Infiniti's current advertising spots begin with a Shodo brush stroke of a car silhouette, the designer's first representation of how a new car will look. With the IPL -- Infiniti Performance Line -- the brand puts figurative pen to paper and begins to sketch out a new, high-performance sub-brand. In creating the IPL, Infiniti is following well-established practice in the luxury-car arena. All of its major rivals already have a family of extra-sporty variants: M for BMW, AMG for Mercedes-Benz, S and RS for Audi, the V-series for Cadillac, and the nascent F models for Lexus. Given its comparatively small global sales footprint, however, Infiniti is starting small -- as a package, the IPL G Coupe is a considerably more modest effort than any of those specialty machines.
The IPL debuts as a single model, the G37 coupe. It's based on the G37 Coupe Sport 6MT, which already comes with the premium and navigation packages. The IPL treatment starts in the engine room, where engineers were able to coax a bit more out of the already high-achieving 3.7-liter V-6. Horsepower increases from 330 at 7000 rpm to 348 at 7400 rpm, while torque is bumped up to 276 pound-feet from 270. A less restrictive exhaust system is fitted, which Infiniti claims makes the engine freer-revving at high rpm. Buyers choose a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic with shift paddles.
Given some stick, the 3.7-liter roars to life, flinging the coupe down the road. Despite the retuned exhaust, this isn't the most mellifluous six, but it's hardly offensive. The six-speed manual has short throws and a satisfying mechanical heft that's matched by the effort of the clutch. The seven-speed automatic operates with flawless logic (holding gears indefinitely if the lever is first moved into manual mode, returning to Drive after a few moments if it's not).
The suspension is stiffened, by twenty percent up front and ten percent at the rear, compared to the base car. The brakes, 14.0-inch vented front discs squeezed by four-piston aluminum calipers and 13.8-inch vented rear discs with two-piston aluminum calipers, are from the sport package; so too is the limited-slip differential.
The wide, summer tires (Bridgestone Potenzas, size 225/45R19 up front, 245/40R19 at the rear) provide plenty of grip, and the firm suspension shrugs off the most tightly coiled canyon road yet still takes the edge off sharp bumps. The quicker-ratio steering -- again from the sport package -- is pleasantly weighted and the deep bucket seats, with adjustable lateral bolsters in the cushion and the seatback, do a great job holding you in place.
The thing is, all that can be said of the regular G37 Sport as well. The real impact of the IPL, then, is visual. The IPL coupe's lower body is ringed with aggressive aerodynamic bits: a redesigned lower fascia, deep side skirts, and a unique lower rear bumper and a rear spoiler. Seven-spoke nineteen-inch wheels get a dark gray finish, while polished dual exhaust tips and a unique engine cover provide an extra bit of eye candy. Inside, there's red stitching for the gray leather interior or a vibrant red interior that is IPL exclusive.
The IPL would be more special if the G37 Sport weren't already so aggressive. But that car's firm suspension, hefty steering, firm clutch, meaty short-throw shifter, and strong V-6 already make the G37 one of the sportiest car in its segment. The IPL might not take things a whole lot further, but it isn't commanding a five-figure premium either. At $48,825, the six-speed coupe is $5550 over a G37 Coupe Sport 6MT. The automatic is another $1900.
This car, though, is just the initial effort. Next will come a convertible (likely with the same modifications) and then, probably, an IPL based on the M56 and the FX50. Infiniti is only starting the sketch. It will be a while before the picture of the Infiniti Performance Line is complete.
2011 Infiniti IPL G Coupe
On sale: December 2010
Base price: $48,825/$50,725 (6MT/automatic)
Engine: 24-valve DOHC V-6
Displacement: 3.7 liters
Power: 348 hp @ 7400 rpm
Torque: 276 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual/7-speed automatic
L x W x H: 185.1 x 71.8 x 54.9 in
Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Legroom F/R: 43.8/29.8 in
Headroom F/R: 37.7/34.5 in
Cargo capacity: 7.4 cu ft
Curb weight: 3718/3769 lb (6MT/automatic)
EPA rating (city/highway): 17/25 mpg, 19/27 mpg (6MT, automatic)