Fly-by-wire systems are the sort of thing we associate with aircraft and space shuttles, but they’re now moving into the automotive world. This week at a press conference at the 2013 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Infiniti unveiled its Q50 luxury sports sedan. Based on the Infiniti Essence concept, this is the first production car to feature drive-by-wire steering instead of conventional mechanical and hydraulic linkages.

The Q50 is the centerpiece of the Infiniti display and the company’s big gun against BMW’s 3 series. Its styling is quite sleek for a four-door. It has a nice balance fore and aft without feeling boxy, and the bonnet has a sports car echo about it, though there is that slightly heavy feel that plagues so many luxury cars. Meanwhile, the interior boasts a well-defined driver’s area and 8-inch touchscreen to control the car’s infotainment system.

The Q50 comes with a choice of a conventional or hybrid drive train. The conventional engine is a 328 bhp (244 kW) 3.7-liter V6 with 269 ft lb (365 Nm) of torque while the Infiniti Direct Response Hybrid System has a 3.5-liter 354 bhp (264 kW) V6 with lithium-ion batteries, electric motor and two clutches. Both come with a 7-speed automatic gearbox with manual mode and the option of a rear-wheel drive or Intelligent All-Wheel Drive. Currently, there is no word on performance.

Infiniti Direct Adaptive Steering technology is Infiniti's drive-by-wire system that replaces mechanical linkages with digital controls. These not only simplify the design of the car, but also allow for a degree of customization with four different steering settings based on the driver’s preference. Also, according to Infiniti, the system provides superior handling by “transmitting the driver's intentions to the wheels faster than a mechanical system.”

No price was announced, but the Q50 goes on sale in the United States and Canada this summer and will soon be available in other world markets. The NAIAS runs from January 14th through the 27th at Detroit's Cobo Center.

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