To Infiniti & Beyond: Pikes Peak In A Q50
Four Door Sports Car

I’ve always been a Nissan Z-car enthusiast and have my 1970 240Z also known as Ole Orange Bang for almost ten years now. But when the 350z was unveiled, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. Sure, it had giant Z badges front and rear, but it didn’t look anything like its predecessors. However, a short while afterwards the Infiniti G35 was unveiled. The design was groundbreaking, and unlike anything I have ever seen. I wanted one so badly.

Fast forward a few years to the beginning of my Speedhunters career, which was around the same time I met a wonderful lady who drove a G35 sport coupe. It was a Track edition with fancy Brembo brakes and a six-speed manual transmission, and was also lowered on Tein coilovers. I would have been stupid not to marry her – so I did – which by default meant I could thrash around town in the ‘G’ whenever I wanted.


As fun as it was to drive, the G35 was not a very practical car, and before long it was just sitting around taking up space. And since we planned on popping out little Speedhunters, we had to get rid of it.


I looked into getting a G37 sedan as a replacement, but it didn’t really tickle my fancy.


But when the Q50 recently arrived as a replacement for the G37, I was intrigued. Was this a grown up version of the G-series? I had to find out for myself…


Luckily for me, I ended up having a whole week to play with an all-new rear-wheel drive version Infiniti Q50, as a trusty lens mule for one of the most gruelling motorsport events in the world.


This was my fourth time covering the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. In the past I’ve had press vehicles to use during the event, but I’ve also had to experience terrible rental cars as lens mules.


Because of the altitude there’s around 30 per cent less oxygen in the air, so lower horsepower cars can barely climb up the hill at full throttle.


In my first year I had a dinky rental that I had to downshift to first gear just to make it up a few of the really steep sections of the hill.


The Infiniti had none of those problems. I was riding in style this year. Movin’ on up!


The Infiniti was actually the Q50S version, which meant that it was filled to the brim with fancy nick-nacks like lane departure prevention and adaptive cruise control. That sort of stuff was no real use to me on the mountain, but it had all the other bells and whistles you’d expect.


At 3:15am my colleagues piled in to the Infiniti and headed for our shooting location at 13,000 feet – an altitude where trees can’t live.


Normally when driving a naturally aspirated vehicle in below freezing conditions, the engine gets nice dense air to breath in. Not at Pikes Peak though.


But this Q50S was never meant to compete in the crazy horsepower wars going on between manufacturers. It’s meant to be more practical, without losing the most important thing of all – driving dynamics.

That Funny Feeling

Practice took longer than usual, or it seemed that way because I was excited to tackle the mountain myself. I’d be traversing at a much slower pace than the race cars of course, but banging through the gears in the Q50s was something I was really looking forward to.


I actually consider Pikes Peak the North American equivalent of the Nürburgring Nordschleife. It’s a public highway and you can drive it anytime of the year. Heck you can even ride your bicycle on it!


The actual race course is 12.42 miles long with 156 turns. It’s fun to see how long Google thinks it takes to get up to the top – while we all know that it can be done in 8:13.878. All you need to obtain that time is drive like Sébastien Loeb and somehow borrow that Peugeot 208 T16.


The race itself is great, but the true joy I get when I go there is actually tackling the corners for myself.


Everywhere you turn are breathtaking scenes worthy of a postcard. I’ve been shooting motorsports for 11 years now, and I still think the views on these windy roads are the best that I have ever laid eyes on.


While many people hate the fact that the highway is all paved, I actually welcome it. I drove on it when it was part-dirt, and while it was fun to slide around, I wouldn’t take a very low car with stiff suspension on the loose stuff.


It’s evolved into a different race, and it’s become more modern. The best part of this strip of road is that anyone in the world can drive it if they really wanted to. It’s just one of those things that you have to experience once in your lifetime if you are a motorhead.


As soon as I picked up a couple of friends who were stuck at a few different shooting positions along the race course it was time to head for the summit. We do this every year.


The first thing that I noticed were the gauges. In a world seemingly now consumed by digital displays, it’s always welcoming to see a nicely designed set of analog gauges. There is just nothing like watching a tacho sweep up towards the redline.


The second thing I noticed was the steering – it’s 100 per cent steer-by-wire. While you don’t really notice it driving normal around city streets, it’s very evident as soon as you turn into the first corner up on Pikes Peak.


Because there are no bushings to give it any sort of play, it feels much more connected to the road than any sports sedan that I have driven.


The best part? You can change it from very heavy steering – which reminded me of my non-power steer 240Z – or you can make it light enough to steer with one finger, like an American station wagon from the ’80s. I found a happy medium between the two extremes.


While the car weights in a little under 3,800lbs (1,723kg), you can’t really feel the weight in the corners and under braking. While I didn’t push it to the absolute limit during my drive up and down the mountain, driving quickly revealed no sign of brake fade. In fact, mid-way down the mountain I stopped at a mandatory brake temperature station and the Infiniti passed with flying colors.


The legendary VQ block has certainly come along way since it first appeared in North America with a 3.0-liter version in the 1995 Maxima. Since then Nissan has adapted the block for use across its platforms – from minivans to light-duty trucks.


The VQ37VHR puts out 328hp and 269lb/ft torque, but does so very efficiently achieving 29 miles per gallon on the highway. Of course, my heavy foot and all that climbing up and down the mountain netted me a less impressive result – about 19 miles per gallon.


I’ve always loved the styling of the previous large sedans from Infiniti – including the various generations of the Q45 as well as the M45 – but the Q50 is in a different class. It’s surprisingly smaller, and therefore made it a bit of a chore to shoe-horn five grown photographers in the cabin.


Once we got to the top it was time to take in some of the sights and breathe in what little air was available. Here, my friends and I partake in a Jumping Jack challenge. We basically try to do 20 of them without passing out.


