Owner Review

2013 Infiniti G37 S Premium review

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Infiniti had a rough start here in Australia, launching with models that had been available for some time overseas. Couple that with high pricing and little to no brand recognition in a market that has a strong preference for established players, and you're going to have a bad time.

So after all that, why have I given such a high score to what some have termed a Nissan 370Z in black tie? And why would I buy this Australian-delivered model when its twin brother, the V36 Skyline 370GT, can be imported for less? Let's take a closer look.

Full disclosure: I didn't buy this car new. While the G37 was an expensive proposition straight off the showroom floor, that lack of brand recognition meant resale wasn't great, so it makes for an excellent second-hand buy. The higher price was also reflected in the options list – basically, there wasn't one. The Aus’-delivered G37 came fully loaded with what you'd pay an arm and a leg for elsewhere, including on on its Skyline 370GT brother.

Deep breath – remote keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, moon roof, integrated front and rear foglights, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch alloys, an 11-speaker BOSE audio system with a 10GB integrated hard drive and Bluetooth connectivity, and on-board sat-nav housed in a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen. There's full leather upholstery throughout the interior, with heated and power adjustable seats (14-way for the driver, 8-way for the passenger), tilt- and reach-adjustable steering column and instrument panel, and three memory settings to save the cockpit just the way you like it, including wing mirrors.

Stump up for the G37 S Premium and you'd get 19-inch Enkei alloys, a subtle lip spoiler, viscous LSD, sports suspension, big Akebono brakes (four-pot front, two-pot rear calipers on ventilated discs), four-wheel steering, and extendable thigh bolsters in the seats. Oh, and a red 'S' badge.

All of this was propelled by a 3.7-litre V6 (from – you guessed it – the 370Z) pushing 235kW and 360Nm exclusively through a paddle-shifted seven-speed automatic for a 0–100km/h figure in the high fives.

Tuned for refinement over power (hence the 10kW drop compared to the 370Z), the big six is a joy to punt hard, with a meaty, warbling howl all the way up to the 7500rpm redline, which I've made more strident with an aftermarket cat-back exhaust. Peak power is at 7000rpm and peak torque at a high-ish 5200rpm, which translates to an engine that loves to rev but is more tractable down low than you might expect.

The downside of a large-capacity engine is fuel consumption – it also loves a drink. I've seen a best of 6.7L/100km on extended highway driving, and a worst of 14.8L/100km around town, with the average remarkably close to the stickered 10.5L/100km claim, provided you're careful with the loud pedal. The G37 S is quite happy tootling around the ’burbs, but if you don't get a chance to stretch its legs, you'll be watching that average creep up.

The automatic transmission is, for the most part, cooperative. Smooth if you're just cruising, and happy to sharpen things up when slotted into sports or full-manual mode. The column-mounted shift paddles are great fun to use and will prod the transmission to change gears whatever mode you're in. There is a slight delay before the auto responds, which can catch you out if you're not used to it, and the occasional shunt from the driveline when decelerating or shifting down a cog.

It's an adaptive transmission, so the harder you drive, the more lively it gets, but if you've been driving sedately and then bury your right foot, it can take a second or two to wake up. Annoyingly, the auto will drop a cog or two even in full-manual mode when you hit the kickdown detent, so if you floor it halfway through third gear, it'll drop to second and kiss the redline before shifting up again. Overall, it's not as sharp as a ZF transmission and won't match a DCT for immediacy, but most of the time it's a good unit.

Handling and ride are definitely on the sports side of 'sports luxury'. It's firmer and louder than a VF Commodore SS-V, with noticeable road noise from the 19s and suspension that lets you feel every bump, but not uncomfortably so. The steering is heavier than the Commodore too, but also incredibly communicative and direct, with virtually no play off-centre.

It tugs over potholes and follows ruts in the road, and while this can get mildly irritating on extended trips, it makes the G37 S a dream to drive on twisty mountain tarmac. The talkative front end and active rear steer combine to enable astonishing corner speed and body control, though the sensation of the rear wheels turning in to sharpen your line takes some getting used to.

The stability control will gently nudge you back in if you overstep a boundary, and up to about 85 per cent everything works beautifully. Above that, understeer develops, weight transfer and float are more apparent, and the car generally gives you plenty of notice that you're reaching the limit. It's not a road-legal track weapon, but the upside is that it's a forgiving car to drive fast.

Once you're out of the mountains and cruising back home, the cabin is a very nice place to be. The seats are the best of anything I've ever sat in, supportive and snug, and their level of adjustability, plus the tilt- and reach-adjustable steering column and instrument panel, means it's very easy to get comfortable. If you're carrying more than one passenger, the two rear seats are unexpectedly spacious, but a sloping roof line significantly limits head room and anyone taller than about 160cm is going to have their head wedged against the back window.

Steering wheel controls are present for most major functions, though the indicators and wiper stalks are (interestingly) on the opposite side, like a European car. The stereo is an absolute beauty with crisp highs and balanced, punchy lows, though if you're streaming Bluetooth audio from your phone, the quality suffers in the high end.

Phone calls come through just fine, and the sat-nav is mostly competent, however the interface is a little dated and even with the most up-to-date maps for the car, you might be missing a few of the newer highways – PeninsulaLink in Victoria is one that doesn't come up, for example. If you'd bought a private-import Skyline 370GT, the sat-nav or radio won't work at all, cruise control is harder to come by, and many of the controls are in Japanese, which isn't a lot of fun when you're trying to pair your phone, at the very least.

The main screen is on the small side and a bit too far from the driver, which together with the tiny monochrome display in the dash and a quirky analogue clock betray the age of the overall design, which dates from 2008. You'll see some Nissan elements here and there – especially in the control dial and buttons below the central screen, though Infiniti makes up for it with tasteful brushed aluminium trim throughout the cabin and elegant purple accent lighting, while instruments and controls are lit in a neutral white.

It might be old, and doesn't quite measure up to the wow-factor of the newest Audi and Mercedes designs, but it is well laid out, easy to use and still looks surprisingly good, all things considered.

Exterior styling is, of course, quite subjective, but subjectively speaking the Infiniti G37S is a gorgeous-looking car. The general rule is that simpler, unadorned and well-proportioned designs age most gracefully, and though the G37's form might date from 2008, it is no exception, and looks like nothing else on the road, with the twin-ring LED tail-lights a nod to the car's Skyline DNA.

The last question is – what's the car like to own long-term? In short – outstanding. While there aren't many Infiniti cars on the road, their status as a challenger brand means they have to put some effort in to win customers, and it shows. After-service sales and support are absolutely brilliant, and warranty claims are honoured without question.

Servicing intervals are 10,000km/six months, but costs are capped during the term of the warranty, and even outside of that the car's Japanese origins means parts are reasonably priced and don't take long to arrive. My G37 S has just ticked over 100,000km, and the only things I have had to replace outside of normal service items were brake rotors, which was done during a scheduled service regardless. It has been absolutely bulletproof.

The only thing worth keeping an eye on is your wheel alignment, as the handling-focused suspension set-up has a tendency to develop toe-out on the front, which results in nervous steering.

Overall, I would heartily recommend the G37 S to anyone looking for a car that's as at home doing the long haul to Sydney, as it is carving up a sinuous mountain road. If you want to be able to drive hard, drive home and enjoy every minute of it for years on end, buy one. You won't be disappointed.