If you've followed the entry-level luxury sport sedan scene at all in recent years, you're well aware of what automotive journalists tend to think of the Infiniti G37 (née G35). "It's really, really good," they'll shrug. "But it isn't quite like the BMW 3 Series."
Hey, tell us something we don't know. Sporting a newly pumped-up 3.7-liter V6 and a seven-speed automatic in place of last year's five-cog unit, our loaded 2009 Infiniti G37 Journey test car weighed in at 3,704 pounds, which is almost 300 pounds more than the last 328i we tested. The G is nearly 9 inches longer than that compact Bavarian — 4 more inches and it would be as long as a 5 Series. The competitively priced 328i derives a modest 230 horsepower from its velvety inline-6, while the Infiniti's vigorous V6 delivers — wait for it — 328 hp. The G looks distinctive, too, from its swoopy exterior styling to its origami paper-inspired "Washi" aluminum interior trim.
You get the point. The G37 is no Japanese 3 Series wannabe. Nonetheless, the similarities in price, purpose and all-around excellence make comparisons inevitable. If you're looking for a rear-wheel-drive luxury sport sedan in the $35,000-$45,000 price range, these two are bound to end up on your shopping list.
The skinny on the G is that it's the cool kid in this class. It may not be a model of refinement, but this ingratiating Infiniti is more of a hoot to drive than just about anything else with four doors. Some may be put off by the G37's rambunctious character, but we're not among them. It's a no-apologies sport sedan with an exuberant personality all its own.
The 2009 Infiniti G37 is powered by essentially the same 3.7-liter V6 found in its G37 coupe sibling. This latest edition is rated at 328 hp, a significant 22-hp gain over the 3.5-liter V6 in last year's G35 sedan. Our test car had the new-for-2009 seven-speed automatic transmission; thanks to the Sport package, steering-column-mounted paddle shifters were included. At our test track, we recorded a scintillating 0-60-mph sprint of 5.4 seconds en route to a 13.7-second quarter-mile at nearly 103 mph.
Let's not mince words — this car is fast. Redline is a lofty 7,500 rpm, and the G's V6 eagerly exploits every inch of that rev range, pouring on more and more power as the tachometer needle spins clockwise. Unfortunately, this free-revving six still makes uncouth noises in its upper registers, as is typical of Nissan/Infiniti's current V6s. It will never be called "silky smooth," the cliché of choice when discussing any BMW inline-6. But the G's massive horsepower advantage simply cannot be ignored. It's up 98 ponies on both the 328i and 528i — enough to put either of these models in your rearview mirror with a casual flick of the throttle.
The new seven-speed transmission is a mixed bag. On the upside, its tightly spaced ratios do a wonderful job of keeping the V6 on boil, and it provides quick blip-throttle downshifts in all modes, even regular old Drive. Furthermore, the above-mentioned shift paddles are hooked to a right and proper manual mode: no auto-upshifts at redline, no auto-downshifts when you floor it at lower rpm. On the downside, upshifts are never luxury-sedan smooth, even in Drive. Once you switch to Drive Sport or manual, forget about it — you've got yourself a veritable Lurch-o-Matic.
One aspect of the 2009 Infiniti G37 that deserves unequivocal praise is its handling. The Sport package includes the G37 coupe's quicker-ratio steering, and we love it — there's no play to speak of, and the steering wheel is alive with information. In tight corners, the G's length and heft remind you that this is not a compact sport sedan; however, its formidable grip, minimal body roll and favorable 53/47 front/rear weight distribution make it pound-for-pound one of the best-handling sedans on the market. Our G also impressed when it was time to hit the brakes, recording a 106-foot stop from 60 mph — that's sports-car territory.
We found road noise to be an issue during highway cruising, though bear in mind that our test car had the Sport package's aggressive 18-inch performance tires, which aren't exactly optimized for quietness. Same goes for ride quality — it was civilized enough, with little in the way of impact harshness, but the Sport package's sport-tuned suspension is certainly on the firm side. If the Sport package seems too edgy for your tastes, we'd encourage you to keep the $2 grand and go with the base suspension setup. It's notably more compliant while still maintaining a reasonably sporty demeanor.
The G37's driving position is excellent, with a relatively low cowl that affords a commanding view of the road ahead. Our tester was equipped with a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel that moves in tandem with the instrument pod, enabling editors of all sizes to get comfortable behind the wheel. On the downside, the front armrests could use some additional padding. Furthermore, while the leather-trimmed sport seats are nicely shaped, the power-adjustable seatback bolsters don't squeeze in far enough for skinny folks, and the adjustable seat cushion bolsters squeeze in too far. The news is better in back, where passengers are treated to a satisfactory amount of headroom and legroom for a sport sedan, though the cushion is rather low. Overall, the 2009 Infiniti G37 isn't the most comfortable sedan in this segment, but it manages to strike a satisfactory balance between luxury and sport.
Our G37 was equipped with the optional navigation system, and it's one of the best we've encountered, with intuitive controls and a clear and attractive display. The integrated 9.3-gigabyte hard drive allows MP3s to be ripped and stored for easy playback. Climate controls are a no-brainer combination of self-explanatory knobs and buttons. The optional Bose stereo is one of our favorites, delivering stellar sound reproduction without the intrusion of complicated graphic equalizers or other high-tech sound-tailoring gewgaws — all you need to worry about are bass, treble, balance and fader.
In our real-world usability tests, the G37's trunk proved surprisingly capacious given its modest 13.5-cubic-foot size. Inserting our trusty golf bag was a cinch, and there was ample room for both the golf bag and our standard suitcase. The G37's backseat wasn't as accommodating of a rear-facing child safety seat, however, as the front passenger seat had to slide forward considerably. Our slender child-seat expert had no trouble crawling through the rear door opening to install the seat, but those of ampler proportions might.
Design/Fit and Finish
Outside, we think the 2009 Infiniti G37 Journey is attractively styled, particularly in front, though its various curves can seem a bit overwrought from some angles. Inside, the distinctive "Washi" aluminum trim dresses up an otherwise unremarkable dash layout. Materials are mostly of high quality, though the pebbled plastic on the center console feels downmarket, as does the flimsy overhead map-light housing. Fit and finish was generally good on our tester.
Who should consider this vehicle
Sport-sedan shoppers who like the idea of 535i acceleration and dimensions for 328i money — and can live with a little less refinement than a German sport sedan would provide.
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