2009 Infiniti G37 Expert Review
Infiniti recently invited us to Napa, California to show off its 2009 model lineup, and while they didn't bring the all-new G37 Convertible (we'll be at the Los Angeles Auto Show to report on that one), they did hand us the keys to the new all-wheel drive G37x coupe and the more-powerful 2009 G37 S sedan. Does all-wheel drive make a slot car out of the coupe? Does a larger engine transform the sedan? Read on for our full impressions after the jump.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Michael Harley / Weblogs, Inc.
2009 Infiniti G37x Coupe
It seems as if Infiniti has finally put it all together. They started with the sexy FM-platform Coupe, shoehorned the hot 330-hp VQ37VHR 3.7-liter V6 under the hood, mated it to a new transmission, and connected it to the pavement through a performance-oriented ATESSA E-TS all-wheel drive system. This has to be the ultimate Infiniti, right? Well, our time with the car indicates that the sum of these parts equals a mixed message. The new G37x may satisfy the masses, but it doesn't attempt to masquerade as an enthusiast-oriented sports car.
First, the product planners have chosen to mate the ATESSA E-TS only to the new 7-speed automatic transmission – sadly, you won't find a G37x S 6MT anywhere in the lineup. Even thought the Infiniti team boasts the "Drive Sport" mode and "Downshift Rev Matching" features on the new 7-speed auto, it is still a traditional "slushbox" with characteristic automatic transmission inadequacies. Second, even though the ride height and suspension are unchanged from the standard RWD model, Infiniti will not offer Four-wheel Active Steer (4WAS), the Sport Package (and big brakes) or the Performance Tire & Wheel Package on the G37x. That said, the most scalpel-like Infiniti Coupe for '09 will remain the G37S Sport 6MT (essentially unchanged from '08).
So, where does the new all-wheel drive G37x fit into the lineup? In a sense, it is the most capable model, but for very different reasons.
We spent about an hour behind the wheel of the G37x, and it all began to make sense. Most notably, the new 7-speed automatic is an excellent transmission. Shifts are quick and smooth, and you don't find yourself cursing its gear selection during normal driving. We left it in "D" and it performed admirably without needlessly hunting for a ratio. Add efficiency to the transmission's accolades as it sips less fuel than the 5-speed automatic it replaces. Fuel economy for the rear-wheel drive coupe with the new 7AT jumps from 18 city/24 highway to 18/26 thanks to its tall gearing (the all-wheel drive G37x is rated at 18/25).
The default torque split on the ATTESSA ET-S all-wheel drive is 0:100 (front:rear). When the G37x is floored from a standstill, the rear tires chirp for a split second before the fronts hook up – it reacts nearly identically to the way the Nissan GT-R does under similar circumstances. If a wheel is off the pavement, the TCS (electronic traction control) light will illuminate briefly while the system instantaneously transfers torque to the wheels with adhesion. On abrasive pavement, it just rockets off without drama. Compared to the Audi's quattro, BMW's xDrive, and Mercedes' 4MATIC systems, the ATTESSA ET-S wins hands-down in terms of sportiness and reaction time. It is rear-wheel drive until you exceed the grip of the tire's contact patch – just the way we prefer things.
Even though it's second-fiddle to enthusiasts, the G37x Coupe will be the car of choice for those looking for seamless all-wheel drive capabilities, with nary a penalty in driving dynamics (or even to be noticed at the pump). It is hard to argue against the benefits of four-wheel traction while pulling out of corners, off from stoplights, or during any type of inclement weather. In that sense, the fitting of ATTESSA ET-S does make this one of the most capable G Coupe models in the '09 lineup (comprised of the G37 Coupe, G37 Coupe Journey, G37S Coupe Sport 6MT and G37x AWD Coupe).
