More Consonants, More Raw

2012 Infiniti G37 IPL

There's an almost infinite amount to love about the Infiniti G37 line. In sedan or coupe form, X or S guise, the vehicles deliver that difficult-to-attain blend of rear-wheel-biased performance, content and refinement with a manageable price tag. With the excellent VQ37 3.7-liter V6 engine pounding under the hood and the buyer's choice of manual or automatic gearboxes pushing power to the rear or all four wheels, the G37 family is one of the market's best arguments against sliding behind the wheel of a BMW 3 Series. That is, unless you wanted a truly serious performance machine.

German titans like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have been lapping European racetracks under their M and AMG banners for decades, honing performance hardware that customers would merrily plop down fat stacks of cash for later. While Japanese luxury automakers have been somewhat slow to embrace performance sub-brands, recent years have seen an explosion of consonant-laced badging stuck to sharper machinery. Among Japanese automakers, Lexus first dipped a toe in those waters with the company's F-Sport goods, and Infiniti has risen to the challenge with its new Infiniti Performance Line. By gracing the G37 Coupe with more horsepower, a sharper suspension, larger brakes and unique interior appointments, Infiniti has taken a first step into a world dominated by some of the world's most storied badges.

But is the IPL G37 a serious performance contender or simply a bolt-on queen with delusions of grandeur?

2012 Infiniti G37 IPL side view2012 Infiniti G37 IPL front view2012 Infiniti G37 IPL rear view

The 2012 Infiniti IPL G37 wears a number of aesthetic tweaks designed to set it apart from the rest of its family. Those start with a more aggressive front fascia, complete with blacked-out trim work and inset fog lamps. Designers rolled in new contoured side skirts as well as unique 19-inch split-spoke wheels wrapped in sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires. Around back, the IPL features a new rear valance that works well with the exaggerated side sills. A pair of comically large chrome exhaust tips peak from below the rear bumper and do much to spoil the mature proportions of the base G37 Coupe.

In fact, there's very little about this machine that's understated. From its purposeful wheels to the coffee-can exhaust outlets, the IPL G37 is as much about being seen as it is about being quicker around a track. That fact extends to the available paint options. Buyers may choose between just two hues: Graphite Shadow and Malbec Black. Our tester came swaddled in the latter, and under direct sunlight, the color shifts into a very deep metallic purple that manages to land somewhere on the spectrum between royalty and a cheap velour suit. Ostentatious, thy name is 2012 Infiniti IPL G37 Coupe.

2012 Infiniti G37 IPL headlight2012 Infiniti G37 IPL wheel2012 Infiniti G37 IPL taillight2012 Infiniti G37 IPL exhaust tips

And that theme continues indoors. The cabin is cloaked in a suite of bold materials, from lipstick-red leather door inserts and seats to large brushed aluminum accents spread along the dash, control stack waterfall and center console. IPL trim also swaps the standard pedals for aluminum sport pieces, and the contoured, leather-wrapped steering wheel is stitched in contrasting red thread that comes along for the ride. While the wheel feels excellent to the touch, the big-bolstered seats are a bit too wide to offer any serious support to those thinner of gauge. The buckets are clearly designed for the expansive posteriors of modestly monied Americans. The good news is the added width makes for some very comfortable seating. Either way, the cushions were good enough to ferry us along in comfort for lengthy stints behind the wheel.

Technically, the IPL G37 Coupe can play host to two rear passengers, though the sloping roof line means anyone over five-foot, five-inches will find their scalps introduced to the headliner. Keep the back seats for coats, small bags and young children and there's no worry.

2012 Infiniti G37 IPL interior2012 Infiniti G37 IPL front seats2012 Infiniti G37 IPL steering wheel detail2012 Infiniti G37 IPL door

The venerable VQ V6 is the Nissan equivalent of the omnipresent Chevrolet small block. The Japanese automaker relies on the six-cylinder to provide power for everything from minivans and family sedans to lean sports coupes like the IPL G37 Coupe. In this application, the engine delivers 348 horsepower at a skyward 7,400 rpm and 276 pound-feet of torque at a somewhat more sane 5,400 rpm. Those figures mark a nudge of 18 horsepower and six pound-feet of torque over the same 3.7-liter V6 found in the base G37. Much of that increase comes courtesy of new engine mapping, though a freer-breathing exhaust certainly helps as well.

