2009 Infiniti G37s Sedan Journey Review
By Chris Haak
Nissan has been adding vitamins to its highly-regarded V6 engine family, the VQ, pretty much ever since its debut in 1994. The latest top-spec VQ, the new 3.7 liter VQ37VHR, installed in the entire Infiniti G family (sedan, coupe, and power-retractable hardtop convertible) and the new Nissan 370Z, produces a heady 328 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. The engine can be coupled to a six-speed manual transmission or a new seven-speed automatic transmission. Because the entire drivetrain is new in the G37 sedan for 2009 (last year, we reviewed a 2008 Infiniti G35x sedan with the older 3.5 liter V6, older five-speed automatic, and all wheel drive), we were eager to put the revised car through its paces.
The G37 has a very flowing, organic shape. While the design is clearly derived from the previous-generation car, it manages to be a uniquely Asian shape. There’s nary a straight line on the car other than at the base of the windows and the bottom of the doors, and that actually works pretty well. The front fenders are higher than the edge of the hood, then the hood rises again in its center. Overhangs are short; not only does the car have a long wheelbase, but the wheels are pushed to the corners as well. The so-called “FM” platform that underpins the G37 gets its name from the front-mid engine layout, where the bulk of the engine’s mass is located behind the front axle centerline. This improves weight distribution, while the long-ish wheelbase improves highway stability. The one oddity of the FM platform is the long hoodline necessary to fit the engine behind the axle. Coupled with a relatively short decklid, the car doesn’t have classic proportions.
The S in my test vehicle’s name indicated that it was equipped with the Sport Package, which added $2,100 to the car’s as-tested price, but was worth it in my opinion. The package includes real magnesium paddle shifters that are thankfully attached to the column rather than the wheel itself, 18 inch aluminum wheels (replacing standard 17s), sport brakes with 4-piston calipers, viscous limited slip differential, unique front fascia and side sills, and an excellent 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with inflatable side bolsters and excellent support otherwise as well. The car also has an optional rear spoiler, which was actually fairly conservative in size and shape – far smaller than its $520 price would indicate. LED taillights and HID xenon headlamps with integrated foglamps are standard. Though I loved ground effects on cars in my teenage years, I’ve somewhat drifted away from them as I now find myself in my mid-30s. That being said, they serve the G37s well by giving the illusion of lowering the car a few inches. In all, I find the car to be attractively styled. It doesn’t look like a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, and is a unique shape, so that’s all I’d really ask for from a car.
Inside, Infiniti has really stepped up its game over the past few years. Gone are the days of cost-cutting Infiniti and Nissan interiors, and they are now replaced with a passenger compartment covered in leather, soft-touch plastics (at least in most spots, albeit not on portions of the center console), and actual aluminum trim. The headliner is made of a nicely woven fabric, and the A-pillar trim along the windshield edge is covered in the same fabric with padding beneath it, rather than the hard plastic trim that might be used on lesser cars.
The $2,500 premium package on my test vehicle included a power moonroof, memory driver’s seat, Bluetooth, heated seats, and the excellent “Infiniti Studio on Wheels by Bose” audio system, featuring 10 speakers, an iPod interface, and more power and clarity than I’ve heard from many recent Bose systems. XM Satellite radio is standard in the G37, and the Navigation package (which I’ll mention in a moment) includes a 9.3 GB hard disc for music storage. Controls for the stereo are duplicated in numerous places – on the spokes of the steering wheel, via touchscreen, and via a combination of rotating wheel, buttons, and knobs. There are literally four different ways to change from one preset to another: the steering wheel buttons, preset buttons on the dash, the touchscreen, and the multifunction dial. It’s kind of odd to have so many ways to do the same thing, but the redundancy also makes it easy for someone new to the car to effect the action that they need without trial and error.
The Navigation Package, priced at $2,150, includes Nissan’s very good 3D navigation interface. I prefer the 3D-type interface, but Nissan’s navigation system is no longer the best I’ve tested; I now give that kudo to Ford’s new system, which has a larger, higher resolution display and is a bit more user-friendly. The Navigation Package also includes a helpful rear-view camera that dynamically adjusts trajectory lines on the screen as the steering wheel is turned, as well as the aforementioned hard drive for storing music.
On the road, the G37s Sedan is a heck of a ride. The combination of 328 horsepower and a seven-speed automatic transmission means that copious quantities of horsepower are available at nearly any speed, because the close ratios allow the engine to stay right in its powerband CVT-style, but without the annoying sensations of a CVT. The V6 has a bit of an unrefined sound in the higher RPM range, but pulls very strongly; I actually rather like its soundtrack. Because the gear ratios are so close together, the car has to shift very often. Further, using the magnesium shift paddles that come with the Sport Package for manual gear changes is not easy to do because first gear is very low, and the driver really has to stay on his toes to remember to shift quickly. Shifts have to occur nearly every second (if not slightly more frequently). However, the G37 does not force an upshift as the engine approaches its redline when in manual mode, and will instead allow the car to hit its rev limited. Perfect, rev-matching throttle blips happen upon manual downshifts and lead to a sporty, not to mention useful, vibe. The transmission does, unfortunately, sometimes react slowly to a manual gear change input, so that I had to bang the paddle about 500 RPMs early to go into the next gear while avoiding the rev limiter.
