We were 400 miles and three states deep into a 2,300-mile cross-country journey and in need of a serious break. But it wasn't the fault of our spanking-new 2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe. Road construction and a long train of semis choked Interstate 40, and it was time to get off this well-beaten path and feed both this gleaming-red coupe and ourselves.
Just shy of Little Rock, Arkansas, a KFC beckoned. "Manager Wanted, Now Hiring." the sign said. An honest-to-God drive-through liquor store sat next door; across from that, a Waffle House. Once we factored in our sleek G37 coupe and its potent stereo with XM Satellite Radio, we figured we had all the necessities of life right here.
Well, almost everything. Soon we scrambled back onto the freeway and bolted for the Left Coast with renewed urgency. A welcome break in the stream of traffic let us stretch the legs of the significantly revised and enlarged 3.7-liter V6 engine — the bit of hardware that puts the "37" in G37.
The bump in displacement results from a 4.6mm-longer stroke. A higher 11.0:1 compression ratio is used, and the redline rises to 7,500 rpm — 500 rpm higher than before. Topping it off is VVEL, Infiniti-speak for intake-cam variable valve timing and lift. It's similar to BMW's Valvetronic in that it throttles the engine by manipulating the intake valves instead of the throttle butterfly.
Together these changes raise the V6's output to 330 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, a healthy 24 ponies more than the latest 3.5-liter version of this V6 in the 2007 G35 sedan. Peak torque for the 3.7-liter iteration of Nissan's new high-revving VQ V6 barely rises from 268 to 270 pound-feet, but the torque curve is broad and flat until it finally crests at 5,200 rpm. We'll have to wait for 2008 fuel economy estimates, as figures have not been released.
Any Way You Want It
Our trip started at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, where we learned a bit about the lineup of Infiniti G37 coupes before being turned loose on this challenging, sinuous racetrack.
A price-leading base model equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission sits at the bottom of the G37 coupe range. To get at the major package options, you step up to the G37 Coupe Journey, which offers the available Sport package. At the top of the price list, you'll find the Sport 6MT model, which includes both a six-speed manual transmission and the Sport package. We spent a substantial amount of time in both the Sport 6MT and the Coupe Journey with the Sport package, and we evaluated the latter as our test car.
Sport package-equipped G37s are visually distinguished by a unique front fascia and aggressive-looking rocker panels. Another clue is the set of 10-spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels carrying 225/45WR19 Bridgestone Potenza RE050a performance tires in front and 245/40WR19s in the rear, which replace the standard G37's 18-inch 50-series all-season tires.
A suspension with firmer spring and damper settings is part of the Sport package, as is a quicker 14.7:1 ratio for the rack-and-pinion steering that substitutes for the standard 16.4:1 steering rack. Once you select the Sport package the front brake rotors swell to 14.0 inches in diameter and feature four-piston fixed calipers, while the rear rotors grow to 13.8 inches in diameter. A viscous limited-slip differential caps off the list of equipment.
Our test car did without the G37's new, optional four-wheel active steer (4WAS). Using signals from the speed and stability-control sensors, the overall steering ratio can range between 12:1 and 20:1. The hardware consists of a "modulator" in the steering column that adds or subtracts lock from your steering input, plus an actuator that can steer the rear wheels in phase with the front tires up to 1 degree. Infiniti's 4WAS isn't pure steer-by-wire, but it's close.
Our test car also did without the Premium package (moonroof, Bose premium audio system, iPod connection, HomeLink and Bluetooth), the Technology package (intelligent cruise control, adaptive headlights) and the Navigation package (navigation, audio system with hard-drive access, rearview camera).
She Loves To Move
Barber Motorsports Park is an intimidating racing circuit with lots of corners that climb and plunge. When equipped with the Sport package, the G37 proves to be more than up for it. The entry to every corner can be made with surgical precision, and the grippy Bridgestone RE050a tires make it easy to carve right down to the apex. We were able to balance the car on our preferred line at thrilling speeds — and do so lap after lap. Subsequent testing on our home turf recorded the G37's lateral acceleration at 0.86g.
Curb-hopping helps you get through a couple of the corners here, and our Infiniti G37 didn't blink. Its retuned steering system proved much more resistant to kickback through the wheel than the G35 coupe we had been provided for comparison. But this improvement may have been taken too far. Even though the G37's steering is nicely weighted, the feedback coming from the front contact patches feels muffled.
