2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible Review
By Chris Haak
Over the past several years, Infiniti has been doing its best to position a few of its models as lower-cost, sometimes higher-performing alternatives to BMWs. The M35/M45, of which I’m a fan, still aren’t likely cross-shopped against the 5-series as much as Infiniti would like to see, but one Infiniti model – the G37 – has been breathing down the neck of its 3-series rival from Bayerische Motoren Werke perhaps a bit too closely for BMW’s comfort.
Nissan’s more recent strategy with Infiniti has been to expand the G lineup into more of the derivatives that BMW offers in its 3-series lineup. BMW has four basic body styles of the 3’er: sedan, coupe, hardtop convertible, and touring (wagon). As of this past spring, Infiniti can now check off three of the four, missing only the wagon (and only on a technicality – the E35 crossover is far closer to a car than a truck, and as I said when I reviewed it, is basically the G35/G37 wagon).
The newest member of the G family shares much of its exterior appearance with the sleek G37 coupe – except for its roofline. Where the G37 coupe has a more sleek C-pillar design that melds into the decklid smoothly (plus a knockoff of BMW’s Hofmeister kink), the hardtop convertible’s roofline ends with a more pronounced edge, and the practical realities of the folding mechanism are likely what eliminates the Hofmeister kink on the convertible’s C-pillar. A casual observer might not even notice the difference, though. One afternoon, I was walking 30 yards behind a man who was gawking at the G37 convertible as I approached the car. He continued walking another few feet and got into his late-model G37 coupe – so obviously he knew what he was looking at.
And the car really is a looker. As I learned during the car’s one-week stay with me, some of the car’s gorgeous exterior appearance comes at a price – namely, trunk space. When the roof is folded – and the car is even prettierthan usual – you can forget about using the trunk. There’s a minuscule section at the very rear of the trunk less than one foot tall by one foot deep, and basically the width of the trunk. I don’t think I own a duffel bag that could cram into it if the bag actually had anything in it. Perhaps a few gallon jugs of milk, lying on their sides, would fit pretty well in the trunk. The dysfunctional trunk is somewhat noteworthy because in a Miata hardtop with the roof folded, I was able to fit a tent, sleeping bag, large duffel bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, and laptop bag into its trunk. The G37 convertible is a much larger, heavier car than the Miata, but also has a larger roof to hide, and does give a back seat that will happily hold all of that stuff if it’s not asked to hold very little people that it’s allegedly designed to do.
The Sport package came with special sport seats for the two front positions. The driver’s seat was somewhat firm and sporty, yet comfortable. It also had soft leather and a nice manually-adjustable thigh support extension – great for tall drivers like me. The driver’s seat was also adjustable to the extent that I could easily find a comfortable spot, but that comfortable spot meant that any adult – even a five-footer – would have had a hard time sitting behind me. The interior is very much standard G37 fare. The G35 sedan of this generation made its debut for the 2007 model year, and it features a soft-touch upper dash, squishy armrest on the center console lid, nicely-padded door panels, and fairly high-tech infotainment options. My test vehicle was equipped with the Navigation package, which added Nissan’s very good (but no longer tops in its class) navigation system, a 9.3 GB music box hard drive storage system, AM/FM/XM/CD player/iPod interface stereo with 13 speakers, and XM’s NavTraffic service.
Unlike the far-cheaper Miata that I reviewed a few months ago, the G37’s roof was lined in fabric, so without touching it, the headliner nearly has the appearance of a normal [non-folding] hardtop’s, and is actually covered by fabric on its underside. The top’s actual folding act is entertaining to watch, but feels disconnected by the car’s otherwise very good refinement. Specifically, the act of folding the top makes the car rock back and forth, and there are a few audible thumps and booms. It’s been a while, but I imagine the soundtrack with one’s eyes closed would be similar to the sensations experienced at Six Flags Great Adventure’s Wild Safari when monkeys climb on your car and defile your wiper blades and antenna. With the top down, wind noise is fairly subdued. I mean, you won’t be whispering sweet nothings to your significant other or any stray monkeys left over from the Wild Safari, but you can carry on a conversation. With the top closed again (opening and closure are both fully automatic; all you have to do is hold a button on the console), the car seemed nearly as quiet inside as a “normal” car.
The G37 convertible’s seven-speed automatic and 325-horsepower 3.7 liter V6 is an absolutely magnificent powertrain combination. I *love* the control and direct mechanical linkage of a good manual transmission like the one found in the Miata, but having driven both the six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic versions of the G37 convertible, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I might go for the automatic. It has magnesium shift paddles behind the steering wheel, blips the throttle automatically for rev-matching downshifts, has a DS (Drive Sport) mode, and features nearly perfect ratios. DS mode is great, because the car always seems to be in the perfect gear, and a stab of the brakes will make the car perform one of those rev-matching downshifts on its own. The downside was that I literally couldn’t keep my right foot from really, really pressing hard on the gas pedal all the time. After my first two days with the car, the trip computer showed a pathetic 14.5 mpg (the car is rated by the EPA at 17 city/25 highway). I reset the trip computer and vowed to drive more “normally,” and had a day with the same routes as the two previous days, and got something closer to 22 miles per gallon. There was very little highway driving during my time with the car, but that’s the scene where you’d enjoy the benefit of a very tall 7th gear.
The convertible version of the G37 weighs over 400 pounds more than the G37 coupe does, and is down five horsepower from the coupe (325 instead of 330), so it’s not as strong of a performer. That being said, it’s still a great-driving car, and the 325 horsepower V6 does tend to disguise some of the chassis’ extra heft. After all, most of the additional weight is probably below the floorpan in the form of structural reinforcement, so the car still handles well. Steering is accurate and somewhat firm (as I like it), and the thick steering wheel (also one of my personal preferences), and the large four wheel disc brakes with 19 inch summer performance tires brought the fun to a quick halt. The sticky tires certainly help handling and steering response, and the test vehicle’s R-Spec high-friction brake pads seem to add to the car’s very good braking performance.
Aside from the almost non-existent trunk space with the roof stowed and the somewhat-unrefined movement of the opening and closing roof, the only other demerit on the G convertible is its price tag. The car’s overall MSRP was $51,865 including destination. Don’t get me wrong – the car has a lot of comfort and performance technology packed into it, but that’s a lot of coin for an Infiniti. The base price is $43,850, and my tester had the $3,250 Premium package (13 speaker Bose Open Air audio system, iPod interface, memory seats, Bluetooth), the $1,350 Sport Package (gorgeous 19 inch wheels, summer performance tires, sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, sport seats, and unique front fascia), the $1,850 Navigation Package (navigation, music hard drive, XM NavTraffic), $330 illuminated kick plates, and $370 R-Spec high friction brake pads. (I’m betting those brake pads are pretty expensive to replace).
Driving the G37 convertible with the top down on a winding road is a rewarding experience. The already-rorty exhaust note of the VQ V6 has an extra bark audible over your shoulder, wind turbulence is fairly moderate, there are no blind spots, and the car’s great drivetrain always has plenty of power on tap and always seems to be in the correct gear. I wish that during my week with the car, I would have had time to drive the car on some of the great driving roadsthat some of my fellow writers have had the opportunity to sample, but over 200 miles in the car in all types of conditions led me to appreciate what a fine vehicle the Infiniti G is. Family circumstances what they are, a convertible with a rear seat not friendly to car seats would not be a wise purchase decision, but last summer, I very nearly bought a G37 sedan as my personal car. I still don’t think that would have been a bad choice.
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