By Kevin Harrison
About three weeks ago, I was requested and required to drive a friend’s 1999 Infiniti G20 due to his indulgence in a little too much cheap Australian Shiraz. During the drive, he must’ve told me to take care of his ‘baby’ about a million times. To get him to shut up, I drove as if I was 80 years old.
What he doesn’t know is, once I dropped him off at his home, I took to driving it like I would any other test vehicle. Sub-par is the most polite way I can describe the G20.
My friend likes to think of his car as a sports luxury sedan. When he came to my house the next day, substantially more sober to pick up his car, I had no choice but to offer him another sobering comment:
“This is no sports luxury sedan” I told him, I least I didn’t call him outright delusional. Needless to say, people don’t take well to critism of their cars and Andrew was no exception. But to show him what a real sports luxury sedan could do, I took him out for a drive the 2009 Infiniti G37 six speed manual press car I was driving that week.
With 328 horsepower and 268 pounds foot of troque, this was a good starting point for Andrew to realize what is required of a true sports luxury sedan -a good powerful engine. The V6 can be mated to a six-speed automatic or my tester’s extremely rare six-speed manual. To give you an idea of how rare they are, the local Infiniti dealer has only sold two G37 sedans with a row it yourself gearbox this year (but don’t tell anyone, they seem to want that statistic to be hush hush). I then gave Andrew my biased point of view that a manual transmission was also a necessity of a true sports sedan, however I will concede that most automatics these days can hold their own. The gearbox and clutch are adequate in the G37. BMW is the target of most manufacturers in this segment, specifically the 3 series, and I can say that BMW makes the better gearshift/clutch combo over Infiniti. Throws are a tad long and the clutch definitely takes some getting used to. But by the end of the week, I was able to get it down pat.
Lesson number two for Andrew was all good sports luxury sedans need to be rear or all-wheel drive. None of this front-wheel drive business found in the G20. Infiniti offers both options, however if you want the six-speed manual you can’t get AWD. Both BMW and Audi offer manual transmissions with their AWD systems.
But truthfully, even without AWD and with the stability control turned off, the G37 with RWD is very easy to control, in fact I was able to pull spectacular tail slides with ease and without that unsettling feeling that I was about to fishtail into a telephone pole if you’re not careful. More often than not it felt like the G37 was reassuringly stable no matter how much I pushed it, in fact the G37 makes the driver want to push it harder.
The manual equipped G is the sportiest trim level as it adds, performance tires and wheels, sport seats, bigger brakes and firmer suspension. Comparitvely I must say the G37 with a sport package drives better than a BMW 3-series without a sport package. However, get a sport packaged equipped 3, and I would wager that it would outdo the G37 in corners. The 3 just feels a bit tighter and more balanced. One good thing however, is that even when the G37 has the sport suspension it is still adequately comfortable for normal driving, whereas you can definitely feel the firmer suspension in BMW’s sport package in daily driving situations.
You don’t want your sports luxury sedan to look like every Toyota Corolla or Chevy Cobalt on the road, so style plays a big factor in the segement too, and Andrew’s G20 is pretty boring to look at. For me, you need to balance this without being too flashy or blingy.
Exterior-wise this G37 does not disappoint either. It has a rather shapely side profile and angular lines. A classy yet sporty look is generally the requirement in this segement and the Inifiniti does it well. Inifiniti is obviously trying hard to get that family resemblance look accross their lineup like BMW and Audi have done. Let’s hope they don’t go too overboard in making it hard to tell each model apart though like Audi and BMW have done.
The interior of Andrew’s G20 is a victim of time, so I won’t be too hard on it, but I will say that even for its day, the interior should’ve been better even when it was new. This was also a criticism of the previous generation G35 -there wasn’t enough luxury feel. I’m happy to report that Inifiniti has adequately addressed this problem. With more higher quality materials, tasteful brushed aluminum and a nice overall layout, the G37′s interior now matches its price piont. Rear seat room is also adequate and the cabin retains an airy feel. It also has display screen that’s way easier to use that BMW or Mercedes’ systems.
Andrew came away quite impressed with the new G37 and rightfully so. It is a well balanced, eye catching (for the right reasons) sports luxury sedan that can definitely keep up with the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes.
This is probably the closest Infiniti has come to making a real credible contender to the 3-series and the A4. With that being said, in my opinion, it is not quite there yet, and a lot has to do with how it makes you feel when you drive it. While the G37 is a blast to drive and makes a great example for Andrew of what a good sports sedan should be, it doesn’t quite feel like sinking into your favourite armchair like the 3-series or A4 does. That said, the G has come a very long way from its G20 predecessor, and can very well be on its way to creating its own benchmarks in terms of style, price and features.
Summary: A very close copy of the 3-series and A4, but still a copy nonetheless
Exterior Design: 8/10 Tastefully eye-catching
Interior Design: 8/10 More inline with the price tag now
Engine: 7.5/10 Tire-burning fun! But prepare to pay at the pumps when you do
Transmission: 6/10 Meh
Audio/Visual: 6.5/10 Not rage inducing like BMW or Mercedes’ systems, but not exactly user friendly either
Value: 8/10 Match it up to a top of the line 3-series or A4 and you’ll be saving thousands