Buyers may opt for either a six-speed manual transmission or the slick seven-speed automatic found in our tester. We typically wince any time we spot two pedals in a sports car, but Nissan has worked to make the automatic in the IPL G37 Coupe as engaging as possible. The transmission boasts rev-matching downshifts from column-mounted paddle shifters as well as adaptive shift control. Drive like an all-out hooligan and the gearbox will actually match its shift points to your habits. While that tech is anything but new, Nissan has done a good job of applying the system in the G37. Whereas other adaptive shift systems can feel muddled and confused as often than not, the IPL quickly switches between relaxed around town shifts and more aggressive hard-throttle swaps. Consider us impressed.

2012 Infiniti G37 IPL engine

Not surprisingly, power is dumped to the both rear wheels via a viscous limited-slip differential, which helps the IPL G37 Coupe jump to 60 mph in around 5.5 seconds and still get around corners. Engineers have taken care of scrubbing all that speed with the same brakes as those found on the G37 S. With 14-inch rotors pressed by four-piston calipers up front and 13.8-inch discs and dual-piston calipers out back, the IPL G37 Coupe can pull the nose hairs from your nostrils with the abrupt application of pedal pressure. While the coupe's steering rack is also shared equipment with the G37 S, IPL buyers are treated to a stiffer suspension. Rates have been increased by 10 percent in the rear and double that up front for slightly more precise handling.

Of course, the firmer coils also translate directly into a less compliant ride. Expansion joints, pavement variations and potholes are all telegraphed straight to the driver's spine despite the comfy seats. Though the suspension offers very precise turn-in and good poise through transitions, it lacks that balance of comfort and performance we pine for in a luxury sports car. Likewise, while the exhaust sounds fantastic with the engine prancing around in its loony upper octaves, the pipes fall into a straight drone in just about every other circumstance. Idling in traffic or loping down the highway left us wishing for a little more quiet from the vehicle's underbelly, and we're typically big proponents of more powertrain noise, not less.

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We would be happy to forgive the stiff suspension and agitated exhaust if the IPL G37 Coupe came with the horsepower to match. We love the Chevrolet Corvette in spite of its aged interior, jarring suspension and barking pipes because it has the horsepower to back it all up. With a nearly imperceptible 18-horsepower increase in performance, the Infiniti simply feels under-muscled for its performance mission, especially when paired with an automatic transmission. The result is a model that seems caught somewhere between the S-Line aesthetic enhancements of Audi and the actual performance hardware of the Lexus F-Sport line.

Undoubtedly, the Corvette allusion above garnered a few raised eyebrows. Before the Commentariat erupts into a ball of flame over the fact that no one in their right mind would ever possibly cross shop the two vehicles, allow us to say a word on the IPL G37 Coupe's price tag. This car starts at $49,800, which is $12,000 more than the base G37 and $5,600 more than the G37 S, all excluding destination. It's also $200 more than the aforementioned base Corvette.

Zing.

2012 Infiniti G37 IPL

While that kind of money certainly won't buy you a BMW M3, it will put a set of BMW 1 Series M Coupe keys in your pocket. With comparable horsepower, less weight and a genuine high performance bent, there's certainly nothing in the IPL DNA that should keep a buyer from dropping the sales materials and scurrying across the street to the BMW dealer before they hit the ground.

Indeed, the biggest problem facing the IPL G37 Coupe is the plethora of excellent alternatives on the market. One needs only look elsewhere in the Infiniti stable to see what we mean. The G37 S is a solid sports coupe in and of itself, so at 98 percent of the IPL's performance, Infiniti can keep its sparkly paint and we'll happily keep our fat stack of $100 bills.