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
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.
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.
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
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.
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?