Having matured like a vintage wine, Nissan's luxury division can break out the bubbly and toast the good life (not while behind the wheel of course) now that its 21st birthday is squarely in the rear-view mirror.
Nissan's Infiniti division arrived with great fanfare back in late 1989. Each of Japan's big three automakers (Toyota, Honda, Nissan) introduced their own upscale brands in the late 1980s and early 1990s; all earning a very healthy return on their investment. While Toyota's Lexus-branded sedans tend toward a softer, plusher ride with conservative exteriors, Infiniti opts for a sportier ambiance and ride enveloped around sleeker metal.
Historically, Asian automakers have gravitated toward conservative designs, but that's all beginning to change. Some of the most cutting-edge styling is coming, from of all places, South Korea. Hyundai and Kia's recent mid-size sedan debuts have earned kudos while turning heads. Not to be overlooked, Infiniti's G37, stoked with thundering under-hood chutzpa, still leaves the well-intentioned Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima eating collective road dust.
True to its sporty heritage, the well-balanced G37, Infiniti's entry-luxury offering, is available with handling-favored rear-drive or Midwest worthy all-wheel drive. Advances in accident avoidance technology including traction control and anti-lock brakes have made rear-drive cars year-round choices even for snow-emboldened Chicagoans. For those wishing more peace of mind especially if multiple drivers will take turns behind the G37 wheel, all-wheel-drive is ready for duty.
In 2010, Infiniti revamped its volume-leading, mid-size G, available in a trio of body styles (sedan, coupe, convertible). While changes in 2011 are minimal, the G squad did respond to the yo-yo effects of gas and oil prices. A new, more fuel-friendly V-6 is now part of the G team, a 215 horsepower, 2.5-liter G25; same dimensions and body style, just a toned-down V-6 (218 horses) under the hood. In fact, the 2011 G sedan is available in 10 (count them) variations including two new G37 packages for 2011: Sport Appearance Edition and Limited Edition. To make room, the base G37 trim was sent packing.
At 187.9 inches long, G37 measures in at the shorter end of the mid-size spectrum. By comparison, Chevy's mid-size Malibu checks in at 191.8 inches. The next largest Infiniti sedan is the posh M.
Step on the accelerator and the G37 reports to duty. The 3.7-liter V-6 benefits from Variable Valve Event Lift (VVEL) combining hydraulic-controlled variable valve timing with electronically controlled variable valve lift. The engine, located behind the front axle not above it, helps balance the ride. Part of the fun of this vehicle is many underpinnings are shared with Nissan's historic Z sports car (including 2011's 370Z), a great place to start. For those desiring power with their performance, this 3.7-liter over performs.
Most G sedans opt for a seven-speed (not just five or six) automatic transmission helping achieve slightly higher fuel numbers. Fuel estimates for a rear-drive G37 check in at 19 miles per gallon city and 27 mpg highway and 18/25 with all-wheel drive. The smaller, 2.5-liter engine delivers 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with coupled with rear drive (a new high for the G sedan, but not class leading) and 19/27 figures with all-wheel drive. The sole G37 sedan with six-speed manual, a rear-drive exclusive Sport edition, checks in with 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. Premium unleaded is required to fill the G37's 20 gallon tank.
Shifting maneuvers are open to personal preference. The seven-speed automatic seamlessly works on its own initiative, or drivers may opt for 'manumatic' input by gently engaging the floor-mounted shifter fore or aft. Steering column paddle shifters allow manual changes as well.
While Lexus dabbled extensively with fuel-optimizing gas-electric hybrid technology for a large part of the past decade, Infiniti has chosen a more measured approach. This fall welcomes a gas-electric hybrid version of Infiniti's M sedan. While Lexus and Toyota have optimized nickel metal hydride battery technology, the 2012 M35h opts for lighter-weight lithium-ion battery technology (combined with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine) used in coming-of-age cars including the all-electric Nissan Leaf. Area Nissan dealers are now taking orders for the 2012 Leaf scheduled for Chicago arrival this fall.
Our G37 all-wheel-drive tester Limited Edition tester started at $44,000 representing the priciest G sedan. With an $875 destination charge, the bottom line came to $44,874. The lowest-priced G, a newly released Base G25 sedan with 2.5-liter V-6, checks in at $32,000. By comparison the lowest-priced Cadillac CTS sedan starts at $35,345.
The navigation system, standard in all Limited Editions is a $1,850 option in G37 front-drive Journey and G37 AWD sedans. The G37 offers the majority of appearance and performance packages while the G25 features only a select few optional extras.
Inside, the intuitive, soft-touch dash is comforting without being high-tech flashy. An analog quartz clock adds an elegant touch and is interwoven with the CD operation. The new Limited Edition features snappy Monaco red leather appointed seats (leather is standard across the model line), moon roof, rear sonar system, 12-way power driver seat and a sport-tuned suspension. The trunk release button, on the dash left of the power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, is adjacent to the traction control off button. A three-spoke steering wheel includes secondary audio tabs and cruise control. The user-friendly, seven-inch navigation screen, with push-button selections angled below, is home to a three-dimensional map presentation. Twelve-volt power outlets are found below ventilation controls and inside the arm/rest storage bin. The bin is also home to a USB port (optional in some trims). Satellite radio comes standard.
The flat instrument panel includes two medium-sized circular gauges flanking a digital center display. Smaller fuel and temperature half gauges flank their larger brethren. Ventilation settings are controlled outside the touch screen via temperature dials and buttons controlling speed and direction. A push-button start brings the 3.7-liter V-6 to life once the brake pedal is engaged. Power window, lock and mirror controls are all on the driver's arm rest.
Head room, front and back, is workable. Rear doors swing open wider than many in this size class, allowing for a welcoming first step; but leg room in back is tight, especially with the horizontal floor hump present. Two adults fit adequately; three would be only for very short runs. A fold down arm rest with dual cup holders allows access to a pass-though doggie door to the trunk. Static back rests do not fold down.
Flowing exterior nuances are in contrast to what Cadillac offers in its edgy CTS entry-luxury sedan. Dual exhausts add the G's flair along with L-shaped LED tail lights. Eight exterior colors are offered including our black tester. A spoiler accents the trunk lid. A temporary spare situates under the flat floor of the relatively small 13.5 cubic inch trunk with strut-type hinges smartly located outside the cargo area. Small side-view mirrors would benefit from secondary blinker bands or arrows, better alerting those nearby of road-changing intentions. Chrome trim surrounds side windows with a comparatively thin rear "C" pillar. Bulging front fenders morph into cat's-eye shaped headlight housing, home to high-intensity xenon lights. A high belt-line adds a confident look along with a short deck lid.
Limited powertrain warranty coverage is for six years or 70,000 miles, average for the luxury segment. At a glance:2011 Infiniti G37 sedanEngine:
3.7-liter V-6 engineHorsepower:
19 mpg city, 27 mpg highwayLength:
57.2 inchesCurb weight: