Australia\'s newest Japanese luxury brand launches its two newest models.
The Infiniti G37 Coupe and G37 Convertible are in for quite the fight. Much like David versus Goliath – where David is in a freshly pressed suit and dress shoes – Infiniti is going up against some stiff competition in the form of the BMW 3 Series, Audi A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. No lightweights here.
The Infiniti G37 Coupe and Convertible join the Japanese luxury brand's September debut line-up of Infiniti FX and Infiniti M. Both Infiniti G37 variants utilise a front-engined rear-wheel drive layout, the same Nissan 370Z-derived 235kW/360Nm VQ37-series V6 engine used in the FX and M, and a seven-speed torque converter automatic gearbox with paddle shifters. No manual transmission is available. Shame.
Three specifications of G37 are available – currently limited to showrooms in Sydney and Brisbane with a Melbourne dealership due to open its doors by the end of February 2013 – the $75,900 entry-point GT Premium Coupe, $83,500 S Premium Coupe, and a single-spec S Premium Convertible at $87,900.
Our drive day took us from Melbourne's CBD to the brilliant roads surrounding Victoria's Hanging Rock. The naturally aspirated 3.7-litre V6, with Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) and Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS), makes for a gutsy and flexible, gruff-noted unit. Happy cruising along spitting out a claimed 10.5 litres of fuel per 100km and 246 grams of CO2 per kilometre in the Coupe (11.4L/100km and 264g/km for the Convertible), or being revved repeatedly to its 7500rpm redline – where that economy won't be matched – the engine and specially tuned dual exhaust system do their part to encourage spirited driving.
When initiated, this driving style will see 0-100km/h come up in 5.9 seconds in the Coupe and 6.4 seconds in the Convertible. The gearbox, while generally smooth and obedient to the driver pulling on its paddles, can occasionally thump between gears when driven harder. Infiniti's Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and traction control system, standard across the G37 range, can hamper the entertainment factor too, as despite the existence of a button, they can never be completely turned off.
While the 1692kg Infiniti G37 Coupe S Premium we tested includes a Viscous Limited-Slip Differential, 4-Wheel Active Steer (4WAS), and sports-tuned suspension, the heavier (1866kg) Convertible we drove later, misses out on these sportier touches. And despite Infiniti claiming both cars were conceived as performance thoroughbreds with suspension setups developed at test circuits including Germany’s Nurburgring, the difference between the fixed- and retractable-roofed models is vast.
The Infiniti G37 S Premium’s double-wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear suspension, and consistent and powerful 355mm front/350mm rear brakes work terrifically well together in the Coupe. The steering gives plenty of feedback and, despite the vehicle-speed-sensing steering system altering the required effort based on velocity, feels largely organic. Ride and handling are well balanced, sporty and agile, yet soft enough to absorb bumps and road imperfections with ease. The result is comfortable highway driving and entertaining spirited blasts.
By contrast, the G37 partnered to the three-piece retractable hardtop – that takes 25 seconds to pack itself away – struggles to inspire anywhere near the same confidence as its tin-top sibling. Its softer, floaty ride and vague turn-in response only emphasising the car’s tendency for scuttle shake.
Changes in direction and firm applications of the brakes quickly highlight the Convertible’s body flex and increased weight. Where the G37 Coupe is an enjoyable and entertaining drive, the drop-top feels somewhat under-engineered, as if it were rushed into production – although the model is old, having been released in the US in 2009 (2008 for the Coupe).
Inside, paddle shifters are fixed to the steering wheel’s hub rather than on the leather-wrapped wheel itself. There’s soft-touch material covering the instrument surround that moves up and down with the steering wheel height adjustment, and hard plastic around the air vents and flanking the centre console. The seven-inch high resolution colour touchscreen and 30GB HDD navigation system is easy to use, and a leather-wrapped gear selector, seat heater controls, and (dated) analogue clock round out a neat cabin.
While our Infiniti G37 Convertible test car had a model-specific Monaco Red option fitted that for $2000 sees red-stained Maple wood trim matched to Monaco Red leather 8-way passenger’s and 10-way driver’s power seats, the S Premium Coupe scores sharp-looking brushed aluminium trim and front sports seats with 14-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support and adjustable thigh extensions.
Two rear seats do exist but with little legroom and a heavily raked rear window in the Coupe and a space-limiting wind deflector that can’t be stowed in the Convertible’s 333–litre boot when driving lid down, they remain the territory of small children and overnight bags.
Tunes are supplied by an 11-speaker Bose sound system in the Coupe and a 13-speaker Bose unit in the Convertible, with ‘personal speakers’ mounted in the front seat head rests for improved open-top sound. Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming are common across the range, but a fiddly two-step syncing process means having to first pair the phone to the car, and then again as a Bluetooth audio device – owners will no doubt find this annoying.
For the most part Infiniti has done a reasonable job in terms of build quality, with no creaks or rattles present, but the ambience definitely falls short of the genuine high-end feeling found in an Audi or Mercedes-Benz, let down by cheap elements such as the plastic interior door handles, 1990s-era headliner and sunroof controls (Coupe), and budget interior lights.
With adaptive and dusk sensing Bi-Xenon headlights, integrated fog lights, LED tail lights, rain sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, keyless start, and a string of safety equipment including airbags, active front seat head restraints, and Isofix child restraints the G37 twins are not short of features. But with such long-standing competition found at this luxury price point, Infiniti will need to do its best to convince consumers not to follow the crowd.
Infiniti G37 Pricing:
Infiniti G37 Coupe GT Premium - $75,900
Infiniti G37 Coupe S Premium - $83,500
Infiniti G37 Convertible S Premium - $87,900