The summit sees thousands of tourists every year from all over the world.


Many of them are from Japan, thanks to this man Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima. Many Japanese car culture enthusiasts grew up hearing about his antics on the Peak, including our friend Ken Gushi.


The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is one of those few legendary races like Bonneville where you can drive your car there, race for the weekend, then drive home. Hopefully one of these days I can experience what it’s like to drive on race day.


While I was driving back down the mountain I was thinking that the Infiniti Q50s is a much more technologically-advanced car compared to the G-series, it still retains the driving feel of a sporty sedan or sports coupe. So is it a grown up version of the G35 or G37? Yes, it is, but it’s just missing one thing…


While the seven-speed automatic transmission is impressive, it still lacks the feel of having a third pedal. That is one of the main reasons why I loved the G-series in the first place. Maybe it’s time for me to let go, because once the Eau Rouge version aka ‘the four-door GT-R’ arrives, it will – without a doubt – have a flappy-paddle transmission. I guess I’m just going to have to learn to accept the fact that the third pedal will soon go the way of the dodo bird.


Besides the lack of a stick shift, you can’t knock Infiniti for building a great sports sedan. Pikes Peak is one of the greatest mountain roads in the world, and I thoroughly enjoyed thrashing this Q50s through its many hairpins and long sweepers. While the car looks great out of the box, I’d love to see what big name tuners would do to it. VIP curtains and air suspension anyone?

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto

Cutting Room Floor


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

One of the best looking sedan's on the market right now imo. 
One thing stood out to me though about the steering: "Because there are no bushings to give it any sort of play, it feels much
more connected to the road than any sports sedan that I have driven." I've read some reviews calling the steering weird and that it takes some getting used to because everything is filtered out. Effectively removing that input that tells you what the wheels are doing.
Interesting to hear the opposite.


Man those rims remind me of the 370z they look nearly the same


Driving Pike's Peak is awesome and from what I read, the Infiniti was a great car to have on an uber challenging road - Not your Wife's G35!!!!:-)  Great detail on the dynamics too - from the steering to the analog gauges - Love the wheels too.   - Awesome imagery!!!


"It’s meant to be more practical, without loosing* the most important thing of all – driving dynamics"



I have a renewed interest in Infiniti after reading that article - the car sounds great!  I love reading about Pike's Peak, and I greatly enjoyed reading about the new Infiniti. Good story and cool photography.


I have a renewed interest in Infiniti after reading that article - the car sounds great!  I love reading about Pike's Peak, and I greatly enjoyed reading about the new Infiniti too - now I have to go drive it. Good story and cool photography.


After seeing all this coverage for Pike's Peak. I think I'll have to make the pilgrimage to Colorado.


Sick car. Also can't wait for the Eau Rouge edition of it! Going to be awesome. Thanks for the read.


FunctionFirst Nice spotting… all fixed now :)


Great write-up, great photos! Makes me want to plan a trip out west with a fun car to drive...


Always loved the G35, but I may like this more. Mean looking front and an amazing venue for testing.


Seems like a very nice car.  I could certainly see myself DD'ing one.  I've always been a fan of the M56 personally--the forest air conditioning system is rather amazing and I love the dark purple interior that is available.


zephoto While the M56 is nice, I think the Q50s is a much more practical car for daily use, but keep in mind that it is a tiny bit smaller than the M56 in terms of passenger room in the rear.


ILRaider Yeah, I've fit four people in the G35 sport coupe before, not fun.


@Boss Yeah, I can't wait either, I saw the prototype for the first time at Pebble Beach.


Afroneck You need to check out the hill climb next  year.


guReMcO Ok, full disclosure, When I first picked up the car at the airport, as soon as I turned out onto the streets it was so weird feeling. The steering was much more direct than anything I've ever driven. It really did feel electronic.

However, you can change the settings, after playing around with it for a while, I got it to a setting that I liked. It would be terrible if they did not have an option for you to dial it in how you want.


Make sure you guys check out the photos in "Presentation Mode"


Well written and great to feel like I'm there enjoying the drive. Wouldn't mind taking a GT3 up the Peak, but no doubt this was a good utensil for the crew. Thanks...


Underside LED's! That's cool! I wonder how long they'll last in the rain. Reminds me of Fast and Furious. LOL!


Every time someone says "drive by wire" I want to die inside. I can live with flappy-paddle shifters but please god don't ever try to tell me that you will feel the road better with a steering wheel that's not even connected to the actual steering. I know its a free car for the weekend so you can't really talk about any shortcomings (or it'll be the last free ride you get), but c'mon Larry. Electric steering.


D1RGE EXE have you driven one?  Try it out then let me know.  It'll surprise you.


Larry Chen if the lack of standard gearbox is a deal breaker, hang in there for the next model ;)


You would have to have legs the size of trees to cycle up that! But would be fun on the way down though!!

the car is definitely more..sculputed then the current bunch of simular cars!
cant wait to see the Eau-Rouge version, saw it at Geneva, one of the best cars at the show!


Larry Chen Ah that makes sense, thanks for the explanation. 
Maybe take it's competitor the BMW 3-series Active Hybrid for a spin next to see how it compares. :P


Dimitri A D1RGE EXE  Tried the BMW steering. Felt OK, but you still feel the road better through rack & pinion. How many race cars have changed over to drive-by-wire? EXACTLY


I love Speedhunters


Nice review. We bought the first Q50 in the USA last year and quickly modified it. The stock run flats were quickly replaced. The car unfortunately had electronic gremlins that many also seem to have. It seemed to have moved more luxurious and less further away from sport than the G. The classic G37 exhaust note is gone. It is IMO one beautiful sedan. Today there are some aftermarket parts for it including Stillen and RSR.