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Infiniti Q50 vs. Lexus IS 250: An upscale face-off

Redesigned for 2014, neither sedan hits the mark

Published: October 2013

 

Infiniti vs. Lexus is the Japanese luxury auto equivalent of the Hatfields vs. McCoys—or perhaps Chevy vs. Ford, with higher price tags. Both marques rolled into the market in 1989 and have gone head-to-head ever since.

So, on paper, the sports-sedan showdown between the redesigned Infiniti Q50 and Lexus IS 250 promised to generate some real spark. But in our testing, neither model lived up to expectations, and both ended up anchored at the bottom of our upscale-sedans category.

Most perplexing, however, is that the class leader—by a sizeable margin—is still the Infiniti G37, which the Q50 was designed to replace. What happened?

The G has been one of our highest-rated sedans for some time, earning a coveted spot in our annual Top Picks list for six of the past seven years. It delivers an inviting blend of sportiness, luxury, and comfort. But after its 2014 redesign and transition to Infiniti’s new Q designation, this car seems to have lost its way.

With mundane handling, due in part to its dull steering, the Q50 isn’t as much fun to drive as the G37. And, despite aiming for a more luxurious persona, it doesn’t match the G’s ride comfort or easy-to-use controls. Yes, the Q50 is quick and relatively roomy. But, overall, it doesn’t measure up to the higher-rated models in this class.

Still, the Q50 is much better than the IS 250, which is neither sporty nor luxurious. Its acceleration lacks punch, handling is lackluster and short on finesse, the cabin is cramped and not particularly quiet or well finished, and the ride is neither plush nor tied-down.

The good news? The Infiniti G37 will remain on sale for the near future, at a lower price than the Q50, but in limited numbers. And there are several other models in this class that are better choices than either the Q50 or the IS 250.

We tested both models with all-wheel drive because we’ve found most buyers choose it over rear-wheel drive in today’s upscale and luxury sedans. In fact, it can be hard to find two-wheel-drive versions in many regions of the country. To reflect this preference, when a sedan offers rear- or all-wheel drive, we will buy the AWD version. So equipped, our Q50 and IS 250 cost $44,855 and $43,823, respectively.

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