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The 2008 INFINITI G37 Coupe is all new, a second-generation redesign, building perfectly on the G35 Coupe that was outstanding in its time (and still is). The chassis is stiffer, lower and wider, for an improved ride and handling. The engine has been increased to 3.7 liters, and uses the latest electronic valve systems to make 330 horsepower with improved fuel economy. The five-speed manual automatic transmission is superb and beautifully obedient, using downshift rev matching, meaning the throttle blips on its own when you downshift. The Sport Package doesn't make the ride too stiff, and offers bigger brakes.
The G37 has a full complement of standard safety features, including six airbags, a tire pressure monitor, Vehicle Dynamic Control that invisibly keeps you on the road, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, and crush zones in the front and rear.
The exterior styling has been freshened, and the interior has been totally redesigned as well. Perforated leather seating is standard. With little legroom in the rear seat, two adults will not be happy back there for long, so the G37 is no car-pool vehicle; but, up front, we loved the instrumentation, in particular the ease with which the navigation, climate control, and sound systems could be operated. The optional navigation and sound system have exceptional features; the nav monitors traffic conditions on the road ahead, and the sound system uses a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive with compact flash drive slot.
There are three distinctive models of the G37 Coupe: the Coupe, Journey, and Sport 6MT. Their biggest differences are in the styling twists and suspensions. They all use the same award-winning Nissan aluminum V6, redesigned for 2008 with 3.7 liters and VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift) camshafts, which boost it to 330 horsepower at 7000 rpm with a redline at 7600, and that's pretty awesome for a V6. The Journey is the touring version, and the Sport 6MT (stands for six-speed manual transmission) is the racy one, but under the hood they're all the same.
The Coupe and Journey come with a wonderful five-speed manual automatic transmission, having downshift rev matching, meaning the engine blips just before the car drops a gear; and Adaptive Shift Control, which sharpens the shifts when sensors say you're driving sporty. Paddle shifters, made of magnesium, are optional.
The 2008 INFINITI G37 Coupe ($34,250) comes standard with leather interior and all the power things, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary audio input, seven-inch LCD monitor, HID bi-Xenon headlights, aluminum 18-inch wheels with all-season tires, keyless entry and starting, tilt/telescoping steering column with increased travel, illuminated glove compartment and automatic temperature control.
The Journey ($35,000) includes a six-disc CD player, eight-way power front passenger seat, and automatic headlights. Its styling and suspension are both a bit softer.
The Sport 6MT ($35,500) comes with a new six-speed manual transmission, lightened with aluminum. It has bigger brakes: ventilated rotors, 14.0 inches with four-piston calipers front, and 13.8 inches with two-pots rear. The suspension is tauter, riding on 19-inch, 10-spoke aluminum wheels and high-performance tires. There's also a Viscous Limited Slip Differential, for increased traction under hard acceleration. The Sport looks racier, with more aggressive front fascia and side sills, and sport-styled seats with aluminum pedals.
Options include the Premium Package ($3200) with a moonroof, 11-speaker Bose Studio on Wheels audio system with iPod connection, memory system for driver's seat, steering wheel and outside mirrors, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, anti-glare rearview mirror with compass, HomeLink, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and heated front seats and door mirror. The Navigation Package ($2200) is touch-screen and voice-activated, with user-friendly and detailed information on traffic ahead, using XM radio; the package also includes a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive with compact flash drive slot, and a rearview video monitor. The 10-spoke alloy wheels with 19-inch high-performance tires can be ordered separately ($650), and a bigger, body-colored and better looking rear spoiler ($550) improves stability at speed. The Moonroof is $1000, and African Rosewood interior trim is $450.
The Sport Package ($1850) for Coupe and Journey adds the Sport 6MT's tauter suspension, 19-inch wheels and tires, viscous limited-slip, bigger brakes, front fascia and side sills, sport-styled seats and steering wheel stitching, aluminum pedals, and paddle shifters (for the Journey but not the Coupe).
The 4-Wheel Active Steer Package ($1300) makes lane changes on the freeway steadier and safer, by altering the front steering ratio and counter-steering the rear wheels up to 3 degrees.
The Technology Package ($1150) is all about safety and includes INFINITI Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), which maintains the gap to the car in front, with Preview Braking, in which lasers measure the distance and closing speed to the vehicle ahead, and pressurize the brake system before the driver steps on the pedal, saving milliseconds. This package also includes Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), in which the headlights turn with the car, and a pre-crash seatbelt system, which anticipates a crash and tenses the belts to prepare.
