For decades, the luxury sport sedan market has been primarily dominated by one vehicle: the BMW 3 Series. But times have changed in the last few years, as competitors have worn away the 3 Series' commanding presence with alluring prices and cutting-edge technology. One of the most successful new models has been the Infiniti G, now called the 2014 Infiniti Q50 after undergoing a ground-up redesign for the latest model year. So does the Q50 have what it takes to unseat the 335i? We check it out in depth.
2014 Infiniti Q50 Changes
The Q50 is fully redesigned for the 2014 model year, replacing the outgoing G37 sedan. While the outgoing G37's standard powertrain is carried over, the Q50 boasts a totally new look, new features and an all-new hybrid variant.
2014 BMW 335i Changes
Although the BMW 3 Series lineup offers a few changes for 2014, including a new wagon model and a diesel-powered 4-cylinder dubbed 328d, the 335i carries over into the new model year completely unchanged.
Because the Infiniti Q50 is newly redesigned for the 2014 model year, automotive analysts at J.D. Power have not yet published its estimated reliability ratings. However, J.D. Power gave high scores to the outgoing G37, which shares its powertrain with the Q50. The G37 scored a perfect 5-circle rating for overall quality, and four circles for predicted reliability, indicating better-than-most performance.
The BMW 335i didn't fare so well. According to J.D. Power, the BMW only earned two circles for overall quality, a figure the group calls "below average." And while the BMW earned three circles for predicted reliability, it still couldn't top the Q50's better-than-most 4-circle score.
In addition to improved reliability, the Q50 also boasts a better warranty than the 335i. While the Q50 offers a 4-year or 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 6-year or 70,000-mile powertrain warranty, the 335i offers just four years or 50,000 miles for both warranties. Perhaps the BMW's only advantage is the brand's free maintenance plan, which covers items like oil changes and wiper blades for the first four years of vehicle ownership. Otherwise, the Q50 is the more dependable car.
While fuel economy might not be a huge priority if you're searching for a sporty sedan like the Q50 or 335i, it's still a useful discussion for many shoppers. If you're one of those shoppers, the 335i's gas mileage is slightly better.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, automatic versions of the 335i return 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg highway -- a slight increase over the Q50's 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy. Infiniti doesn't offer a manual transmission, but stick-shift 335i models return 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy. Both the 335i and Q50 offer all-wheel-drive versions that see a slight drop in gas mileage.
Where the Q50 makes up some of its lost fuel economy is in its all-new hybrid model. Featuring an impressive 354 horsepower, the rear-drive Q50 Hybrid returns an impressive 29 mpg city/36 mpg hwy. Unfortunately, the Q50 Hybrid is pricey, with a starting MSRP of around $45,000 with shipping. As a result, we'd suggest that the 335i offers slightly better fuel economy than the Q50 -- at least for most drivers, who don't plan on upgrading to a hybrid model.
It doesn't matter whether you choose the 335i or the Q50; either way, you're dealing with an exceptionally safe new car. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-test ratings, both the BMW and the Infiniti earned a 5-star overall score -- essentially a perfect rating, comprised of a 4-star frontal-crash rating and 5-star scores in the government's side-impact and rollover tests.
In crash testing carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Q50 holds a slight edge -- but only barely. The Q50 earned the agency's Top Safety Pick+ rating, while the 335i is only a Top Safety Pick -- largely due to the Q50's more modern crash-prevention technology. The Q50 also performed slightly better than the BMW in IIHS's new small-overlap front-crash test.
When it comes to safety features, both the Q50 and 335i are, once again, impressive. But the Q50 expands its slight safety lead here, boasting a few available features that the BMW just doesn't have. Examples include a forward-collision alert system with automatic braking capability and a new Active Lane Control feature that can sense changing road surfaces or wind and steer the car back on course, thus limiting the amount of effort a driver must put in.
As a result, we give the safety category to the Infiniti -- though the difference between the two cars is minimal.
We've already covered safety technology, where the Infiniti takes a lead over the BMW due to its multitude of cutting-edge features -- items like forward-collision alert with automatic braking and an Active Lane Control feature that can sense changing road conditions and steer you back on course.
But the Q50's focus on technology is apparent elsewhere, too. One of our favorite features is the sedan's center console, which uses two stacked display screens -- an 8-inch and a 7-in -- with a wide variety of customization options. Of course, the Q50 also offers an optional hybrid powertrain, which improves fuel economy without compromising on performance. Meanwhile, the 335i's most important unique feature is an available automated parallel-parking system -- an option that has not yet made it to the Q50.
Other than that, both the Q50 and 335i are about the same when it comes to technology, and that means they offer a long list of high-tech gadgets. Options include convenience features that range from automatic high-beam control and adaptive cruise control to adaptive headlights that move when the steering wheel is turned.
In terms of technology, the Infiniti has the edge, though we suspect technophiles would feel right at home in either car.
When it comes to value, you'll have to start asking yourself exactly what you want from your next sport sedan. If it's features per dollar, our pick would be the Infiniti: From a starting price of $38,000, it offers nearly everything you can get in the 335i, which starts around $44,000 with shipping. The same goes with options pricing, since you can get a fully equipped Q50 for about the price of a base-level 335i. Additionally, the Q50 is both more powerful (328 hp to the BMW's 300 horses) and roomier when the discussion turns to trunk space or passenger room.
So why would anyone buy the BMW? The answer is driving experience. Although the 335i would never beat the Q50 on paper, it offers a more enjoyable experience on the road. Handling is tighter, steering is more precise, and acceleration feels more dramatic thanks to BMW's turbocharged 6-cylinder engine, even if it isn't faster in practice. For some people, that alone is worth the BMW's $6,000 price premium, especially when you factor in the BMW's more impressive status, its available manual transmission and its four years of free maintenance.
In most objective tests, including this one, the Infiniti Q50 looks better than the BMW 335i on paper. It's $6,000 cheaper, and it's more powerful. It's roomier inside, and it has better technology. It offers improved reliability and a slightly better safety record. And there's a hybrid version that allows you to get compact-car gas mileage without sacrificing any performance. As a result, we recommend the Q50 to nearly every car shopper -- especially if your primary requirement is a luxury sedan with a lot of equipment.
But if you're looking for a sport sedan first and a luxury sedan second, you might prefer the BMW. Handling is better, acceleration feels faster, and it offers a more enjoyable on-the-road experience than you'll ever get from the Infiniti. Whether that's worth the price premium is up to you -- and your budget.