First impressions are very important, and where Automobile Magazine and the <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/am/2012/infiniti/g37/index.html">Infiniti G37</a> coupe are concerned, those first impressions were full of admiration. After power-sliding around a <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/01/nissan/index.html">Nissan</a> test track in Arizona during our first meeting with the G37 [June 2007] and blasting down back roads all the way from Tennessee to Michigan two months later, we declared <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/01/infiniti/index.html">Infiniti</a>'s sexy new sport coupe to be a near-equal to its chief rival, the <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/01/bmw/index.html">BMW</a> 335i coupe. That's among the highest praise we can give.
By their nature, though, first impressions don't always tell the whole story. We don't retract any of our conclusions about the G37's performance credentials - any dynamic differences between it and the perennial champion 3-series are small enough to fade into the background noise - but surprisingly, after a year of living with the G37, we filled its logbook with more complaints than compliments. The Infiniti may nearly match the BMW's performance, but it falls short in refinement. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
First, the good news: Not once in 24,504 miles did our trustworthy G37 miss a beat. In fact, the only minor problem we encountered - a rattling exhaust heat shield - somehow fixed itself. Other than three scheduled service visits and two tire-shop sorties to mount and dismount winter tires, our G37 steered clear of the service bay. The total cost of the three routine service stops - $213 - was so reasonable that we barely missed BMW's free scheduled maintenance. And while we're on the subject of money, our fully loaded <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/am/99/2012/infiniti/g37/sport_sedan/1437/index.html">G37 Sport</a> hit the ground running for almost $12,000 less than a comparably equipped 335i. That's an enormous savings, although spending nearly $45,000 for a sport coupe isn't exactly exercising financial restraint.
Our G37 was stuffed with $8560 in optional equipment. Apparently, it wasn't enough that our Sport model came with a 330-hp V-6, a six-speed manual transmission, a limited-slip rear differential, four-piston front brake calipers, a leather-trimmed interior, bi-xenon lights, keyless ignition, and power everything. We added an $1150 technology package (laser-guided cruise control and swiveling front headlights); a $3200 premium package (power moonroof, Bose premium audio system with iPod adapter and Bluetooth, heated seats, and assorted other goodies); a $2200 navigation package (including XM NavTraffic, a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for music, and a backup camera); four-wheel active steering for $1300; a $550 rear spoiler; and $160 in nets and mats to secure the junk we'd be carrying in our trunk.
Some of those options were well worthwhile, like the audio system. Everyone who tried the intuitive, quick-reacting iPod interface loved it - and the stereo's sound quality was very impressive. Road test editor Marc Noordeloos thought it "pretty cool that the G37 can play music from AM, FM, satellite radio, CD, iPod, a <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/27/compact_cars/index.html">Compact</a> Flash card, any other device connected through either the aux jack or RCA connectors, or even music stored on the internal 9.3-gig hard drive."
Some options were probably less worthwhile - like the four-wheel steering package. We were all looking forward to evaluating <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/01/infiniti/index.html">Infiniti</a>'s Active Steer, which varies the steering ratio of the front wheels and can turn the rear wheels in either direction. We're not generally fans of systems that actively alter the relationship between the steering wheel and the front wheels, because they reduce the driver's confidence that a certain amount of steering input will result in a corresponding directional change. This particular system, however, barely generated a sentence in a year's worth of comments in the logbook - a logbook filled with observations about inconsequential details like floor-mat anchors. Obviously, it's not intrusive like some other active steering systems, and it probably contributed to the G37's status as our unofficial Four Seasons "amazing drift machine - in the wet, dry, snow, ice, whatever." Unfortunately, it didn't do anything to stop gripes about steering feel, which was deemed overboosted, too eager on turn-in, and not communicative enough.
One part of the G37 that had no trouble communicating was its vociferous engine. Like all Infiniti V-6s, it is outwardly vocal as it cruises down city streets, singing a sumptuous baritone aria through the twin exhaust pipes. Inside the G37, though, the sound was anything but operatic. After an aggressive drive on hilly roads, I pulled over, grabbed the notebook, and furiously scratched out: "How could an engine whose exhaust note is so sweet and melodic sound this rough and coarse inside the car? It's like putting a stethoscope up to Beyoncé and finding out that, on the inside, she sounds like Harvey Fierstein. Ladies and gentlemen, <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/01/nissan/index.html">Nissan</a>'s VQ-series V-6 has officially overstayed its welcome." Technical editor Don Sherman jumped into the sea of complaints from other staffers, noting that "the engine's grit starting at 4500 or so rpm is vocal testimony to the virtues of an in-line configuration for six cylinders." The V-6 wasn't particularly smooth at low speeds, either; several staff members noted that the shifter vibrated visibly at idle.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the only complaint about the driveline - everybody grumbled that the G37 was difficult to drive smoothly. To blame are a hyperactive throttle pedal calibration and a numb clutch pedal that grabbed high in the travel but with no positive engagement point. I griped that "with the assault of vibration and harshness reaching your fingertips and ears, you'd think it'd be an easy car to shift, but no. It's as if <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/01/infiniti/index.html">Infiniti</a> engineers purposely amplified all of the bad feedback and muffled all the sound and feeling that would help the driver interact with the car."
