Infiniti – the automobile brand, that is – claims to be on a roll globally with a presence in 50 nations, including South Africa for the past couple of years where it has just been given added impetus with the addition of a smart new five-seat sedan.It’s called the Q50 and it joins the existing stable of five Q-cars made up of two SUV’s (three-litre 175kW V6 QX50 and five-litre 287kW QX70), two sedans (Q60 and Q70, each with a 235kW 3.7 V6) and the Q60 Cabriolet which shares the same engine.So where is there room for the Q50 sedan, pretty as it is? Well, it’s described as the longest car in its (D) segment, is rear-wheel drive where competitors don’t bother with a longitudinal driveshaft, and it adds a “power unit” to the range – a hybrid wielding the combined might of a 210kW 3.5-litre petrol V6 and a 50kW electric motor.Just like the cars raced by the Formula 1 team with which Infiniti, via the Renault/Nissan alliance, is closely aligned. Infiniti is, after all, the luxury arm of Nissan.BIGGEST BOOTYou don’t need a calculator to add up the kW’s to 261, which is tidy number. Now add a huge 536Nm of torque and you have a performance car of note with no hint of the turbo lag sometimes apparent on competitors’ blown engines.Oh yes, and the Q50 also claims to have the biggest boot, at 500 litres, in its class. However the muscular “six-pack” of batteries eats up 100 of those litres in the hybrid version.IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Infiniti Q50 sedanAlso available is a 2.2-litre turbodiesel packing 125kW / 400Nm (the first four-cylinder diesel in the Infiniti armoury) and driving through a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto – the latter also used on all other cars in the range and complete with paddle-shifts behind the steering wheel.A two-litre petrol version will be available in the Q50 range in due course as part of an alliance with Daimler.Performance? The hybrid is capable, I was told, of 0-100km/h in 5.1sec. That’s the basics, but this Infiniti has a whole bunch of other stuff that, as far as I know, other brands have not (at least publicly) developed. And most of it involves high-tech computer stuff that not only makes the car way more versatile than your normal family sedan, but potentially a helluva lot safer.NO JIGGLING STEERING-WHEELTry these two goodies: Forward-facing radar that can predict a collision. Cool, hey... what? Other cars have that? Well sure they do, smartypants, but they don’t have radar that looks UNDER the car ahead and reacts when THAT car starts to slow, now do they?The system will stop the Infiniti, with or without driver intervention and within the bounds of physics, before a collision occurs. No warning jiggle on the steering or flashing lights. Just a stop. The boss of UK safety and security experts Thatcham was so impressed he bought one. How about that, then?He probably also liked the car’s claimed 0.26 Cd rating.There’s also what Infiniti calls “direct adaptive steering”. OK, that’s not new either, hey? Not quite... this system has totally detached the “road feel” associated with all steering-wheels – even those with power-steering, and what car worth its salt doesn’t have P/S? – and left the job to three linked sensors and to an activator on each front wheel.BEAUTIFULLY STABLEThe main difference is easy to explain: You know when you drive over cobbles or along a humpy-lumpy gravel road, or over speed-bumps, and the wheel tries to buck off your hands? Well, the one in the Infiniti, er, doesn’t. At. All. And it keeps the car moving in the line you have indicated with the steering-wheel position. Precisely.And I didn’t miss the “road feel” at all: steer, point, enjoy the sweeping curves, don’t worry about the steering “tightening up” – the car does it all for you. And probably better, while also taking care of steering load and rotation speed.And yes, I tried it – it’s not just written in the media release – and it works. The Q50 is beautifully stable under all cornering circumstances. The no-nonsense stopping, fortunately, I did not experience directly. Sorry.Gert van Avondt, Infiniti’s marketing director for Europe and Africa, was at the SA launch. He described the steering system as “the most responsive in the market today” while removing the possibility of under- or over-correction by the driver.Infiniti SA’s bossman George Stegmann said at the launch event near Durban that the brand intends, eventually, to be represented in all critical market segments. “We’re competing with the best,” he insisted. The brand is aiming for 500 000 sales a year within five years, way up from the current 200 000.“The plan is for us to be competing with the top four players, 25 years after the brand’s original launch, with further expansion in South Africa – our target market being younger but premium customers.”TWO KEYS, EIGHT PROGRAMMED DRIVERSThe cars’ level of technical and computerised innovation is also outstanding; no other brand, I was told, comes close to matching its ability, diversity and complexity. It is possible, for instance, to program up to 96 parameters to suit the driver. On the ignition key.There are, as usual with any car, two supplied keys. Those for the Infiniti Q50 can each be programmed for four drivers (total of eight on the two keys): one key could, for instance, cater for mom, dad, son and daughter – each identified by name – real or alias. Once the driver has been identified everything from preferred radio station through mirrors, driving seat adjustment, aircon and air flow settings, steering-wheel position (and others I was shown but cannot possibly remember from a 10-minute demo) are automatically adjusted and set.All this is shown on two centre-facia touchscreens (one capable of pinching, just like a cellphone or tablet). There’s a third normal screen for other driving information directly ahead of the driver. One word or warning: the car’s satnav will only be available in units for delivery in a couple of months – your call on how long you want to wait for delivery.The general computer system will also automatically interface with the driver’s cellphone to handle Facebook and, for instance, Google, email and messages – which can, by preference, be read to you. A number of car-friendly apps are available – with more, apparently, in the pipeline.ALL-WHEEL DRIVE ON THE WAYThe auto-braking system will operate in traffic at up to 60km/h with the already mentioned syatem taking readings from two cars ahead. The cars have already passed a five-star safety rating. Rear and side view (depending on model) radar / camera will monitor and display surrounding vehicles (moving or stationary) and obstacles when manoeuvring (in a car-park, for instance) and, if necessary, stop the car before a collision can occur.An all-wheel drive version will also be available on the top model; full leather is standard across the range.Base prices for the diesel models are R399 000, R429 000 and R474 000, the V6 hybrid will cost R559 000 for rear-wheel drive, R584 000 for all-wheel drive but each individual model can be customised with a choice of wheel rims and tyre sizes, sunroof, and a number of “packs”:Multimedia pack – R30 800: Navigation system, advanced Bose audio with 14 speakers. Welcome Pack (Standard on Sport and Hybrid models) – R21 800: Tyre pressure monitoring with individual display, power and heated door mirrors with folding and reversing synchronisation, intelligent key with smart access and advanced features, welcome lighting, powered adjustment for rake and reach on the steering column, powered front seat adjustment with memory and powered lumbar support for the driver. Visibility pack – R20 310: Adaptive front lighting, smart beam to help prevent high beam blindness to oncoming traffic and around-view monitor for clear and safe parkingSteering Pack (Standard on Hybrid Sport models) – R12 000: Direct adaptive steering and active lane control to give a more customised and precise feel to the steering while maintaining a more central path within a lane without the need for minor steering adjustments.Safety Shield Pack – R27 000: Intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention, blind-spot warning and blind-spot intervention, forward emergency braking, predictive forward collision warning and automatics also get distance control assist and reversing collision intervention.The intention, Stegmann explained, is to give options to customers “with aspirational desires” and “to meet market conditions”. And the current four main dealers, each in a main city, will in coming months be increased to 10.The Infiniti Q50 will be delivered with a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a five-year or 100 000km maintenance plan. The cars come with run-flat tyres, but no spare wheel – and no jack. You have been warned...Read more about the Infiniti Q50 on the model's dedicated website.