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2009 Infiniti G37X Sport – Click above for high-res image gallery

"Being close" matters with horseshoes, hand grenades and misguided arithmetic. In past years, the Infiniti G sedan has been close, but compared to the Kaiser of the Klasse, BMW's 3 Series, the G35 was near the stake, but not a ringer. "Almost as good," we'd all nod, "but its biggest strength is that it's a bargain."

When the G37 arrived, our initial thought was it was simply an amplified G35, a car that's delighted our socks off in the past. But same car, bigger engine isn't the whole of the story. Just as gourmet chefs tinker with recipes, Infiniti has made adjustments. Embracing the spirit of Kaizen, Infiniti refuses to leave well enough alone, and the G37XS doesn't need to trade as heavily on its value proposition anymore. The G line has always driven well, but there's always been compromise, too. Cheap interiors, choppy ride – a history of "not quite." Has the G improved to the point of full greatness? And what happens when you add all-wheel drive to the mix? We hit the road to find out.

Photos copyright ©2009 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.
This car's suit of armor was new with the V36 version of the G, and it's already very subtly changed for 2009 (it's due to undergo another transformation next week). A different front airdam is the most noticeable modification, but only ADHD kids loaded to the teeth with Ritalin would notice. G35 owners might appreciate the continuity of form, and it's a shape that doesn't have any major flaws. It's less outré than some of its segment-mates, but still modern, attractive and un-vanilla. The line down the flanks breaks light cleanly over the G37's surface, and the sculpting of the hood still hints at pontoon fenders, just as it did on the G35 back in 2007. Our test model wore its Moonlight White, sport-package wheels and trunk spoiler well, coming across as simultaneously sporty and sophisticated.

When the G35 debuted on Nissan's FM platform, its interior was nearly Nineties Sentra-grade. The major rework in 2007 saw a massive upgrade to a class-competitive cabin which has been further augmented in the G37. The fancy-feeling metallic trim with washi-paper finish is classy, and the materials and fit and finish are finally up to snuff. The door panels are newly adorned with soft touch material this year, too.

The qualifiers used on earlier Gs have been erased.
The G37 makes you feel less cheated if you skip the navigation system by still coddling you in relative luxury with a seven-inch LCD screen that glares uselessly back like HAL 9000's red eye. Tan leather (Infiniti says Wheat) coats the G37's fantastic seats (really, all cars should come with an extendable lower cushion for extra thigh support) and made our G light and airy. Bright surfaces do require more fastidious cleaning, so you might want to go darker if your Newfoundland rides shotgun.

Front thrones that make 1,000-mile days seem exciting are a high point for the G37, and Infiniti has gotten most of the ergonomics right. The interface for the navigation and other tech features combines an iDrive-like wheely/buttony thing with a touchscreen, which we figured out after we spent an hour swearing at the thing. The small "back" button to the lower left also made life easier once we found it. The G37 brings redesigned seat heater switches and a Bose "Studio on Wheels" that marks the first time a digital-to-analog microchip is being touted as a selling feature – one of the only Bose systems we've been impressed with in recent memory.

The powertrain is where the real metamorphosis has occurred. Nissan's lauded VQ V6, a superhero of workaday engines, has bulked up to 3.7 liters. Now good for 328 horsepower, this versatile and long-serving engine continues to be incredible after this thorough reworking has added deck height to the block for more stroke. It's relatively big, but won't hesitate to zing its pistons into a frothy steeplechase for the top of the tachometer. Power is strong everywhere, and it shoves the G around with far more authority than its 269 pound-feet of torque would indicate. There's a particularly muscular rush from 2,500 rpm onward thanks to VVEL variable valve timing and lift. Though there have been complaints lodged against the VQ's aural quality, we suspect those whiners are likely overly enamored with the classic V8 rhythm. This thing barks with authority and sounds great, especially tearing toward its 7,600 rpm redline. We spent enough time cracking the drive-by-wire throttles open that we saw 20 mpg, easily within the 18/25 range the EPA says to expect.

Along with the bigger lungs, the G37 picks up an extra ratio for its automatic transmission, now up to seven. The ballet of clutch/throttle/shifter is still served by the available six-speed manual transmission, but the auto 'box not only refines the G, it's got an extra gear to play with, subsequently changing the character of the car. The manual is better in theory than in execution; the clutch is a vague, frustrating thing. In contrast, the seven-speed automatic is smooth and quick, delivering precise changes devoid of the hunting and pecking found on some of the competition. Shift paddles rendered in magnesium are there for those who want to play, as well as a gate for sport/manual mode. Not all cars with manual-gated automatics are successful, but the G37 pulls it off by being responsive and obedient, with rev-matching downshifts for an added bit of balance and excitement.