Although most drivers found the G37's seats to be comfortable, our compact production editor, Jen Misaros, complained that the seatbelt's lack of height adjustment "never ceases to be an actual pain in the neck." Other vertically challenged staffers agreed - copy editor Rusty Blackwell found that "a collared shirt is almost a necessity when I drive the G, otherwise I feel like I'm being strangled by the belt." Taller staffers didn't share this problem, complaining instead about a lack of headroom. There were also quite a few comments about how small, high, and shallow the trunk is, but there was not a single bad word uttered about the styling. It's a good thing Blackwell wasn't asphyxiated by the seatbelt, because he lived to suggest that the G37 is "quite possibly the best-looking Japanese car ever built." No one disagreed.
On the open road, the G37's taut suspension provides admirable body control combined with a very comfortable ride, especially impressive considering the large, nineteen-inch wheels. We were all thankful that the laser-guided cruise control could be operated in conventional fixed-speed mode, as it otherwise tended to jam on the brakes abruptly. Drivers, too, had a hard time modulating the grabby brake pedal. The stability control's engagement was also rough, especially when the G37 was trying to avoid getting stuck in the snow, which, even when fitted with four dedicated Bridgestone Blizzak LM25 winter tires, happened more frequently than in other Four Seasons cars.
While none of those shortcomings by itself is egregious, in sum they conspire to reduce the fun-to-drive quotient that makes cars from Infiniti's benchmark, <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/01/bmw/index.html">BMW</a>, so easy to live with every day. As a result, the G37 - a dashingly beautiful, stunningly powerful, supremely reliable, and commendably well-built car - was sometimes the last pick when it came time to sign out a car for the night. This was never the case with our last Four Seasons BMW 3-series.
We likely would have much preferred the G37 if we had spent even more money - on an automatic transmission. The two-pedal G doesn't suffer from the dysfunctional clutch/throttle relationship, and the automatic transmission dramatically reduces the amount of engine harshness and vibration that makes it into the cabin. The 2009 G37's newly available, smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic helps make the G37 even quicker than our stick shift model. Also new for 2009 is the all-wheel-drive G37x; with AWD, performance in the snow would have never been brought into question. Of course, switching to an all-wheel-drive, automatic G37x would have cost more money - but then, exercising restraint has never been our strong suit.
<a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/01/infiniti/index.html">Infiniti</a>'s first G, the 1991-96 G20, used the hot 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine from the <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/am/2012/nissan/sentra/index.html">Nissan Sentra</a> SE-R. It was available only as a four-door sedan and had front-wheel drive. The second G20 was sold from 1999 to 2002 and used essentially the same engine, which also powered the front wheels.
In 2003, the first rear-wheel-drive G35 coupe and sedan surfaced. They shared a front-midship platform with the <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/used_cars/11/nissan/350z/index.html">Nissan 350Z</a> and employed a 3.5-liter V-6 that generated as much as 298 hp. The second-generation G35 sedan debuted for 2007 along with the G37 coupe, which uses a stroked 3.7-liter engine to produce 330 hp.
Prices & Equipment
Price as tested
ABS; traction and stability control; aluminum wheels; tire-pressure monitor; automatic air-conditioning; XM satellite radio; keyless entry; power windows, mirrors, and door locks; tilting/telescoping steering column; front, side, and side curtain air bags
Technology package (laser cruise control, adaptive headlights), $1150; Premium package (moonroof, premium sound system, iPod interface, memory system, power lumbar, power adjustable steering wheel, Homelink, Bluetooth, heated seats and mirrors), $3200; rear spoiler, $550; trunk cargo net, $60; trunk mat, $100; Navigation package (navigation system, 9.3 GB music hard drive, <a href="http://www.automobilemag.com/new_cars/27/compact_cars/index.html">Compact</a> Flash slot for music, rearview camera), $2200; 4-wheel active steering package (front and rear Active Steer system), $1300
*Estimate based on info from Manheim auctions and kbb.com
8183 mi: $32
16,471 mi: $129
23,200 mi: $52
800 mi: Purchase, mount, and balance four Bridgestone Blizzak LM-25 winter tires, $1020
6398 mi: Mount stock tires, $90
Cost per mile
(Fuel, service, winter tires) $0.18
($0.87 including depreciation)