Safety equipment that comes standard includes a new advanced airbag system with two-stage front airbags, side airbags in front, and full-length airbag curtains. INFINITI's Vehicle Dynamic Control helps keep the G37 under control in the wet. The anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist is the same braking system used on the G35 Sedan. Also standard is a tire pressure monitoring system.
Unlike the G35, the new INFINITI G37's lines are more contemporary than classic. Everything flows from the front fenders, rounded so much they stand out.
INFINITI calls the new look seductive, although we think the word better applies to the sleek G35. The G37 second-generation daughter looks bulkier around the shoulders and hips. Still, it achieves a very aerodynamic 0.30 Coefficient of Drag.
On paper, the shape sounds good. The front wheel cutouts are larger, leaving less metal for the fenders and making them appear to rise even more. The headlights with integrated foglamps are smaller and sexier, an evolutionary improvement over the G35. But the grille has been slightly arched at the top at bottom, and filler has been between the horizontal bars at their edges, so it appears blockier.
The change to the hood and shoulders is easier to see. INFINITI calls the aluminum hood (pinned with two latches) a wave hood, although the sea looks pretty flat between the bulging shoreline of the fenders. The new hood is smaller than before, moving the fender seams inboard, which allows the fenders to rise to a ridge with character lines.
The front fascia below the grille has been changed on the Coupe and Sport 6MT, with the Journey keeping the G35 fascia that's slightly sleeker, having two long openings with black screen, coming toward each other. The Sport fascia has three openings, although two are filled and just for looks, while the width of the bumper between the openings and grille is thicker.
New character lines on the side of the car angle upward, visually lifting the butt of the G37 a bit, and making the rear bumper look narrower. Other than that, the tail is unchanged, including the taillights and twin chrome exhaust tips. The standard small spoiler on the lip of the trunk is awful, if only because it comes only in chrome (popular with many). But for the sake of highway beauty, spend $550 for the body-colored one, which is bigger but not too big, and its size gives the G37 more stability at speed.
From the side or 3/4 view, you can see a hint of the family resemblance to the Nissan 350Z (soon to be the 370Z with the new 3.7-liter engine). We also see a roofline resemblance to the Mustang, although it takes some squinting.
Finally, the wheels. INFINITI does good wheels. The standard 18s are split five-spokes, in polished titanium, and the beautiful 10-spoke 19-inch wheels fully complement the car's good looks.
The redesigned interior, leather with some vinyl mostly on the dash and doors, comes in three handsome shades: wheat, graphite and stone. The instrument panel is INFINITI's double wave design, trimmed in standard spun aluminum, so understated it seems almost stark (inspired by elegant, handmade Japanese Washi paper), or optional African rosewood. The rosewood is unique and classy, while the aluminum is sporty. The signature analog clock is present, of course. The materials, fit and finish are high quality.
The three-spoke steering wheel contains audio and cruise controls, and is wrapped in hand-stitched perforated leather. The instrument panel uses electroluminescent lighting, its needles glowing red on a white-and-violet background. An information gauge gives readouts for useful stuff like immediate or average fuel mileage (16.9 for us), average speed, elapsed time, running distance, distance to empty, outside air temperature, odometer, and warning displays.
The perforated leather seats are comfortable, with the 8-way driver's seat having air lumbar support. Both front seats slide with the touch of a button, to allow passengers into the rear seat. The Sport Package, standard on the 6MT, adds 14-way sport-styled seats with thigh extensions and power adjustable torso and thigh bolsters for the driver, sporty steering-wheel stitching, and aluminum pedals.
The paddle shifters on the steering wheel are magnesium, and you can actually reach them with your fingers when your hands are at the 10 and 2 o'clock position on the steering wheel. With many other cars it's not possible. You pull back on each one: right side upshifts, left side downshifts.
Door pockets are small, half-taken by armrests, although each includes a hollow for a water bottle. Plus, there are two big cupholders behind the shift lever. Further back, under the driver's elbow, the size of the compartment in the center console is reasonable, and there's a glovebox.
A cool center stack falls around a small screen that displays data or navigation information, with the $2200 navigation package. It's easy to understand, and its functions controlled with a four-way dial that indicates current traffic conditions, including construction ahead, with routes showing in green, yellow or red, colors based on congestion. It's all done through XM radio.
INFINITI has done the radio right. While many German, British and some Japanese cars are ridiculously overcomplicating sound system controls, INFINITI sees that simple is good (because it's efficient), and also intelligent. The G37 shows off its sound system with SOUND capabilities, not button-pushing and menu-interpreting that's only tail-chasing.
The optional G37 music box sound system uses a 9.3 gigabyte hard drive to record about 90 CDs in superfast time (it's legal because it's not burning). So you never have to carry CDs in your car. The directory can access your CDs by artist or type of music.
