I’m cruising in the 2016 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 on a long, straight road toward Banderas, Texas, the self-proclaimed cowboy capital of the world, and even though the speedometer reads 50 miles per hour, I haven’t touched the steering wheel for a couple of miles. I’m not taking my eyes off the road, of course, but with the car driving along merrily on its own, I discover a wrinkle to semi-autonomous driving: I don’t know what to do with my hands.
The Q50 I’m driving is equipped with a technology called Active Lane Control, which keeps the car centered between lane markers during hands-free operation with no swerving from side to side. It’s a big step forward in autonomous driving, but I’m somewhat relieved to put my hands back on the wheel as the road turns twisty in Texas Hill Country. (Active Lane Control can keep the car on course during on a slow, gentle curve, but sharp bends are best handled by the driver.)
The Q50 is, in fact, a technological marvel. Among the car’s many innovations is a predictive forward collision warning system that senses not only the relative speed of the vehicle in front of me, but also the one in front of it, automatically applying the brakes when both cars slow down. I find it a bit too nervous for my taste—it brakes when there’s still plenty of space between me and the car ahead—but I see its usefulness on long, straight highway runs typical of Texas cruising, where speed limits of 75 miles per hour are not uncommon.
I love that Q50’s suite of safety features can be activated with the touch of one button on the steering wheel. Tiny green bars pop up around a car icon on the dash display to let me know they are fully functional. I feel like Captain Kirk, the space cowboy of Star Trek fame, activating shields to protect the Enterprise from harm.
The Q50 Red Sport 400 is one fast pony, particularly in the sport plus mode, thanks to a turbo-charged V-6 engine with a 400 horsepower kick that reminds me Formula One racing champion Sebastien Vettel had a hand in the Q50’s initial development, back when it launched in 2014. My car is equipped with a new direct adaptive steering technology that dispenses with the traditional mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels in favor of an all-electronic method. There are two noticeable benefits: wheel vibrations no longer adversely affect steering and the steering response time is much faster. Direct adaptive steering also means that I can tune the suspension and handling any way I like, with 336 possible combinations available. That’s almost like getting a car custom-made.
There’s a quirky Frontier Museum full of Wild West artifacts that’s worth visiting in Banderas, and I’ve come in the right car: The Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 is nothing short of pioneer in a bright new future of driving.
From $47,950; infinitiusa.com.