“So, you have disrespected my family?” says the Infiniti Q50 in badly dubbed English.
“You are as cowardly as a frog!” ripostes the Acura TLX, its multi-faceted eyes rolling wildly, “I will defeat you with my secret praying mantis technique. Which I have just told you about so it is no longer secret. Ha!”
“So be it! The one who is defeated here will be the one who is not me. That is to say: you!” snarls the Q50, adding a contemptuous, “Ha!”
*fifty or so more repetitions of “Ha!”*
“To battle!” they both scream, and the absurdly well-choreographed dance begins. On one hand, the newly repositioned TLX, bringing top-of-the-line super-handling secret-praying-mantis-style all-wheel drive and V6 power in a more compact package than the old TL. On the other side of the dojo, the Infiniti Q50, packed with technology and the same mighty engine that made the old G37 so good.
It’s a samurai showdown on the Pacific Rim, a pair of super-Japanese luxury sedans eager to tear each other’s throat out on the way to taking a slice out of the Germanic domination of the market segment. Were this an anime sequence, at this point people with unlikely haircuts would be freeze-frame leaping into the air, with plenty of action lines showing that a momentous clash was about to take place – to battle! “Hi-ya!”
Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. One of these two cars strives for a specific appeal, the latter a general pleasantness. Which one suits you better will depend on where you stand on khaki trousers.
First, the Infiniti, with its muscular swelling hood arches and ovoid grille. The company’s design language has a fluidity to it, relying more on curves than on sharp angles. Occasionally, this does not work all that well, as in the gas-bloated whale corpse of the QX80. Here though, it looks pretty great, and certainly different enough from the European competition.
Having said that, Infiniti’s designers have built the car to look best with the Sport version’s 19-inch alloys filling out the wheel wells. Actually, I once overheard lead designer Alfonso Albaisa tell someone setting up an autoshow display that 20-inch wheels were an absolute minimum. The 17s that come standard on the entry-level all-wheel-drive system look a little like the car’s been skipping leg day.
In contrast, the TLX aims to avoid ruffling any feathers, and mostly succeeds. This isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison as our V6 TLX is the top-spec Elite model, but any all-wheel-drive TLX comes with 18-inch alloys. I like 18s – it’s a relatively inexpensive sizing when it comes to fitting winter tires or replacement summers and is right-sized to make a car look upscale without starting to compromise ride and handling with unsprung weight.
The rest of the TLX is fairly unremarkable, with the exception of its multi-LED headlights. You can get these in the MDX crossover and RLX full-size sedan as well (and soon the compact ILX), both places where they seem more insect-like than here. These and the shield-shaped grille are the TLX’s sole exterior concessions to personality; where Infiniti’s side profile is recognizably unique with its chicane-shaped take on the Hofmeister kink and long nose, cover up the badges on the TLX and most people will just guess Honda.