It all went pear-shaped in a 4WAS-equipped G37. This car didn't turn into corners with the same predictability and it wasn't as easy to hold our line, plus we always had the unnerving feeling that the system was second-guessing not only us but itself.
We don't have any qualms about the track performance of the new 3.7-liter engine, though. It stormed out of the lower reaches of the rev range and pulled hard all the way to its 7,500-rpm redline, and the power was easy to manage all the way. Once we took this G37 and its five-speed automatic to the test track in California, it accelerated to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and went through the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds at 102.8 mph, a tick of the clock faster than a G35 sedan with a manual transmission.
We don't recommend the five-speed automatic for work on a road-racing track, though. The transmission software blipped the throttle and rev-matched its downshifts, but there's always a crucial moment of delay between your command and the downshift itself, and it throws off the balance of the car a bit. We sampled a six-speed manual and had no such problems. In fact, the G's clutch-pedal linkage has been reworked for 2008, and we discovered that low-speed clutch engagement is much smoother than the clumsy action in our 2007 G35 long-term test car.
At Barber, the G37's big brakes were able to cope with the car's prodigious speed, as they bit hard and bled off velocity efficiently, even though the demanding track layout afforded little time for the brakes to cool between corners. On our home court this performance translated into impressive 113-foot stops from 60 mph with no fade.
Keep on Runnin'
Throughout our cross-country trip from Alabama to California, the G37 proved itself extremely well-suited to long-haul cruising, and we clicked off more than 2,300 miles fairly effortlessly.
Credit goes to the well-tuned sport suspension and tires. Though this combination is capable of very high performance, the freeway ride is damped very well and we didn't experience any tooth-chipping harshness over a variety of poorly maintained pavement surfaces. Relatively low levels of wind and road noise also added to the car's long-distance friendliness.
Good straight-ahead sense also kept the G37 from being influenced either by crosswinds or highly crowned roads. But even in these circumstances, we still noticed the detached feel of the steering. Infiniti has another step yet to go to match the BMW 3 Series in this department.
The Infiniti's pleasing interior also adds to its character. The G37 coupe benefits from all the comfort and ergonomic upgrades lavished on the 2007 G35 sedans. Even the tallest drivers will enjoy an excellent driving position and the generous range of the telescoping steering column. After 2,300 miles, this intrepid traveler felt no need to rush to the chiropractor. About the only gripe we have concerns the bottom seat cushion, as its supportive bolsters make it a little narrow.
Once we returned to Los Angeles, we ran into the city's dreaded freeway hop as the G37 crossed the junctions between the well-worn cement slabs, and the taller sidewalls afforded by the standard 18-inch tires might be a better choice here. Still, this proved to be the only road surface that unsettled the G37's ride quality.
Lovin' You Is Easy
Our trip is over. It's time to hand off the smart keys to someone else. We learned that the new 2008 Infiniti G37 Coupe is a great car for eating up pavement. It's quick, handles well and stops effortlessly — both on-track and off. We only wish the steering had more soul.
Prices for this car have not been released, but our editorial calculus tells us that a G37 Coupe Journey with automatic transmission like ours will go for around $35,000. Once you add the fantastic Sport package and the optional rear spoiler, we figure our test car will sticker at $37,300 or so. There were a lot of options absent from our test car, so average transaction prices will undoubtedly be higher.
Is the new 2008 Infiniti G37 worth it? Well, we're ready for another cross-country blast right now. Only this time, we'll steer clear of the truck routes and go easy on the KFC.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Associate Editor James Riswick says:
I've never understood the phrase, "Have your cake and eat it, too." I mean, what else are you supposed to do with a cake? Name an alternative rock band after it? Yet I can't help but apply this phrase to the Infiniti G37. Now you can own a sports car, only one that's actually nice enough to live with every day.
And for all intents and purposes, the G37 is a sports car. All the ingredients of a sport recipe are here: Z-car roots, voluptuous styling, brilliant steering, solid high-speed handling, 330 horsepower and a raucous exhaust note. Yet this is very much a comfortable luxury car as well. Despite wearing 19-inch rims and summer tires, our Sport model's ride was firm but never jarring on the battle-scarred roads of L.A., while the rev-matching automatic transmission with shift paddles is a fine substitute (particularly in traffic) for the G35's six-speed manual and its Thighmaster clutch action. And just like a luxury car, the interior fits like a glove, with ample front-seat accommodations, excellent ergonomics and thoughtful high-tech electronics.
No matter which way you slice this cake, the G37 combines canyon-carving sports car and city-touring luxury coupe.
The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2008 Infiniti G37 in NJ is: