2012 Infiniti G: A Tux-Wearing Z

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A couple of things about the 2012 Infiniti G37 coupe… .

No, wait – three things:

It’s available with AWD.

Comes standard with a 330 hp engine.

There’s an optional retractable hardtop.

You can get one or the other (in a few cases, two out of three) in competitor models like the BMW 3, Audi A5, Lexus IS 350 or the Caddy CTS.

But only the G offers all three.

Of course, there is a catch… .

WHAT IT IS

The G37 coupe is a mid-sized, two-plus-two luxury-sport coupe. It’s available in either standard hardtop or retractable hardtop forms. You can go RWD or AWD, manual or automatic.

Base price for the RWD hardtop coupe is $37,150. A top-of-the-line Limited Edition retractable hardtop stickers for $58,000.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2012

Even more power for this already powerful car is now on tap. Buyers can order the Infiniti Performance Line (IPL) package, which bumps the output of the standard 3.7 liter V-6 to 348 hp. The IPL package – which also includes suspension and interior/exterior appearance enhancements –  was formerly restricted to the hardtop version of the G but is now available with the retractable hardtop, too.

WHAT’S GOOD

More standard power for the dollar than comparably priced competitors (as much as 100 hp-plus more).

Available manual transmission.

AWD is on the menu.

A retractable hardtop, too.

Richly crafted interior.

Snare-drum tight suspension; laser-precise steering.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

If you order AWD, you can’t also have the retractable hardtop.

Base (less expensive) versions come only with an automatic; if you want the six-speed manual, you have to buy the higher-cost Sport or IPL versions of the G.

Snare-drum tight suspension may be too tight for you.

Sport versions have noisy tires (at least, the one I tested did).

UNDER THE HOOD

The G (all versions) comes standard with a 3.7 liter V-6, rated at 325-330 hp (the lower figure for automatic-equipped models).

If that’s not sufficient, you can upgrade this to 348 hp in the IPL (Infiniti Performance Line) version of the G. IPL is Infiniti’s version of the BMW M or Mercedes AMG; basically, a limited-edition, high-performance version of the standard car.

Either way, you can choose a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic and rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. However, the combinations are limited as follows:

Only the Sport and IPL offer the option of a manual transmission; retractable hardtops are all RWD – the latter probably out of concern over the extra weight reducing performance, though with 330-348 hp available, that shouldn’t be a concern.

The G is in fact the most powerfully equipped lux-sport coupe in its class. Its as-issued 325-330 hp effortlessly overpowers the comparably priced ($37,650) BMW 328i’s standard 230 hp six and also the four-cylinder-only (2.0 liter, 211 hp) Audi A5 ($37,100). The manual-equipped, 330 hp G also has a solid 12 hp over the standard-issue Cadillac CTS (318 hp, $38,175) and of course, the CTS doesn’t ever offer a soft-top convertible option.

A more direct competitor is the Lexus IS350 C – which has a standard 306 hp V-6 and a retractable hardtop. It also has a base price of $46,640 – about $1,100 more than the equivalent G (with the retractable hardtop) and about $9,500 more than the G sans folding metal top but with 330 hp engine. Oh – I almost forgot. The Lexus IS350 C comes only with an automatic transmission. It is much more the cruiser, less the bruiser, than the gym-bunny G.

It’ll get to 60 in 5.6-5.8 seconds or so (depending on the transmission and whether you go RWD or AWD, fixed-roof coupe or retractable hardtop).

Gas mileage is about what you’d expect (or should expect) from a very powerful four-seat lux-sport coupe: 19 city, 27 highway for the RWD G to 18 city, 25 highway for AWD-equipped Gs.

What’s unexpected is that the G’s numbers are actually about as good – even better than – the mileage you’d get in the 100 hp less potent BMW 328i, which rates a pretty shitty (for 230 hp) 18 city, 28 highway.

The little 2.0 liter four in the Audi A5, meanwhile, manages only 21 city, 31 highway – despite having 120 fewer horses under its hood.

The almost-as-powerful Lexus IS350 rates 20 city, 28 highway. A Caddy CTS coupe, 17 city, 26 highway.

While none of these cars are gas-misers, the G is among the least piggy – even though it’s the most powerful of the bunch.

ON THE ROAD

If you’ve had a chance to drive the Nissan 370Z you’ll know what the G feels like. Both cars have the same V-6 (slightly up-rated to 333 hp in the Z) and very similar suspension tuning.

The G can be regarded as a slightly larger (185.5 inches vs. 167.2), longer-wheelbase (112.2 inches vs. 100.4) and of course, posher, four-seater version of the Nissan 370Z – and is fully capable of matching moves with it or any similarly set-up sports car.

Equipped with the optional AWD system, it can probably post higher lateral cornering stats than the RWD-only competition – and will definitely do better in the rain and poor (winter) weather.

