First Drive: 2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible, MI6's sultry secretary has a new ride
As enthusiasts, many of us are quick to dismiss convertibles as the preferred conveyance for hapless poseurs (BMW M3 cabrio) or fake-bake hairdressers (Toyota Solara). And with good reason. When you lop the top off a coupe, the result is often a floppy, overweight chassis that provides all the dynamic delights of a rubber nine-iron and a granite golf ball. Such executions fail to please on almost every level, and that's before you start dealing with complex roof mechanisms, awkwardly styled rumps and abysmal trunk space.
As a whole, convertibles aren't for everyone, but they do fill a need and a niche. And they sell. Almost half of all two-door BMW 3 series models are purchased with a retractable roof, and it's a segment that Infiniti hasn't played in for years (anyone remember the M30 convertible?). As Nissan's luxury arm continues to push into the European market, it's back in the game with the 2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible. But who is it for? Someone who's simultaneously sultry yet demure; assertive yet relaxed; commanding yet delicate. Someone compelling. Someone like Moneypenny.
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Having never married (being a Second Officer in the Women's Royal Naval Service isn't conducive to a social life), M's executive assistant has had her fair share of cabrios over the years. After dealing with a few unreliable Brits and Italians (parroting her love life) she finally took 007's advice and treated herself to a BMW Z3. After ten years of dutiful service, Moneypenny is looking for something a bit more plush, slightly larger and a little less jarring. The G37 C fits like a set of starched and pressed dress whites.
Nissan's engineers and designers worked hand-in-hand to mold the G37 Convertible's shape, avoiding the bulbous back-side that plagues most coupes called to cabrio duty (and our fictional assistant). Although everything aft of the A-pillar is specific to the Convertible, the 0.2-inch stretch in the rear is masked by a short overhang that makes a seamless transition from coupe to convertible. The trunk doesn't bulge upwards like the visually-challenged Volkswagen Eos thanks to a completely redesigned rear suspension, and torsional rigidity is on par with the standard two-door G courtesy of a floor support on the transmission tunnel, reinforcements behind the rear seats and duo of braces mounted fore and aft of the rear wheels. But as you'd expect, the extra strengthening causes the G to pay the weight piper – along with the folding hard-top, the Convertible tips the scales at just over two tons, 453 pounds more than the coupe and over one hundred pounds more than a 335i drop-top.
After a day of dealing with diplomats and eyes-only documents, the ol' girl could use some time in sun, but outside MI6's London headquarters, the weather won't cooperate. Thankfully, the G37 is still a looker when avoiding the elements, with a clean profile that flows undisturbed from the windshield to the boot. Viewed from the side, the Convertible benefits from the appealing visual space found on B-pillar-less GTs and from the rear it is almost indistinguishable from its coupe counterpart.
Motoring along the M25 Corridor, wind noise is kept in check at all but the most extra-legal speeds; the tone from the exhaust is muted, humming just above the tire noise. The G is a rolling sanctuary when she's ready to unwind, and with a 13-speaker Bose audio system that – like the climate control – changes its settings based on speed and the top's position, Moneypenny can alternate between Schubert and the Sex Pistols on her iPod.
Back into town for a brief stop at the store, the skies finally clear. At the push of a center console-mounted switch between the (optional) heated and cooled seat knobs, the three-piece roof disappears into the trunk in a 30-second mechanical port de bras that can only be performed when stationary. A display nestled between the tach and speedo lets her know when things are tucked away. The only question now is: Where to put the groceries?
With the top up, the trunk is on the shallow side; when the lid is down, it's practically non-existent (two cubic feet). She'd be lucky to fit a baguette, a bottle of wine and a small wheel of brie before heading out for a late-night encounter.
No matter, with the two-piece wind-diffuser mounted over the rear seats, there's ample room for a few bags from the shops, but she'd be hard pressed to find anyone willing to stay put in the rear without divulging state secrets.
Back up to speed and on her way home with the windows up, only the strongest gusts at speeds over 80 miles-per-hour will muss her perfectly coiffed helmet of hair. And with 325 horsepower (five less than the coupe due to a repackaged exhaust) and 267 lb-ft of torque on tap from the 3.7-liter V6, anyone attempting to tail her will have trouble keeping up.
With either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic delivering power to the rear wheels (all-wheel drive isn't an option), our feisty protagonist has the choice of two exemplary transmissions. Partnered with a light clutch, the stick shifts smoothly from gate to gate, but with much of her time spent running errands around London, the auto 'box is the prudent choice. Rev-matching downshifts have the potential to elicit a bit of excitement from her steely demeanor, and when fitted with the Sport Package, magnesium paddles make 007's PPK feel like a potato gun cobbled together from PVC.
Bouncing around on the B-roads, the G37 Convertible is just as rigid as her brief encounters with Bond. Ruts and divots are soaked up with aplomb and the steering provides a direct, if slightly desensitized, connection to the ground. Laying into the long pedal evokes a sonorous soundtrack partnered with a progressive power delivery, and with the Sport Package's 14-inch discs up front and 13.8-inch rotors in the rear (upgraded over the standard 13-inch discs at all four corners), quicker steering, sport seats and 19-inch wheels, the G37 Convertible can waltz and samba on demand. Although the extra weight in the rear is felt during quick transitions, unless she's avoiding the baddies through the bends, the dynamic differences between coupe and cabrio are barely noticeable. And that's where the G37 C shines.
At the core of the convertible conundrum is compromise. Something Moneypenny isn't used to doing. The extra weight and laughable trunk space might be a stretch for enthusiasts and weekenders, respectively, but the G37 Convertible's ability to deliver the majority of the fixed-roof's strong-suits along with an open-air experience make it the sensible choice for our sultry secretary. And with a host of options, including the Open-Air Audio system that changes the sound signature depending on the roof's position, even Q would approve. Now Bond just has to kick the tires...
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