Did you ever get fixed up on a blind date and instead of your friend touting the girl’s “personality”, he told you that she is drop dead gorgeous? And then when you arrived at the restaurant, she looked even better than you anticipated. But then 10 minutes into the evening, you discovered something (or two) that just ruined it. It could have been a nasal whiney voice, or a loud horse-laugh, or something equally grating, and you knew that any kind of long-term relationship just wasn’t in the cards. Well, that happened to me years ago, before I was married, and a similar thing happened to me last week with a test car.
|1. All G37 Coupe models come with a 3.7L V6 with 330hp and 270 ft-lbs of torque.
2. Base models start at $35,900 with the Sport model at $37,000.
3. The G37S comes exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission, 19-inch wheels, sports seats, a sport-tuned suspension, an LSD and larger, more powerful brakes.
A brand new Infiniti G37 Sport Coupe was delivered to my house. I’d seen photos and thought it was beautiful, but the shiny new coupe looked even better in person as I ogled the “arrest-me-red” machine sitting in my driveway. It has a long, low profile with a sharply sloping roofline finished off with a subtle deck spoiler, huge 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels filling the bulging fenders, and a look that says, “I’m ready to rumble.”
It was so sexy looking that I grabbed my wallet, jumped in the car, pushed the starter button on the dash, grabbed a handful of leather wrapped gear shift knob, pushed in the clutch, and was ready to take off for a brief sprint around the neighborhood. That’s when the love affair ended. The clutch. It’s awful. It’s the equivalent of a hairy mole on the tip of Julia Robert’s angel face.
SOFT YET ULTRA-SENSATIVE CLUTCH PEDAL
The engagement point is at the very top of the pedal travel, and the engagement range is about as wide as a piece of linguini. I pushed the pedal to the floor, and as I let it out the effort felt light, and then BAM, it engaged as the pedal effort became heavy and it snapped upward, and the car shuddered and stalled.
OK, I thought, it’s a little sensitive and it will take some getting used to. I pushed in the clutch again to restart the engine, and raised the revs as I let out the clutch slowly, and the car lurched forward to the end of the driveway. I waited for traffic to clear and pulled out on the road, and it was herky jerky up to 30 miles an hour and the shift into second brought more of the same.
This clutch is as user unfriendly as they get. Still, I figured after a few miles, I’d get the hang of it. Unfortunately, after about a half hour, I felt like I should have had a big sign on the top of the car that said “Student Driver.” I’m sure the folks around me in traffic watching the car lurch around thought it was the first time I’d ever driven a stick shift, and they gave me a wide berth. Sadly, 10 days later, I hadn’t gotten much more proficient in the first-through third-upshift and downshift routine.
Well, once you get off to a bad start it just puts you in a foul mood and you start to notice other niggling traits that irritate you. I’ll get them all out of the way right now. Being short, I sit closer to the pedals than most folks, and with a manual transmission, I move up even a bit further to operate the clutch pedal. That made it hard to reach behind me to get the seat belt when buckling up, and it caused the shoulder strap to cut uncomfortably across my neck. There was no way to adjust that.
The next disappointment was with the sport seats. They are well bolstered on the seat bottom and back, which means they’re narrow. Now, I’m not a big guy (either vertically or horizontally), and the seat felt fine for about 45 minutes. After an hour, however, it felt like torture on my hips and thighs. It had my butt squeezed so tight I don’t think I could have passed gas if I had eaten the double burrito at Taco Bell for lunch. And then I discovered the controls to pump up the seat bottom and shoulder bolsters for an even tighter fit. Trust me, only an anorexic super-model would ever need to make those seats narrower.
Next came the door locks. They lock automatically when you begin to drive, but don’t unlock when you park. OK, not a major problem. But they won’t even unlock when you pull the lever on the door. You have to hit the unlock button first then use the lever. What sense does that make? I tried the door lock settings on the on-board GPS screen, but that didn’t do it. The Owners Manual wasn’t in the glove box, so I couldn’t find out if there was any other way to remedy the situation, but after 10 days with the car, it really became an annoyance.
