If you’re a Formula 1 racing fan, then you know Sebastian Vettel as one of the most dominant and lauded drivers of recent years: he’s won the world championship four times, which is more than any other currently active racer. In the past few months Vettel has caused a stir for a different reason, announcing his departure from long-time home Infiniti Red Bull Racing in December, to join Ferrari. While his impact on the circuit is undeniable, an additional legacy of his six-year tenure with Infiniti is the influence he’s had as director of performance for Infiniti consumer automobiles. Simply put, Vettel’s job was to make sure Infiniti cars were exciting to drive. And nowhere was he more successful in this mission than in the new 2015 Q50S 5.6-liter Hybrid: A four-door, all-wheel drive sedan that drives like a sports car.
It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and I’m testing the Q50S Hybrid on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Westchester County, New York, where the hot cars in the area come out to play on weekend afternoons. The speed limit is 50 miles per hour, but the road is smoothly paved with lots of curves, elevation changes and straightaways that keep driving entertaining. Like the Infiniti Red Bull F1 racing car, the Q50S is a hybrid; when pushing the start-stop, I was greeted by an eerie silence, courtesy of the 50kW electric motor, that made me wonder if all is well. After touching the accelerator, however, the 360-horsepower V6-engine roared to life—and now, driving down the road, it feels like Vettel could be in the seat beside me.
At a price of $55,905 as driven, there are more conventionally luxurious cars on Saw Mill River Parkway this afternoon, but based on the time I’m having, the Q50S Hybrid ranks among them as one of the more fun cars to drive. This is in large part due to a bit of technology called direct adaptive steering, which lets the driver choose how responsive the steering wheel will feel in the hands—in this car, there are four presets plus a “personal mode” that lets me mix and match driving style to road type—and a comfortable, sporty interior that matches the car's ambitions on the road.
The Q50S is very agile and quick, and, on the right road, the car feels lighter and reacts more quickly than what you’d expect from a four-door sedan. As I’d expect in a car vetted by a F1 driver like Vettel, there is a lot of feedback from the road, so I’m aware of every variation in the asphalt. While that’s great on a smooth road, it also means quite a ride on bumpier surfaces. (Driving over less accommodating roads, I really appreciated the notable lumbar support in the seats.) And while I may never get behind the wheel of an F1 racer, I’m glad to get a taste of how it feels in this sporty Q50S Hybrid—if you want a taste of F1 driving without having to don a helmet, then this is the car for you.