The addition of the all-wheel drive Coupe (and upcoming Convertible) to Infiniti's G series means the lineup will now smartly match that of close German competitors. The Japanese offering is sportier (e.g., lower ride height), but the other guys still offer a version with a clutch pedal. There is no doubt that the new 7AT will satisfy a large chunk of those who wander into showrooms looking for a manual transmission, but we still wonder if Infiniti is leaving something on the table. With die-hard Infiniti customers forced to watch Nissan dealers peddle the supercar GT-R, and the Q45 just a fading memory, the upscale brand needs its own flagship. It really is time to search the parts bin and toss a bone to loyal Infiniti enthusiasts. We suggest they snap together a direct-injection forced-induction G37x Coupe with a dual-clutch gearbox. Come on, that's all we are asking for.
2009 Infiniti G37 S Sedan
Answering the horsepower calls, Infiniti dropped its VQ37VHR 3.7-liter V6 under the hood of the G Sedan for 2009. Rebadged the G37, the new engine up front is rated at 328 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque in the sedan (still down a few from the G37 Coupe). Compared to last year's VQ35HR 3.5-liter V6, the G37 Sedan sports an additional 22 horses and (an imperceptible) additional 1 lb-ft of torque. In addition to the increased displacement, the new engine features "VVEL", a system that combines hydraulic-controlled variable valve timing and electronically controlled variable valve lift on the intake side. Not only does it enhance performance and response, but it also helps with emissions and fuel efficiency. The 6-speed manual (in the G37S Sport 6MT) is unchanged, but the automatic has been upgraded to the aforementioned 7-speed electronically controlled unit with "Downshift Rev Matching" like its predecessor. Fuel economy for the Sport 6MT is unchanged with the new powerplant (it remains at 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway), but the 7AT efficiency jumps from 17/24 to 18/26 thanks to its tall gearing.
The brakes have also been upgraded on the G37S Sport 6MT sedan (the big brakes are also optional on the G37 Sedan Journey). The standard models are fitted with 12.6-inch front rotors and single-piston calipers (12.1-inch in the rear). The 6MT gets beefier 14.0-inch fronts with 4-piston calipers and 13.8-inch rotors in the rear with 2-piston calipers.
The wheel and tire sizes also remain unchanged, but their styling has been updated to differentiate the model years. If you look past the new wheels, two new colors (including standard Scratch Shield paint) and new "G37" badge on the rear, nothing will visually distinguish the exterior of the '09 model from the outgoing '08 model. On the inside, Infiniti made a few minor changes. They include some improved trim and a redesigned seat heater switch. There are four '09 models arriving in the showroom: G37 Sedan, G37 Sedan Journey, G37S Sedan Sport 6MT and G37x Sedan AWD.
We spent about 45 minutes in the '09 G37S sedan and enjoyed every minute of it. The new 7-speed auto is geared low enough to really launch the sedan from a stop, yet tall enough to keep fuel economy in check (we would like to hear some more exhaust note on the S model, if anyone is asking). In terms of sheer acceleration, the new gearing should drop the 0-60 time a bit, but Infiniti doesn't publish numbers and we didn't have our test gear with us. Our "butt dyno" says the car is quick. Really quick. We are betting the new engine/transmission combo helps the G37 sedan sprint to 60 mph in about 5 seconds flat – that's faster than the Audi A4 3.2 and Lexus IS350, but it still won't snuff a stock BMW 335i.
Where the G37S sedan really excels is in the handling department. Transitional handling and balance are excellent, and it exhibits far less body roll than its European counterparts. As we mentioned, the brakes have been bumped up in size, but we never abused them to the level that their additional swept area or mass would have made a difference. We hit the pedal hard, and the G37 stopped each time without a whimper.
Don't tell the displacement junkies, but it's not the new 3.7-liter VQ that transforms the G37. Sure, the new V6 offers more horses under the hood, but the torque is practically unchanged. The increased efficiency is welcomed, but is offset by the additional engine volume (check the 6MT fuel mileage figures again). The metamorphosis is wholly credited to the new 7-speed transmission – it delivers smooth shifts, an accurate power band, and improved fuel economy. The sedan feels faster, more responsive and more comfortable at speed. It's just what the four-door G needed to continue standing on the podium.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Michael Harley / Weblogs, Inc.
