As hard as Lexus and Acura have tried, neither has come as close to creating a genuine Japanese alternative to the premium European sports coupe and sedan as Infiniti has with its G-series of cars.
Part of that is because of the very good platform underneath the Infiniti -- essentially a variation of the Nissan 350Z sports car. Even though the Nissan Z car is new for 2009 -- it went on sale Dec. 30 -- it still uses a much-massaged version of that platform because the company got it so right the first time.
Previous models of the Infiniti have been called the G35, because of the 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Now, we have the G37, which means, as you'd suspect, a 3.7-liter V-6. In the G37 Coupe tested here, it has 330 horsepower, up 22 horses from the G35.
The new Nissan Z is the 370Z, because it gets a 332-horse version of the Infiniti's engine, which debuted in the G37's coupe version late last year. The G37 is offered as sedan, coupe, and convertible, with rear- or all-wheel drive.
The Infiniti G35 Coupe has always been a slightly more luxurious, sophisticated and expensive version of the Nissan 350Z, and that doesn't change with the G37 Coupe. The version tested here is the rear-drive Journey, slightly more upscale than the base model, adding a handful of features such as an upgraded sound system and dual-zone climate control.
The 3.7-liter V-6 is based on the old 3.5-liter, which has long been one of the best V-6 engines made. Coupled with the seven-speed automatic transmission -- a six-speed manual is available -- the powertrain has plenty of muscle, delivered smoothly and quietly, perhaps too quietly for some drivers who would prefer a slightly sportier exhaust note. You might think that seven-speed automatic would seem a little busy, and it does, but after a while you don't notice it, and not noticing an automatic transmission is a good thing.
Fuel mileage, at 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, is about what you'd expect.
Inside, Infiniti designers really stepped up: Fit and trim of the cockpit and leather bucket seats rivals Audi. If you think you might ever want to carry rear-seat passengers, please get the G37 Sedan: While the G37 Coupe has rear seats, they are Munchkin-sized and not easy to access. The trunk isn't particularly roomy, so consider the rear seats extra storage space.
On the road, the G37 Coupe is sure footed, riding a bit more smoothly than some sport coupes, but still cornering like a sports car. Steering feel is a bit heavy but precise. The suspension is certainly firm, but it was annoying only on really uneven concrete pavement.
The G37 Coupe Journey starts at $36,650, but the test car had lots of options, including a $3,200 "Premium Package" that added lots of little features, including heated seats and mirrors, a moonroof, power lumbar support and an even-further-upgraded Bose sound system.
A $1,850 "Sport Package" added 19-inch tires and wheels, instead of the standard 18-inchers, plus an upgraded suspension and brakes. And then there was a navigation system that cost $2,200: Those options, plus a few more, and $815 in shipping, brought the bottom line to $45,045, which takes the G37 from being a moderate bargain to a little pricey. Give me the Sport Package, and you can keep the rest.
Steven Cole Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 407-420-5699, or through his blog at Enginehead.com.
2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe
Base price: $36,650
Price as tested: $45,045
EPA rating: 18 miles per gallon city driving, 26 mpg highway
Details: Front engine, rear-wheel drive sports coupe with a 3.7-liter, 330-horsepower V-6 and a seven-speed automatic transmission
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