Sometimes, maybe you just want to go fast.
And luxury automakers are happy to help you do so — for the right price. As long as you’re willing to spend $60,000 to $70,000 (or more, if you pick any options), you can get more than 400 horsepower from an Audi RS5, BMW M3, Cadillac ATS-V, Lexus RC F, or Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63. These cars also feature stiffer suspension tuning that readies them for racetrack-ready handling poise.
But maybe you just want to go fast.
Enter the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 compact entry-luxury sedan, or its Q60 coupe variant. It’s not necessarily red, but the “400” justifies the name “sport.” That’s the horsepower rating from the Infiniti’s turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. And while its base price isn’t exactly a steal at $51,995, it offers super-quick acceleration for the price of far less zippy European competitors.
Put down your foot in this Q50, and you can reportedly get from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds. The engine sounds rich without being overwhelmingly loud, and it even achieves a respectable 23 miles per gallon in mixed driving (or 22 mpg with the optional all-wheel-drive).
For about $50,000, BMW will sell you a 330i sedan with similar options to the Q50 Red Sport 400 — and a 248-horsepower four-cylinder engine. And the Q50 Red Sport 400 has a smoother ride than the high-performance BMW M3.
But while it delivers straight-line performance at relatively affordable prices, the Q50 isn’t quite the sumptuous yet zesty sports sedan that you’d find from Audi, BMW, or Mercedes. While its rear-wheel-drive-based platform helps its handling balance, it lacks the alert precision of the best Europeans or the Cadillac ATS.
Moreover, while the Q50 is unquestionably a well-finished and well-equipped luxury car, it’s not as dazzling as an Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Despite an update for the 2018 model year, the cabin has changed little since the car debuted four years earlier.
The Q50’s dashboard is tall and blocky, unlike the slimmer designs that have since gone into vogue in luxury models. It lacks the super-crisp digital displays that are now found at this price, and its gauges are plain. It lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. And the parking brake is a clunky old-school footbrake, rather than an electronic push-button system or a sporty-style handbrake.
The Q50’s in-dash technology claim to fame is a pair of touchscreens, one atop the other, on the dashboard. This setup allows you to see more information at once — for example, stereo details in one screen and a GPS map on the other. But the two screens aren’t ideally integrated with each other, and neither is as visually appealing as the best luxury cars today. Again, it’s not bad, but other luxury cars offer more sumptuous cabins.
There is above-average interior room, at least. Rear-seat knee space can be tight if the front seats are all the way back, but the Q50 is otherwise comfortable for four adults. That’s not always a given among sports sedans.
To be clear, you may want the Q50’s clean styling, decent interior space and respectable handling composure — and not need 400 horsepower. Even the 300-horsepower version of the Q50 delivers a pleasant V6 engine note and lively acceleration. Plus, it costs $10,000 less and gets one more mile per gallon.
For maximum value, Infiniti sells a four-cylinder Q50 with 208 horsepower. Even though that’s barely half the Red Sport 400’s output, even this model isn’t too slow. Priced from $35,195 and rated for up to 25 mpg, it competes with other entry-level luxury models such as the Acura TLX, Buick Regal, and Lexus IS 300. All provide a premium badge, decent interior space and some degree of driving enjoyment, but not the all-out decadence of a pricier Audi or Mercedes.
And if you just want to go fast? Consider the V8-powered Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, or Dodge Challenger. All three are big brash retro-styled coupes, lacking the mild-mannered upscale looks of an Infiniti sedan. It’s a similar story with the Dodge Charger sedan, a four-door non-retro version of the Challenger. But these American bruisers do offer incredible acceleration at around $40,000, and they’re more luxurious than you’d think.
Brady Holt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association.