I recently spent a week with the 2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, and I was pretty excited about it, as I had fond memories of the last Q50 I drove in 2014. I could only imagine what an extra 100 hp would do for this popular sport sedan. But as it turns out, the years haven’t been kind to the aging Q50, and throwing a bunch of extra power at it didn’t really help to hide the car’s shortcomings.
2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 Review: What Went Wrong?
The biggest problem is that Infiniti has failed to stay competitive, pushing out the same car year after year with minimal updates, while other brands offered all-new models that deliver better performance, handling, and looks. So while the 2014 Infiniti Q50 that I drove was great by the standards of that time, today’s Q50 is simply outclassed by more modern offerings from the competition.
Furthermore, the value proposition that Infiniti once offered compared to the likes of BMW, Mercedes, and Audi seems to be shrinking, with the base price of the 2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 model rising by nearly $10,000 since it was first introduced in 2016. The sport sedan now starts at a not-so-insignificant $57,750.
Plenty of Horsepower … And Noise
Now, on paper, the 2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 looks like it should be a hoot to drive, with a 3.0L V6 twin-turbo engine that puts out 400 hp and 350 lb.-ft. of torque, which is good for a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 13 seconds flat. And while it’s certainly fast, with numbers firmly in sports car territory, the Q50 felt more boy racer than a luxury sedan, with an unnecessarily loud and rough ride.
Though this might sound like an odd complaint, in the luxury sports sedan market customers have come to expect a certain level of refinement. Instead, the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 was obnoxiously loud, presumably by design, as this is their go-fast model. But it’s a heavy-handed approach compared to the competition — sedans with active exhausts that get louder or quieter depending on the drive mode. With the Q50, it was loud all the time, which really wore on me during long drives.
But if you can look past the loud exhaust, the car offered solid performance, as you might expect with 400 hp on tap. Acceleration was fast and effortless, and I put all of that power to the ground with all-wheel drive, which also gave me plenty of grip when hitting the twisties. Some people have complained that the Q50’s adaptive sport suspension is too stiff, but even with New Jersey’s terrible, pothole-ridden roads, I didn’t have a problem with it.
Steering feel is something that’s been a thorn in the Infiniti Q50’s side since they introduced their DAS steer-by-wire system, and indeed the steering was vague and light, to the point where I could steer the car with my pointer finger. Switching it to Sport Plus mode introduced more steering effort, but it still lacked the precise road feedback of a traditional mechanical system.
Sporty Yet Understated Exterior Design
Visually, the 2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is a good-looking car, with the more angular front bumper and wider, lower air intakes adding greater visual potency. At the rear, twin exhausts and a rear diffuser with a two-tone finish hint that this isn’t any ordinary Q50. The large 19-inch wheels with red calipers complete the sporty look. My test car also had the optional carbon fiber rear spoiler and mirror covers, which add some nice flair.
Except for die-hard Q50 fans, most people will dismiss this car as just another Infiniti, so it’s got a bit of a sleeper thing going on. Speaking of which, there’s also no Red Sport 400 badging anywhere on the car. The red “S” badging on the decklid is the only clue, aside from the larger wheels and exhaust tips. Personally, if I’m spending this kind of money on a top-of-the-line “special” model, I want people to notice.
The Slate Gray color on my tester was a new addition for 2021, but it didn’t really do much for me. If I were building one, I’d either go with Dynamic Sunstone Red or Grand Blue, both of which really accentuate the car’s lines and such.
A Dated Interior in Desperate Need of Updating
When Infiniti first introduced their dual-screen infotainment setup, it was met with universal disdain, and for good reasons. Unfortunately, Infiniti hasn’t done anything to remedy this, and it was still clunky and cumbersome to use. I could mirror Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the top screen now, so that’s something at least. But a single large screen would be way more functional and less confusing.
The bold white seats with fancy, diamond-stitched bolsters offered a touch of luxury in the cabin. And they’re rather comfortable to boot, with plenty of adjustment so you can find the perfect seating position, regardless of your height. And thanks to the Q50’s slim roof pillars, visibility out of the front and sides was better than you might expect given its sleek silhouette.
Infiniti also offers plenty of tech on the 2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, including a Bose Performance Series 16-speaker sound system, Infiniti In-Touch with navigation, Premium Traffic info, Siri Eyes Free, and a wifi hotspot. Safety features include Forward Emergency Braking, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Moving Object Detection, and more. While I found the interior all looked a bit dated-looking, at least it had the important features that drivers want.
So What’s The Verdict on The Q50 Red Sport 400?
As you can probably tell from my Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 review, I wasn’t completely sold on the sedan. It’s not that it’s a bad car, per se. I just don’t feel that it’s competitive in this segment, especially after driving one of its competitors just a few weeks prior. But perhaps my biggest issue with the car is the price. The 2021 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD has a base price of $57,750, and my loaded tester clocked in at a whopping $62,335.
Let those numbers sink in for a minute. Yes, it’s fast. But nobody wants to spend $60K on a car that looks and feels dated, especially when cars like the BMW M340i xDrive, Mercedes AMG C 43, Audi S4, Genesis G70, Kia Stinger, Acura TLX, and others offer better performance, more luxury and refinement, and updated technology, all for less (in some cases significantly less) money.
If Infiniti wants to remain competitive in this space, they really need to either introduce an all-new model to market or drop the price significantly to bring back that value proposition that the brand was once known for. After all, what’s the motivation for someone to buy a new 2021 model when you can find a virtually identical used 2018 Q50 Red Sport 400 AWD with low miles selling for $25,000 less? Food for thought.