My preference for spirited driving, however, is DS (Drive Sport) mode, which is easily accessible by moving the gearshift toward the driver but not shifting up or down manually using the lever or the steering wheel paddles. DS delays upshifts during aggressive acceleration, and will also hold the car in a low gear when it thinks you’re driving through tight curves. It is very intelligent and I believe that it allows me to drive faster than manual mode does. Another cool feature of DS mode is that a hard stab of the giant brakes made the G37 blip the throttle and downshift on its own.
The EPA rates the G37 at 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. My observed economy during a week with the car was about 19 miles per gallon, which is pretty much on par with what I achieve in most vehicles relative to the EPA city number. These numbers are on par with most competitors; for example, both the Cadillac CTS RWD DI and the BMW 335i are rated at 17/26. By comparison, the 2008 G35 with the smaller, less powerful engine and five-speed automatic was rated at 17/26. The new powertrain sounds like a win-win to me.
The driver’s seat is comfortable during hour-long jaunts, but that still doesn’t predict how well its comfort would hold up under a five hour trip, for example. Rear seat room is somewhat tight; I am able to squeeze my 6’4″ frame behind the driver’s seat when it is adjusted to my driving position, but wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time there. I was frustrated in my inability to install a Britax Marathon car seat using the LATCH anchors because there wasn’t enough clearance around the anchors, so I abandoned plans to use the G37 for a family road trip car. The Britax Marathon has been the easiest car seat to install among several that I’ve tried, so when it takes more than a minute to install in a new vehicle, I’m frustrated. In this case, I gave up after fifteen and put it in our minivan.
The base price of the G37 Sedan Journey is $34,515 including destination. My Infiniti-owned test car added the three aforementioned packages (Premium – $2,500; Sport – $2,100), and Navigation ($2,150)) and added the $510 decklid spoiler and $350 illuminated kick plates. The final tab is a pretty reasonable $42,135 including destination. By comparison, my own similarly-equipped Cadillac CTS – which is down 24 horsepower and one gear ratio, plus some of the sport equipment – has an MSRP of about $48,000 in 2008. TrueDelta.com shows the G37 being about $5,300 cheaper than a comparably-equipped CTS (forgetting the feature differences and the Cadillac’s $2,500 current rebate, the MSRP difference is more like $10,000). While I’m partial to the looks of the CTS and its interior design over the G37, it’s not worth $10,000 more (or even $5,300 more) than the G37 in my mind. Compared to a BMW 335i sedan, the MSRP differential is similar, but the Infiniti includes more equipment, bringing the feature-adjusted price to over $15,000. Believe me, the 335i is a heck of a great car, but $15,000 better in the same segment? That’s 28% more money for the blue and white roundel, in a car that is better, but not 28% better.
The new engine and transmission transform the G37 Sedan into a true hot rod. Aside from the related G37 Coupe, the G sedan is Infiniti’s smallest car, and is fitted with its biggest V6. Thrust from any speed is immediate and nearly V8-like, thanks to the transmission’s plethora of available ratios to always stay in the meat of the 3.7 liter’s ample powerband. Passing on a two-lane road is a non-event; just stomp on the gas and the car takes off. The combination of thrust and gearing reminded me very much of the much more powerful Challenger SRT8 or Jaguar XF Supercharged cars that I have driven in the past year. It was close to that sensation, but without the seductive rumble of a V8.
The G’s combination of sport-tuned suspension, large, four-piston brakes, and accurate steering made it a pleasure to blast around back roads. I took the car to my secret secluded spot during my last afternoon with it and almost wore holes in the carpet under the gas and brake pedals they were pressed so hard, but the G37 didn’t skip a beat. The transmission was set to DS mode and downshifted whenever I would have and stayed in the low gear until I had exited the corner. The brakes were hot enough to smell as I pulled into my driveway, but never gave any indication of fade or uneven modulation. It’s likely that sustained high speed driving would tax the brakes beyond what I did to them, but a normal leadfoot has nothing to worry about from the G’s binders.
The suspension included in the Sport Package is very firm; perhaps 1/10th more firm than I’d like to see in an ideal ride/handling compromise. My litmus test for suspension that is too firm is when every stone or pavement imperfection is transmitted into the cabin, which was more or less what happens in the G37s. That being said, the firm suspension is nice to have during spirited driving. The summer-compound tires, which work so well in warm weather on dry roads, dramatically help steering, braking, and acceleration, but would be an impediment in rain or cold weather, and unmanageable in snow or slush in the Northeast where I live.
The G37s is an impressive effort from Infiniti. The company has consistently applied incremental improvements to the G35 over the car’s two generations to the point that it is now a more-than-credible entrant in the near-luxury sport sedan segment. It has good interior room for two, a decent back seat, nice interior materials and ergonomics, and a strong, clear stereo. Oh yeah, and it goes like a bat out of Hell. If you take one for a spin, you’re more than likely to return with a smile on your face and a tired right foot from constantly jabbing the accelerator.
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