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2014 Lexus IS

Toyota

Now this has to be a blow to both Lexus and Infiniti, two upscale brands very anxious to find a formula that will allow them to challenge the best premium cars from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Consumer Reports (CR), a magazine that claims more than eight million subscribers, calls the remade-for-2014 Lexus IS 250 "neither sporty or luxurious," while also suggesting the all-new Infiniti Q50 "has lost its way." Indeed, rival upscale sedans from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln and Volvo all scored higher than the Infiniti and Lexus. The Lexus and Infiniti both found a place near the bottom of the CR rankings.

Perhaps the bigger surprise here is the poor showing of the Q50, the replacement for the Infiniti G37. Infiniti officials have called the 2014 Q50 sedan "without question, the best sedan we've ever built." And Nissan Motor executive vice president Andy Palmer, who is responsible for the Infiniti brand, has said the Q50 represents a major step on the road to Infiniti becoming "an acknowledged member of the world's premium automotive brands," adding, "We need Infiniti to be in the same competitive set as BMW, Mercedes and Audi."

Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, takes another view.

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"The Infiniti G has been one of Consumer Reports' highest-rated sedans for many years, but after its 2014 redesign and transition to the new Q designation, this car seems to have lost its way," he said.

2014 Infiniti Q50 Nissan Nissan

Thus the Q50 and IS 250 are not "recommended," though the Q50 still scored reasonably well. The problem: it's still too new for CR to have reliability information. But the IS 250 scored so low, CR would not recommend it even if reliability data were available. Indeed, the IS 250's "good" score was the worst road test score posted by any Lexus sedan in recent memory. The BMW 328i, Mercedes-Benz C250, Lincoln MKZ 2.0 EcoBoost and Volvo S60 T5 all posted higher overall scores.

CR said the Lexus IS suffered from handling "short on finesse," along with elevated road noise, a tight interior and a fussy controller. The Q50, said CR, "isn't as much fun to drive as the G37" and the interior quality "is nothing special."

2014 Lexus IS F Sport Toyota Toyota

These latest scores will come as an embarrassment to Infiniti and Lexus. Both have spent more than two decades trying, apparently still in vain, to mount a serious challenge the big German luxury brands. Back to the drawing boards?

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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