AN IMPRESSIVE DRIVE, DESPITE ITS FLAWS
OK, so now I’ve gotten all the bad points out in the open and I feel better after venting. So the next question is how did I like the car? I suppose that sounds a little like the quip, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Well to be perfectly honest with you, I thought the car was great. Huh?
The G37S is fitted with a honey of a 3.7-liter, 330 horsepower motor with 270 ft-lbs of torque, and it goes like a bat out of hell. The power comes on strong from right off idle and keeps it up until you almost reach the redline. The power is smooth and responsive to throttle inputs, and you always have plenty of stump-pulling torque to power out of turns. And even though the clutch sucks and makes it hard to drive smoothly, the gearbox is a short throw, precise affair that sits right where you want it on the console, and it’s easy to find each of the six speeds when you want them.
Infiniti’s 3.7-liter V6 delivers reasonable fuel-economy at 17/25 mpg (city/highway). Those numbers are a tick lower than models equipped with the seven-speed automatic, which gets 18/26 mpg.
The independent sport tuned suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, and Dual Flow Path Shock absorbers soak up bumps and potholes with ease, despite the aggressive low profile tires, and gets the car through tight turns with little body lean. Add in the 4-wheel Active Steering, and it makes the car feel extremely agile and responsive to steering wheel inputs for quick lane changes, or swerving, or while tracking through tight corners. Traction Control and Vehicle Dynamic Control electronics have your back in case you get a little out of your league when playing Johnny Lightening on the road – which is tempting given the excellent grip provided by the limited slip differential. This is one fun car to be in when the pavement gets challenging. And it’s comfortable for straight-line highway cruising as well.
Infiniti got the brakes right, too. The massive 14-inch front rotors with 4-piston calipers haul the G37S down from speed quickly and with outstanding feel. And those big stoppers are mated to ABS sensors and have electronic brake force distribution as well.
BEAUTIFUL AND WELL-LAID-OUT INTERIOR
The interior is elegant with a mix of leather and aluminum trim on the dash and door panels. The cabin is roomy for the two front passengers, but like most other sport coupes the rear seats are designed for children. All the controls are right where you’d expect them and the center stack controls for radio and temperature are easy to see and intuitive to use. Redundant controls for phone and radio are located on the steering wheel along with the cruise controls. And one really nice feature is that the steering wheel is 4-way electrically controlled and the entire instrument gauge pod moves with the steering wheel, so you’ll never block the sight line of any of the gauges as you tilt the wheel up or down.
My tester was equipped with the GPS Navigation system, and except for those new voice-activated set-ups, Infiniti has one of the best systems in the business for ease of use, screen quality, and voice instructions. Also on the car was the Premium Package which adds amenities like a power moonroof, premium Bose sound system with 11 speakers, iPod interface, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, heated seats and mirrors, Bluetooth phone, and some other electronic gadgetry.
The base G37 Coupe starts at $35,900. The Journey model adds a few amenities and lists for $36,650. The All Wheel Drive model begins at $38,700, and the Sport Coupe I drove begins at $37,000, and all-in had a sticker price of $44,095. All models have the same 3.7-liter engine.
Going back to the blind date analogy, I’d describe my feelings about the G37 Sport Coupe like this. The sex was great, but I wouldn’t want to marry her. The driving experience is excellent, but I wouldn’t want this model permanently parked in my garage.
So, here’s the deal… If you really want to have this car with a manual transmission, which is only available in the Sport model, then take heed of my criticisms at the top of the article, and make sure you take a lengthy test drive to see if you can live with the clutch, and spend more than a few minutes with your buns in the sport seats.
Otherwise, I’d go with the base model or Journey, get the option packages you want, and enjoy the automatic with the paddle shifters, and the standard bucket seats. You’ll still have a great performing and handling car that is a blast to drive, you’ll wind up saving a few bucks in the process, and it will be a car that you can enjoy a long happy marriage with.