While Japanese luxury brands have been encroaching on traditional German car territory for over two decades, in the entry-level luxury convertible segment companies like BMW have been unchallenged, until now.
|1. The G37 Convertible is offered exclusively with a 325hp 3.7-liter V6.
2. 2. The Sport model starts at $43,900 ($57,400 CDN) – roughly $7,000 less than a BMW 335i Convertible.
3. Manual transmission Sport models and automatics with the Sport Package get 19-inch wheels, high performance summer tires, larger brakes, aluminum pedals, and tighter, more responsive steering.
With the launch of the G37 Convertible, Infiniti will go head-to-head with BMW’s 335i Convertible, while offering a “you’d be stupid not to” package to those considering purchasing a 328i Convertible. At a base price of $43,850 for the automatic or $43,900 for the 6-speed Sport model ($57,400 CDN), it undercuts the comparatively-powered 335i by almost $7,000 and is even cheaper than the noticeably less powerful 328i.
What the Infiniti offers for the price, however, is mostly on par with the 335, including an engaging driving experience and a powerful engine.
HARD-TOP ADDS WEIGHT, KEEPS LUXURY APPEAL
Considering the Infiniti brand’s tendency to steer its cars more in the direction of performance (as compared to Lexus which errs on the side of luxury), it is a little surprising to see a retractable hard-top convertible, over a lighter soft top. It’s easy to understand why Lexus went this route with the IS Convertible, especially as Lexus doesn’t already build a coupe model, but for Infiniti it’s slightly less obvious.
While the soft-top would have helped keep the curb weight down (as it stands the car tips the scales at around 4,100 lbs), Infiniti thought the hardtop was more in keeping with the luxury brand’s identity. This is particularly important as sister-company Nissan sells the 370Z roadster with a soft-top.
And besides, BMW recently switched to the hardtop, so if you’re going to compete, you’ve got to have one too.
PERFECTLY EXECUTED DESIGN
The design of the G37 Convertible is impressive and in its class we’d easily say it’s the beauty pageant winner. Much of this has to do with the fact that Infiniti didn’t just chop the top on the G37 Coupe, but actually redesigned the entire car from the A-pillars back. The proportions are just right, with short overhangs, particularly in the rear where the car’s closest competitor, the Lexus IS C, looks misshapen. In particular, the rear end is unique with a new taillight design and a nice rear decklid spoiler.
Adding to the G37’s sporty character is the lack of open space between the wheels and the fenders, something we noted was in abundance on the Lexus convertible.
There is a disadvantage to the car’s perfect lines, however, and it is in the practicality department. With the top down, just pop the trunk and… wait… what trunk? Not only can you not fit a golf bag back there, you probably can’t even fit the head of a driver. This drawback was poignantly ironic considering our test drive took us to the golf course at the Fairmont Montebello in the Canadian province of Quebec.
Another annoyance with the hard top is that it takes a solid 30 seconds to retract completely, practically an eternity by convertible standards.
Top down driving in the G37 is both exhilarating and relaxing. The suspension is quite comfortable, even with the low-profile rubber on the 19-inch wheels and cowl shake, while rather visible through the A-pillars, doesn’t seem to reach the driving compartment. No doubt one of the reasons for the car’s great highway manners is the hefty curb weight. As for the cabin, it’s quiet and wonderfully appointed – but we’ll get to that later.
ADDED WEIGHT DOESN’T DAMPEN EXHILARATING G37 DRIVE
In this car, fun comes as easily as a stab at the gas pedal. Not only will the car’s 325hp 3.7-liter V6 propel you forward, but the sound… oh, the sound. Exotics aside, the Infiniti G exhaust note is one of the best in the business and by dropping the top you really get to appreciate what everyone else around you hears.
Infiniti’s seven-speed auto-box rev-matches on the downshift, which is a real treat to the ears, or better yet, do the heel-toe yourself in the Sport model and enjoy the loud whoosh-pop.
Then head straight for the corners.
Sure the convertible won’t hold up to the coupe on the racetrack, but on some twisty country roads it surprises, staying level through the sweepers while begging for more throttle.
Manual transmission Sport models and automatics equipped with the Sport Package also get more responsive sport-tuned steering and a tighter steering ratio.
