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2013 Infiniti G37 Coupe and Convertible Road Test

A pair of aging cars wrapped around one fabulous engine.

What It Is
Coupe and convertible models of Infiniti's successful G-Series sedan.
The Good
Torque aplenty, rousing exhaust note, decent handling.
The Bad
Milquetoast manners, frumpy styling inside and out, pathetic trunk space.
Snap Judgment
Like Olay, the G37 is trying hard to hide its age.


It may speak volumes about the G37 or those aforementioned advertisements that I sit here, minor libation in hand, creaking through the narrow alleyways of my cerebellum in an attempt to uncover anything characterful or memorable to say about the Infiniti G37.

Nope. Got nothing.

Just poured myself another drink as well, and I still don't have anything. This is presumably my fault, but it's not exactly innocence-rendering of the car, and its maker, as a whole. The G37 is an old design -- and not old in the sense of timelessness, like an Eames chaise or a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso mechanical watch. It's been with us for 5 years and rides on 10-year-old bones.

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But what's surprising is that, for the most part, them bones still work well. The convertible looks good in the sense that all convertibles do, expensive ones in particular. And the coupe makes enough noise and turmoil to attract the attention of Armani-wearing junior partners, those who would have otherwise bought a 3-Series. Plenty of them drive G37s in Los Angeles. It's just that I don't remember them, as they fade into traffic and into the background of Wilshire and Fairfax, hidden among the buildings. Perhaps that's my fault. Perhaps we need more brushstrokes.

What We Drove

Our pair of Infinitis arrived on the same week, allowing two different staffers to compare notes for the weekend. One would head to San Clemente in a black G37 convertible for a wedding in order to impress bridesmaids; the other went to San Diego for Comic-Con in a G37 coupe the eye searing red of Deadpool's jumpsuit. And between the two, there was just one option: a paltry $395 for illuminated kick plates on our Black Obsidian (read: metallic purple) convertible, which we hear are well worth the money. Otherwise ordering a sports car from Infiniti requires little thought beyond color combinations: no Driver Assist Package, no 402A Equipment Group to tack on, no $995 carbon fiber shift knobs to drive up monthly payments. Refreshingly simple, but then again, don't luxury buyers love their choice?

The coupe starts at $39,800, which is almost 10 grand less than the convertible's base price of $47,200. Part of the allure of droptops is that they're not cheap -- at least, at this rarefied luxury level. Our test coupe and convertible were $45,795 and $52,085, respectively. This is because both of our cars came with the vaunted "S" suffix, rendering them Sport models bestowed with upgraded braking, intricate 19-inch wheels, and Infiniti's navigation system with Bose audio. Oh, and manual-only transmissions, a rarity in the automotive world for a range-topping lineup. Perhaps Infiniti is serious about this performance thing? We shall see.

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The Commute

Get in the Infiniti, reach under the steering column, flick the lever downwards and forwards, and move the steering column up and down. What do you see? The gauges -- three of them in their heavily lidded plastic binnacle -- move up and down with the steering wheel, in one fluid motion. It's an interesting touch, designed to maximize visibility to the gauges. And evidently, that is Infiniti's greatest party trick from the interior, a feature it's inevitably labeled "race car-inspired" as it sits by patiently and wonders why Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Acura haven't adopted the same. We're guessing it's because, despite the utility, the resulting crayon-sized gaps between the gauge hood and the dash look cheesy. And its usefulness, frankly, is dubious: what few inches of travel imparted onto the gauges won't limit their visibility to an intelligent member of the tribe Hominini whose ocular implants allow it to process up to 60 frames per second. For what it's worth, the Infiniti gauges are beautiful electroluminescent units -- models of clarity and simplicity, if a bit dated.

The rest of the dashboard is flocked in what Jacob Brown called "school bus vinyl," which he then continued to describe using a litany of four-letter words. Front and center is an ungainly vertical stack inserted with all of the grace and care of a refrigerator sinking into a Louisiana swamp. Both cars had supple white leather upholstery, with light bolstering and adjustable knee pads. Its black buttons are a shock to the aluminum-colored plastic in which they swim; not even Infiniti's dressy analog clock can restore a touch of class. Air vents rise tall like cathedral buttresses, flanking a crisp, recessed navigation screen, the color motif of which is the same shade of purple employed by the Roman Senate. Every luxury car company is locked in an ever-escalating game of devising the most complex navigation controls, and Infiniti's is certainly competitive: a knurled knob surrounds a D-pad -- with diagonal buttons! -- that will look familiar to anyone who ever lost his fortune to an arcade claw machine. Bluetooth synced up easily, but radio selections are counterintuitive -- shouldn't that knob control radio tuning?

The convertible adds Bose speakers on the headrests, which did an admirable job quelling peripheral noise. We also admired the fabric headliner on the convertible while the top was up, which was billowy soft and resembled a real coupe.

The Grocery Run

Both the Infiniti G37 coupe and convertible come with heavily scalloped rear seats, though like the Higgs boson, their practicality is still a theory undiscovered by scientists. They sure look comfy, though. Easy access to LATCH points means that your child could start his years riding like a movie star in the back of a convertible, and the high beltline in back means that he won't even have to duck his head from aspiring paparazzi.

