2013 Infiniti G37- Leading The Way To Infiniti And Beyond

DSCI1272Charles Dicken’s “Tale of Two Cities” depicts life in London and Paris during the years leading up to the French Revolution.  Despite the two city’s obvious cultural and social differences,  both had unflattering parallels and similarities during the time period.  It could be likened to the clashes and battles between Lexus and Infiniti.  Although rivals, both have taken similar paths through history that resulted in completely different outcomes for both.  The two brands are divisions of large Japanese parent companies (Toyota and Nissan respectively) and were introduced to the market the same year, in 1990, Both debuted showcasing large, rear-wheel drive sedans to compete head-to-head with the German luxury brand names.  In the years following, compact front-wheel drive spinoffs were added to the lineups, the Camry derived ES250 for Lexus and the Nissan Sunny based G20, to appeal to younger professionals.  Whereas Lexus found success in the 1990’s with most of its models, Infiniti struggled and soon faced extinction.  As a last-ditched effort, Infiniti promised to keep its sights on BMW and released the G35 in 2003- forever changing the brand’s character and propelling it on a different course than archrival Lexus.

DSCI1273Whereas half of all Lexus (Lexi?) sold in the US are SUV’s, the G37 makes up 60% of Infinit’s sales.  Based on the highly regarded and performance-oriented Nissan Skyline from Japan, the original G35 from ten years ago brought a much-needed flair to the brand.  It shared little with its dowdy predecessor and switched to rear wheel drive and exhibited head turning styling.  The gamble paid off and sales shot up as the G35 became a viable alternative to the German car makers.  The styling cues from the 2003 model has influenced every new Infinti since and being their bread-and-butter best seller, it’s arguably the most important vehicle sold under the brand. 

DSCI1267The model you see here is based on the 2007 redesign, which was more of an evolution of the 2003’s exterior than a total redo.   After all these years it’s still an attractive design and is handsome from all angles.  The long, shapely hood is framed by bulging front fenders and a chrome grille that adds a touch of class.  The  flared sheetmetal leads into a clean and uncluttered greenhouse that forms a BMWesque curve of the rear door glass.  Finally, the slanted tailights echo the 1996 Pontiac Bonneville’s, which may sound like an insult, but it gives the rear an aggressive look that hints at its sporting intentions.  They look great lit up at night too!  In our car’s test Malbec Black paint, that had hues of purple under certain light, gave the car an upscale, if not sexy, overall apperance.

DSCI1291Inside, the sporting pretensions are carried over with a grippy three spoke steering wheel and a driver oriented dashboard.  Unlike many entry-level luxury competitors, the G37’s layout is simple, straightforward, and intuitive.  Radio and ventilation controls can be operated by either traditional easy-to-use knobs and buttons, or by the surprisingly comprehensive touchscreen at the top of the dash.  DSCI1277Although not as advanced as Cadillac’s CUE, it’s not as frustrating and requires less focus to do the most common everyday adjustments while driving.  It’s obvious that Infinti designers used logic as every switch and dial is purposely placed for ease of use.  One terrific feature that I haven’t seen since the original Ford Probe of the 80’s, is the instrument cluster that raises and lowers in conjunction with the electronic tiltDSCI1290 steering wheel.  The already clear, crisp gauges are always in sight of the driver and framed by the steering wheel rim.  Brilliant!  On a side note, the steering column also telescopes and the driver seat has multi-power adjustments, so finding a good driving position is no hassle.  The parking brake is the traditional mechanical foot pedal, clearing up space in the console, and doesn’t rely on finicky electronics, Ergonomic flaws are few: the perch forDSCI1281 the key is in a strange place, near the driver’s left knee, and the rear cupholders were shallow.  This is nit-picking and reflects on how well thought-out this car is inside.  Also, the G37 has a smart keyless system and the fob can be kept in the driver’s pocket at all times, eliminating that first issue. The sole reason this was ever a problem was when I  couldn’t find the key upon picking the car up- after thoroughly searching the cupholders and console, we did finally figure it out by looking towards the left of the dash.

DSCI1296Interior fit and finish is impressive and every surface is covered in tasteful, soft touch surfaces, even the bottoms of the door bins.  Some components, such as the power window switches and windshield wiper controls are shared with standard Nissan models and take away from the exclusive feeling of the luxury brand.  But overall, the supple leather seats, high quality plastics, convincing faux metal accents, and Infinti’s trademark analog clock, existent on all of their models since 1990, gave a feeling of opulence.  All points of contact are right at hand and feel rich.  A passenger during the test, who owns a Mercedes C230, was impressed with the overall luxurious feel compared to their car. 

DSCI1295Space all around is good for four passengers.  Front legroom and headroom are more than sufficient and the front seats have aggressive bolstering.  The seats proved to be very comfortable after a weekend of driving and were grippy during cornering.  Rear seat space is good for knees and entry and exit are easy front and rear.  Some taller rear passengers may notice a lack of rear headroom due to the moonroof and the driveshaft hump is large and intrusive for anyone sitting in the middle rear seat. DSCI1278

Visibility is excellent all around due to relatively thin roof pillars and large windows.  Reversing into spaces could pose a problem due to a high rear window sill, but the impressive rear view camera, complete with lines suggesting the car’s path (much like the units in recent GM’s) helped tremendously with spotting hazards.  I used to be a non-believer when it came to back-up cameras, but ever since using themDSCI1279 in recent tests, have become a big promoter of them.  But as always, it’s best to go old-school too and look behind you while backing up.

