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Infiniti Q50 2016 gets a big makeover under the hood

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Carlo Allegri/Reuters/File

(Read caption) The Infiniti Q50 is seen on stage at the New York Auto Show in 2013. The 2016 Q50 lineup's engine tweaks should lead to improved mileage and more power.

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Infiniti has revealed that there’s going to be a raft of change under the hood of its 2016 Q50 sport sedan—including, at last, a variant that delivers on some of the performance teased by the brand’s 2014 Eau Rouge Concept.

Nearly every powertrain in the Q50 sport-sedan lineup is all-new for 2016, as the brand introduces a trio of new turbocharged engines, a new Dynamic Digital Suspension (DDS) system, and a new generation of Direct Adaptive Steering technology.

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This level of change is a good thing, as this sedan lineup hasn't felt as cohesive and fully fleshed-out as its edgy, athletic G37 predecessor.

At the center of the performance-oriented changes is a 400-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6. This ‘VR-Series’ engine is completely new and unrelated to its VQ predecessor. It makes 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque in a special high-output version of 300 hp and 295 lb-ft in a standard-output version. Meanwhile a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, shared with Mercedes-Benz, is introduced as the base engine in the Q50 lineup and makes 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

Red Sport 400 model takes aim at enthusiasts

The Q50 Red Sport 400 is the top-of-the-line model—no doubt influenced by that Eau Rouge concept of a couple of years ago and living up to that appearance with staggered 19-inch alloy wheels, summer performance run-flat tires, and unique exhaust tiprs—as well as that top 400-hp high-output engine.

The only powertrain that’s essentially carried over from last year is the Hybrid version, which has a 3.5-liter V-6, combined with a single-motor, two-clutch hybrid-assist system and lithium-ion battery pack.

The Direct Adaptive Steering—a steer-by-wire system with, counterintuitively by name, no direct connection between streering wheel and wheels (but a physical one that’s clutched in for emergencies)—returns, retuned for more feel and feedback. It works with the available Active Lane Control, a building block for autonomous driving.

The steering system still adjusts its ratio and effort according to a complex set of mapped-out criteria, but it’s now “more akin to that of a conventional steering system,” according to Infiniti.

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Steering and suspensions retuned

Otherwise, Infiniti has moved to a new, so-called Rack Electronic Power Steering system for the twin-turbo V-6 versions of the Q60, with boost levels adjustable through the Drive Mode Selector, with Personal, Standard, Snow, Eco, Sport, and now Sport+ modes. Models with the turbo four-cylinder engine have hydraulic power steering.

And there’s a new Dynamic Digital Suspension (DDS), allowing mode-dependent damping characteristics—and an especially firm tune in Sport and Sport+ modes. Although on all models, Infiniti has retuned the front double-wishbone rear multi-link independent suspension for a better ride-and-handling balance.

The Nissan luxury affiliate has also reconfigured the active-safety set somewhat; between a Technology Package and a new Driver Assistance Package, you can get all the active items that are now typical in a luxury sedan, like lane-departure and blind-spot warnings, plus forward collision warning, back collision intervention, and moving-object detection systems, among others.

Infiniti will offer the 2016 Q50 in Q50 2.0t, Q50 2.0t Premium, Q50 3.0t Premium, Q50 Hybrid Premium, Q50 Sport and Q50 Red Sport 400 models, with a Premium Plus package new this year and adding remote engine start in the V-6 Sport model.

We're expecting mileage to improve tremendously with the new four-cylinder base engine; but Infiniti hasn't yet released mile-per-gallon figures.

There’s a whole lot we have to sample here firsthand, so check back for our driving impressions and more information as soon as we can dig deeper. Intiniti says the 2016 Q50 goes on sale in Red Sport 400 form this next spring.