Who would have guessed that the sleek and handsome Infiniti G coupe could become even more sexy-looking for 2008?
Now called the G37 Coupe to denote a larger displacement and more powerful V-6, the G is a bit larger and thus roomier inside than its predecessor, and oh-so-carefully refined in its styling. There are new features, too, including unique white- and violet-colored gauges and aluminum interior trim that evokes the delicate pattern of washi Japanese paper.
And a sophisticated, optional Four-Wheel Active Steer system for nimble handling makes the G37 feel like it can move almost unconsciously with a driver's thoughts.
It's all part of what has become a major G car franchise at luxury carmaker Infiniti.
Since Infiniti launched its stylish, rear-wheel drive G sedan and coupe some five years ago, company sales have zoomed to more than 100,000 annually, with the G35 sedan and coupe generally accounting for more than half of the sales.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $34,965 with shift-it-yourself, five-speed automatic transmission.
Infiniti officials are quick to point out that this is $4,710 less than a 2007 BMW 335i with a smaller-displacement, turbocharged, 3-liter six-cylinder engine with only 300 horsepower and manual transmission. It's also only some $1,800 more than a base, 2007 BMW 328i with even less power -- 230 horses.
BMW officials haven't released pricing for 2008 yet.
But an Infiniti official acknowledged that shoppers of trendy, luxury coupes look carefully at their choices, and there was some G sales decline after BMW launched its revamped 3-Series coupes last year.
Well, the gauntlet is down again with the new G37 two door.
The car's appearance, which is arguably its most arresting feature, remains pure. There are no gaudy or weird lines and few cosmetic trim pieces outside. It's as if the G37 was molded from one piece of metal.
Just be careful when backing up. The roofline comes down thickly around the back window, making it difficult to see whether there's a car coming your way in a mall parking lot.
An improved chassis makes the still rear-wheel drive G37 Coupe feel more cohesive and tightly controlled than its predecessor.
Depending on the model -- G37 is available as base Coupe, Coupe Journey and Coupe Sport -- the ride not only can be sporty, it can be downright stiff.
The Sport Package, for example, adds grippy, 19-inch performance tires and sport-tuned suspension that instantly convey more road and handling feedback than the base coupe does.
The test coupe -- a mid-range Coupe Journey with optional Premium Package -- likely is a nice middle ground. I felt connected to the car with its responsive steering, low-to-the-pavement ride, predictable motions through curves and turns and eager but not twitchy handling.
Yet, I wasn't overwhelmed by a harsh, noisy, too-sporty ride.
Infiniti projects this model will be the most popular G37 Coupe.
It was a bit frustrating not to see around or through larger vehicles in front of me.
But the ready power of the newly enlarged, 3.7-liter, double overhead cam V-6 with new, Variable Valve Event and Lift system meant I didn't have to stay behind other vehicles for long. There was so much power and the throttle tip-in was so light in the test car, I slammed my head back into my head restraint the first few times I started up from stoplights.
Better yet, the power kept on coming if I kept my foot down on the accelerator.
Torque, which peaks at 270 foot-pound at 5,200 rpm and seems ample for this 3,600-plus-pound four-seater, isn't just a blip. Indeed, the G37 has a satisfying, flat torque curve because of the new, continuously variable valve timing system.
Last year's G35 Coupe -- note the name reflects the engine displacement of 3.5 liters in 2007 -- put out a maximum 270 foot-pounds at 4,800 rpm. But horsepower topped out at 275.
Unfortunately, premium gasoline is recommended for drivers who want to get the maximum out of the new engine.
And a fuel economy rating of 18 miles per gallon in city driving seems more akin to that of a small sport utility vehicle than a car that's ranked by the federal government, based on interior volume, as a subcompact.
The government's highway rating for the G37 Coupe is a projected 24 mpg to 26 mpg, depending on the model.
Not surprisingly, the smoothly styled G37 didn't seem to have much wind noise. But road noise could become tiring on rough surfaces.
The increased power is accompanied by bigger brakes in 2008. Infiniti said the 14-inch-in-diameter front brake rotors with 13.8-inch rear rotors represent the largest in the G37 segment.
And they worked solidly in the test drive.
But even with a bit more length and width added, the G37 back seat remains cozy. And trunk space of 7.4 cubic feet still requires some planning ahead. Buyers will notice that Infiniti tries to help out by including a placard on the trunk lid that shows how to fit two golf bags in there.
Most safety equipment is standard on the G37, including head curtain air bags for front- and back-seat passengers, electronic stability control and traction control.
The Hays Daily News