"Drive...He Said" now interrupts your regularly scheduled BMW 3-Series "Kool-Aid" programming.
With some spicy rear-drive platform compact luxury sport sedans from the land of Wasabi.
You either love it or hate it. Or it grows on you. The spindle (or hourglass) styled-grille. Audi started it. The re-designed 2015 Infiniti Q50S has one. Specify F-Sport and on the new 2015 Lexus IS350 and the spindle is a defiant monolith.
- Infiniti Q50 (V37 Series) pulls off a visually lower and wider profile than its much-loved predecessor the V35 series G37 (so loved it is still hanging on one final year as the Q40). The Coke-bottle fuselage is less so. Familial resemblance demanded a big Hoffmeister kinked C-pillar.
- The XE30 Series Lexus 2015 IS350 F-Sport was struck by lightning bolts. From taut body creases to boomerang front lights, to rear quarter panel and a C-pillar forming a Mallard Duck's lifted tail.
No Four Bangers [Yet]:
Infiniti/ Nissan's VQ 3.7 liter twin-cam gasoline V-6 = paradox of plentiful, coarse power. Not even the Q50S' well padded cabin can mask it.
13 years ago the Infiniti G35's five-speed automatic transmission led the pack. Now a step behind with a 7-speeder, the Q50S impresses with rev-matching lunges. Throttle tip-in remains abrupt, the better to lunge to the 7000 rpm redline.
Optional ATTESA all-wheel drive normally goes aft-wards, spreading as much as 50% of torque forwards. Despite more heft than the Q40, 2015 Infiniti Q50S efficiency is up to an impressive 22 miles-per-gallon combined.
The 2015 Lexus IS350 F-Sport mill is slightly down on displacement to the Q50S. The direct and sequential injected 3.5L twin-cam gas V-6 = subdued in its inert state. Push the throttle in Sport+ mode past 3000 rpm and the engine sounds liberated, potentially vengeful.
Seeking the new 8-speed autobox? Sorry. It's only fitted to rear-drivers. All-Wheel-Drivers make do with a two-step behind the times 6-speed slushbox. While it can punch redline and hold it, it manages the politeness of a Waldorf Astoria doorman.
According to both measuring tape and scale, the Lexus IS350 is the svelter of this sport sedan duo. The center viscous differentialed all-wheel drive is less lenient that in the Q50S. It allows the IS350, on M+S radials, to pull with surefootedness in deep snow. With one fewer gear cog than the Q50S, surpassing the 20 mpg challenges the heavy-footed.
Grade: Q50S: B IS350 F-Sport: B+
Fluid vs. Electrons:
Infiniti offers a segment first steering-by-wire option on the 2015 Q50S AWD. It's a bold step that we've tested and actually warmed up to.
However, our Q50S had the standard "Left Well Enough Alone" worm gear with actual variable hydraulic assist from the engine. Complaints that it's "heavy" even in Eco Mode are best left at the door. Switch on Sport Mode to beget absolutely intuitive response on power slides.
Improved compliance from the Q50S fully independent chassis, gives way to the occasional jarring due to the 19" Bridgestone performance run-flats. Turn-in grip is slightly off the Q40's high mark. Akebono supplied front four/ rear twin piston fixed calipers on vented steel brake rotors exhibit impressive pedal linearity.
In the reflex department Lexus IS350 F-Sport AWD pulls a Sybil. Sport+ mode variable damping swings from blissful crater ignorance to rock hardness and roll imperviousness.
Electric variable steering boost ranges from thumb-index finger helm pinching to hold on tight with both straight arms. Indeed the IS350F-Sport trails the Q50s helm in on-center feel. Stoptech front fixed four/ rear single piston fixed calipers bite hard on the four wheel vented steel rotors. Lexus ES afficionados may find initial pedal application too abrupt.
Grade: Q50S: B+ IS350 F-Sport: B
Business Class vs. High-Tech Sublime Class:
- Seats & Materials:
Infiniti Q50S front bucket seats feature knee extenders and variable driver's torso wings. But seat cushions...front and rear...impart park bench give. Perforated leather has a satin sheen. But the driver's thigh bolster was already fairly distressed with but 5000 miles on the clock. Out of this duo, the Q50S has the major edge in leg and knee room.
