Infiniti G37 Coupe — Raucous fun

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We’ve got a friend who once was a BMW addict. He broke his addiction after three straight BMW purchases over 10 years, not because he tired of BMW, but because his driving needs changed. For several years after his last Bimmer, he spoke of BMW in hushed, reverent tones. BMW was the standard by which he measured all motorized objects.

He still has the affection, but no longer a burning desire for all things BMW. Put one in his driveway no strings or payments attached and he would think he had won the million-dollar lottery.

But over the past few years change has come to his automotive world. And change we have been led to believe is a good thing. Perhaps you believe that, but perhaps change for the sake of change is not the panacea of what ails us. In this case, change is interesting and warranted, to a certain extent.

Our friend proclaimed just the other day, “If I were going to purchase another sedan, it would be the (Infiniti) G37. I really think it’s the best car out there these days in my price range.”

That’s change of the highest order, because this guy does extensive research, he test drives a car off a dealer lot now and then, and when he makes his mind up he won’t settle for less than what he believes is the best available product, be it a television, a camera or an automobile.

He surely was happy that Car and Driver returned the G to its “10 Best List” for 2009. And he was delighted to know that we reinforced his opinion.

Our conclusion was reached after spending time in both rear-drive and all-wheel drive versions of the 2009 G37 sedan on the winding roads in the Napa, Calif., area, and a week behind the wheel of a G37 all-wheel- drive coupe on roads and highways near our home base.

We, indeed, agree with our friend that the Infiniti, if not superior to the BMW 335i is as equal as it gets in the entry-level luxury segment. And if everything is equal — that’s a subjective assessment, of course — BMW’s recent spate of reliability issues puts the G37 out front in our estimation.

What vaults the newest edition of the G37 to the top of our list is a big improvement in the drivetrain. Styling inside and out hasn’t be altered, and wonderful handling traits are still right at hand.

Here’s the thing. The 3.7-liter engine has been infused with 24 more horses in the sedan. The coupe got that horsepower upgrade for 2008 and now both the two-door and the four-door come with 330 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. And both cars get a new seven-speed automatic transmission replacing the long-running five-speed. A six-speed manual is also available.

And both the sedan and coupe can be purchased with all-wheel drive, which not only helps during bad winters and stormy summers, but enhances handling prowess as well under all conditions, good and bad.

The seven-speed keeps the engine percolating at peak levels through the gears to the tune of mid-five-second time from rest to 60 mph, and around 103 mph in a quarter mile, which can be reached in less than14 seconds.

Running hard is a scintillating experience in either G variant. 

Driving hard and fast on twisting roads is rewarding if you enjoy a cutting-edge cornering machine under the seat of your pants and in your hands. Even the angle of the wheels enhances the road hugging feel of the G37.

While we would classify BMW’s turbocharged inline six as silky smooth, the Infiniti’s V-6 is more raucous; but the performance from both is strikingly similar. The BMW is a mature veteran who has reached peak efficiency while the G37 is an ambitious, talented rookie somewhat rough around the edges, but ready to tackle the world.

Raucous actually may be too strong a word because the engine has a muted and appealing growl at lower rpm, and we think it is more refined under stress than the pervious version of the V-6.

While the handling is nothing short of superb, the ride quality is pleasing. The G37 offers a nice compliant combination for weekend fun and long-distance touring.

Styling may ultimately sway sitting-on-the-fence shoppers who might prefer the more sculpted BMW lines over the more rounded swoopy G37 styling. We like both enough to be satisfied with either. See we’re not as fickle as you thought. However, we favor the more distinctive Infiniti interior layout and the ergonomic friendliness of the switchgear.

Price may ultimately sway buyers and the G37 comes out on top in this regard, especially if shoppers compare apples to apples — in other words, the 335i to the G37. There’s no moving down in the G, but the BMW offers a less expensive and less performance-oriented choice in the 328i.

Here’s the bottom line — the 335i sedan starts at $41,125 including destination charge, the G37 Journey (one step up from the base and equipped equally to the BMW) begins at $34,565. The coupes begin at $43,025 and $37,565 for the BMW and G37 respectively.
The BMW 328i with a 3.0-liter 230 horsepower inline six begins at $34,425.

And as much as we like the Infiniti, shoppers have other choices in a segment chock full of good stuff including the Audi A4, Cadillac CTS, Acura TL and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. All of this just makes the decision process more taxing.

In the G37 such things as keyless ignition, automatic climate control, xenon headlights, leather upholstery, a six-speaker audio system with CD and MP3 player, satellite radio and full power accessories are standard on all models.

The good stuff unfortunately comes in packages. If you desire a moonroof, for instance, you will have to invest in the premium package at $3,000, which also includes premium Bose audio, power tilt/ telescoping steering wheel and memory seats.

About the only stand-alone option of note are 18-inch nine-spoke aluminum alloy wheels for $1,650.

Safety is very adequately covered with standard stability and traction control, full-length side-curtain airbags, antilock brakes and active front head restraints.

Our G37 all-wheel drive coupe test car carried a base price of $39,565. After such options as premium package, technology package, navigation package and the aforementioned 18-inch wheels the bottom line was $47,895.

If our friend decides to re-enter the segment, we think whichever way he goes — BMW or Infiniti, coupe or sedan, or the G37 convertible now hitting showrooms — he won’t go wrong.

Base price: $34,565; as driven, $47,895
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6
Horsepower: 330 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 270 foot-pounds @ 5,200 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 183.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,847 pounds
Turning circle: 36.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 7.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 20 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 25 mpg highway, 18 city
0-60: 5.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: BMW 335i, Cadillac CTS, Nissan 370Z

The Good:
• High-performance V-6 mated to 7-speed automatic
• Cutting-edge handling
• Very competitive pricing

The Bad:
• Tight back seat in coupe format

The Ugly:
• Options come in expensive and complicated packages