With more engine-room oomph, there comes a time when kinetic energy must be converted to heat. A revised braking system is standard on Sport models with four-piston front calipers and two piston rears augmented by gizmos like brake force distribution, brake assist and preview braking that gives the binders a shot of adrenaline in panic stops. We either never had to call on these technology to save our skins, or the systems are totally transparent in operation. The power steering system also twiddles with weighting in deference to the vehicle's speed. At times it can feel too light and it's not quite as pure and direct as you'll find in the famous Germans, but you'd never know it by the way we were grinning as we tore off in search of another apex. Some of the steering feel dilution may boil down to the all-wheel-drive nature of the G37X we drove, but any disconnection at the helm is made up for with the additional front grip.

The ride and handling balance is what's always been difficult for challengers to match compared to the established champions. Infiniti has achieved a nearly perfect supple but sporty alchemy in the G37. Occasions of harshness are very rare, and the G is quiet and restrained until its time to bare fangs. The exhaust note is also an ever-present reminder of the sports car platform underneath. The chassis is controlled and athletic; Infiniti has been hitting the books, and now the understudy knows all the lead's lines by heart.

The G37 may be the point where Infiniti's upstart challenge comes fully into its own. All of the qualifiers used on earlier Gs have been erased. The G37 is as serious as those with which it intends to compete. It's got a sumptuous interior as standard equipment, its performance is truly that of a sports car wrapped in sedan bodywork, and the changes wrought with the larger engine and extra shiftability give the G37 a sheen of refinement. Considering the $43,000 price of our well-equipped G37XS, you're never going to miss whatever je ne sais quois you think might be baked in to cars from The Continent, and yes, the G37 is still a far better deal.

Photos copyright ©2009 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      As an 08 G35xS owner with 26K behind the wheel already, I agree with those that find the BMW interiors less than great. I went from a 2006 A4 to the G, and while the typical detail with Audi interiors was present, it was no where near as functional and durable as the G. The 2009 improvements (especially the soft touch doors) are the finish touch. I'm reminded when I climb into other vehicles of this class, how MUCH better the G ergos are in the real world. This is a true drivers car but one of the huge advantages over the 3 Series (and the A4, IS, etc) is a truly useable back seat. With only very minor cooperation, to 6'2" people can sit front and back in comfort. Simply not possible in 3 Series.

      Overall, a great car...Zero problems at 26K, easy to do routine maintenance yourself, fast as hell, decent mileage (I hit the 17/23 on mine with regularity and I have the "former" 5 speed AT that turns 2600 revs at 70 mph). I could have bought a C350 or 335ix at the time, but the G was the favorite drive (of myself - and a coworker that also owns a 2007 G).
        • 5 Years Ago
        Completely agree, I have an '08 G35S 5AT and all your points about the interior are true. My family also has an '05 A6 and an '07 525i. I used to have a 528i and I've driven brand new A4s and 3-series. I have to say, I do like my interior the best. It's wearing very well (31,000+ miles), is very ergonomic, and I think looks great. The black dash panels contrast very nicely with the stone (gray) interior. My old '00 528i had much better, much more plush leather - but that's been changed on more recent BMWs. Our '07 525i's leather is not soft at all, its quite hard and feels synthetic (the car has the premium package - so it is leather, not leatherette). I don't like the whole NAV/iDrive setup in the BMW either - ergonomics are weak. The A6's interior has worn terribly (60,000+ miles), most of the buttons have their letters worn away, a huge part of the gray plastic on the lower center console has completely worn away - it just doesn't look good anymore. We just had an '09 A4 2.0T as a loaner car and it was a great drive - I enjoyed the car quite a bit, it was a lot of fun. But the buttons felt extremely cheap - all the buttons on the dash were light, cheap plastic - as opposed to the heavy, soft touch material used in the infiniti and the BMWs.

        All great cars, but even with all of these cars at my disposal whenever I want - I ALWAYS take my G35, it's just so much more fun to drive and easier to use.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree with a lot of the things..but the actually like the CURRENT 3 Series Interior. It's not my favorite..but I defintately don't mind it.

        The Previous generation was APPALLING!

        Also, my bosses daughter had an 2004 A41.8t and she barely drove it. The rubber buttons were allll worn down and showing lighting coming through. Not to mention the thing was DANGEROUSLY slow from a roll on when trying to merge. Quattro def hurt the acceleration.

        I've driven both the 335x and G37 (07 model) and can honestly say that I like the look of the G interior much better. Like the cockpit layout etc.

        But I really like the way the BMW handled and accelerated.

