Road test: 2017 Infiniti Q50S Red Sport 400


More often than not, personal context has a huge effect on initial impressions of a car. Take the Red Sport 400. The previous car I drove before jumping inside the headline draw of Infiniti's Q50 range was a Lamborghini Hurac?n. Which, by rights, should make the Japanese sports saloon seem about as punchy as a boxer with two broken wrists. The biggest compliment that I can pay the Red Sport is that this turns out to be far from the reality.

Its luxury shines through at low speeds around town, with super-smooth responses and ride quality ? the latter aided by the addition of Infiniti's Dynamic Digital Suspension. But what that doesn't reveal is that beneath its bonnet, the Red Sport has a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 that knocks out a not-to-be-chortled-at 400hp. Switch to Sport+ mode, and suddenly it has some growl, alongside fairly brutal acceleration, especially in second, third and fourth gears. Get slightly overenthusiastic at such points and you can make the rear wheels spin without too much trouble.

Although no official figures seem to be available, it flies from 0 to 100kph in about 4.5 seconds, but the uninitiated would never guess, because the Red Sport is something of a street sleeper. A slightly angry front splitter and shiny chrome-tipped dual exhausts aside, its styling is rather ordinary, even by polite sports-saloon standards set by compatriot Lexus. For obvious reasons, Infiniti has advertised the Red Sport in fittingly rouge shades, although my test car is a less pulse-quickening navy blue, which only serves to heighten the KGB levels of undercover potential going on here.

On the flip side of the power on offer, I can confirm that the brakes are more than up to the job of bringing those 400 horses to a screeching standstill in the space of a few metres. The prime evidence? The successful emergency stop that I'm forced to make by a Nissan Patrol driver deciding to make an almost-catastrophic last-millisecond lane change at a junction in Abu Dhabi.

Kit is top-notch, with numerous safety features as standard, including tyre-pressure monitoring, hill-start assist, six airbags, brake assist and pedestrian alerts, as well as a reversing camera and front/rear parking sensors. It smartly boasts two separate touchscreens (eight-inch and seven-inch) allowing you to see, for example, the satnav and stereo displays simultaneously, and there's just about every connectivity option you could possibly need: Bluetooth, two USB inputs, SD card slot, audio line in, plus voice recognition. There's even also a snow setting on the drive-mode selector. Infiniti has thought of pretty much everything, then thrown in a few extras regardless of the likelihood of you ever using them in the Middle East.

Rear-seat room is plentiful, meanwhile, although regardless of how decent it looks in its minimalism, you may end up cursing the all-black interior should you be forced to park outdoors in the extremes of summer.

The Red Sport's horsepower pushes it towards BMW M3 territory. And while it's never going to be quite that iconic, or genuinely trouble German competitors such as the regular 3 Series on a purist level, thanks to handling that isn't all that rewarding, its two chief selling points are notable. The attainable Dh210,000 price tag and generous standard equipment make it a serious option for those who place overall value above bagging a status symbol, but without compromising on power.