Subtract a little of the "gee" from the gee-whiz rating of Infiniti's 3-Series Bimmer-battling, 328-hp, G37 sports sedan by giving it a smaller 218-hp engine, and considerably more from the "gee, I can't afford one" column by dropping the price about seven grand and what you've got is the new-for-2011 G25.
And if you're now thinking "but gee, will I be disappointed" the answer is, not necessarily. Just as you wouldn't likely be unhappy driving a 200-hp BMW 323i with the same-sized engine for about the same money.
Sure there's a palpable performance difference between the G37 and the G25 - a couple of seconds or so on the 0-100 km/h acceleration graph - but the seven-octave-range automatic helps the G25's 2.5-litre six sing a lively enough tune to get you to the century mark in a reasonable seven-and-a-half seconds or thereabouts.
The combination also manages passing or merging with more than enough verve and handles around-town motoring with snappy downshifts that let you manoeuvre through traffic deftly, while delivering a worthwhile fuel economy bonus over the G37.
Infiniti is offering three versions of the G25, a base rear-wheel-drive model starting at $36,390, an all-wheel-drive G25x at $40,450 and a G25x Sport for $45,540. The entry G37x by comparison goes for $43,450, the G36x Sport for $48,540 and the only rear-driver available, the G37 M6 Sport, at $46,450. A BMW 323i lists for $37,650 and a 325i xDrive (AWD) for $39,950. This review is based on experience with the G25x Sport.
Backing up on engine displacement and power isn't something normally associated with sports sedan marketing success, but it makes sense with stiffer fuel economy regulations looming for North American auto makers. And, serendipitously for Infiniti at the moment, sharply spiking fuel prices, which may mean more buyers are open to exploring ways they can continue to enjoy the looks and luxury associated with cars of this type.
The new to North America (and smallest V-6 available here) is a 2.5-litre unit that's fairly conventional in modern engine terms and makes its 218 hp at 6,400 rpm (it's redlined at a revvy 7,500) and its 187 lb-ft of torque at a high 4,800 rpm. Smaller less torque-y engines usually require frequent use of the transmission, and that's definitely the case here, but as it's an automatic you don't have to get involved in the process yourself unless you want to.
The seven-speed automatic can also be manually shifted and does that neat throttle-blipping thing on downshifts. A full-time "intelligent" all-wheel-drive system sends power to the wheels and is aided by a battery of electronic driving aids.
Fuel economy ratings for the G25x are 10.6 litres/100 km city and 7.3 highway compared to 11.7 city and 7.8 highway for the G37x, although both require pricey premium gas. I averaged about 13 litres/100 km in around-town driving and about 8.9 litres/100 km at a four-lane highway cruise.
In handling terms, there isn't much difference as the weight is about the same, as is the 55/45 front to rear weight balance and the P225/50R18 all-season tires. With either engine, these are entertaining cars that steer with precision, corner with confidence and brake with assurance.
Otherwise, what G25 offers in the way of features is very close, although not exactly apples-to-apples as the models don't line up exactly, to what its bigger-engined brother delivers.
The driving environment is pleasant if a little snug. There's not much room between power seat controls and door panel, for instance, and two people are all you'll want to ask to ride in the rear. The layout is conventional but done with a sense of understated style to which aluminum trim ads a bright touch. And they didn't forget to include the sparkly little analogue clock as a centre-stack centrepiece.
The leather upholstered, eight-way adjustable, heated front seats feel very sporty, very firm and form-fitting - and with the power tilt/telescope wheel allow you to set up a suitable driving position - and the dash with its violet-hued gauge cluster looks and works well, with everything you need to see and touch (which is also a pleasant experience) about where you expect it to be.
The equipment list includes a rear-view monitor, keyless entry and Infiniti Intelligent Key systems, dual-zone climate control, Bose Studio on Wheels audio system, steering wheel audio controls and a moon roof.
When you get right down to it, all you're really giving up by opting for the G25x are performance bragging rights, and, well, actual performance, of course.
2011 Infiniti AWD G25 Sport
Type: Sports sedan
Base Price: $45,540; as tested, $47,430
Engine: 2.5-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 218 hp/187 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.6 city/7.3 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Audi A4 Quattro, BMW 328i Xdrive, Cadillac CTS AWD, Lexus IS350 AWD, Mercedes-Benz C350 4Matic, Saab 9-5 AWD
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