SEATTLE, Washington - From 2003 into 2007, Infiniti's G35 coupe was the top seller in its segment. Yet, sales have sagged in recent months. Why? Because BMW redesigned its 3-Series coupe, which quickly began to capture the lion's share of the near-luxury sport-coupe market.
Now, for 2008, Nissan's luxury division is back in the game with a totally redesigned (and renamed) G37 coupe. The change in model designation denotes the new model's bigger and stronger V-6 engine. Rather than the 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that went under G35 hoods, the 2008 G37 gets a 3.7-liter V-6 that whips up 330 horsepower at a rapid 7000 rpm, along with 270 pound-feet of torque at 5200 rpm.
The six-speed manual gearbox gets NVH (noise/vibration/harshness) improvements, which claim to cut shifter vibration. Infiniti claims less clutch-pedal vibration, too.
Meanwhile, the available five-speed automatic transmission has been "completely revised," according to senior product planning manager Randy Fior, promising "faster first, second, and third gear" operation. More frugal functioning emanates from fourth and fifth gear, too, Fior said. Magnesium paddle shifters are available, and rev-matching to the engine takes place as the transmission downshifts to a lower gear.
Despite the power boost, Infiniti claims a 12-percent hike in fuel economy. With the automatic transmission, the 2008 G37 earns an EPA gas-mileage estimate of 18 mpg in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway. Manual shift alters the estimate to 17/26 mpg.
Overall stiffness has increased by 36-percent. Infiniti says the G37 was developed and tested at European race tracks. The newly available Sport Braking System is called the largest in this segment; 14-inch rotors up front, and 13-inch at the rear.
In product-planner Fior's view, Infiniti customers had two main reasons to buy the original G35 coupe:
1. Fun to drive
Both factors are even more intense in the 2008 coupe, which exhibits one of the lushest, curviest profiles to be found in today's sport models.
Steering/handling, though, is the G37's uppermost talent. This is one car that feels like it has immense tires nailed to the pavement, resulting in a virtual absence of body lean in fast, sequential curves. Few cars respond as instantaneously and accurately to quick changes in steering inputs. The unusually thick steering-wheel rim is most welcome, too, for reassuring grip that helps in enjoying spirited twist-turn road segments.
Sport models yield quite a smooth ride on nice pavement, but suspension tautness is evident when you hit a harsh spot. Regardless, the G37 comes across as markedly well-controlled, even if it bounces hard now and then. Brakes react positively and linearly, exactly as called for, to slow appropriately at the start of curves.
Even in the transmission's fully-automatic mode, the G37 delivers seriously energetic passing response. Downshifts usually are very prompt, too (and smooth). Unlike units in some other cars, the G37's paddle shifters are really helpful, and the powertrain responds virtually immediately.
With a manual gearbox, the G37 Sport yields satisfying shift action, complemented by a mannerly clutch. Choosing between manual and automatic isn't so easy, as both units operate effectively and enjoyably.
When accelerating somewhat vigorously, the G37's V-6 emits a controlled but surly snarl through its exhaust system. Apart from that sporadic sound, this coupe is quiet.
Super-sporty, tightly-bolstered seats are suitablly supportive for vigorous driving, though a tad more cushioning on the seat bottom might be welcome. Large white-lit gauges with red pointers are among the best for readability, sitting in a handsome instrument panel. The fairly sizable glovebox is in easy reach.
Infiniti offers three models: G37 coupe, G37 coupe Journey, and G37 coupe 6MT. Base price for the G37 coupe is $34,250 (plus the $715 destination charge). The Journey edition stickers for $35,000, while the Sport 6MT (with manual gearbox) commands $35,550.
Standard tires are now 18-inch rather than the former 17). Infiniti's Sport Package (for the Journey model) includes 19-inch alloy wheels, a limited-slip differential, sport-tuned suspension, sport brakes, and sport seats (with thigh extender, plus power thigh and torso support).
A Premium Package adds a moonroof, Bose sound, iPod connection, Bluetooth capability, and heated front seats/mirrors. The Navigation Package includes a GPS system, XM Satellite Radio with Real-Time Traffic information, and a Rearview monitor. If that's not enough, there's a Technology Package with such extras as intelligent cruise control. Four-wheel steering is optional on Sport models, but the standard setup is likely to satisfy even the most ardent pursuer of precise handling.
Two-door coupes in general are something of a "hard sell" these days, but true sport coupes command greater attention. "This is a very emotional segment," Fior explained, and many customers actually define themselves as coupe drivers. For them, a hot-looking, strong-performing coupe is an "extension of their personality."
For other potential buyers, the G37 is simply a beautiful and satisfying road machine for two. Yes, there's space for four occupants. But only the limber and/or young are likely to favor the tight rear seat.
Attention Editors: The complete 2008 Infiniti G37 review is available for your publication. Please contact us at JF@tirekick.com for details.