Following a quick lunch west of Oak Ridge, we turned north on 116, passed the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, and were greeted by our favorite road sign: a black squiggle over a Next 25 Miles notation. The stretch that followed was delightfully free of homesteads and any hint of enforcement, although we did encounter the occasional slow-moving coal truck.
Our last Tennessee leg was a less pleasant twenty-mile run up a wet gravel road in search of Norma (a town) and an exit from the Volunteer State. After three passes through car washes, our wheels still shook from the mud packed into the rims.
Before turning in for the night at Hazard, Kentucky (two states north of the notorious Dukes' stomping grounds), we took a detour and vectored south off the gorgeous but unchallenging Daniel Boone Parkway. On highway 66 near Peabody, we were impressed by a young stunt artist buzzing down the road at 40 mph while standing--helmetless--on an ATV that was poised in a perfectly stable, near-vertical wheelie. Tracking the Red Bird River a few miles before turning northeast toward our motel, we enjoyed a satisfying run of fourth- and fifth-gear sweepers, the perfect way to end a long day in the saddle.
The following morning, while mapping a fresh menu of fine driving roads, several oddball town names caught our attention. Within a twenty-five-mile radius of Hazard, you'll find Dwarf, Fisty, Gays Creek, Hardshell, Hindman, Krypton, Lackey, and Rowdy. Consider this neck of the woods blissfully immune to the nuances of political correctness and social sensitivity.
To focus on the fine points of handling, we ventured east of Quicksand on byroad 1098, which runs out of pavement at Decoy. There, the G37S demonstrated just how aggressively tight bends and climbing sweepers can be attacked with a high-caliber road weapon. The Infiniti's combination of instant steering response, taut suspension, brawny brakes, and a hell-bent engine kept the stability control warning lamp winking. The G37S felt as if it left the road in its wake bruised and bleeding.
The BMW exhibited a gentler touch with its lyrical approach to speed. Technically, the Infiniti should have the edge, thanks to superior horsepower, a more sophisticated front suspension, quicker steering, and stouter brakes, but the Bimmer knocks stats and specs in the ditch with the way it carves the road into savory, bite-size chunks.
Instead of the Infiniti's series of rapid reactions, the 335i's moves all flow gracefully to make even mediocre drivers feel like road stars. Each mechanical bit is such an integral part of the whole that the BMW forms an exclusive alliance with the pavement. Car and asphalt gambol in a romantic embrace.
Answers in hand, we blitzed the top half of Kentucky, all of Ohio, and lower Michigan to speed the trip's conclusions to your attention. With its highly entertaining dynamic aptitudes, near-BMW speed, and hot appearance, the Infiniti G37S easily tops the value chart. Anyone seeking a passionate fling will be well served in this seat. Those more interested in a long-term relationship should dig several thousand dollars deeper into their wallets for the 335i. Thanks to BMW's fanatical pursuit of driving excellence, not to mention increased pressure from the likes of Infiniti, the 335i has a death grip on Automobile Magazine's back-road crown.