A point of order: The G’s longer wheelbase (relative to the Nissan Z) results in a less tail-twitchy car. Up to a certain point, you can dive into a corner faster with your foot off the throttle before the back end of the car starts to come unglued. Trained (that is, performance-trained) drivers know to keep on the throttle in a high-speed corner in order to transfer power as well as traction-enhancing weight onto the back wheels. The problem is most American drivers are not trained performance drivers and do the exact opposite of what they should; they lift off the throttle (and worse, hit the brakes) in a high-speed corner. Without the electronic safety nets of stability control and ABS, they’d swap ends real quick. The longer wheelbase G adds a noticeable margin of before-the-limit stability that average drivers will appreciate, without in any way cheapening the at-the-limit prowess of the car.

The availability of a manual transmission adds to the Enthusiast Factor, while the much-macho power (even in “base” trim) puts a hurtin’ on otherwise appealing competitors like the standard-issue BMW 3 coupe/convertible as well as very nice but embarrassingly underpowered (in this price range) cars like the Audi A5, which unlike the BMW 3 doesn’t even offer an underhood upgrade.

The G’s optional seven-speed automatic doesn’t give up much as far as sporty feel – other than depriving you of the fun of playing with a clutch. It features the fairly common steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to operate the box in manual mode – and also a not-so-common rev-matching downshift function that blips the throttle for you in between gear changes, to keep the engine right on the sweet spot of its power curve – and you looking (and sounding) like a pro driver.

My only complaint – more of an observation, really – is that the G’s ride (at least, the ride of the Sport version, which comes with 19-inch wheels and very aggressive W-rated, 40-series Bridgestone Potenza “summer” tires) may be a bit much for the typical lux-sport buyer.

On the other hand, the G is not designed for the typical cruise-controlled, left-lane-hogging lux-sport buyer. It is designed instead for the lux-sport buyer who is also a driver.

AT THE CURB

Here again, think Z car in a tux – and not one “let out” in the middle to accommodate a middle-aged spread.

The lines are tight and taut and unless you park the two cars side by side, you’d swear the G was about the same overall size as the Z. The proportions are right, despite the extra length necessary to get those backseats in there. They’re useless for carrying people, of course – but it’s nice to be able to put a couple bags of groceries back there vs. in the trunk (or not at all, if the trunk’s too small).

If you’re a motorcycle rider you will understand what I mean when I tell you that the G’s interior has the look and feel of a set of form-fitted leathers. Intimate, personalized. Snug.

My test car’s leather’s were dyed a rich contrast-red (Monaco Red) with complementing “Infiniti” stitching in the seatbacks and red-toned Maple trim plates; the overall effect was sumptuous and striking. The car looks every inch – and every dollar – a $40k ride.

Another motorcycle-like aspect of the G is its all-business gauge pod – which tilts up and down along with the steering wheel, so you don’t lose sight of the important stuff as a result of repositioning the wheel.

While the back seats are hopeless (for people) with a max of 29.8 inches of legroom (that’s with the front seats pushed up as far as they’ll go, just about) having the additional interior space does give the G an added dimension of everyday usability that you don’t have in a two-seater.

PS: It’s not so much that backseat legroom and headroom is nonexistent; in fact, one you get back there, it’s not half-bad. The problem is getting back there. And getting back out again. Infiniti does try to help, though. There’s an electric auto-slide button that back-seat unfortunates can use to toggle the front seats forward as they try to wriggle free. But it’s still tough if you’re not a Yoga master.

The optional folding hardtop is utterly unnoticeable when it’s up; the car looks like a standard hardtop coupe. It, too, fits like a custom-made set of bike gloves. And the hardtop is inherently better protected against the elements – and street cretins – than vulnerable soft-tops like the BMW 3 and Audi A5.

Another nice touch is the fully-operational rear quarter glass, which can be opened even with the top up.

Trunk space is modest (a it less than 8 cubic feet with the top up) but the space is wide, if not deep, and will take a bag of golf clubs or large gym bag, no sweat.

THE REST

In addition to its beauty and capability, the G also features a roster of technology – including pop-up rollbars (retractable hardtop versions), sonar-guided park assist, a 9.3 Gig music storage hard drive and Infiniti’s excellent “Birdview” line-of-sight GPS system. Unlike the typical look-down “map” display, the Infiniti system shows you the road ahead, looking forward rather than down, updated continuously as you drive. This approach is (to me) much more intuitive and natural. You also get Zagat restaurant surveys. The whole works can be controlled by voice, too.

Oh, and one final – but important – detail: The G does not screech at you like a 5th grade teacher if you decide not to “buckle up for safety.” There is a brief chime, yes. But it is not continuous and it goes away almost immediately.

For this alone I’d be inclined to buy the G.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you’re looking to drive, not just pose as a driver – the G might be for thee.

Throw it in the Woods?

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Nice review. I wish I were in a position to get one.

    I absolutely loved my 2003 G35 Coupe (the first year they made them). Sounds like they have addressed a number of issues that were common complaints on that first gen, especially the interior. The gas mileage is better than my old G, too. Unfortunately, they kept the electric sliding seats for rear-seat access instead of a simpler, and more importantly faster, manual track-spring setup like a lot of lower end cars have. It was always gimmicky to me, an attempt to make something seem “plush” but that in reality just made usability a little worse. It’s bad when you’re stuck standing out in the rain waiting on the seat to move slowly forward enough to put some box or bag in the back seat or to let a friend get in the rear.