Travel and lodging for this event was provided by the manufacturer.
New Car Test Drive
High-performance sports sedans, coupes and convertibles.
The Infiniti G37 represents an entire line of sports sedans, sport coupes and convertibles. Essentially luxurious versions of the Nissan Z, all excel at driving dynamics. And all are powered by Nissan's 3.7-liter V6, an engine with a distinctive sound that revs freely and puts out a lot of power.
The G37 interior is lively and friendly without being fussy or overly busy. The overall quality of the passenger cabins has increased with this latest generation, and they're much better suited to the luxury class than they once were. The G37s are priced lower than some European competitors, with more standard equipment. They're a great place for performance-minded buyers to start shopping.
For 2009, there are lots of significant updates across the G37 line. All models are now equipped with a new, larger 3.7-liter V6 introduced in the G37 Coupe for 2008, and horsepower increases across the line. The standard automatic transmission has been upgraded from five to seven speeds, and EPA mileage ratings increase one mpg city, two mpg highway as a result. The Coupe is now available with full-time all-wheel-drive, offering buyers in tough-winter climates an extra element of mobility, security and safety.
The biggest news for 2009 is introduction of the G37 Convertible, featuring a retractable steel hardtop. The Convertible is the only G37 body style not offered with all-wheel drive.
All G37s come standard with rear drive, which delivers handling characteristics front-wheel drive can't usually match. All models are available with a six-speed manual transmission that's increasingly rare in this class; the new seven-speed automatic is tuned for sporting response, with available steering wheel paddles for manual shifting.
The engine is more powerful than that of many competitors, and it's tuned for the sort of response and excitement that enthusiast drivers prefer. This car's trademark has always been sporty driving dynamics, but Infiniti has also made strides addressing its shortcomings. Interior finish and overall smoothness have steadily improved the last several model years.
The four-door G37 is true sports sedan, reacting to driver commands in the fashion of a sport-tuned coupe. Yet it seats four comfortably in all circumstances, with easy in-out access and plenty of stowage space in the trunk.
The two-door G37 Coupe looks racier than the sedan, and it's fresh from a complete redesign for 2008. Its chassis is stiffer, lower and wider than its predecessor's, with improved ride quality and even better handling. Its instrumentation is first rate, and its climate, audio and navigation systems are easy to understand and control. Rear seat legroom is more restricted than in the sedan, however, so two adults may not be happy in the Coupe's back seat for long.
The new G37 Convertible looks a lot like the coupe, until its three-piece steel top opens at the touch of a button. Then it's a cabriolet. The Convertible comes with a Bose Open Air Sound System that automatically adjusts audio levels according to vehicle speed and ambient noise. The Convertible's climate control system also adjusts fan speed based on vehicle speed when the top is open.
The coupe and sedan are available in three trim levels, and the convertible in two. The top level is the Sport 6MT, which features the manual transmission, bigger brakes and a host of performance-enhancing features, including 19-inch high-performance tires. All G37s are offered with the high-tech features expected in this category, including adaptive bi-xenon headlights and excellent audio systems. The navigation system monitors traffic conditions and includes a 9.3 gigabyte hard drive with a compact flash-drive slot.
Safety features include a full complement of six airbags, a tire pressure monitor, Vehicle Dynamic Control to help the driver manage skids and advanced ABS with EBD and Brake Assist. In the convertible, head-protection airbags open up from the door rather than down from the roof, while two roll-protection hoops automatically pop up behind the rear seats in the event of a potential rollover accident. Optional safety features include a back-up camera, radar-managed active cruise control and a lane-guidance system.
