Infiniti used the Detroit Auto Show on Monday to launch a new Q50 sport sedan into an increasingly cutthroat segment that includes a redesigned Lexus also scheduled to debut this week.
The Q50, Infiniti's first model to use a new naming convention, replaces the outgoing G37 from Nissan's luxury division. The car will be offered in either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive models and compete head to head with the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Cadillac ATS and the new 2014 Lexus IS scheduled to be introduced Tuesday.
"The German brands in particular are all occupying particular positions in the marketplace," said Johan de Nysschen, President of Infiniti Global Limited. "We would like to present Infiniti as the seductive alternative. We've got a strong reputation for performance and we can deliver hospitality coming from our Japanese roots almost in a way no one else can. It's part of our DNA."
The Q50 carries over the same engine as the G37: a 3.7-liter V-6 producing 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The transmission also remains: a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
PHOTOS: 2014 Infiniti Q50
New to this segment for Infiniti will be a hybrid model. This car pairs a 3.5-liter V-6 gas engine and a 50-kilowatt electric motor for a total output of 354 horsepower. Buyers can pair either engine with their choice of rear wheel drive or optional all wheel drive.
The biggest change for the Q50 is its styling, inside and out. The exterior maintains the curvaceous profile of the outgoing G37, although more horizontal headlights and a flat, wide mesh grille give the Q50 a more aggressive look.
In the rear, taillamps are also more horizontal than the G37 and mimic the larger Infiniti M sedan.
Inside, a completely redesigned center stack moves the infotainment controller from below the touch screen to the console between the seats. A new, secondary touch screen now sits below the navigation screen. This addition is fully customizable for each driver and runs apps such as Pandora streaming audio or Facebook.
PHOTOS: Highlights of the 2013 Detroit Auto Show
Also new to the Q50 is an industry-first option called Direct Adaptive Steering. It replaces the mechanical linkage between the steering wheel and front wheels with a fully electronic system. This allows for near-infinite adjustment of the steering feel and feedback. Infiniti says the system can also reduce driver fatigue by transmitting fewer of the subtle bumps and movements of the front wheels up to the driver. Think of it as noise-cancelling headphones for your hands.
Several redundant electronic control units are built into the system for safety, and Infiniti says a mechanical linkage will automatically take over in the event that all of the electronic fail-safes don't work.
The Q50 will go on sale this summer. When it does, it will be the first all-new Infiniti to wear the new badging.
Going forward, Infiniti cars will have a Q label, while SUVs and crossovers will use QX. The two-digit number denotes the model's place in the lineup; the higher the number, the more premium the vehicle. Thus, the mid-size M sedan will become the Q70, while the compact EX crossover SUV will become the QX50.
Full coverage: 2013 Detroit Auto Show