    Strangely, the 0-60 times haven’t improved despite the addition of around 60hp vs the first gen. Mine was a 5.7sec car, too. I’m guessing they must have packed on a few more pounds of mandated “safety” equipment somewhere, or perhaps some of the new bells and whistles and nice interior.

    How much extra is the IPL package and is it worth it (never mind the ride)?

  2. Eric, how do the driving dynamics of the G IPL stack up against the standard or M BMW’s? How about against Mercedes?

    My wife’s Infiniti M45 is perfectly competent and very fast; but it just doesn’t have the feel of my M5 under duress. It’s not a matter of power. It’s a subtle feeling of finesse in corners, of the suspension and chassis communicating with you that’s so thrilling in most of the BMW’s. I hate paying so much for it but that “just so” dynamic is so damn satisfying!

    • This is my subjective opinion, but for what it’s worth:

      While the (current) BMW has tremendous capabilities and is brilliantly engineered it is so over-teched that (again, to me) it detracts sufficiently from the experience to ruin it for me. Not just things like the DSC (and SMG) but also peripheral controls such as the notorious iDrive and the multiple brrrrrrring brrrrring chimes the car is fitted with. The Benz? Fierce in a technical sense but a flatliner, in terms of personality – the worst German traits of ordnung uber alles on four wheels. Cold, rigid. The recent/current obsession with saaaaaaaaafety just makes me want to double over and puke an endless stream of bile….

      For me, the Japanese stuff – especially the Nissan and Infiniti stuff – is more like the German stuff used to be. More direct, a bit hooliganish (no safety buzzers, for example).

      But I’d still like to have a 635Csi someday….

      • Ah, we definitely agree on the current generation of Deutsche cars, with the endless nanny-aids. Mine is the previous generation–an e39–so the only aid is DSC (traction control plus) which I turn off first thing after starting up. After all, if you can’t control the M Power, why’d you buy it in the first place??

        On the Mercedes–aye, too true. My dad has a CLS550; brilliant car in every respect but just DEAD from the tires down, not an engaging partner for a carousel or chicane.

        OK I’m going to spill some heresy now: I’m thinking about the new Mustang GT, especially the Boss 302 incarnation. Hear me out: it’s identical to the M5’s engine…5 liter V8, quad adjustable cams, high revs (7 or 7.5K), 400+ hp. And it will be reliable and CHEAP to fix.

        How are the domestics doing on the naggy-nanny front?

        • I think it’s because we’re among that strange and declining group of people who actually like to drive!

          You will love the Mustang. I did.

          Yeah, it has the Belt Minder. But other than this, the car is delightful. It is the only one of the current crop of “pony cars” that reminds me at all of the good things about the originals while eliminating all the bad things about the originals. Take one out for a drive… see whether you agree!

          • I’m afraid to go drive one because I don’t suspect, I know I’ll be driving away in it!

            They even look good, with a nearly European butt and the aggressive but not over-the-top hood. A domestic! Egads…people won’t recognize me. But you know what? I don’t care. I never drove the BMW because of the badge, and if I can get that level of fun at half the price I’m all for it.

          • I’ve had my 2012 Mustang GT for a month now. The only thing that annoys me nanny wise is “sync has connected to your phone and is reminding you that 9-1-1 assist has been set to off” as I get under way. It has a chime rather than annoying beep or buzzer.

            The car is silly fast. I haven’t had a spot where I could push it to where it didn’t feel like it was handling flat and perfect yet. The ramps I test this with well… I had it up to 65mph and it still didn’t have even a sign I was doing more than 20mph… it was late at night and they are close to a speed trap so I didn’t want to go any faster than that. 60mph is about where I get uncomfortable in my ’97. Mostly because the driver’s seat isn’t holding me well… The really tight “15 mph” ramp I got stuck behind some clover on.

            The Boss 302 is too stark at that price tag for my tastes. I was really expecting something closer to a GT premium interior like the ’69 Boss 302 was close to the Mach 1. When I ordered the GT the dealer had a BOSS 302 just as I would have optioned it with the recarro seats. As I sat in it I decided I wouldn’t like it as much as the GT especially when it would cost me about nine grand more. If I want the extra power (at the cost of torque) Ford racing sells what I need. The boss 302 intake I saw for under $600 recently. I would have liked the gauge pod. I hate ford racing’s price on it.

            Of the gadgets I like ‘mycolor’. I set the backlight of the gauges to match that of my first car… that old style green. A nice application for multicolor LEDs.

  3. Your last line concering the seat belt chime, I can’t tell you how many cars never get on my list if they nag me like an old girlfriend

      • It’s not so hard to defeat them… it’s usually just a switch in the seat belt reel. Just unplug it in most cases and it will be as if the belt is buckled. The only problem might be with the airbag power level in modern cars…

        • All the better – screw the airbag!

          Every time I drive my old Trans-Am and look at that gorgeous, air bag-free Formula steering wheel, I am reminded how much I despise the expensive, ugly, generic same-same blobs that Joan Claybrook, et al, succeeded in grafting onto every new car made…

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