You’ve probably seen Infiniti branding on the Red Bull Formula One cars, but have you ever seen an Infiniti on the road? While Nissan’s luxury division is as big as Lexus in the US, it’s yet to make an impact here.
The new Q50 compact executive aims to change that. This rear-wheel-drive saloon is intended to take sales from established brands by offering efficient diesel power, a generous amount of standard equipment and a driving experience that mixes comfort with good handling.
That sounds similar to our current class champ, the BMW 3 Series. So we’ve put the Q50 Premium against the 320d Sport, as well as lining up Lexus’ IS 300h. The hybrid IS has temptingly low running costs and shows that an ambitious Japanese brand can be a contender.
On the road The BMW strikes a great balance between comfort and handling, and while the suspension is on the firm side, it’s more composed than the Infiniti’s over bumps. The Lexus shows the Q50 a clean pair of heels for comfort, too. Although the IS 300’s driving experience is pretty lifeless, it’s a great motorway cruiser – there’s hardly any cabin noise, and the suspension soaks up bumps well.
With emissions of 114g/km, the Q50 sits one tax bracket below the BMW, at 17 per cent. That means it’s marginally cheaper to run – but if you really want to save some cash, choose the Lexus. It sits in the 12 per cent band, and its annual tax liability is £500 less for top-rate payers.
In most respects, the Infiniti is just as well built as its rivals, but it’s perceived quality that disappoints. The bootlid is lightly sprung,
so it slams shut with minimal effort, and some welds are clearly visible around the rear window.
If you don’t want to go German or Japanese, then your only option is the S60. For £30,000, you get a top-spec R-Design with the new 181bhp, 99g/km diesel engine.
1st place - BMW
Another challenger is sent packing by the 3 Series. While the Infiniti has lower company-car costs, the 320d is much better to drive, faster, roomier and more comfortable (despite its noisy diesel). It’s cheaper to buy, and everyday running costs remain low.
2nd place - Lexus
The IS 300h isn’t involving to drive like the BMW, but it’s an accomplished cruiser, thanks to its hybrid drive and comfortable interior. And if you’re after a company car, then it’s a great choice, with far lower bills than either rival here.
3rd place - Infiniti
The Q50d is comfortably outperformed by its rivals here. It’s well built and equipped, but let down by an unrefined diesel, ponderous chassis and unsettled suspension. Company costs are lower than the BMW’s, yet the Lexus’ are better still.
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