Cue the G37 – Infiniti’s two-plus-two cousin to the two-seater Z.
Same engine – very similar performance. Comparable looks, too. But, a bit more room – a touch more lux – and the option of all-wheel-drive, which no Z-car ever offered.
There’s a an available retractable hardtop, too.
Of course, there’s a catch.
But, you’ll get more than just an extra pair of seats for your coin – especially relative to direct competitors like the BMW 3 coupe, Audi A5, Lexus IS350 and Cadillac CTS coupe. Nice as all of them are, they all come up short in one way or another. Some – vis-a-vis the G – are inadequate under their hoods. Others don’t offer a manual transmission – which the G does. And few (just one, actually – the BMW 3) give you the option of a folding metal hardtop.
That’s for openers.
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 and you can go RWD or AWD – and manual or automatic. Equipped with a standard 330 hp V-6, it’s the most powerful car in its class.
Base price for the RWD hardtop Journey coupe is $40,400. A top-of-the-line Infiniti Performance Line (IPL) retractable hardtop coupe lists for $61,450.
A price uptick.
The IPL package is now available with either coupe or retractable hardtop bodystyles. The IPL performance enhancements include an 18 hp increase (to 348 hp) more aggressive suspension tuning and interior/exterior appearance enhancements.
This will be the G’s final year. At least, in terms of the name.
For 2014, Infiniti will rebadge this car the Q50 (and Q60).
Available manual transmission (not offered with Lexus IS).
Available retractable hardtop (not offered with A5 or Caddy CTS).
Z car-esque reflexes.
Back seats are there.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
If you want a manual transmission, you’ll have to pay for it. A lot. Both the base Journey and the the next-up G37x AWD) come standard with a seven-speed automatic – and aren’t available with a manual. To get a manual, you have to buy the RWD Sport – which starts at $45,150.
Options you want may be “bundled” with those you don’t.
Back seats are tight.
UNDER THE HOOD
The G (all versions) comes standard with a 3.7 liter V-6, rated at 330 hp.
Either way, the G is a powerhouse relative to its rivals.
BMW’s 3-series coupe ($38,700 to start) still comes standard with a 3 liter, 230 hp six (3 Series sedans get a slightly stronger 240 hp 2.0 liter turbo four).
That’s a deficit of 100 hp relative to the as-it-sits G.
Another way to measure the hp-performance gap is by the stopwatch: The G hustles to 60 in 5.6 seconds – vs. 6.2 for the 328i coupe. The BMW is capable of catching up – if you order it equipped with the optional 300 hp turbocharged six. But now you’re up to $45,100 – nearly $5k more than the price of the 330 hp G.
The 2014 Audi A5 ($39,000 to start) also comes standard with a lot less under its hood: a 220 hp turbocharged four. That’s 110 hp less than you’d get in a G.
And there’s no upgrade available.
Cadillac’s CTS ($39,495 to start) is closer. It comes standard with a 318 hp 3.6 liter V-6 paired with a six-speed manual transmission – for about $5k less than the Sport version of the Infiniti G. However, the Caddy is heavier (3,898 lbs. vs. 3,633 lbs.) and so, slower: Zero to 60 in the CTS takes about 6.5 seconds – nearly a full second off the G’s pace.
Another contender is the just-updated 2014 Lexus IS350 convertible ($46,890). It’s powerful – 3.5 liter V-6, 306 hp – and quick (0-60 in 5.8 seconds) as well as luxurious. But, there’s no manual transmission option.
You can get a stick in the IS250 ($42,610) but in that case, you’re stuck with a toothless 2.5 liter, 204 hp V-6 . . . and 0-60 in 8.4 seconds.
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 coupe, which rates a pretty weak (for 230 hp) 18 city, 28 highway.
The little 2.0 liter four in the Audi A5 manages only 21 city, 31 highway – despite having 120 fewer horses under its hood.
This is one of the few instances where the bigger-engined, higher-horsepower car doesn’t impose a significant fuel efficiency penalty on its owner. If anything, the G’s competitiors- especially BMW and Audi – ought to be ashamed their cars are so thirsty given how much less engine there is to feed.
If you’ve had a chance to drive the Nissan 370Z – and liked it – probably you will also like the G. 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 stretched (185.5 inches vs. 167.2), longer-wheelbase (112.2 inches vs. 100.4) four-seater version of the Nissan 370Z. It is slightly less quick than the Z – which takes just over 5 seconds flat to reach 60 – and it’s not quite as sharp in the curves (that longer wheelbase) but the overall experience is very similar.
