Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A blue 2021 Infiniti Q50 is shown in a city after visiting a online car dealership.

The Infiniti Q50: A Hidden Gem Among Used Luxury Cars

Unless your wish list includes a crossover, scrolling through an online car dealership for something different takes some patience. The ongoing American obsession with utility vehicles isn’t helping sedan buyers. Today, there’s a dearth of options for shoppers who want a sedan that offers high-end luxury and respectable street performance, minus the six-figure price tag.

Though it’s a unicorn on top of a four-leaf clover at the end of a rainbow, the affordable luxury performance sedan still exists. It just requires viewing the competitive set through a different lens. Anytime a buyer narrows their criteria to a very specific list of must-haves, the answer is typically a huh-I-never-thought-of-that model. The Infiniti Q50 is one such sedan.

Overshadowed by the usual trio of more well-known German competitors, the Q50 is a small luxury sedan that deserves a moment in the spotlight, yet it’s the public’s seeming disinterest that makes the Q50 so appealing. The same can be said for a few other models, like the Genesis G70 and more than one Acura nameplate.

American drivers are notoriously picky, but they’re also predictable. For those that aren’t, choosing a sleeper model is infinitely (no pun intended) more rewarding.

Sleeper Sedans in the Last Decade

Automotive journalists publish “best of” lists and perform comprehensive new vehicle reviews every model year. The top experts in their field, these journalists spend hours, days––and sometimes even months––exhaustively testing every bolt and tech feature to offer buyers objective and credible reviews. Why, then, do some 10/10 cars still sit on dealer’s lots?

This isn’t a new phenomenon: journalists have scratched their heads for decades. Still, Americans are habitual trend followers, and as long as what they drive is woven so tightly around who they are, it’s not likely to change. This is welcome news for outliers who buy cars based on a set of criteria that has nothing to do with what the Joneses will think. Low sales numbers typically mean better deals, and these buyers still end up with a superior product––especially when shopping used.

Consider the last decade, when brands like Mazda and Saab launched technically superior models to little fanfare. Even the Big 3 released a handful of epically-cool sedans that fell flat in the court of public opinion. The Ford Taurus may put you to sleep faster than Act III of a four-hour opera performance, but add the SHO suffix, and suddenly it’s the bottom of the ninth in the world series, it’s tied, and your team’s at bat with the bases loaded. Over its six generations, the Taurus SHO earned high praise yet was coveted mostly by Ford aficionados.

A man is shown driving a 2021 Infiniti Q50 with a black leather interior.

Why the Q50 Makes the List

First launched in 2014, the compact Infiniti Q50 offered less affluent buyers a gateway to luxury sedan ownership. At the time of the Q50’s launch, Infiniti lagged behind Acura and Lexus in North American sales, but brighter days were ahead. Infiniti had its most successful year ever in 2017, selling over 150,000 vehicles. Q50 sales peaked in 2016, with 44,000 units sold.

Though the Q50 remained in the five-figure club for units sold annually, it struggled against the wildly popular BMW 3-Series despite receiving top ratings from review sites like Kelley Blue Book. Of the 2016 Q50, KBB reported “excellent handling and power” and “nicely sculpted” seats. The four-engine lineup even included a throaty 400-horsepower turbocharged V6 and a hybrid.

Used shoppers will also be drawn to the Q50’s stacked dual touchscreen layout––an 8-inch screen on top and a 7-incher right below it––as superior to the undersized offerings from many older European luxury cars. As for its Japanese competitors, the Acura TLX and the Lexus IS, the Q50 is the most affordable, yet it delivers the most available horsepower and torque. It’s fitting since Infiniti made a name for itself as a performance-oriented luxury brand. Somehow, America forgot that every vehicle in the Infiniti lineup, including the Q50, borrows from Nissan’s proven performance formula, then adds a hearty helping of luxury.

Other Notable Sleepers in the Premium Category

Infiniti isn’t the only under-appreciated luxury nameplate, nor is the Q50 the Cinderella story of the compact premium sedan segment. Though it is harder to find used, the compact Genesis G70 sedan is knocking the socks off even the most jaded automotive journalists, earning a 9/10 rating four years running from Car and Driver. Genesis is Hyundai’s luxury entrant, and it’s doing a yeoman’s job of disrupting the category.

Calling the inaugural 2019 G70 “exceptional,” Car and Driver was especially taken with this sedan’s ability to satiate luxury seekers and performance enthusiasts. A powerful 3.3-liter turbocharged V6 thrums under the hood, responding eagerly to driver input and galloping from zero to 60 in a scant 4.7 seconds. Add to that precise steering feedback and the available Brembo brakes, and this contender deserves a test drive.

Lest the big, bad bowtie brand is forgotten, take a peek under the hood of a Chevy Malibu SS. Last made as a special edition in 2007, the Malibu SS produced 240-horsepower and featured leather seating and a dual chrome-tipped exhaust. Though not technically considered a premium entrant, the go-fast Malibu SS earned praise for its affordability and surprisingly nimble road handling characteristics.

Thinking of a convertible? Who can forget the fanfare surrounding Mazda’s launch of the clever little MX-5 Miata ragtop? The Miata made a magical debut in 1989 with a splashy national media campaign featuring the cherry red roadster on picturesque southern California beaches. It worked, because sales skyrocketed. Car and Driver gave the Miata a perfect 10/10 in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and has held firm at 9/10 every year since. Some have forgotten, but those who haven’t can still find a high-end Miata RF hardtop for a song.

A person is shown sitting on the hood of a blue 2021 Infiniti Q50.

Find a Sleeper Premium Sedan and Zag

The world zigs and a few zag. Those who zag are sometimes called outliers. In the automotive world, they’re called savvy. Forget what everyone else is driving and seek a used premium sedan that impresses automotive experts. The lack of cache works in your favor price-wise since the Trendy Tax adds a hefty and unnecessary surcharge. Lululemon leggings and Starbucks Nitro Cold Brews may win for most Instagrammable, but who cares?

Behind the wheel of a capable used sedan like the Infiniti Q50 or the Genesis G70, you’re gaining ground based on merit. These sedans qualify for leader-of-the-pack status on their mechanical soundness and ride handling, not to mention their unique exterior styling. It’s tough to ignore the benefits of a car that leaves no doubt about the quality, even if it won’t, on the surface, qualify as cool.

Real cool isn’t garish or obvious, however. Once the neighbors find out what you paid and what the experts say, it won’t really matter that Kim K. doesn’t drive one. It’s also not a Toyota Prius-esque decision that renders you into the eye-roll-inducing hinterlands of extreme outlier status. Practicality has a place even when you’re shopping online for a used luxury sedan. Consider a model like the Infiniti Q50, and you’ll sleep great and enjoy a few extra bucks in your pocket.