April 21, 2008
Oshawa, Ontario – At the risk of dropping names, I once interviewed famed car collector Jay Leno. He told me that the most satisfying moment with any car was when he became familiar with its clutch, shifter and engine, and was able to drive the car as it was meant to be driven.
His words came back to me when I was driving the Infiniti G37. When I first picked it up, I felt like I was fighting with it, and the shifts were rough and jerky. But after settling in with it, listening to the engine and feeling what it was doing, I came to that breakthrough moment when it all came together. Once you tune in to the G37, you’ll realize that it’s worth the work.
The G37 is the new-for-2008 evolution of the previous G35 coupe. Whereas the 2008 G35 sedan retains the 3.5-litre V6 that previously powered both models, the G37 receives a new 3.7-litre V6 that’s based on the 3.5-litre but with 35 per cent of its parts replaced with new ones. In 2007, the G35 coupe made 275 horsepower when mated to an automatic transmission, and 293 horses with the manual; for 2008, it’s a straight 330 horsepower across the board. Torque was previously 268 lb-ft for the automatic and 258 lb-ft when manually shifted; now it’s 270 lb-ft. The new engine uses VVEL, or Variable Valve Event and Lift, which combines hydraulic variable valve timing with electronic variable valve lift on the intake for improved performance.
A five-speed automatic transmission is available, and includes neat touches like matching revs on downshifts and available paddle shifters. My tester came with a six-speed manual, its shifter set up with very short throws â€“ you can all but shift this by bending your wrist â€“ and a meaty clutch. This is where my breakthrough moment came: drive the G37 meekly, and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. Get more aggressive with it â€“ redline is 7,500 rpm â€“ and it shows you what it can do. This is a road machine that needs to be compared with the finest offerings from Germany, and at a relatively reasonable price for the experience. Prices start at $47,350 for the Premium with automatic transmission, while the Sport models start at $49,950 with either automatic or manual transmission. (Of course, it’s only reasonable if you don’t look south of the border, where Infiniti asks $14,150 less for the Sport model.)
All G37 models are strictly rear-wheel drive, but my tester was equipped with a four-wheel active steer system, which added $1,500. It isn’t four-wheel steering, as some people think; rather, it automatically varies the front steering ratios and rear suspension geometry, depending on steering angle and speed. The official word is that it moves the front steering gear and the rear suspension lower links by up to one degree when necessary. From behind the wheel, it all happens seamlessly. There’s no feeling of the car taking over; instead, the G37 tracks beautifully around curves, and maintains its composure during lane changes at any speed. Add the standard vehicle dynamic control, and it’s almost impossible to unsettle this car: it does what you tell it to do, under just about any circumstance. I didn’t have the chance to push it on a track, but colleagues who have report that they couldn’t induce oversteer.
My tester’s Sport package also improves the brakes over the base model, adding ventilated rotors that are 14 inches in front and 13.8 inches in back (the base model uses 13-inch discs at all corners), and with four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers. Brake feel is smooth and the brakes bite near the top of the pedal, bringing the G37 easily and swiftly to a halt.
Start up the engine â€“ with a starter button, alas â€“ and listen to the burble out of the twin pipes. On acceleration, the free-revving engine sounds more like a V8. The bolstered seats do an excellent job of keeping driver and passenger planted, and the wheel is a perfect size, as is what it does: the steering is weighted just right, and road feel is such that you can all but identify which construction company laid the asphalt. The ride is firm but not unpleasant, and I couldn’t detect wheel hop even on rough roads. This is where the G37’s dual nature comes through: enthusiasts will be able to take it out for some hard laps, while the majority of buyers, who will never do much more than some highway miles and the odd tight curve, will enjoy a vehicle that turns a run to the corner store into a driving event.
The G37 coupe is slightly longer and wider than its predecessor, but by such a small margin that it’s virtually indistinguishable. The most noticeable difference is a trip to the scale, where the G37 outweighs the 2007 G35 coupe by 69 kg when manual-equipped models are compared. In appearance, the G37 looks smoother than the G35 coupe, with a rounder back end, redesigned lights and new signature Infiniti grille.
The interior changes also, with a smoother dash that incorporates the centre stack, as opposed to the previous three-piece design, and with vents that are now easier to use. The instrument panel tilts up and down along with the power-operated steering column, but if you order the automatic transmission with shifter paddles, they’re fixed in place. As expected, the interior fit and finish and quality of the materials is exceptionally high.
My tester was further optioned with a “Hi-Tech Package”, which included a navigation system, intelligent cruise control, adaptive front lights and a rearview monitor. The navigation system, along with the stereo, telephone connection and vehicle settings, is controlled through a series of buttons and a central controller. Although it looks complicated, I found it surprisingly easy to work my way through all of it, especially since many of the functions are redundant through the touch-screen. An iPod interface cable in my tester’s console box allowed me to hook up the device and access all of its functions through the stereo or the wheel-mounted buttons.
This being a coupe, it’s all about the front seats, and they’re comfortable. The rear ones are, too, but first you’ve got to get back there, and that can be tricky. An easy-entry system uses handles on the front seatbacks to flip them forward; you then press a button that moves them forward or backward electrically, although it’s still an effort to get back there. The trunk is 94 cm long, and it opens up to 156 cm when the rear seats are folded flat, but that’s a chore. The seat releases are not spring-loaded, and so once you unlock the seat backs, you either have to reach in through the trunk to push them forward (if you’re tall enough â€“ I couldn’t get close to them) or open the door, flip the front seat forward, and then reach back to pull the rear seatbacks down. In other words, you don’t buy the G37 for its cargo-hauling ability.
What you buy it for is its performance, and it’s got that in spades. Infiniti has taken a coupe that was nice and made it even nicer: quite simply, the G37 can stand up to any of its competitors, including those from BMW and Audi, but with distinctly Japanese characteristics. Tune into this machine, and you’ll be hooked.
Pricing: 2008 G37 Coupe Sport
|(Hi-Tech Package of navigation system, voice recognition, compact flash slot, rearview monitor, intelligent cruise control, adaptive front lighting and pre-crash seatbelts $3,900; four-wheel active steer package $1,500)|
|Price as tested:||$||
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