Helping out in the grip department are a set of ultra high-performance Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires, as well as a rear track that is 1.4-inches wider than the Coupe. Interestingly, even with the added weight, the G Convertible has an even better weight distribution of 52/48, versus 54/46 for the Coupe.
Braking is also good thanks to the standard sport brakes, which we recommend even auto-box buyers get by checking the order-form for the optional Sport Pack. Big four-piston calipers up front with 14-inch rotors and two-piston calipers in the rear with 13.8-inch rotors really haul the car down from speed and are better equipped to handle those duties than the regular brakes (found on automatic models or on the base Coupe), due to the convertible’s extra weight.
That extra weight, almost 450 lbs of it, does increase the car’s 0-60 time to about 6 seconds. That’s about a half a second slower than the 335i drop-top, which weights about 200 lbs less.
Power from the V6 engine is negligibly down from the coupe and sedan models with 325hp (rather than 330) and 267 ft-lbs of torque (rather than 270). The reason for this is a slightly less efficient exhaust system due to the new rear suspension layout.
The manual transmission does have a great gearbox but Infiniti really has to get a new shift knob for this car. The tiny leather-coated knob feels too delicate, looking out of place in such a robust interior and feeling out of place on such a powerful car.
Fuel-economy from the high-output V6 is reasonable with 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway for the 6MT and 17/25 (city/highway) for the automatic.
ONE OF THE BEST LOOKING INTERIORS IN ITS CLASS
The interior of the G37 Convertible is stunning and worthy of a drop-top to show it off. The Stone leather and Pacific Sky paint found on our tester made for an incredible combo, highlighted by Infiniti’s convertible-exclusive Silk Obi brushed aluminum interior trim. And it doesn’t just look good, this cabin is expertly assembled.
Standard equipment includes 8-way heated front seats, power windows and locks with Infiniti’s Intelligent Key system with a push-button ignition. Unfortunately you can’t operate the top remotely from that fob, but you can open it by holding the button on the door (which seems pointless). There’s a button on the top of the driver’s seat to electronically fold it up for easy rear seat access. There’s also a similar button on the inside side of the passenger seat so the driver can easily move it forward.
Other standard features include cruise control and audio controls on the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, as well as an adaptive dual-zone climate control system that adjusts when the top is down depending on the temperature and vehicle speed.
Sport models get aluminum pedals as well as special sport seats with a manual thigh support extension. The driver’s sport seat even gets adjustable pneumatic bolsters on the bottom and sides. And contrary to the opinion one of my colleagues has on the seats when he reviewed the G37 Coupe, I found them to be excellent. They offer a wide range of adjustability, allowing me to find a perfectly sung setting, and I’d wager they be able to hold even petite drivers in place.
I terms of audio, a 6-speaker AM/FM/6CD changer with MP3 capability, a 7-inch LCD screen and an auxiliary jack is standard. If you really want to treat yourself, however, go for the $3,050 Premium Package, which includes a 13-speaker Bose Open Air audio system, complete with surround sound and speakers on the headrests.
And if the audio system isn’t your first priority, the rest of the Premium Package is sure to entice you with a driver’s memory seat, power tilt and telescopic steering, 2-way lumbar control for the drivers seat, heated and cooled front seats, an iPod interface, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink and rain-sensing wipers.
A Navigation system is optional as is a Technology Package with adaptive front lighting, intelligent cruise control that can keep a set distance from a car ahead and preview braking, which uses the cruise control system to tell if an impact is imminent and readies the brakes.
Standard safety features include the usual front, side and side curtain airbags (six in total), ABS, a tire pressure monitoring system, traction control, stability control and rear-seat mounted safety bars that pop-up in a rollover.
With a powerful engine, amazing interior and exterior design and sporty driving dynamics, the G37S Convertible has the BMW 3 Series drop-top in its sites. For 2010, Lexus has entered this segment of the marketplace as well, but we can see the G37 winning the hearts of more dedicated German aficionados thanks to its more engaging drive.
Other than the completely useless trunk, there was really only one problem with the car. It’s not something you’d notice driving or owning the car, it’s just when you know how much it weighs, it’s hard not to think how much better it could get if it shed a few pounds.