Q50 vs. Q50 vs. GS350 vs. '08 G35
A few days ago, I drove a Q50S Hybrid, a Q50 Premium 3.7 with the 19" wheels and a base Lexus GS350. After the test drives I covered the same route in my '08 G35S Sedan with the 18" wheels and Michelin Pilot Super Sports. I mention the tires because they turn out to be important.
I drove the Hybrid first, and this powertrain is great. There is sometimes a bit of a delay as some have mentioned which leads it to feel a bit non-linear at times, but it's not major. It gathers speed at light to medium throttle from low rpms almost like a V8 and when you punch it, it's super quick. Noticeably stronger through the mid-range than the 3.7. The 3.7 feels about the same as the G37, as you'd expect, but 1-2 and 2-3 upshifts at wide open throttle are now smooth and silky as opposed the hard shifts it did before. The Lexus feels a bit less powerful, but it has a slight edge in torque vs. the 3.7 and the 6 speed tranny is always in the right gear so it feels consistently strong and responsive.
Over the test drive loop, the Hybrid registered 20.9 mpg. The 3.7, 18.1. My G35, 18.8. But, keep in mind, I was solo in my car while the salesman was with me in the other two. Plus, my car is 57K miles on it vs. the new, tight engines of the Q's. I forgot to reset the mpg in the Lexus. Sorry.
Not much to say here, although when getting into the 3.7 after the Hybrid, it was refreshing to feel conventional brakes which are easier to modulate. I'm sure that after a few days in the Hybrid, though, you'd adapt and never think of it again.
We sat in the Hybrid in the parking lot for about 15 minutes playing with InTouch before setting out, so I got about 30 minutes of seat time in the Sport. We switched cars and I got another 15-20 minutes in the 3.7. Some have mentioned the seats being less than comfortable after a while, but I never noticed that. I never thought of them at all, which is a good thing. Getting into the Lexus, you immediately notice that the seat feels plusher, but still offers good support. Think of a firm mattress with a pillow-top. It creates an impression of luxury, but after the initial welcoming feel, I didn't think about these seats either.
The Lexus interior does feel a little more expensive, as others have mentioned, and I like the ventilated seats. But I wish it had some kind of around view monitor. Not sure I'd wish for InTouch just yet :-).
This was kind of interesting. There's a stretch of road in the test route that has some significant bumps with sharp elevation changes. There's also a messed up section of California freeway with some especially harsh expansion joints. The Hybrid with its sport suspension had a hard time with these. Over most road surfaces, it goes along pretty smoothly. But on the rough patch of road it became harsh and felt rather bouncy and generally unsettled. If felt like that on the bad stretch of freeway as well, and it made me think of a small plane in moderate turbulence. There was a distinct feeling of the car being tossed around. On a long trip it would be tiring. The 3.7 with standard suspension, but the same wheels took it all much better. It was smoother and, more importantly, felt much more settled. In both Q's, I was aware of some extra thumping of those tires over smaller bumps. The Lexus was, as you'd expect, the smoothest of all, but not radically smoother than the 3.7. What's interesting is when I went over these areas in my '08. It felt very composed and settled. While firm, the bumps felt a little more "rounded" than in either Q. Not entirely surprising considering the ride advantages of 18" wheels and good tires vs. 19's with run-flats.
Naturally my old G had about twice the road noise of the others and felt far less luxurious in that respect. I thought the noise levels of both Q's were on par with the Lexus, so big points to Infiniti for that!
Again, I found some surprises here. The route includes a winding stretch of road with some 20-30 mph curves. I hurled the Hybrid into the first curve and got pronounced squealing from the tires and felt it drifting wide. Blame those run-flats again with their lack of grip. The car cornered flat, and felt sporty when driven casually, but couldn't hang on that well when pushed. The 3.7 took that same corner quite a bit better with less squealing and more grip. The 300 lb. weight advantage pays off in tight corners. The reduced inertia gives the tires a fighting chance. It seemed to corner almost as flat as the Sport.
The Lexus was another surprise. As others have mentioned, it feels softer and more isolated. It leans a bit more, but not excessively. But ignore all that and it hangs on as well as the 3.7 and better than the Hybrid Sport did. In this case, softer doesn't mean sloppier. More cosseting, yes, but it's well controlled with no slop or float. I'm looking forward to seeing test results because, subjectively, the Lexus seems like it would generate numbers on par with the Q.
Now back to the G. But this isn't really fair considering the Michelin Pilot Sports. It had the most grip of all and felt the most capable through the twisties by a small margin. The steering also felt the most natural of the 4. Pushing hard through the last, faster curve, the effort built up gracefully and it told me clearly what was going on. I wasn't aware of anything wrong with the electric steering in the other 3, but when I went through those curves in mine, it reminded me what steering could feel like. It's probably only a factor in harder driving and noticeable mostly if you compare back to back. After a little time in the Lexus or the Q I doubt you'd think of it much. But for all the talk of direct active steering, I wish Infiniti had spent the money of adaptive suspension instead. The salesman was changing the steering setting back and forth during the drive and it was in normal mode through the winding part.
Dump the run-flats and put a set of Michelin PSS on the Q and you'd really have something! For me, the lack of a spare tire option in the Hybrid means it's pretty risky to ditch the run-flats. That means the Hybrid is out for me. Also, if I'm reading the specs correctly, all Hybrids -- even the non-Sport -- have the sport suspension. Given my preferences and the realities of California freeways and crummy roads, the standard suspension with good tires would be my choice.
As an aside, I drove a 3.7 Premium on 17" wheels at a launch event a few weeks ago. The ride was plush, but it felt mushy and not very playful going around corners. I think it's well judged for the luxury crowd, but it really doesn't feel like a sport sedan.
A side comment about those Michelin Pilot Super Sports; they're amazing. Tremendous grip in the wet or dry. They feel solid and firm when cornering hard, but much comfier than you'd expect on rough roads. I've also had Continental DW's and Pirelli P-Zero Nero's on the car and both of them starting howling at about 6,000-8,000 miles. The Michelins are still quiet after 20,000+ miles. Believe it or not, I'm not on Michelin's payroll!
So, as it stands, I'd have to choose between the 3.7 and GS350. The latter has a great combination of luxury and sportiness. But I currently lean towards the Q50 for the power, styling, lower price and more features.