There's a vent in each A pillar to keep the side windows clear, and lots of rear glass gives good visibility and makes up for a lack of head space back there. There's not much knee room in the rear seats; that legroom stat of 29.8 inches is the lowest we've seen in a long time. The driveshaft hump runs high between the two rear seats, and supports an unimaginative console with cupholders and a vinyl tray. There's a wide crack between the seatback and seat bottom that might be uncomfortable over the miles.
That crack exists because the seatbacks fold forward to extend the trunk space, which is fairly shallow, with only 7.4 cubic feet. Overall, the rear seat sends heavy reminders that this is a coupe, not a sedan. You might even think of it as a four-seat 350Z.
The INFINITI G37 is rear-wheel drive like a BMW, not front-wheel drive like an Acura. It would be nice if there were an all-wheel-drive version of the G37 Coupe, as there is with the Sedan, but INFINITI says there's not enough demand. Maybe later.
Three hundred thirty horsepower is a lot to get out of a V6, but if any engine were made for it, it's the Nissan V6, which has won too many awards to list. Nissan engineers prove they have lost nothing, with this 3.7-liter version using an aluminum block and heads. That new VVEL, Variable Valve Event and Lift, is hydraulic-controlled variable valve timing and electronically controlled variable valve lift on the intake side, helping to improve not only performance and response but also emissions and fuel efficiency.
The engine makes 270 pound-feet of torque at a peaky 5200 rpm, and revs to a howling pitch at 7600 rpm, where the rev limiter begins to gently cut fuel. The power comes on smooth and quick, and doesn't snap your head because it still has 3616 pounds to carry. The engine has a unique howl, carefully created by the exhaust system; you can even hear it when a G37 rolls by at 20 mph. But you can't hear it from the cabin with the windows rolled up, because the G37 is insulated so well. You can hear it with the windows down, though, and the howl brings a smile to your face.
The five-speed manual automatic transmission, with or without paddle shifters, is wonderful. It positively demonstrates a difference in car-building philosophy between the Japanese and Germans, because this transmission obeys the driver, it doesn't rule the driver. Making it a relief and joy. It flawlessly does everything it's asked to do, and a bit more. Only a bit, and the right bit.
Move the stubby leather-wrapped shift lever to the left, and Sport mode is engaged. The upshifts come at higher rpm, and both upshifts and downshifts are sharper. But we found that the Manual mode is where we wanted to be, during sporty driving. Most of the time we stayed in plain old Drive, and drove casually, able to forget the transmission was even there.
Another difference between the Japanese and Germans is the direction the lever moves to make upshifts or downshifts. The G37 goes forward for upshifts, back for downshifts. The other direction, the European way, seems more natural to many, because it follows the physical forces on the body: upshifting back, downshifting forward. So the G37 might take some concentration to shift, if you've moved into it after selling your BMW with a manual automatic.
Another small dilemma with the shift lever is that you have to raise your elbow to clear the armrest in the center console. The optional steering-wheel paddles would cure that. They're huge, four inches long and arc-shaped, so your fingers can reach them even if your hands are on the steering wheel at 10 and 2 o'clock.
The 6MT Sport comes only with the six-speed manual transmission with upgraded synchronizers, tied to an improved clutch. Our drive took us into downtown Seattle, and pulling away from stop signs on steep hills, we missed BMW's system of holding the brakes for a couple seconds to allow time to engage the gas and clutch.
The six-speed shifted with short, tight throws and no notchiness. But you can't hurry the release of the clutch pedal after downshifting or the car will snatch. Mostly, the car's overall noise and vibration increase with the manual transmission. We like the five-speed automatic with the delicate and strong paddle shifters.
Our test model was a G37 Coupe with the Sport Package, including bigger brakes. They are super smooth, predictable, and rock steady, inspiring confidence. They're also sensitive, so you can't jump on them, just as you can't jump off the clutch pedal when downshifting.
The G37 uses a new chassis that's 36 percent stiffer, a bit lower, and has a wider track. The ride is excellent,
The four-seat INFINITI G Coupe has been a winner from its beginning, and the second-generation G37 builds on the car's strengths. The re-sculptured styling loses some of its classic appeal, but it does look more contemporary. The legendary V6 is more powerful than ever, at 330 horsepower. The five-speed manual automatic transmission (with optional paddle shifters) deserves to win awards, like the engine has. The ride, even with the firmer Sport suspension, never jolts. The brakes are big and Sport brakes bigger. The electronic stability control is invisible as it keeps the car on the road. The navigation system is easy to use and offers detailed information about traffic conditions. The sound and climate control systems are blissfully simple to operate. Overall, the INFINITI G37 is a whale of a value.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report from the Columbia River Gorge.