Hoovey Review: 2014 Infiniti Q50 vs 2014 Lexus IS350
For my 20,000th post I thought I'd do something special. A Hoovey Review of the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Premium and 2014 Lexus IS350 Luxury. To start, the Automall I work for consists of Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, BMW and Mini. With the 3IS being out since late June, I've had a good amount of starring and seat time and have been anxious to drive the Q50 which for the longest time I could merely look as trucks began delivering. The delayed launch has really stymied the hype of this vehicle, well that and coupled with Infiniti's lack of marketing. So without further adieu, a back to back comparison between the Q50 and IS350.
*I will insert pictures later
Redesigned for the 2014 model year, both the Infiniti Q50 (essentially the G) and the 3IS have been fully revamped inside and out. The two cars however couldn't be more different in their goals. The Infiniti for example, at least from the G37 was always a competent car but it trailed in refinement and fuel economy. The 2IS on the other hand was well appointed with decent tech and interior appointments but the drive always left the driver a little cold. Simple bolt-ons/mods like tires, sways, chassis brace, IS-F steering damper could help but it was still a far cry from the E90.
As you walk up to the Q50, it's immediate that this car has far more presence than the G37. From even more sculpted fenders to a gaping grill it's a new design language that owes its beginnings to the QX60 and QX70 (formely JX and FX). The headlights have a distinct LED strip that make the car seem angry. The side profile is clean yet has a bit more definition than the G37, all while flowing into the rear which is a touch bland but by no means terrible. Overall execution is a significant improvement over the G, which according to Infiniti will still be sold alongside the Q50 being phased out for the 2015 model year.
Find a full parking lot and put a Q50 and 3IS in a line of cars. Where the Q50 might blend in with some other luxury sport sedans, In a striking contrast the 3IS gives no doubt what it is. The trademark spindle is the focus point with the rest flowing back towards the rear. Detached LED DRL's love them or hate them also stand out. Sweeping rocker panels converge with the sharp tails giving a very aggressive profile. This isn't your dad's LS400.
As looks are subjective it's hard to determine which is better, from my own opinion the 3IS F-Sport gets the nod over the Q50 bar none. However it was a Premium package Q50 and Luxury package IS350 that I reviewed (which the IS has the horizontal bars). I personally gave the nod to the Q50 based on exterior looks.
Stepping into the Q50 feels like home albeit a much improved one. The overall shape of the interior reminices most Infiniti's and G's of past and the embroidered Infiniti name on the front seats gives a nice touch of class. The high shifter placement (or tall rather) is very Infiniti by nature. This is where the similarities end though. The revamped interior is now a standout in my book. Most every material used in the cabin I approve of except the headliner. Plastics are soft to the touch and there are plenty of contrasting designs, colors and materials that make the cabin a rich place to sit. A nicely implemented double stitch on the seats and throughout the cabin gives the Q50 a well tailored feel. The controls are easy enough to use including InTouch, (Infiniti's new infotainment system), but I still felt it lagged behind Lexus's Remote Touch interface. Occupants can now use either the dual touch screen or a rotary select **** to implement audio, climate and navigation. There is also a toggle switch below the shifter that is similar to Lexus's dial Driver Mode Select. The cupholders are also in the correct place. The driver can choose from Eco, Normal, Sport, Snow or Personalized. The rear passengers have a decent amount of legroom, and the rear seats are 60/40. The leather is nice, but it is on the firm side compared to the IS. The trunk however is extrememly shallow with a high floor - thankfully there is an actual spare albeit not a full size (although I should warn it is a $200 spare tire package). Infiniti went to great lengths to add feature content like heated seats, memory seats, direct adaptive steering, adaptive front lighting, blind spot monitor, auto high beams and backup collision intervention - the last few in the technology package. I have to save my favorite feature for last though, SUNGLASS HOLDER
!! Oh and look their SOS button is moved off to the side. See Lexus, IT CAN be done
- just absolutely unacceptable on their part. Overall a compelling package though the price could easily swell with a few option ticks.
Having been in the 3IS months before it's release, I was hoping the prototypes were well prototypes and the interior would be improved.. it wasn't. To start, hopping into the 3IS at first catches you off guard. At first you're a bit overwhelmed by the cool design like horizontal layers and cockpit design. Even the electrostatic controls are cool enough you gotta swipe the temperature up and down a few times to be satifsfied. Looking up at the navigation, the screen is vibrant but it's a tad on the confining side. That's when the interior faults start to set in. THE SCREEN IS REALLY TINY!! look at all that empty space!! Thank goodness it's got 3D mapping now, something the Infiniti has had for a few years. Grabbing the steering wheel, it's far more meaty than the 2IS and Q50 for that matter, soft to the touch, then it all goes downhill when you go to press a mess of black buttons at awkward angles - not to be outdone by the absolutely positively worst plastic bezels I have ever had the pleasure of touching. Grainy, scratchy, and just plain cheap.. Thankfully for the climate controls there is now a physical A/C button and no need to get into the menu to turn it on or off. If you compare the interior doors of the Q50 and 3IS, the Infiniti wins hands down. The physical switches on the IS are nice, but the plain design and cheap plastic are not worthy of a L badge - compare this to the Infiniti's door which looks like a work of art. As I mentioned above, the Infiniti leather is nice, but the Lexus leather is better, softer, and the front seats hold the occupant better. The rear seats are a notable improvment over the last and the 60/40 split rear seat helps expand cargo capacity - something my 2IS lacks dearly. Also the 3IS trunk is easier to load, deeper and less protruding than the Q50's. Overall the 3IS interior pales in comparison to the Q50's. The difference is night and day with cabin materials but to both's credit, controls are intuitive and easy to use. That said, the Infiniti's cabin is far more luxurious than the 3IS - the real wood in the IS however is a notch above the Q50.