Trunk space, at 13.5 cu. ft, easily trumps the cargo capacities of the BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Audi A4 and Mercedes C250, and matches the larger Cadillac CTS.  The trunk opening is large and Infiniti invested in the more expensive gas strut hinges, freeing up additional space and adding usability.  Like many of its competitors, the G37 does not feature a fold-down rear seat which hampers versatility. 

DSCI1283If the G37’s showroom impression will draw in potential buyers, it’s the drive that will influence them to buy.  This year for 2013, the base model G25 has been dropped, effectively taking away the price advantage it had over some of its competition.  However, the good news is that the only available engine on any G37 is the marvelous 3.7 liter V6.  The 3.7 (hence the G37 moniker) churns out a healthy 328 horsepower.  DSCI1284Full throttle accelerations are brisk and spirited.  Harshness is almost non-existant and engine noise is only lightly apparent at higher revs.  Never did the car feel strained and a surge of power was always available on tap in any driving situation.  Unlike some high-powered luxury cars, the throttle toe-in was gentle and there was no neck breaking lurches during parking lot manuevers while lightly tapping on the accelerator.

DSCI1294Converting all of that power to all four wheels is a sophisticated seven-speed automatic.  Shifts are typically smooth, transparent, and well-timed.  Even under hard acceleration, shifts weren’t at all harsh.  The only complaint was while negotiating San Francisco’s steepest hills, the tranny was hesitant to downshift to a lower gear- making the car feel as gutsy as a Ford Aspire in desperate need of a tune-up.

DSCI1268Thanks to the AWD, the almost evenly balanced weight distribution (56/44) and meaty all-season tires, handling on the G is superb.  Fling it around a curve and it grips on tenaciously, almost begging for more.  There’s little to no understeer and the car points itself in the trajectory without tailspin or tire squeal.  For a larger sedan, it feels agile and playful.  The AWD drive system is adopted also from the Nissan Skyline and sends 100% of the power to the rear wheels under normal conditions.  If there’s any less of traction on the front while cornering, the computer will balance out the power between all four wheels within milliseconds.  It was non-intrusive and most importantly; worked like a charm.

DSCI1271To complement the handling, the speed sensitive power steering is well-balanced at all speeds.  It felt light enough at parking lot speeds and gradually grew heavier as speeds increased.  During cornering, it offered excellent communication of the road surface to the driver.  Even though the AWD’s turning circle is larger than the regular G37, at 36.1 ft, maneuvering around tight city streets rarely posed a problem.

DSCI1274The four-wheel independent suspension with double wishbone setup on the front offered a firm, yet comfortable ride.  Bumps were absorbed with minimal harshness yet it didn’t feel floaty or lean in corners.  In fact, it felt very Germanic in the way it soaked up road imperfections.

The EPA estimates fuel economy on the G37 at 18mpg city and 25 highway.  In mixed, yet mostly city driving around San Francisco, we acheived a very miserable 16mpg.  Also keep in mind that the G37 requires premium fuel, which added insult to expensive injury.  Ouch!

Our tester had only 400 miles on the odometer at the time of rental, and thankfully, unlike our equally new Cadillac ATS from the week earlier, there were no noticeable defects to report.

DSCI1276Prices on the G37 sedan start at $37,350 and comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front seats, leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a 7-inch display monitor, a rearview camera and a six-speaker sound system with a CD DSCI1270player, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.  Moving up to the G37x trim that ours was adds solely the AWD and jumps up to $38,950.   Not to be outdone, our tester also featured the optional Premium Package which heaped on such nice nicities as a power sliding tinted glass moonroof with one-touch open/close; Memory seat (2 position) with outside mirror and steering wheel synchronization; power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, moves with gauge cluster; rear sonar system; an awesome  Bose Studio on Wheels premium audio system with driver’s audio stage, single disc CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, radio data system, and 10 speakers, including 3-way component front door speakers with 10-inch woofers and a parcel shelf-mounted subwoofer.  All-in-all, it made the G37 feel like a true luxury car, with a concert on wheels, and clocked the price in with destination at $42,355.  A comparable 3.0 liter BMW 335i with AWD starts $45,000, but the G37 is severly undercut by the AWD six-cylinder versions of the Lexus IS250 and Mercedes C300,both of which are  around $38,000.  However, keep in mind, the G37 is about to be replaced by the upcoming 2014 Q50, so discounts could readily available from dealers. 

DSCI1275It’s easy to see how the G37 has been able to define the Inifinti brand’s sporty character and been its best seller.  Infinti kept true to their word that they would build a Japanese BMW; fun-to-drive while pampering passengers.  It effortlessly keeps an appealing balance of luxury and sportiness.   If Infiniti’s mainstream car had been anything else, we may have been looking at another Lexus look-a-like or possibly the demise of the brand.  The G37 had to be damn good, and it is.  Aside from the potentially steep price and thirsty engine, there is much to like here.  Easily 4.0/5.0 boomerangs.

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