The Infiniti G37 is available as a four-door sedan, two-door coupe or two-door convertible, in a total of 10 different variations. All are powered by the same 3.7-liter V6, with either a new seven-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Fulltime all-wheel-drive is available on the sedan and coupe.
The G37 Sedan ($33,250) comes with leather seats, automatic temperature control, cruise control, an eight-way power driver's seat, six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input, keyless entry and starting, HID bi-Xenon headlights and 17-inch aluminum wheels with all-season tires. The 3.7-liter V6 delivers 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque in the sedan. The Journey ($34,000) adds a six-disc CD changer, eight-way power front passenger seat, and automatic headlights.
The G37 Sedan Sport 6MT ($34,250) comes with a six-speed manual transmission and a firmer, sport-tuned suspension. It also adds performance upgrades such as larger brakes, 19-inch wheels with high-performance tires and a viscous limited slip differential, for increased traction under hard acceleration. The Sport looks racier than other models, thanks to a more aggressive front end styling, with sport-style seats and aluminum pedals.
The G37x Sedan ($35,750) adds Infiniti's ATTESA E-TS fulltime all-wheel-drive system.
The G37 Coupe ($35,900) is equipped similarly to the sedan, though its engine delivers slightly more power: 330 hp, 270 lb-ft. The Journey ($36,650), Coupe Sport 6MT ($37,000) and G37x Coupe AWD ($38,700) come with essentially the same standard equipment as their sedan counterparts.
The G37 Convertible ($43,850) features a power-retractable steel hard top that opens or closes in about 30 seconds. It comes standard with a Bose Open Air Sound System that adjusts audio levels based on outside noise, vehicle speed and top position. Its climate control adjusts fan speed according to top position and vehicle speed. Infiniti's RearView Monitor camera is standard. The Convertible Sport 6MT ($43,900) is equipped like the other Sport models.
Option clusters include the Premium Package for the coupe ($3,200) and sedan ($2,500) includes a moonroof, the 11-speaker Bose Studio on Wheels audio system with iPod connection, driver's seat memory, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, an anti-glare rearview mirror with compass, a hands-free phone system and heated front seats and door mirrors. The Navigation Package ($2,200 coupe, $2,150 sedan) is touch-screen and voice-activated, with detailed information on traffic ahead, using XM radio and includes a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive with compact flash drive slot, and the rearview video monitor. The Sport Package ($1,850 for coupe, $2,100 sedan) for base and Journey trim levels adds the Sport 6MT's tauter suspension, 19-inch wheels and tires, bigger brakes, sport seats and steering wheel paddle shifters for the automatic transmission.
Stand-alone options include 19-inch high-performance tires ($650), the moonroof ($1,000), and African Rosewood interior trim ($450). The 4-Wheel Active Steer Package ($1300) makes high-speed lane changes steadier and safer, by altering the front steering ratio and counter-steering the rear wheels up to 3 degrees.
Safety features include two-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags for front passengers and full-cabin, head protection curtains. Infiniti's Vehicle Dynamic Control helps keep the G37 under control in the wet, and the anti-lock brakes feature Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist. The convertible features pop-up roll hoops behind the read seat for rollover protection.
The Technology Package ($1,150 coupe, $1,100, sedan) is essentially a collection of safety features. It includes Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), which maintains the gap to the car in front, Preview Braking to pre-load the brake system in advance of a potential collision, Adaptive Front Lighting to aim the headlights into curves, and the RearView Monitor.
All Infiniti G37s share essentially the same chassis, and all variants have evolved with a similar, second-generation appearance. The Sedan was redesigned for 2007, and the Coupe for 2008. Infiniti calls the new look seductive, although we think the word best applies to the sleek sedan. The second-generation designs are certainly swoopier than previous Infiniti Gs, but also bulkier around the shoulders and hips. From the side or three-quarter view, the G37s and especially the Coupe show a family resemblance to their close corporate sibling, the Nissan 370Z sports car.
