The 2011 Infiniti G25's 2.5-liter V6 sings through the rev range with such willingness and subtlety that it embarrasses the larger, more powerful V6 in the G37. In fact, this new, smaller engine in the G sedan family is utterly smooth all the way up to 7,000 rpm, at which point it has 500 rpm remaining before its rev limiter puts a firm but refined stop to the fun.
It'll never match the brute force of the 3.7-liter V6, of course, but this amply powerful and fluid engine is defined more by its sophistication than by its relative lack of power.
The G25 is no penalty box.
Still, as surprising as the little engine's performance might be, the existence of the G25 sedan itself should come as no surprise. Until now, the G has been offered only with its big V6 (3.7 liters in current form), which allows it to compete against the BMW 335i and Lexus IS 350. And compete it does, acquitting itself well in car-enthusiast comparison tests. Problem is, the world is not a car-magazine comparison test. Both BMW and Lexus sell almost 80 percent of their 3 Series and IS models with the smallest engine available. And until now, Infiniti simply handed those entry-level buyers to its competitors.
By tuning the new VQ25HR to produce 218 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque, Infiniti has positioned the G25 directly between its Lexus and BMW rivals, which produce 204 hp and 230 hp, respectively. The only available transmission is the manually shiftable seven-speed automatic, regardless of whether you choose the base rear-drive G25 or the all-wheel-drive variant called the G25x. It's the same gearbox that's offered in the G37. No manual transmission is offered in the G25 because, well, if getting people to buy the three-pedal version of your sportiest sedan is tough, getting them to opt for it in your entry-level model is near impossible. There's no demand.
In creating a less powerful entry-level option, Infiniti has not simply made a numb Lexus clone. The G25's engine, while not as obtrusive as that of the G37, also isn't as muted as the IS 250's V6. Nor is its chassis built to absorb every minor irregularity. As a result, even in this base car, there's ample involvement. It's a trait that has always distinguished the big-engined G sedan as well.
The entry-level G retains the superb control feel of its more powerful, more expensive brother. There's no discernible difference in steering weight and feedback or suspension damping. And the G25 retains the G37's immediate turn-in. Even the brake pedal offers the immediacy we've come to expect from other Infiniti sport sedans. The transmission can be shifted manually only from the console shifter, as the G37's magnesium steering-wheel paddles have vanished. But downshifts are still nicely rev-matched.
Dynamically, this car is on par with the 328i and is far more involving than the IS 250. Even better, the rear-wheel-drive G25 is rated at 20 mpg city/ 29 mpg highway — better than the Bimmer.
As a result, the G25 finds itself in a very good place. It provides enough power to satisfy the majority of buyers and has the fundamental solidity and material quality of the G37.
What You Get, What You Don't
Base G25s are outfitted standard with Bluetooth, push-button start, keyless entry, leather upholstery, automatic climate control and an eight-way adjustable power driver seat. The $1,400 Journey package adds a rearview camera, automatic headlights, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and USB iPod integration.
Navigation is not available on the G25, nor are the Premium package (Bose audio system), Technology package (intelligent cruise control, active headlamps) or Sport package (limited-slip differential, four-piston front brake calipers, 18-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension).
Material and assembly quality in the G25 are on par for the segment, which is to say, they're darn good. Certainly it gives up nothing to the 328i's well-built, if basic, cabin. Satin-finished "Shodo" aluminum trim strips surround the shifter and sweep from the doors into the dashboard. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a nice touch and there are enough steering wheel controls that you'll rarely need to reach for the center stack.
There are no interior changes to the 2011 G25 apart from those made across the G line in 2010. The gauges retain the white-on-black layout and the center console is elevated and has polished trim.
Seventeen-inch wheels and 225/55R17 Goodyear RS-A tires are standard on the G25. The front and rear fascias, which were revised across the G line in 2010, remain the same. In other words, without looking at the badging, it's unlikely the layman will be able to discern the difference between this and the G37.
The Value Statement
Look carefully at the G25's standard equipment and it's clear Infiniti has made a solid effort to position it as close as possible to the competition.
There are a few considerations: Both Lexus and BMW give you dual-zone climate control on their base models, but you'll need to step up to the Journey trim level to get it on the G25. And you'll need to pony up for the G37 if you want the latest electronic trickery. Still, you'll pay extra for the automatic transmission in the 3 Series, and the BMW comes standard with smaller 16-inch wheels. The IS 250, though, provides a premium audio system with 13 speakers and iPod integration at the entry level. So this choice will largely come down to a buyer's priorities and whether or not they're already at their budget threshold.
And that's where Infiniti shines.
It has managed to undercut both Lexus and BMW by offering the base G25 at $31,825 including destination. That's $3,575 less than a similarly equipped 328i and $2,365 less than a similarly equipped IS 250.
At the end of the day the G25 offers a unique combination of luxury and economy, and is every bit as engaging to drive as the BMW 328i and sportier than a Lexus IS 250. It is exactly powerful enough to strike a commendable balance among social responsibility, budget consciousness and engaging driving character.
Best of all, it's not a penalty box.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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