The 2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan is essentially the same car as the G35 it replaces, but with a new engine, a new name, and a new excuse for me to once again declare my love for this car. But as fantastic as I think the G37 is, it isn't the luxury sedan for everyone. In fact, I expect that some people are really going to hate it. So will you be a G37 lover or a G37 fighter? Read on. Price range $34,065 - $44,215, EPA fuel economy estimates 17-18 city, 25-26 highway.
First Glance: The inside-out refresh
Settle down, class, and let's start with a quick history lesson. The current G sedan debuted in 2007, and was hailed as a brilliant sequel to the original G. Generally, when a car is two or three years old, it gets what's known in the biz as a "mid-cycle refresh" -- the mechanicals stay the same, but the automaker will tweak the styling, make some interior improvements, and add a few new features in an effort to pump up sales for another couple of years until an all-new model comes along.
For 2009, Infiniti has given the G37 a sort of inside-out refresh. They've left the styling alone, the biggest exterior change being the addition of "self-healing" clearcoat paint that makes shallow scratches disappear. The model lineup is unchanged: Base, Journey, Sport and X, the latter with all-wheel-drive. But under the skin, the G has been given a complete powertrainectomy. Last year's 306 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 has been replaced by a 328 hp 3.7 liter V6 -- the same engine found in the G37 Coupe, with two fewer hp due to packaging restrictions. Despite the extra power, fuel economy stays the same for the manual transmission and rises by 1 MPG in the city and 2 MPG on the highway for automatics. That's because said automatic -- standard equipment in all Gs save the Sport, by the way -- has 7 speeds in place of last year's 5. Also new: A Sport Brake package, with larger rotors, four-piston calipers in front and two-piston calipers in the rear. (Bigger rotors and more pistons provide greater stopping power. More about how brakes work here.)
In the Driver's Seat: Confusing and cramped, but oh, so nice
Inside, little has changed from last year's G -- the doors get softer panels, the optional heated seats have multi-position dials (link goes to photo) in place of last year's hi/lo switches, and the "washi" aluminum trim -- one of the highlights of the cabin, if you ask me -- is now brighter, in order to make it stand out more. (Journey and X models can be had with rosewood trim in place of aluminum, but I don't think it looks anywhere near as good.)
Interiors with lots of look-alike buttons are a pet peeve of mine, and I'm still not happy or comfortable with the Infiniti's confusing center stack. But I like that the optional navigation system has both a touch-screen and a dial controller. (It's expensive, though -- $2,150, plus its only available in conjunction with a $2,500 Premium Package.) The G's front seats are excellent -- leather upholstery is standard in all G37s; some Lexus and Mercedes models still come with cloth or vinyl -- while the back seats are just okay. The big doors make getting in and out easy, but the huge powertrain tunnel that bisects the floor relegates the G to four-seater status. And the trunk seems to be an afterthought -- it's small and oddly shaped.
On the Road: All is forgiven
I can forgive the sins of the G37's interior because of the way it drives. What separates the G37 from its rivals is that the G isn't a luxury sedan tuned to act like a sports car -- it's a proper rear-wheel-drive sports car that's been dressed up as a luxury sedan. What's the difference? Priorities. The G37 puts performance first, while comfort (which I equate with luxury) takes a back seat.
The G37 is very fast in a straight line, and the extra two gears in the automatic transmission really make the most of the engine's increase in horsepower. The new transmission has a "sport" mode as well as a manual mode; Journey and X models with the Sport Package also get steering-column-mounted paddles. Personally, I prefer the fantastic six-speed manual, which is available exclusively on the G37 Sport.
The G's handling is my kind of wonderful, especially when equipped with the sport suspension (standard on G37 Sport, optional on Journey and X). Both versions are great to drive, with laser-precise steering and enough power to flick out the tail on command, but the sport suspension feels noticeably sharper and more precise. All G37s come with a standard electronic stability control system, because it's all fun and games until you carry too much speed into a turn and throw yourself and the car off a cliff.
But there are downsides, too. The ride is purely for enthusiasts -- all G's have a pretty hard ride, but the sport suspension borders on punishing. And while the G's engine and road noise are music to an enthusiast's ear, both come in great quantities, which can get tiresome.
Journey's End: All this, and it's a good deal, too
One thing I really like about the G37 is the value. Prices are up $1,000 over last year's G37 (except the G37 Sport, which rises by $1,200). Even so, you can still get a base-model G37 with 17" alloys and a leather-lined cabin for $34k, a hot-rod G37 Sport for $35k, and even a nicely equipped Journey, with options like a moonroof, navigation, and earth-shaking Bose stereo, for a little over $40,000. That said, a used 2007 or 2008 G35 sedan is almost as much fun as the new G37 -- and a heck of a lot cheaper.
The G37 is high up on my list of favorite cars, but that doesn't mean it's right for everyone. I love the G because it's a sports car at heart -- fast, agile, and a lot of fun to drive. But with that comes a hard ride -- in the case of the Sport model, a harsh ride -- and a lot of noise, which can get unpleasant on long trips. Larry Dominique, Infiniti's Vice President of Product Planning, has a great analogy for Infiniti buyers: "They don't just want to take a cruise. They want to ski behind the boat." That's all well and good, but if your idea of luxury is laying out on the promenade deck with an exotic drink in your hand, you might be better served by something a bit less sporty and a bit more refined -- a Lexus IS or ES, a Mercedes C-Class, or a Hyundai Genesis. But if you're shopping for an Audi A4, a BMW 3-series, or a Cadillac CTS -- or if you're kicking yourself for selling the sports car you had when you were in your twenties -- the G37 is going to be right up your alley. -- Aaron Gold