Review: 2010 Infiniti G37

Up Front

The Infiniti G37 sedan just finished its best July ever, with sales up 37.1 percent over the same month last year, to 4,135. During the first seven months of this year, sales were up 29.9 percent, to 23,508, making the G37 sedan far and away the top-selling model Nissan's (NSANY) luxury division has on offer.

That success is remarkable because there are so many other truly excellent entry-level sport-luxury models to choose from. The G37 sedan and its sister model, the G37 Coupe, are targeted at BMW's 3 Series, as well as two other wonderful German models, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (though the C-Class is being redesigned for the 2012 model year). Strong Japanese competitors include the Lexus ES 350 and the Acura TL. And let's not forget the Cadillac CTS, one of the best vehicles General Motors has ever made.

However, most of these rivals can't quite match the G37's beguiling combination of raw speed, sporty handling, classy good looks, and high-tech options at a relatively reasonable price. The G37 comes standard with rear-wheel drive, which provides the sharp handling that driving enthusiasts crave, yet is noticeably faster than the comparably priced BMW 328i. To get a BMW in this class that can outrun the G37, you have to pay an extra 10 grand for the 335i.

The G37 only comes with one choice of power plant, but it's a very good one: a 3.7-liter, 328-horsepower V6 with hydraulically controlled variable valve timing and electronic variable valve lift. The technology gives the engine excellent torque for quick acceleration as well as relatively good fuel efficiency. A smooth, seven-speed automatic with manual shifting function is standard on all Infiniti G sedans except the G37 Sport, which has a six-speed manual transmission.

Starting price for the base G37 sedan is $34,125, rising to $35,325 for the fancier Journey, $36,925 for the all-wheel-drive G37x, and $37,875 for the Sport. The base model comes as is; options on the other trimlines are bundled into a handful of packages that range in price from $1,100 to $2,150.

The average selling price of the G37 sedan is $36,838, according to the Power Information Network (PIN), slightly higher than the $35,936 average for 2010 premium compact sedans overall. By comparison the BMW 328i sells for an average of $36,171 for the 2010 model and $38,262 for the 2011, according to PIN.

The G37 sedan is rated at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway with rear-wheel drive and an automatic transmission—for an average of 22 mpg. Nearly all its comparable rivals are rated to average 21 or 22 mpg except the Cadillac CTS, which is rated at 19. The new 2011 Audi A4 averages 25 mpg—but only if you go with front-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission.

The G37's mileage drops to 18/25 in the all-wheel-drive G37x, and to 17/25 with the stick-shift G37 Sport. In a stretch of 311 miles of mixed, mainly highway driving in the G37x, I got 21.4 mpg.

Though the G37's sales are growing faster, it still trails the BMW 3 Series in popularity by a wide margin. Combined sales of the G37 sedan and coupe rose 28.8 percent during the first seven months of this year, to 33,257, accounting for nearly 58.2 percent of Infiniti's total North American sales. BMW 3 Series sales were up 10.3 percent, to 50,864, during the same period.

Behind the Wheel

The G37's appeal is that it has the responsive steering and sporty handling that driving enthusiasts crave while being comfortable and compliant during day-to-day driving. The base model is fun to drive, and you can make the car progressively sportier by paying extra for the Sport Package ($2,100 in the Journey, $1,100 in the G37x) or opting for the stick-shift G37 Sport.

The G37 also has plenty of raw speed when you punch the gas. I clocked the G37x at about 5.6 seconds in accelerating from zero to 60, which would put it midway between the comparably priced BMW 328i and the more expensive 335i. However, other reviewers have gotten slightly faster times in the rear-wheel-drive G37 with the automatic transmission, and Road & Track magazine got a blazingly fast 5.1-second zero-to-60 time in the G37 Sport.

The Sport Package includes solid-magnesium, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, 18-inch alloy wheels, and heavily bolstered sport seats that hold driver and passenger in place during hard cornering. When you use the manual shifting function—which can be activated either via the stick or paddle shifters—the G37 becomes downright raucous, with quick, slightly jarring upshifts. It doesn't hit 60 mph until third gear, which makes its zero-to-60 performance all the more impressive. One negative: When the engine redlines, the power kicks off rather than upshifting automatically. So you lose speed if you aren't careful to shift just below the redline.

As in other entry-level sport-luxury sedans, the G37's interior is a bit plain. However, you can jazz it up with glossy maple trim for an extra $550. There's plenty of leg and head room in the front seats, but the rear bench seat is a bit cramped. It's only really designed to hold two passengers because the middle seat is quite uncomfortable.

I found the navigation system intuitive and easy to use, but the center console controls are busy and complicated to figure out. I'd also recommend avoiding the sport seats unless you do a lot of hard driving. I found that they became increasingly uncomfortable during a three-hour highway drive.

A couple of pluses: The screen resolution on the backup camera is excellent, and there are graphics to show you exactly where the car is headed. And the automatic transmission has a "snow" mode to improve grip during winter driving.

Buy It or Bag It?

Shopping for an entry-level sport-luxury sedan is like being a kid in a candy shop. The average selling price of numerous other excellent models falls in the same range as the G37's, including the 2010 Acura TL ($36,222), the 2011 Audi A4 ($36,211), the 2010 Lexus ES 350 ($37,037), and the Mercedes C300 ($37,430). Ditto for the BMW 328i. Keep in mind that many G37 buyers will qualify for a $1,000 rebate being offered through the end of September.

I recommend test-driving the Infiniti against the BMW 328i. In the unlikely event you're not satisfied with either one, try one of the rivals. In this segment, it's hard to go wrong.

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