Despite lustrous aluminum appliques inside the Q50S we can swear we've seen some of the door and steering wheel spoke switchgear on Nissan's Altima. Also conveying skimping is a thinly padded steering wheel.
You can't even order a Lexus IS350 F-Sport with leather seat upholstery. But Lexus' ersatz and perforated Nu-Luxe feels and smells like the real thing. Lacking some of the Q50S adjustments the IS350 chairs actually cradle average adults better, almost to Volvo levels. Rear quarters have been STRETCHED by a whole inch. Yet no adult we know will muse: "Roomy."
IS350 F-Sport metallic cabin embellishments are plastic. Overall the arrangement is emotional. The sense imparted is refined, and not one of a glorified Toyota.
- Instrumentation & Controls:
Infiniti calls the Q50S gauges "Fine Vision," the same branding which Nissan provides on the down-market Sentra. Large, traditional twin ELD dials sandwich a TFT multi-function display. Good enough for our diminishing vision.
The center stack is "Touchy-Feely." That is where a touch HD 8"-inch matte navigation display sits atop a touch 7"-inch S-HD phablet glossy infotainment display. Vertical columns of climate control buttons flank either side, with audio at the bottom. A scroll dial controller sits aft of the gear-shift selector ONLY operates the navigation screen. A Boeing 787 pilot would feel at home in the Q50S.
Q50S cool factor: huge magnesium and leather trimmed transmission shift paddles are fixed on the steering column. They make for more confident flipping than wheel mounted paddles.
The cockpit of the 2015 Lexus IS350 caters to enthusiast intuition. From the thick padded helm to a less frustrating single 7" LCD info/ navigation display featuring a customizable three-way split. Look up "Genuinely Thick, Great to Hold steering wheel rim" in the encyclopedia. It should say "LEXUS."
IS350 F-Sport "cool factor": a TFT variable-color concentric gauge. Push a steering spoke button to actuate a motor. It slides the single TFT gauge to the right, revealing trip, media, navigation and settings menus.
The infotainment touchpad controller on the new RC coupe hasn't hit the IS350 yet. There's still the mouse-joystick thing-a-ma-jiggy.
Grade: Q50S: B IS350 F-Sport: A-
The 2015 Infiniti Q50S and Lexus IS350 F-Sport both offer subscription-based ($$), built-in XM Travel applications. Infiniti interfaces for nearby Movies, Sports scores/ standings are rudimentary next to the Lexus. In the time required for Weather and Financial stock reports to load in the Q50S, storms would have struck and we could have lost our pants.
- Infiniti Connected telematics includes lock-out relief, teen driving parameters and parking minder.
- Infiniti Touch entertainment apps feature neutered Facebook status page and Google Navigation Search. Google Nav. Search might be better than Lexus' Bing, but the suite is pretty W*E*A*K.
- Lexus Enform has Pandora, Stitcher, Slacker for internet based radio. Bing Navigation search. Open Table and Yelp dining and entertainment applications. Loading is darn quick.
Grade: Q50S: B- IS350 F-Sport: A-
- Infiniti/ Bose Studio on Wheels audio : 14 speaker drivers & active noise cancellation. Bose stubbornly won't state the RMS amplification power. Volume is always plentiful in the Infinti Q50S, but the Centerpoint 2.0 surround conveys less spatiality then in the Lexus. Bass can boom.
- Lexus/ Mark Levinson audio: 835 watts, 7.1 channel DTS. Not at all deafening. A high signal-to-noise ratio aptly handles Vivaldi's transitions from quiet to crescendo. Nothing muddy here.
Grade: Q50S: B IS350 F-Sport: A+
With their 2015 IS350 F-Sport, Lexus has mortally wounded critics who said the automaker is only capable of comatose. The execution of adaptive suspension and variable steering should concern the BMW 335i M-sport . A $50K fully loaded price, or a 15% under-cut, should cause angst among the "Bavarian Bahn Burners." Just one button-push separates a very refined cruiser from a motorway bruiser. The 2015 Infiniti Q50S has lost some edginess from it's former G37 glory days. Noticeably more spacious than the Lexus, it misses the mark on regality. Retention of hydraulic power steer, alone, betrays that the Q50 is still the rawer Sushi.
And now, BACK to your regularly scheduled BMW 3-Series "Kool-Aid" programming.
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