THE only noise coming from the generously proportioned tyres fitted to this week’s drive was the squish of high-grade rubber on the hallowed cobbles of Bath’s Royal Crescent. Though this luxury car has a massive 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine underneath its equally well-proportioned bonnet, the Infiniti Q50 glided around Bath’s famous curving showpiece street with all the silent majesty of a ship under sail.
Horses and carriages, which cantered up and down the Royal Crescent over previous centuries serving the grand houses that enjoy a pristine view of the city would have made far more noise than the Q50.
The reason? This large, prestigious vehicle is a hybrid. And as we all know, hybrids — cars that run by coupling a conventional engine with a small electric one — make hardly any noise at all in electric vehicle mode. While I enjoyed the moment — there is something truly magical about driving around Bath’s finest architectural achievement — the days of the noiseless hybrid look numbered.
Last week Euro MPs decided that electric and hybrid cars would have to generate some sound to make them safer for pedestrians, especially the visually impaired. Under the revised rules, new models of electric and hybrid vehicles will have to relinquish their silence by 2019. The new law should be rubber-stamped by the European Council.
So while this big beast has its quiet side, its successors will surely emit something other than the distinct growl you get from that big engine when you put your foot down.
In Sport mode, this car takes off with a vengeance and can cruise at high speed with no difficulty. The Q50 took off from a standing start to 62mph in 5.4 seconds. That’s good going in anyone’s book. (I hasten to say not around the Royal Crescent because that’s not quite the done thing.) Topping out at 155mph if and when the opportunity arises, this is a car with big ambition.
But actually what I liked most about it was its consummate luxury interior — leather seat facings, front seats with Sport design, and Kacchu aluminium trim. There is also power front seats adjustment with memory, which means you can “design” the seat to suit yourself. (Equally important for me, as a dodgy back sufferer, was the driver’s power lumbar support.)
Another rather nice touch — with the emphasis now on non-opening panoramic sky roofs that reveal all above you but do not let in any fresh air — was the electric glass sunroof. This was at an additional cost of £880 but worth it I think for those of us who like a bit of open air with our motoring.
But really this car is aimed at pleasing those who like to be pampered at the wheel (and passengers, of course). The ride in the back might be a tad “swimmy” for some but interior comfort in the Q50 is unquestionably good: in electric vehicle (EV) mode as the car “ghosts” its way through town and urban areas, the effect is to bathe in its warm interior glow.
However, with a large V6 at your disposal, you can motor if you want to, either using the seven-speed automatic transmission in full auto mode or flicking the paddle gears on the steering wheel to wring some revs out of the 3,498cc power plant.
Technology on board is very smart. I am not a great user of SatNav but to beat the failings of the train service in Gloucestershire on a wet and windy Monday morning this week I had to use the Q50’s excellent Infiniti Navigation System.
My mission was to enter the hinterlands of Swindon and deliver my youngest daughter to the station to re-start a journey to Henley that began with cancellations aplenty at Kemble. Swindon is a sprawl of development with a multitude of access roads. The Q50’s SatNav was clear, precise and unfussy and save a few mishaps on multi-mini roundabouts (how annoying are they?) the technology got us to the station on time.
Now it may be that you are one of those motorists who stares at any Infiniti and asks the question: what is it? Or more usually, who makes that? Well, Infiniti is the luxury arm of Nissan and I have to say I like the cars it turns out. Not everyone’s cup of tea, maybe, but without doubt an excellent all round luxury model. And for the next few years at least this smouldering beast of a car will continue to have its quiet and welcome moments.
Car tested: Infiniti Q50S 3.7-litre V6 Hybrid All Wheel Drive
• Price with options: £49,055
• Multimedia pack, visibility pack, safety shield pack, metallic paint (colour Hagane Blue), electric glass sunroof
• Economy: Combined mpg: 41.5
• Max speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.4 secs
Wheels: 19in, 5 triple-spoke light alloys
AM/FM audio system with single CD player
Six-speaker sound system