        The engine IS much quieter and power just seems endless. I'm finally happy to see a review that doesn't criticize the way the VQ motor sounds. (previous 350z owner) and I LOVED the way the engine sounded. YES it was a little raucous at full throttle..but that's what I want! If I wanted the quiest..then I'd buy a Lexus. If I want part sports car, part luxury Infiniti is def up there in my choice. BMW has to be up there too.

        Audi with the NEW S4 is going to be on my watch list to see reviews of the new engine etc and see what comes of them. Mercedes is at the back of the pack. 268hp is just not doing it for me. I can get that in a Camry, Accord, Malibu, Mazda 6, so I would like a little more OOMPH when possible.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I own that car! I love you autoblog. Of course I picked it up in black but every bit is true. Fuel consumption even bumped up with the 7-speed. Attacking mountain roads with various elevation and 2+ hours of straight roads gave me nearly 400 to the tank! Nissan really does know what they're doing. I hope the new version coming out is 1 step closer to that of a GT-R. Thinking about buying a BMW 3-Series or MB C-Class? Think again. This 3.7L will eat the competition for breakfast. And yes, still a bargain.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Excellent photography as usual.
      • 5 Years Ago
      hello torque? where are you? 269? no thanks.

      when will they DI this motor? Had a VQ35 in my old '02 Altima SE w/5-speed. was fun then, but that was 2002...
      • 5 Years Ago
      The previous years only had a 5 speed auto, not six, so the G37 adds two gears.
      • 5 Years Ago
      When are they going to put the 3.7 VQ in the American EX ? It would be the perfect engine for that vehicle... As I know Infiniti knows, since they only offer the EX with it in the European market. What gives ? Frustrating...
        • 5 Years Ago
        There ain't that much difference in HP between the two.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It would be just enough to make up for the 200-or-so extra pounds the EX has over the G sedan, though...
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's a pretty good car, the review and the pictures are great as usual.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am a current '09 G37X owner and despite what the review said not all sport models include the upgraded brakes. The upgraded brakes/suspension are only included on the RWD sport models. AWD models with the sport package really just get visual upgrades like the Audi S line. Also, the review failed to mention that although the sport seats include thigh extensions and additional bolstering they are much narrower than the regular seats. After an extended test drive I made the decision that the sport seat are not comfortable for big guys and passed on the sport package.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Pardon me? Is the 3-Series interior supposed to be the benchmark? Don't make me laugh...it is a lesson in German blandness. The stereo is not even a good version of 1993 technology, the dash looks like it was designed by a Chartered Accountant. Glorified vinyl seats, anybody? If you're comparing Infiniti's interiors to Audi or Lexus, they are at 8/10ths of their quality, but BMW hasn't focussed on the occupants' enjoyment EVER. They are all about the engineering under the hood, not creature comfort and appearance of their interiors...you'd think enthusiasts could be a little objective.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Regarding interiors. The 3-series is nothing that exciting, but is anyone else really turned off by the Infiniti logos they slap all over the inside of the car? The stitching in the front seats bugs me. And in the floor carpet in back. It all feels really tacky... a brand that's trying too hard.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You're so right! Those logos on the seats just drive me crazy, my upper back HATES looking at them. And that logo on the steering wheel...who does that?!?! BMW certainly wouldn't put a logo on their steering wheel! Was my math correct, three logos? Far too many really...

        Yes the world has too many logos, soon...they will be EVERYWHERE and you'll have to shield yourself with a very dark pair of sunglasses so that they do not burn into your retina. Otherwise you'll see Infiniti, for infinity
      • 5 Years Ago
      Not too bad for a japanese interior though. The paddles look pretty silly on a cheap faux-luxury car, though.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If the G is "faux luxury", then the BMW 3-Series interior is utter trash.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The BMW interior is no design revelation but the quality of materials are better. That’s about all that I can say in a positive regard about the inside of the 3 series. Well, and as laughable as iDrive has been, the Infiniti setup is about a generation or two behind (iDrive that is, 3-4 behind MMI 2). Go sit in both, it's not that hard to tell.

        If Nissan eventually grew strong enough to put infiniti on an independent platform we might see some real progress on the interior front. As mentioned before, I doubt G37 owners are huge interior design/quality whores so it doesn’t matter as far as organic growth is concerned, it’d just be a nice improvement to seal the deal.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's a lot for a G.

      Yeah, the interior is better in some ways, and in cheaper cars like the EX I actually like it. But in this car, comes off kinda like the Acura TL does, which is that it's a good interior, but the car still demands a better one. Although the instrument cluster doesn't look bad here.

      The reclining seats in the rear are gone by now I hope? I've never been in a G37 so I dunno. They made no sense in the G35.
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