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The Q50 by Infiniti is a smart, stylish sedan with some truly sporty features, especially in the Red Sport 400 trim level. But can you count paddle shifters on that list? We've looked at all the model years and trim levels, and here's the deal.
Paddle shifters are available on the Q50 Red Sport 400, Sport, and Sensory trim levels. They are not available for the Pure or Luxe trim levels of the Q50. Only the Red Sport 400 has come with paddle shifters standard for every model year.
That's not all there is to say about the Infiniti Q50 or paddle shifters. We'll take an in-depth dive into which cars have them and which can have them installed aftermarket. We'll also cover more about the Q50's transmission, its manual shift mode, and driving with paddle shifters. Keep on reading to get the full story.
Which Q50 trim levels come with paddle shifters?
The 2022 Infiniti Q50 is available in three trim levels: the Luxe, the Sensory, and the Red Sport. The Sensory and the Red Sport come with the Q50's metallic steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The Luxe does not come equipped with these paddle shifters.
Earlier model years of the Q50 Red Sport, which was released in 2016, also come with paddle shifters. Before the 2018 model year, the paddle shifters were mounted on the steering column behind the steering wheel. Since then, they have been mounted on the steering wheel itself, so they move with you as you turn.
In 2016, Infiniti also released Q50 Sport. This trim level was continued through to 2020, but from 2021 was replaced by the Sensory trim level. Paddle shifters were available for all Sport and the 2021 Sensory model years as an upgrade, but they did not come standard.
Because the Sport and the 2021 Sensory are wired for paddle shifters, it is possible to install aftermarket paddle shifters in them. We will cover this topic in more detail below.
Other trim levels did not offer paddle shifters, either standard or as an upgrade. Because of this, they are also not wired for aftermarket paddle shifters.
What are paddle shifters?
We've talked a lot about paddle shifters already, but we haven't touched on what they are.
Paddle shifters are switches mounted on either the steering wheel or the steering column that allow you to manually change gears in an automatic transmission. They are typically labeled with "+" and "-" signs to indicate which switch is for shifting up a gear and switching down a gear.
You don't have to engage a clutch to shift gears with paddle shifters, unlike a manual transmission. They use the car's automatic transmission to do the work. However, this does mean that you can only move up or down one gear at a time with paddle shifters.
Why do drivers like paddle shifters?
There are several reasons to like paddle shifters, which is why they keep appearing on more and more vehicles.
First, they give you more control over when your transmission changes gears. Automatic transmissions are generally quite capable on their own of finding the right time to switch gears. They but give the driver little to no control.
With paddle shifters, you can change gears to suit your specific situation and driving style. You can shift a little later or sooner to maximize your horsepower and torque as you see fit.
Another reason many drivers like them is that they make for a more enjoyable ride than just relying on the automatic transmission.
Anyone who's switched from manual to automatic knows the sensation of feeling like there's something more they should be doing when driving. Paddle shifters keep you more engaged and mindful while driving, enhancing the overall experience.
Paddle shifters are easy to use. You don't need experience driving a manual transmission to use paddle shifters, and you don't need to worry about timing the clutch and gas right to use them either. Click them when you want to switch on demand.
Does Infiniti Q50 have a manual transmission option?
Since its stateside debut in 2013, Infiniti has never offered a manual transmission option for the Q50 in North America. In Europe and South America, Infiniti has a manual transmission option for their 2.1L diesel Q50. Still, there aren't any current plans to sell these models in the North American market.
That doesn't mean you won't see an Infiniti Q50 with a manual transmission in the US. You can find plenty of stories about Q50 owners who have done a "manual swap" on their vehicles. Using parts from other vehicles and the manual European Q50, they can convert their automatic to a manual.
This kind of modification is costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, it takes a lot of expertise to do it right. Unless you are a diehard Q50 and manual transmission fan, you'll be better of sticking with the Q50's 7-speed automatic transmission or finding a car that comes with a manual option.
These kinds of modifications can take a heavy toll on your vehicle, even a reliable one like the Infiniti Q50. To make sure you're getting the most out of yours, check out our article "How Long Does the Infiniti Q50 Last?"
You can also learn more about maintaining your Infiniti Q50 in our article, "What's the Best Oil for the Infiniti Q50?"
What is the Infiniti Q50's Manual Shift Mode?
While the Q50 doesn't have a manual option in North America, its manual shift mode comes standard on Luxe, Sensory, and Red Sport trim levels. Using the shift lever, the manual shift mode allows the driver to select shift ranges between gears.
To engage the manual shift mode, you must first pull the shift lever to the left into the manual shift gate. You can move the selector lever forward to shift the transmission to a higher range. Pulling back on the lever shifts it to a lower range.
If your Q50 is equipped with paddle shifters, you can use them both in and out of the manual shift mode.
You can learn more about the Q50's manual shift mode in the video from Infiniti below.
Can paddle shifters ruin transmission?
You are very unlikely to damage your transmission using paddle shifters. In a manual transmission, you can do some heavy damage pretty quickly to your transmission by shifting into the wrong gear. This isn't the case with paddle shifters.
This is partly because paddle shifters only allow you to shift up or down one gear at a time. This kind of shifting won't damage your transmission, although you may experience less than ideal driving conditions if you shift a little early or late.
Shifting up a gear too early may slow down your acceleration and make it hard to gain momentum. Shifting down too early may leave your car relying too much on engine braking.
While engine braking too early can make your ride a bit jerky, it won't do any serious damage to your engine or transmission. Furthermore, most paddle shifting systems are designed to be nearly foolproof.
When you flip the switch, it doesn't instantly change gears. Instead, it lets the computer controlling the transmission know you want to. If you try to shift too early or quickly, the transmission won't change gears until conditions are right.
Do you have to take your foot off the gas when paddle shifting?
If you ever learned to drive a stick shift, you know you need to release the gas when you engage the clutch before shifting gears. However, you can leave your foot on the gas when shifting with paddle shifters. Why this disparity?
With a manual transmission, if you don't release the accelerator, your engine will continue to run faster while the clutch is pressed. This means your engine will be running at too many revs when you shift into gear and release the clutch.
However, no such problem exists for paddle shifters. They shift gears using your car's automatic transmission system. You don't need to release the gas when your automatic shifts gears, and the same is true for using paddle shifters. If you do, you're likely to lose some momentum.
Can I add aftermarket paddle shifters to my car?
Paddle shifters are easy to give the driver more control and a more exciting driving experience. That's why you're starting to see paddle shifters on everything from sports cars to minivans.
If your vehicle didn't come off the lot with paddle shifters, that doesn't mean you have to miss out. Aftermarket paddle shifters are available for some vehicles, including certain sport versions of the Q50. You can see the process for installing them in the video below:
However, there's no good way to install aftermarket ones for many vehicles that don't come with paddle shifters. You would have to find the necessary parts, install them, and replace a host of wiring harnesses that may run throughout the vehicle. Even if you do all of that, they still might not work due to software issues.
Your best bet is to go for a vehicle that comes equipped with paddle shifters. Barring that, be sure to do your research to see if, like the Q50, it is possible to install aftermarket paddle shifters for your specific model, year, and trim level.
Not all cars are created equal, and not all Q50s come with paddle shifters. However, now you know which ones do and how to get the most out of driving with them.
With this knowledge in hand, you'll be ready to hit the road, whether you're setting off down the highway or around the track.