The current Infiniti G35 Coupe is a favorite around this office, and it's easy to see why. It is, of course, drop dead gorgeous, but its beauty is more than skin deep. You can hear its front-mid-mounted 3.5-liter, 275-hp V-6 sing its baritone wail from blocks away. And once behind the wheel, you can't help but hang the tail out at every curve - the G35 loves to dance.
It's not without its faults, of course. The G35 (both and sedan and coupe form) are most often compared to the BMW 3-series, and that presents a slight problem for the Infinitis. See, in terms of refinement, all the Gees are quite a few steps behind the venerable Threes.
We had the opportunity to sample a pre-production test mule at Nissan's test facility in Arizona last month, and were waiting - impatiently - to tell you all about it until the G37 was revealed at the 2007 New York Auto Show. That was, until one of our fellow magazines had a mishap and released their May issue to digital subscribers a little early.
Their loss (Infiniti is likely furious about this) is your gain - the wait is over. We can now say the words that BMW fans (your humble author included) will hate to hear: Infiniti has set its sights squarely at BMW, and the new G37 is a shot that hits the 3-series square in its Angel Eyes.
First thing's first - just as you'd expect, the higher number in the G37's name denotes a larger displacement engine. The 2007 model's VQ35 3.5-liter has been stroked to 3.7 liters. The new engine, dubbed VQ37VHR, now has an 86-mm stroke (up from 81.4 mm) and a compression ratio that is, at 11.0:1, four-tenths of a point higher.
The biggest news about the engine, however, is that it is the world's first application of Nissan's VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift) technology. Like BMW's Valvetronic, VVEL eliminates the need for a conventional throttle butterfly, controlling engine output by continually and steplessly varying valve lift and timing. The V-6 retains a conventional throttle butterfly, but it's used for emissions-related purposes only, according to Nissan.
By having infinite control over both valve lift and timing, Nissan was able to flatten the VQ's torque curve at both the bottom and top of the rpm range. The result is that while the 3.7-liter's 270 lb-ft peak torque is only 2 lb-ft higher than the 3.5-liter's, the curve shows improvements of about six percent down low and four percent up high.
The increase in high-rpm torque results, of course, in more horsepower. The G37 is preliminarily rated at 330 horsepower. And as a result of VVEL, it should beat the 3.5-liter's EPA fuel economy ratings. Now that's progress.
Nissan says that, compared with BMW's Valvetronic, VVEL is 32% quicker to respond, 20% smaller, and uses 52% less parts per cylinder. It also allows the engine to rev higher - the 3.7-liter is redlined at 7,500rpm.
The G37 will be available with a 6-speed manual transmission (6MT) or a 5-speed automatic. 6MT and sport-pack automatics, like the test mule we drove, will have limited-slip differentials.
Even with the automatic, we noticed no throttle lag from the VVEL. Indeed, the throttle was precise enough to help us do exactly what the G Coupe loves to do best - fantastic power-slides.
The G37's second-generation FM platform is not only 36% stiffer than the previous one, but has a wider track and lower center of gravity. It also has a new steering gear and - here's that bullet heading at BMW again - available four-wheel active steering. (BMW offers Active Steering on the 3-series). Compared to the G35's, the G37's suspension has higher spring rates, larger sway bars, and stiffer damping. Eighteen-inch wheels are now standard, with available nineteens.
Behind those wheels hide the largest rotors in the segment - 14.0" front and 13.8" rear -straddled by four-piston aluminum calipers front, two-piston rears.
And while we're talking numbers, the new coupe is 0.9 inches longer (183.1 inches in length) and 0.2 inches wider (71.7 inches wide) than the outgoing G35, but at 54.7 inches tall, is a tenth of an inch lower. The wheelbase is unchanged at 112.2 inches.
Our initial impressions of the new exterior design were mixed - we were afraid that the G37 looked watered-down when compared to the old G35's aggressive stance. But, we changed our minds when we saw the two G Coupes next to each other in person. The new car's front end, which looks soft and Lexus-like in pictures, looks muscular and tough in person. And the rear, which looks strangely naked without the large Infiniti badging, is quite similar to the old car - which is a good thing. Overall, it's a subtle evolution of a great design.
The interior is a one hundred percent improvement over the old car - in styling, material quality, and fit and finish. We are very much looking forward to seeing the final production version this summer.
On the track, the G37 not only looked great, but its neutral chassis balance and tight body control gave us a dose of perma-grin. In fact, its body motions were better controlled than the sport-pack BMW 335i that Infiniti brought along for comparison. The G37's limited-slip rear differential made sure it avoided the frustrating inside wheelspin that plagued the BMW, and the suspension heaved less over the big bumps strategically placed on the track.
With that said, the G37 mule's steering didn't communicate with the driver as well as BMW's rack, and it didn't do nearly as good a job at filtering out unwanted vibrations. (It should be said that it is, however, a vast improvement over the old car's steering, which transmitted as much vibration as it did road feel).
The G37 didn't feel quite as fast as the BMW, nor did its V-6 sound quite as melodic as the 335i's twin-turbo straight six, especially in the car, where the VQ's NVH gremlins reared their ugly little heads. As with the previous Gs, the 5-speed automatic does a good job of smoothing out some of the VQ's coarseness inside the cabin, but its widely spaced ratios make for a far less involving ride.
We're still wishing for a six-speed automatic from Infiniti, especially if the rumor mill is right and we'll see a convertible version of the G37 next year. For the coupe, however, our choice is distinctly for the 6MT. Its tail-out antics and fun factor outweigh the coarseness - and team up to pry our collective mouths into a big, toothy smile. A bigger smile than the 335i's cohesive brilliance gives us.
So until the V-8 powered fireball M3 hits the roads next year, the G37 might just be the coupe to beat.