There are subtle enhancements to all G37 models for 2009, starting with Infiniti's Scratch Shield paint: A clear-coat that protects against scratches. The sedan gets smaller, more aerodynamic outside mirrors introduced on the Coupe in 2008. Nonetheless, the biggest addition from a styling perspective is the new-for-'09 G37 Convertible.
The Convertible features a unique design from the windshield pillars rearward. It's slightly wider than the other models, with a modified rear suspension that allows for the top's power mechanism and stowage space behind the rear seat. The Convertible has more heavily reinforced windshield pillars, side members and body sills, which help reduce body flex and vibration when motoring with the top down.
When its three-piece steel top is closed, the Convertible it looks much like the G37 Coupe. Its heavily insulated headliner works almost as well as the coupe's fixed roof in keeping ambient noise out side the car. The automatic top's opening or closing sequence takes approximately 30 seconds from start to finish, initiated with the touch of a button on the center console. Like the other body styles, the Convertible has a special, more aggressive looking grille and front end when it's equipped with the Sport 6MT package.
In general, the evolved G37s have a striking look. The front wheel cutouts are larger than those on earlier models, leaving less metal for the fenders and making them appear to rise even more. The headlights have integrated fog lamps, yet they're smaller and sexier. Infiniti calls the aluminum hood (pinned with two latches) a wave hood, although the sea looks pretty flat between the bulging shoreline of the fenders.
All of the G37's factory wheel designs are handsome. The standard wheel are split five-spokes, in polished titanium, and the beautiful 10-spoke 19-inch wheels fully complement the car's looks.
One of the biggest improvements since the first Infiniti G models is inside. The overall quality of the passenger cabins has increased, and they're much better suited to the luxury class than they once were.
The G37 interior is lively and friendly without being fussy or overly busy. There's luxury aplenty, but tempered by a focus on function, and on connecting the driver to the car while at the same time providing passengers a pleasant and comfortable environment. The materials, fit and finish are much better than they once were, though we're still not enamored with the graining on some of the harder plastics. There's a vent in each A pillar to keep the side windows clear. Lots of rear glass makes for good rearward visibility, even without the optional back-up camera.
The dashboard and center console design is the same in all G37 body styles, with slight variation in the front door-panel designs. The dash applies Infiniti's double wave theme, trimmed in standard spun aluminum inspired by handmade Japanese Washi paper. It's elegant, and one of the most aesthetically pleasing metal trims anywhere. The optional African rosewood is unique and classy, while the aluminum is sporty. Infiniti's signature analog clock sits front and center in the center stack of controls.
The perforated leather seats are comfortable, and the standard eight-way driver's seat has air-adjustable lumbar support. The Sport Package, standard on the 6MT models, adds 14-way sport-styled seats with thigh extensions and power adjustable torso and thigh bolsters for the driver, with sporty steering-wheel stitching and aluminum pedals.
The three-spoke steering wheel is wrapped in hand-stitched perforated leather, with audio and cruise control buttons on its spokes. Optional paddle shifters for the automatic transmission are magnesium, and you can actually reach them with your fingers when your hands are placed at 10 and 2 o'clock on the steering wheel. That isn't the case with many cars, and we like the shift sequence, too. You pull back on the right paddle for upshifts, and on the left for downshifts.
The G37's gauges feature electroluminescent lighting: The needles glow red on a white-and-violet background. An easy-to-read information display shows useful trip functions like immediate or average fuel mileage, average speed, elapsed time, running distance and distance to empty, as well as outside air temperature, odometer, and warning displays.
The center stack falls from an LED screen that displays climate and audio data or navigation information. Audio and climate controls are conveniently located out in the open below the information screen, with our preferred layout of audio on top and climate below. The G37 Convertible comes standard with an adaptive climate control system that automatically adjusts airflow and fan speed based on top position and road speed.
