Here at the SSB headquarters there has been a small quarrel on which is the better small-sized luxury sport sedan. Naturally we thought of the German’s first: BMW and Audi… and there in lies the problem. They’re so distinctive and conventional. As our discussion got deeper we began to argue Lexus and Infiniti. They both broke that barrier of ordinary, giving the consumers something different and exciting.
When we drove the Lexus IS350 last year, it was the best small size luxury sport sedan hands down. But then the Infiniti Q50 showed up at our doorstep with its flashy wheels – we started to have a change in opinion… and there’s the dilemma. Which one would we rather take home?
Runner Up: Infiniti Q50
In a race of just 2, the Infiniti Q50 lands dead last in our comparison segment. When it comes to styling, there is no doubt the Infiniti Q50 looks absolutely brilliant. The antagonistic front fascia carries quite an attitude problem and those malicious LED headlamps make it strikingly good looking. If you opt for the 19” Ray wheels (like our tester), it certainly brings the entire sedan together for an overall sporty attraction.
The biggest let down to the Q50; it’s based off the previous generation Infiniti G37. That said, it has a lot of that old technology. Now, that’s not to say all the fun of driving is lost… because it isn’t. The Infiniti has a bigger engine than the Lexus; a 3.7-liter V6 coupled to a 7-speed tranny with magnesium paddle shifters. This cranks out 328 horsepower. In a straight line drag race, the Infiniti would pounce the Lexus from 0-60 in 5.2 seconds to a limited top speed of 145 mph.
Where the Infiniti starts to lack its sportiness, is when you start to push it to its limits. The 7-speed transmission isn’t very responsive and when using the paddle shifters, the transmission has a hard time keeping up with the shifting points. The engine isn’t as refined either… it lacks that personality and charisma once found in the G37. There is still a slight rumbling exhaust note that never gets tiring, I just wish it was as vibrate as the G37 once was.
Inside, it was business as usual. Black leather and silver trim showers the interior setting for an attractive sporty look. The Infiniti is comfortable and capable of seating 4 adults. Front seats featured power adjustments with heating feature, while the driver had power adjustable side bolstering for a snug fit. It was also well equipped with Push Button Start, Sun Roof, Navigation with Infiniti InTouch, and a dual touch screen display that is intuitive and easy to use.
The Infiniti is no doubt a fun sedan to drive… more so around town. It can get your heart pumping if you turn off the traction control and get it to misbehave. If you buy one, you won’t be disappointed either… after all it is cheaper than the Lexus too.
The Victorious: Lexus IS350
At an as tested price of $48,215; $3,000 more than the as tested Infiniti, and a smaller 3.5-liter engine, why would we choose the Lexus? Simple, the Lexus IS350 managed to be well rounded in all categories. Allow me to explain…
When it came to styling, much like the Infiniti, Lexus took a chance; a chance that paid off well in the end – the IS350 looks fantastic. The crisp bold lines, the split LED DRL’s, and those body wrapping LED tail lamps; it all compliments each other quite attractively. And sure our 17” alloy wheels aren’t as flashy as the 19-inchers on the Infiniti, but they are still fairly good-looking.
Also like the Infiniti, the Lexus is based on the previous generation IS using the same 3.5-liter V6 producing 306 horsepower – much less than the Infiniti. However, in the same 0-60 drag race the Lexus is only .4 of second slower at 5.6 seconds and will top out at 143 mph. And this is where the Lexus started to shine. The Lexus uses a brilliant 8-speed transmission that is quick and agile in its responsiveness. The 3.5-liter V6 makes quite a good note as it revs pass 4,000 rpms, egging the driver to push a little harder and a little faster. The IS350 feels much more poise and composed. Handling precision was spot on – boosting the drivers confidence on the back mountain roads.
What we loved most about the Lexus is that once you’re finished getting the adrenaline pumping, the Lexus becomes a comfortable luxurious sedan. The ride quality is smooth and quiet, where the Infiniti was not. We find that interior of the Lexus to be much more attractive than the Q50 as well. Now, that does come down to personal taste, but we like the modern contemporary sleek design of the IS. Our tested IS350 also featured very comfortable tan leather interior for 4 adults. And because our Lexus had multiple optional packages, the driver and passenger had power adjustable heated and ventilated seats that where superb and very well bolstered. The Lexus felt superior in every way; the quality of the fit and finish was excellent, and the Lexus Enform Navigation system is top notch – one of the better systems in the business.
In the end, the choice comes down to preference, and in this reviewers opinion, we’d have the Lexus IS350. With its stylish stand-out exterior features, the comfortable well designed interior and the energetic enthusiastic drive from the 3.5-liter V6 the IS350 had the upper hand… by a long shot.