With the debut of its 2011 IPL coupes and G25 sedan, Infiniti seeks to exploit perceived gaps in the entry-level sports/luxury scrum.
It already was doing quite well with the G37 sedans, coupes and convertibles, selling at a nice clip that could approach 60,000 in 2010. The rear-drive G37s compete with the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Lexus IS, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the new Volvo S60.
But the Infiniti analysts looked over the playing field and found holes both near and far. The plug, on the near end, is the new G25 sedan and, close to the goal line, a couple of IPL coupes. IPL stands for “Infiniti Performance Line.”
It’s a new designation, not as familiar as BMW’s M for all-out performance models or as catchy as AMG at Mercedes. If you need help remembering it, note that it rhymes with ripple, nipple and tipple. Or you could simply call it a Gipple, although Infiniti prefers “IPL G Coupe.”
Whatever, it is not intended to compete directly against the BMW M3 or the Mercedes C63. It’s not quite as powerful as either but also doesn’t cost as much. The M3 is $60,575 and the C63 is $61,175.
The idea is to attract buyers who want more performance than the G37 offers but who don’t want to spend more than about $50,000.
The starting-point G37 is no slouch, so it didn’t take much. The IPL has 348 horsepower, just 18 more than the G37, though the IPL also has a tighter performance suspension system and 19-inch alloy wheels with sticky summer tires.
Fully equipped, the IPL with the six-speed manual gearbox has a sticker price of $48,775. With the seven-speed automatic, which has a manual-shift mode and paddle shifters, it comes in at $50,855, including the $875 shipping charge.
Either way, you get bundles of driving excitement. It starts with the special sport seats focused to hug the driver in a supportive embrace and continues to the accurate and glitch-free steering that redirects the IPL as quickly as you think about it, with communicative feedback from the road surfaces.
Similarly, the taut suspension system has give and take that keeps the IPL planted on coarse surfaces around corners, yet delivers acceptable ride quality.
With the manual, clutch engagement is easy and progressive, and the six-speed’s shift linkage has short throws and no hang-ups, although the test car—a pre-production model—delivered noticeable crunch when slammed into second gear on all-out acceleration runs.
Similarly, the seven-speed automatic snapped off shifts rapidly, both up and down, in either manual or full automatic mode.
The hope here is that Infiniti will extend IPL to the four-door. Though the coupe looks great it is, after all, a coupe with a marginally useful back seat. Passengers there, unless they are munchkins, bang their noggins on the rear glass, and getting in and out is exhausting.
For those who don’t feel the need to dominate the roadways and find that even the G37 is a bit much, Infiniti now offers the new G25, a less expensive and de-tuned version.
It has all the essential goodness of the G37 with a softer, more demure personality. Only the cognoscenti—or those who check the badge on the trunk—will know that you’re not driving the $35,925 G37. The G25 is aimed at the same sorts of buyers who opt for the more economical, cheaper and less powerful BMW 328i or Mercedes C300.
Despite its relatively low price, the rear-drive G25 is a satisfying car. Though you may not blow off drivers of too many other sports sedans, it handles twisting mountain roads with competence and confidence, and delivers city/highway fuel economy ratings of 20/29 miles to the gallon. Acceleration won’t cause neck pain but won’t embarrass you either.
The base price of $31,825 gets you full safety equipment, including traction and stability control, antilock brakes, side air bags and side-curtain air bags, and tire-pressure monitoring. There’s also remote locking and pushbutton starting, audio system with XM satellite radio, leather seating surfaces, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control and a power driver’s seat.
Obviously, the G25’s front seats don’t approach the long-distance support of those on the IPL. But they are more than acceptable. Interior appointments include aluminum trim on the dash and doors. However, the manual-shift mode for the automatic does not include paddles on the steering wheel; you have to use the shift lever. And the sun visors don’t slide to block sun from the side.
The test car was the $33,225 G25 Journey. It added a rear-view camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, automatic headlights and a USB port for recorded music. The only option was a $1,000 motorized glass sunroof.
So a tested price of $34,225 gets you a nice, civilized sports sedan that can double as a four-passenger family car. (Forget the fifth spot in the back; it’s designed more for flagellants).
Should you live in an area with nasty weather, there’s also an all-wheel drive Journey version for $34,825.
- Model: Infiniti G25 Journey four-door sedan.
- Engine: 2.5-liter V6, 218 horsepower.
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
- Overall length: 15 feet 8 inches.
- EPA passenger/trunk volume: 97/14 cubic feet.
- Weight: 3,552 pounds.
- EPA city/highway fuel consumption: 20/29 miles to the gallon.
- Base price, including destination charge: $33,225.
- Base dealer cost: $30,762 (estimated).
- Price as tested: $34,225.