The navigation system is controlled by a mouse-like knob below the screen, or by voice commands. The map offers a bird's-eye view, which gives a perception of distance by incorporating a horizon and, depending on the available mapping data, three-dimensional building footprints for the local surroundings. It's neat to look at, though many testers prefer the regular overhead view because it always keeps North up. The XM Satellite Radio system provides real-time traffic updates on the screen, where available.
The base sound system is competitive with that in any luxury sedan. The convertible comes with a standard feature that adjust sound levels for ambient noise when the top is down.
The upgrade Bose Studio On Wheels audio system delivers a sound that's richer, fuller, more intricate and crisper than any system we can recall in cars costing thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars more than the G37. We stepped directly from a G into a $100,000-plus European sports coupe with that marque's top-level sound system and could not distinguish a difference between the two. When it's equipped with the navigation system, the G37 adds a 9.3 gigabyte hard drive that will copy about 90 CDs in short order. You'll never have to carry CDs in this car, and the audio directory can access music by artist or type.
The front door pockets are small in all G37 models, half-taken by armrests, although each includes a hollow for a water bottle. There are also two big cupholders behind the shift lever. Further back, under the driver's elbow, the size of the compartment in the center console is reasonable, and there's another cupholder here. Cubby storage includes a respectably sized glove box. The back side of each front seatback has a magazine pouch. Two cup holders pop out of the fold-down, rear seat center armrest, which also has a unique compartment masked by a Velcro-type flap on the right side.
Interior roominess is competitive for the class. The G37 Sedan's wide rear door openings leave room aplenty for legs, knees and feet when getting in and out of the back seat.
The Coupe is slightly different story. It doesn't offer much knee room in the rear seats, and the legroom stat of 29.8 inches is the lowest we've seen in a long time. The driveshaft hump runs high between the two rear seats, and there's a wide crack between the seatback and seat bottom that might be uncomfortable over the miles. Overall, the rear seat sends heavy reminders that this is a coupe, not a sedan. You might even think of it as a four-seat Nissan 370Z.
Rear seat space in the G37 Convertible is just as tight. Access in both Coupe and Convertible is at least eased by a power walk-in device with position memory. In both, the front seats move forward automatically at the touch of a button to allow passengers into the rear. The Convertible offers a rear wind deflector that helps reduce turbulence when the top is down.
With 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space, the G37 Sedan slightly surpasses competitors like the Lexus IS and BMW 3 Series in cargo volume. On the other hand, it falls well short of class leaders like the Audi A4 (17 cubic feet). The G37 Convertible, too, offers competitive trunk space, with 10.33 cubic feet. Of course, that space drops dramatically when the top is lowered under the rear deck, leaving only 1.99 cubic feet for bags or other stuff.
When it comes to trunk space, the Coupe fares worst of all, lagging just about all competitors with 7.4 cubic feet. A folding rear seat back improves things by allowing larger items to flow from the trunk into the passenger cabin, and it explains that notable crack between the back and bottom cushion when the rear seatback is upright.
The strength of the Infiniti G has always been its edgy performance: based on the Nissan Z, almost a rawness, particularly in the Coupe. Its weakness? It hasn't always been as smooth and quiet as many competitors, though Infiniti has made great strides in this respect the last several years.
For 2009, all G37 variants are equipped with a new engine introduced in the 2008 G37 coupe. This slightly larger 3.7 liter V6 increases horsepower and torque across the line, though exact output varies slightly depending on the body style. The Coupe's 330 horsepower is a lot to get out of a V6, and it ranks right at the top of the G37's class. The engine features the latest in material and control technology, including Infiniti's VVEL, for Variable Valve Event and Lift. This hydraulically-controlled variable valve timing system improves not only performance and response, but also emissions and fuel efficiency.
All G37 variants deliver responsive performance and great acceleration. Stand on the gas and they pull right up to maximum rpm, willingly and heartily revving to levels normally associated with smaller, less complex engines. And the character is as important as sheer performance.