The coupe has a tight trunk, flat and shallow, perfect for Infiniti's engineers to hit their marketing target of 3 golf bags in the back. Too bad I don't golf, but there's room for a demographically correct week's worth of groceries; figure 10 bags or so. The convertible has a trunk too, but like its rear seats, the trunk in the G37 convertible only exists as a talking point. To rig it for convertible top access, one must pull backwards a vinyl-wrapped plastic board to slot into tabs. Failing to do so, we noticed, unleashed a litany of electronic screams from the fretful convertible top mechanism. Slotting the board in place allows for a pocket as wide as the spine of an Encyclopedia Britannica volume, and only one of the more obscure letters, like W; you can give up on S or B. One can maybe fit an umbrella in there, but we wouldn't chance either. Once in place, the top folds inwards with the slow yet resounding force of a steamship coming into berth -- tall, unstoppable, and crushing everything in its path.

With the convertible top down, the exhaust is wonderful, mellifluous even, but not obnoxious. Conversations can readily be had at 80 miles per hour without the needless intrusion of wind, and even if doing so is a fashion faux pas on par with socks and sandals, an enterprising conversationalist may wish to put all four windows up if not the top.

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The Weekend Fun

The G offers up compliant handling, a far more controllable suspension, and balanced steering feel that's always been the car's strong suit. The G37's clutch has a quick, yet firm engagement; changing gears in the G37 takes some focus, the kind row-your-own snobs are always patting themselves on the back for.

But with 330 horsepower from its stout 3.7-liter V-6 engine, the G37 rides on a rollicking, rowdy wave of torque. This is not a subtle car, and it features suitably unsubtle exhaust music. From second to third gear is exactly how car-guys think a car should sound. More importantly, it's how an engine should feel: Plenty of torque for cruising even in second gear, and right-now acceleration when you need it.

Hop in the convertible to get more of that engine note, plus an added dose of quivering and shaking over bumps, thanks to the inherently weaker structure a convertible offers, even with the top up. It's better just to leave it down, a process taking 25 seconds. Keep your hands entirely on the button in the center console, and crane your neck behind to see a singing, whirring mechanical ballet; a sybaritic symphony of that most luxurious of concepts, convenience.

The folding hardtop works like magic to draw the attention of children. Writes Associate Editor Trevor Dorchies: "One kid in traffic said, and I quote: 'that's a fly-ass car!' To which I replied, 'Thanks, son!'" Jacob Brown noted that "little kids absolutely went crazy every time they saw that folding convertible top go up or down. This car might as well have been Justin Bieber." But the adults didn't seem to notice, and when you want to get going, that 25-second wait can seem interminable.

The pragmatic-minded Brown wrote off the entire experience: "I'd rather Infiniti devote those 200 pounds of roof weight to structural bracing and a good cloth top than that really nifty folding metal roof that only impresses kids."

The G37 coupe is a handsome enough car, but at the same time it's an uninspired design, resembling a melted version of the original G35 coupe, which was a groundbreaking and handsome design when it debuted. By comparison, today's G37 looks like it was left in a toaster oven beyond its recommended cooking time. Still distancing itself from the Nissan family designs of which it most resembles, still holding onto a muddled notion of Japanese heritage and craftsmanship. Whatever Infiniti's brushstrokes might suggest next, may it be more successful than this.

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Summary

Infiniti is a brand trying hard to find its own niche among a crowded populace. It lacks the immediate performance recognition of Audi and BMW, none of the design flourishes of Jaguar or Acura -- controversy, if you want to put it that way -- and no jealousy-inducing luxury of Mercedes-Benz or Lexus. Does that cover all of them?

It should, because that's who Infiniti is aiming at. Cars like this are bought out of passion. Any rationality left in the midrange luxury coupe segment -- a decidedly unsexy moniker -- is best suited in more practical and less expensive four-door variants. The G37 makes up for a lot of its dowdiness with some oft-repeated sturm und drang emanating from that excellent engine and its bazooka-shaped exhaust tips. But ultimately, the victor for your checkbook goes towards how much you're interested in the car in the first place. And as the disclaimer goes, your results may vary.

Maybe Infiniti should take a line from George Bernard Shaw, who said: "you don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing." During our time with the Infiniti G37, we certainly laughed. But if we were paying with our own money, we'd quickly stop laughing.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $45,795 (coupe), $52,085 (convertible)
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 17 (coupe), 16 (convertible)
EPA Highway: 25 (coupe), 24 (convertible)
EPA Combined: 20 (coupe), 19 (convertible)
Estimated Combined Range: 400 miles (coupe), 380 miles (convertible)
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Poor

Notebook Quotes

"The G lineup restores my faith in Infiniti. A convertible doesn't hurt either. Overall, I really liked this car. Would I buy it with my own money? Probably not. If I had this as my weekend ride and had another vehicle with actual trunk and back seat space for errands then yes, I'd get this car." -Trevor Dorchies, Associate Editor
"I cannot wait until these things start getting rocked on the used-car market because I seriously want one. It's like a BMW 3 Series without the BMW long-term maintenance costs. It's a car that seems very justifiable to keep well beyond its five-year warranty period because you know that engine is as stout as can be, and its electronics are all from other Nissan models. It's a known quantity; a proven quantity." -Jacob Brown, Associate Editor
"My ideal version of this car would have my car's engine torque with this car's smoothness. Otherwise, honestly, this car feels old. It reminds me too much of a car 10 years my Infiniti's junior should. It's a good car, don't get me wrong. But I think it boils down to the fact that the G is just getting old. This version has been around since 2007 or so, and that's a long, long time." -Keith Buglewicz, News Director

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