Equipped with the optional AWD system, the G coupe might even post better skipdad numbers than the RWD-only Z. One thing’s for sure, regardless: The Z-car is not a winter-weather car. The G could be.
The G’s longer wheelbase – relative to the Nissan Z – also means a less tail-twitchy car. Up to a certain point, you can dive into a corner faster with your foot off the throttle (a common mistake made by inexperienced drivers that can lead to sphincter tightening consequences) before the back end of the car starts to come unglued. Trained drivers know to keep on the throttle in a high-speed corner in order to transfer power and thus, 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 get into the deep end of the pool right quick and without knowing how to swim.
The longer wheelbase G adds a noticeable margin of before-the-limit stability that average drivers will appreciate – without cheapening the at-the-limit prowess of the car.
The G’s standard (in all but Sport trims) 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 now-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.
Still, it’d be nice if you could get the six-speed manual in the $40k Journey – instead of having to pony up another $5k to get into the Sport.
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.
Unless you park the two cars side by side, it’s easy to believe the G’s about the same overall size as the Z. It’s not of course – the G is more than a foot longer overall (183.1 inches vs. 167.2 for the Z) but the proportions are still right (unlike the old and awkward-looking 280ZX two-plus two) despite the extra length necessary to get those backseats in there.
They’re a tight squeeze, though.
The BMW 3 coupe has almost 4 inches more backseat legroom (33.7 inches vs. 29.8 for the G). The CTS has five inches more (35 vs. 29.8).
But in the Infiniti’s defense, those two (especially the Caddy) are bigger cars – and so ought to have roomier back seats. On the other hand, the about-the-same-size A5 (182.1 inches long overall vs. 183.1 for the G) also has more liveable backseats, with almost two inches more legroom (31.7 inches).
And that’s the G’s balance point: Competitors may have this – but the G has that.
Plus some of this.
Remember: There isn’t another car in this class that comes standard with 330 hp – and a mid five second to 60 timeslip – plus AWD. And an available retractable hardtop. With rear seats – and a manual transmission.
It’s also just a really nice car.
Intimate, personalized. Snug.
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. And unlike all-too-many premium-brand cars, the G’s electronics and controls are not a pain in the ass. Simple – and elegant. It’s a rare thing these days.
The optional folding hardtop is almost unnoticeable when it’s up; the car looks like the standard hardtop coupe. And the hardtop is inherently better protected against the elements – and street cretins – than vulnerable soft-tops like the Audi A5 convertible.
Another nice touch is the fully-operational rear quarter glass, which can be opened even with the top up.
Trunk space is not-large (a bit 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.
Nissan-Infiniti is a bit fussy about options. To get, for example, the Technology Package (which includes adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers and an upgraded climate control system with air purifier) you have to also buy other packages first. And you can’t order just the Sport package ($1,950) which includes a 19 inch wheel package (19×8.5 front, 19×9 in back) with more aggressive “summer” tires, upgraded brakes, more aggressive suspension tuning, limited slip differential, aluminum pedals and an exterior body kit. First, you must buy either the Premium Package ($3,250) or the Navigation Package ($1,850). The Sport package, incidentally, is not the same as the G37 Sport. You can order other G37 trims with the Sport package – but if you want the manual gerabox, you’ve got to buy the G37 Sport – which also includes most of the Sport package’s options, as well as additional standard amenities such as a sunroof, brushed aluminum (Silk obi) trim plates, plus GPS and Infiniti’s “studio on wheels” ultra-premium Bose audio system.
A brief word or two about a wild card competitor – or at least, a wild card alternative: The Hyundai Genesis coupe. It hasn’t got the luxury-brand chachet of the Infiniti label. But it does offer a 348 hp V-6 (as strong as the G37 IPL’s V-6) paired with a six-speed manual in a sporty two-plus-two configuration that’s almost exactly the same overall size (at 182.2 inches long overall, the Genesis is only about three quarters of an inch shy of the G) for $28,750 (3.8 R-Spec) which is about twelve grand less than the base G37 Journey and seventeeen grand less than a G37 Sport.
But it might still be worth a look, if you don’t care about AWD, retractable hardtops – or the prestige factor of an established high-end label.
Other stuff: I was surprised that my test car (Sport model) had no seat coolers to go along with the heaters. You do get coolers if you spring for the IPL, though.
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.”
It’s one of the very few new cars without the buzzer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Consider the G a Z-car plus.
Throw it in the Woods?