These V6s generate about 270 pound-feet of torque at a peaky 5200 rpm, and rev to a howling pitch at 7500 rpm, where the rev limiter begins to gently cut fuel. The power comes on smooth and quick, accompanied by a unique howl crafted into the exhaust system. You can hear it when a G37 rolls by at 20 mph, and you can hear from the driver's seat with the windows down. It's likely to bring a smile to your face. You can barely hear it with the windows up, however, thanks to improvements Infiniti has made to the G37 by reducing noise and vibration inside.
Despite the extra dose of power for 2009, and acceleration near the top of the class, there's also a slight increase in fuel mileage, at least in cars equipped with the automatic transmission. EPA ratings increase 1 mpg City and 2 mpg Highway, to 18 mpg City/26 mpg Highway for G37s with rear-wheel drive, and 18 City/25 Highway for those with all-wheel drive. The mileage improvement comes primarily from a new seven-speed automatic, which has two more gears than its predecessor. This allows even brisker acceleration, with a big overdrive gear that means lower engine speeds and less noise when cruising on the freeway.
The automatic does its job rather casually at part throttle. Most of the time we stayed in plain old Drive, able to forget the transmission was even there. If the driver moves the moves the stubby leather-wrapped shift lever to the left, however, Sport mode is engaged. The upshifts come at higher rpm, and both upshifts and downshifts are sharper. Holding the right foot unwaveringly hard to the floor produces sharper, more solid shifts at the engine's redline.
For more aggressive driving on lightly traveled back roads, we found that the Manual mode is where we wanted to be. The automatic changes gears quickest and smoothest with either the shift lever or the column-mounted paddles under full throttle; it's like a power shift but without the clutch. Credit this to the engine's electronics, which feather the throttle through the instantaneous shift. The same electronics deliver smooth downshifts, too, whether in full auto mode or manual override, by blipping the throttle to match engine rpm to transmission speed in the lower gear. It's like double clutching a pure manual gearbox.
In short, the G37's seven-speed automatic is excellent, but we still like the conventional six-speed manual. We like it even better that Infiniti offers a manual in a category where such transmissions are increasingly rare. The six-speed's shift pattern is tight, and gear selection precise, requiring little effort. Clutch operation is heavier than we would expect even on a sports sedan. This makes for sometimes rocky clutch engagement, especially at low speeds and light throttle. But once the driver is used to it, it's a satisfying operation.
The balance of ride and handling is consistently good across the G37 line. This luxury car starts with rear-wheel drive, like a BMW, rather than front-wheel drive like an Acura. The G37 base and Journey models are a bit more softly sprung than the Sport 6MTs, but not even the base Sedan is floaty. Far from it, actually.
For hustling down winding roads, though, the Sedan's 6MT model's sport-tuned suspension (optional on all G37 variants) is the preferred choice. It's still quite comfortable cruising the Interstate: solid and taut, managing the G37's mass very well without exacting a price in stiffness. The sport suspension is firmer than the base suspension, to be sure, and it will transmit pavement heaves more dramatically into the passenger compartment. But over anything less than chunking blacktop or weathered concrete, it gives up very little against the standard suspension, which leans a bit more toward supple.
The Coupe might be the sportiest G37 of all. Its redesigned chassis is quite bit more solid than before, and a bit lower, with a slightly wider track. The multi-link rear suspension separates the shocks and coil springs, allowing ideal placement of each. You could forgive some stiffness from any suspension that provides high-performance handling, but as sporting coupes go, the G37 needs no slack in standards of ride comfort.
And we're really impressed with the handling, especially with the Sport package. The speed-sensitive power steering is seamless. It turns precisely into corners, with no dead spots through a long curve. The G's front-midship design, with the engine set farther back behind the front axle, is inherently well balanced. Driving hard over roads that would cause almost any car to twitch, the steering wheel stays remarkably steady.