To me, interior is probably more important than the exterior as that's where I spend all my time. Is the IS cabin functional? Yes. Is it elegant? No. The Q50 interior may not be the most exciting to look at but it has a soft supple feel to it that makes you think Luxury - but then that's not what the IS is about.. anymore.
For years the G was notorious for having an engine and exhaust note sonomous with "oh thats a VQ", start the ignition of the Q50 and surprisingly that infamous sound is not present. Seems more insulation, tuning or a combination of both cheats the Q50 of it's song. Personally it sounds muted like a 2IS 350. Coming out onto a open boulevard, moderate on the throttle the Q50 happily upshifts as quick as it can. Road noise is surpressed compared to the G, but it's still not the quietest. An empty half mile stretch comes up ahead so I toggle to sport mode and punch it. There are no paddle shifters on the non S's so stab the throttle and hold on. The 7-Speed auto downshifts quickly and I'm up to 90mph from a 40mph in no time. Ride is still very composed at speed - not too jarring. Coming up is a no light U-Turn and still no one in sight, perfect. Wanting to test the brakes and steering of the turn, I get closer before firmly depressing the brake pedal. Making the turn the EPS feels void of any sort of feeling - very artificial, and a tad dissapointing. Back to the dealer I go with a furrowed brow.
With the 3IS, Lexus set out with one goal in mind - dethrone the 3-Series as the "fun to drive" car, and that there in lies the IS's saving grace. Reviews and comparisons have proved this true - though it seems in order to dawn this new persona something had to be give - Luxury. While the IS lost much of what Lexus stood for in terms of Luxury, it still has refinement, technology and build quality but it gained handling prowess. Starting up the IS350, it sounds more potent than the 2IS thanks in part to a new true dual exhaust. The 8-Speed transmission is from the IS-F and lightning fast to boot. What's nice about the 3IS vs the Q50 is the standard paddles though the quality and shape of the paddles are subject to question. Following the same route as the Q50 and again no one in sight, I turn the Driver Mode Select to Sport and away I go. Foot on the floor, the IS sounds furious inside the cabin (imagine those on the outside) - this is a Lexus?! Coming up on the turn, paddle downshift and apply the strong brakes of the 350 and the great sense of control puts a smile on your face. Coming out of the turn I lose a bit of traction and slide with style but all still under control. Some members of a Cross Fit gym down the street running back and forth the side walk caught the slide and I couldn't help but grin as one of a pair of female runners smiled and pointed the car out to her companion.
So here we have two revamped entry level luxury sport sedans with seemingly two different goals. The Q50's success is essential to the brand's existence. So far the poor marketing and sales delay has not been a good start considering how good the field is. Infiniti has ground to make up now as they should have hit the floor running. Simply, no sales, no business. Alas the car as a whole though is a significant improvement over the more raw G. Infiniti upped the Luxury and Refinement ten fold. Cabin materials rival A4, and beat out the 3, C, IS and ATS. Most of the controls are user friendly and the car still represents a good value. Exterior wise the muscular lines help give the car more presence on the road yet the profile seems more elegant. My biggest gripes in regards to the Q50's weaknesses are the muffled engine and exhaust note and of course the steering which is void of feeling. As I am getting older now and removing some of my modifications from my 2IS, quality and comfort has come to the forefront of my necessities. All of a sudden the Q50 is looking like a fine choice - since I'm no longer a speed racer..
That is until I jump into a IS350 in which my young 20's self comes to life. It's truly amazing how LFA and GS DNA can transform not just the IS but the whole line from here on out. Technology is still at the forefront, and future products like the RC promise to deliver the driving characteristics enthusiasts crave. Of course Lexus and the lot of them are looking to get younger buyers but part of what makes anything in this segment special and worthy of a big L or Propeller Blades or Quad Rings, Leaping Cats or Pointed Tri-Stars is quality. Getting what you pay for. The Q50 is essentially a better 2IS. Loaded with tech, fine cabin, good powertrain, but when it comes to enthusiasm it leaves you feeling meh. The 3IS 350 on the other hand is essentially a better 3-Series (er E90). Poor cabin, but an absolute master of the chassis.
So which would I choose? If given the choice between these two exact cars a 2014 Infiniti Q50 Premium or 2014 Lexus IS350 Luxury I would have to go with the Infiniti. It is simply a nicer car with a balanced act. This Lexus is refined and also offers a good balance, but without nicer interior appointments is just shows me that Lexus would rather show me a piece of cake behind glass rather than hand me a slice. If this Lexus were a IS350 F-Sport however then I would choose the Lexus - what can I say, I like the F-Sport grill, S+, and LFA guage