather, who is Italian and called ‘Nonno’ by his nine grandkids and six great-grandkids, had an interesting way to determine whether or not a car was ‘good’. Some years ago, Nonno took me for a grandfatherly driving lesson in his beloved 1996 Chevrolet Malibu and explained his theory.

In his gruff voice and thick accent, while still at the wheel ahead of our driver swap, Nonno told me ‘You take your hands off of the wheel. You see? Like this!”

We were travelling, probably, 120 km/h down the EC Row Expressway in Windsor, Ontario. Nonno, in his late seventies at the time, had little use for speedometers. And my mom, who had joined us for the ride but promised not to interrupt, was in the back seat likely containing a serious freak-out.

‘You see! You see! Look! It keeps going straight! Good car. Nothing wrong with this car!”

Nonno was looking over at me now, for my reaction, with no hands on the wheel. I’m not sure how my mom didn’t faint.

“That’s great, Nonno!”

He smiled because I looked impressed, put his hands back on the wheel, and the driving lesson carried on without issue.

Fast forward some 14 years. Nonno is in his nineties and no longer drives – which is a shame as I’m almost positive the new Infiniti Q50’s fancy-pants steering system would have impressed Nonno immensely.

You’ve heard of it. It can steer for you – without steering-wheel inputs. Nonno would love this car, because if he’d removed his hands from the wheel, the car would carry straight down the road or even around modest curves, staying between the lines, almost no matter what.

Not that you should take your hands off of the wheel while driving, of course. That’s naughty, dangerous, and will likely result in a traffic accident of epic proportions.

But those little steering adjustments you typically make to keep your vehicle in its lane at speed, less so if you’re in a Nonno-approved car, are done for you by the Q50’s Direct Adaptive Steering system.

It’s possible for two reasons.

2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD Premium2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD Premium
2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD Premium. Click image to enlarge

First, because the steering wheel isn’t actually attached mechanically to the front wheels of the car, which means the wheels can be turned without you turning the wheel. And second, since a camera knows where the Q50 is in relation to its lane. Result? The car is virtually magnetized to the centre of the lane, without your help. And, if you were to remove your hands from the wheel or even forget to steer (please don’t), the system will turn the corner for you – so long as it’s not too sharp.

Without a physical connection to transmit anything back to the driver’s fingertips, said drivers feel less of the vibration and harshness from rough roads, and more of the good stuff – namely the weight of the vehicle, its attitude, and the steering ratio and effort, which can be customized almost however one likes via touchscreen. Light and lazy or stiff and sporty, the click of a button sets this steering system up in any configuration.  It’s different, and even if it’s artificial, it still offers up a better steeling feel than some cars connected by an actual steering shaft.

I could nitpick the at-the-limit steering intricacies compared to various Audis and Benzes and BMWs, or go into other stuff you’d find out on a racing circuit, but I won’t. In about 97 percent of driving, the at-the-limit steering feel is irrelevant. If you dial the Q50’s system into its standard setting, and set off for the grocery store or dog-park, it functions like normal steering and you’ll never really tell the difference. You get the same resistance, effort and feel to the wheel, though none of the feedback from the road. It’s eerily smooth compared to a regular steering system much of the time.

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