The Coupe Sport 6MT is so good it almost has a downside. Pushing harder, over remote, twisty and smooth curves, we felt the standard limited-slip differential and stability electronics (VSD) at work. Or rather, we saw them working thanks to a light on the dash, The corrections are beautifully subtle. You can pitch the G37 to a ridiculous point, and the VSD just gently won't allow the car to get out of shape. It doesn't tell you how wrong you were, with a slap upside the head, like some other electronic stability systems might. And maybe sometimes the driver needs a good slap upside the head to know he or she was behaving badly.
For 2009, the new Coupe adds the all-wheel drive option. Infiniti's ATESSA E-TS system monitors data such as wheel spin, throttle position and vehicle speed, and automatically diverts up to 50 percent of the engine's power to the front wheels, improving traction and control when road conditions are less than optimal. Yet in ideal conditions, when the road is smooth and dry, the all-wheel drive system still sends all of the power to the rear wheels, preserving the G's sporty rear-drive handling characteristics. In both coupe and sedan, the G37x's AWD has a snow mode that electronically tempers throttle response, reducing the amount of power the engine delivers for a given movement of the gas pedal.
The G37 Sport models come with bigger brakes than the others. Yet in all cases the G37's four-wheel discs are smooth, predictable, and rock steady, inspiring confidence in any driver. They're also sensitive, and when you jump on them they grab, so it takes a little time to develop the technique for smooth application.
On freeways, all G37s cruise comfortably and quietly, and that may be the biggest improvement of all. While they maintain there sporty performance edge, much of the roughness, almost cheapness, has been refined out. The irritating drone that often plagued rear seat passengers in earlier Sedans is gone, and when it comes to controlling noise and vibration inside, the G37 competes on much better terms with competitors such as Lexus and Audi.
There's little wind noise even at extra-legal speeds. There's more road noise from the optional, larger tire packages than from the standard treads, but the added grip and, frankly, sharper looking 19-inch wheels are worth it.
The Infiniti G37 line is Infiniti's entry in a highly competitive category that includes the Acura TL, Audi A4 and A5, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS and Mercedes C-Class. The G37s are definitely competitive, with slick styling, comfortable, well-equipped interiors and power and handling on par with any of their peers. For buyers seeking a sports sedan that's as accommodating of its passengers as it is rewarding for its driver, the G37 Sedan is hard to beat. The Coupe and Convertible models add even more sex appeal, and all but the convertible are available with an effective all-wheel drive system. The G37s also offers more equipment for less cash than some competitors.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent reported from the Motor City, with Sam Moses in the Columbia River Gorge, and Tom Lankard in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Infiniti G37 Sedan ($33,250); Sedan Journey ($34,000); Sedan Sport 6MT ($34,250); G37x Sedan AWD ($35,750); G37 Coupe ($35,900); Coupe Journey ($36,650) Coupe Sport 6MT ($37,000); G37x Coupe AWD ($38,700); G37 Convertible ($43,850); Convertible Sport 6MT ($43,900).
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($3,200) includes power sliding moonroof with one-touch open/close, Bose premium audio system with Burr Brown Digital Audio Converter, driver seat, steering wheel and outside mirror memory system, power tilt/telescoping steering column, automatic anti-glare rearview mirror with compass, HomeLink Universal Transceiver, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, heated front seats and outside mirrors; Sport Package ($1850) includes automatic transmission paddle shifters, 19-inch aluminum wheels with high-performance tires, viscous limited-slip differential, sport tuned suspension, larger brakes, sport seats, unique front fascia and side sills, aluminum pedals; Navigation Package ($2,200) includes GPS navigation with Infiniti controller and touch screen, lane guidance and building footprint graphics, 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, compact flash slot, XM NavTraffic with Real-Time Traffic information, rear-view monitor and voice recognition for climate control, audio and navigation commands; Illuminated kick-plates ($330).
Infiniti G37 Coupe Journey ($36,650).
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