Ask any auto exec these days about hybrids and the answer will be unanimous: they're darn important. Even if they don't rake in the sales volumes of a Ford F-series pickup, their mere existence builds an environmentally-conscious brand image while also bolstering the total lineup overall fuel economy. INFINITI is no stranger to these benefits of having a hybrid on offer, and the 2018 Q50 Hybrid sedan is their entry into this important green segment.

Best Value

While the standard Q50 offers a number of different trims to choose from, the Hybrid is available only in the mid-range Luxe trimmings. Besides the choice of rear- or all-wheel drive, there's little else to decide outside of dealer accessories. Considering that the starting price for the 2018 Q50 Hybrid is over $50,000 and is stuffed chock-full of options, we'd refrain from adding anything else. Here's our Q50 Hybrid on delivery day:

  • Model: 2018 INFINITI Q50 Hybrid Luxe AWD
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6 with a 1.4 kWh battery and 50-watt electric motor
  • Output: 360 hp / 258 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 27 City / 32 Hwy
  • Options: N/A
  • Base Price: $53,595 (including a $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $53,595

Performance

INFINITI Q50 Hybrid

While most Q50s make do with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, the Hybrid model gets a 3.5-liter V6 that's paired up with a 1.4 kWh battery and 50-watt electric motor. The total setup is good for 360 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That's more powerful than both the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class hybrids, which hook up their electric motors to less potent four-cylinders.

All this gee-whiz propulsion system lets the 4,000-pound sedan return fuel economy 27 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg highway, and 29 combined, according to the EPA. These figures drop to 26/30/28 mpg city/highway/combined with all-wheel drive. This is a marked improvement over the naturally aspirated six-cylinder Q50, and even the four-pot model can't touch those mileage numbers.

Unfortunately, that impressive fuel economy isn't enough to overcome our disappointment with the steering system. The Hybrid has what INFINITI calls Direct Adaptive Steering, or DAS. This drive-by-wire system eschews traditional steering setups that use mechanical action to transfer steering wheel inputs into lateral wheel motion. Instead, it uses electronics and sensors to steer the wheels, measuring the driver's steering input and instantaneously sending that information to the front wheels. If you're wondering, a traditional system is still there as a backup in case any electronic gremlins make themselves known.

DAS highlights the double-edged sword of progress. It's a technological advancement in the automotive world, but it ultimately strips the steering wheel of any feel whatsoever. It's hard to discern what's happening with the front wheels, and can be jittery when you try to make small adjustments. The naturalness of a mechanical system is MIA, and the perpetual hollowness is disconcerting at best and downright frustrating at worst.

Style

We'll just come right out and say it: the Q50 might be behind only the Alfa Romeo Guilia when it comes to the best looking car in the segment, and the Hybrid trim is no exception. The stance is muscular and purposeful and the rear fender hips offer just enough sass to keep things interesting. Up front, the look is aggressive without resorting to the cliche ducts and grills which festoon the fronts of too many other sport sedan wannabes.

In Luxe trim, which is the only way in which you can get a Hybrid, additional styling elements include chrome accents and 18-wheels. Considering the Hybrid's purpose in life, we prefer this cosmetic look over gloss-black trimmings or other pseudo-sporty adornments.

Considering how handsome and well done the exterior of the Q50 Hybrid is, it's a shame the interior looks more five-and-dime than Nordstrom's. Take the switchgear, for instance: it seems as if the bean counters forced designers to swipe many of the switches and buttons from Altimas or Maximas. This apparent lack of quality manifests itself elsewhere as well, such as the door panels and dashboard. The whole cabin just doesn't exude the same sense of luxury that's on tap with many of the Q50's competitors.

This isn't to say there isn't any bright spots with the Q50 Hybrid's cabin. Everything is laid out logically, even if it's not the most aesthetic dashboard design out there. The two-screen infotainment system works well once you adjust to working with this tandem setup.

We'd also be remiss to not rave about the seats. These zero-gravity, NASA-inspired thrones are immensely comfortable, and should make a day on the road a non-event. Stuff the whole family in the Hybrid, and, once they all settle into those sumptuously comfortable seats, they'll find there's a lot of room to stretch out: 44.5 inches of leg room up front and 35.1 inches in back.

The Best and Worst Things

With impressive fuel economy and lots of power, the hybrid setup delivers fast but efficient cruising, and those La-Z-Boy-like seats mean this is a perfect car to pound out interstate miles.

The DAS system, though, is a crime against anyone who even remotely enjoys driving. It's irritating, artificial, and easily the biggest fault of the otherwise well-sorted Q50 Hybrid.

Right For? Wrong For?

INFINITI Q50 Hybrid

Fuel-conscious luxury buyers who want style and comfort would be right at home in the cockpit of a Q50 Hybrid.

For those who prioritize handling and feedback from their car, the Q50 Hybrid would disappoint, thanks to that infuriating steering system and a distant chassis.

The Bottom Line

With the 2018 INFINITI Q50 Hybrid, the automaker has itself a nice low-volume special that appeals to those who want stellar fuel economy in their luxury car. It might not save the world from climate change, but its existence points to the rapidly changing future of the automobile. Now, if INFINITI could just dial in – or eliminate entirely – the DAS system and spruce up the interior, the Q50 Hybrid could be a real winner in today's ever-greener car market.