As you have seem from my previous post, a number of cars were eliminated at first sight and didn't make it to the test drive round (The Acura TL, VW Passat, and The Hyundai Azera).
Test Drive Round #1 - Lexus GS 350 AWD vs. Infiniti G35x
I am sure you may be asking, why are these automatics on the list? Well they made the cut because they each brought something special.
Lexus IS 250 AWD 204hp - I started looking at the IS 250 AWD, however at the Audi A4 price with a small interior (and no rear leg room) I couldn't pick this car over another Audi A4 so it was eliminated before driving. Also the hp just didn't cut it.
Lexus GS 350 AWD 303hp - At $10,000 above the Audi A4 the Lexus GS 350 AWD goes 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. The "Chardonay Pearl" color pictured here is the color we drove. It couldn't scream "florida retirement" any louder. As a positive, It is full of luxury features, and a lot of attention was paid to hide the buttons and controls away which is pretty awesome. It's a little bit like James Bond where you slide the arm rest back and there are rows of buttons and controls. I really enjoyed the ventilated seats! They are awesome! The back seat is roomy. The front dash left much to be desired as it is 80% rubber. I didn't like the look, the salesman said it was for safety. Overall the car didn't impress me on performance. It came across a little big and slow, but that could also be because I drove it AFTER the Infiniti G35.
Infiniti G35x AWD 306hp - Loaded with options the G35x Sedan is about the same price as an Audi A4 and looks like a fighter jet inside. Seriously, it has an awesome interior, the picture doesn't do it justice, go sit in one. The best interior on the list by far! The G35x goes 0-60 in 5.3 seconds. And it is fast! In the Lexus I was flooring it, in the infiniti I was "feathering" the acceleration because I felt like I could spin out (I'm sure it wouldn't with AWD). But needless to say it was plenty fast enough. However, I did notice the lag from the automatic (can there be lag at 5.3 s from 0-60). I guess I am used to a manual where the car responds so much faster. The infiniti was missing the iPod adapter but the nav system has a 9.3 GB harddrive that you can put all of your MP3s on as your own personal jukebox. While every other car give you a 4 yr / 50,000 mi warranty, Infiniti throws the 4 yr / 60,000 mi curveball.
The Lexus GS 350 AWD is eliminated.
The Infiniti G35x survives. It will be driven again after the Audi, BMW and Volvo. If the Infiniti G35x AWD was a stick, it would be a no-brainer. It is a sharp looking car with killer performance for it's price.