Sporty, luxurious, high-tech, and affordable, Infiniti's G models combine attributes that make them very popular. But for the 2010 model year, Infiniti takes the G a step further by offering a convertible version, adding a fun-in-the-sun factor and keeping the car competitive with the BMW 3-series and Lexus IS convertibles.
Like its competitors, the 2010 Infiniti G37 Convertible uses a retractable hard top, an excellent means of providing the security and weather protection of a metal roof while still allowing open-top driving. But retractable hard tops have their downsides as well, which make themselves more than apparent in the G37 Convertible.
With the top down, trunk space is usually affected, and we've never seen it worse than with the G37 Convertible. The roof panels stack up in the trunk, leaving a very narrow area only suitable for a couple of umbrellas. A golf bag would be out of the question.
And retractable hard tops also throw off weight distribution, an issue in a sports car. Our G37 Convertible came in Sport trim, its rigid suspension designed to keep the wheels sticking to the ground. But throwing the roof in the trunk lightens the load on the front wheels, so expect understeer to become an issue in hard cornering.
Although the G37 Convertible's top is fully automatic, as all the driver needs to do is push a button to make it go up or down, it seemed to take longer than other cars we've tested to complete its full operation. We wouldn't want to get caught in a sudden thunderstorm with the top down.
In some ways, we felt the convertible top ruined a perfectly good car. But we could not deny the enjoyment we got from hours of open-top driving on the California coast.
Sporty, but unrefined
The Sport package brought along its own set of problems for the G37 Convertible. At low speeds driving around a city, the car lacked the refinement we would expect from Infiniti; instead, the six-speed manual transmission and sport-tuned suspension delivered a very mechanical feeling. The ride was not uncomfortably rigid, but the sporting side of this car is always in evidence.
On the flip side, this G37 Convertible was very fun over our favored serpentine tracks through the mountains. The transmission gate is not terribly precise, but the shifter has a short throw, and it is always fun to throw a manual transmission car around in the curves.
That sport-tuned suspension kept the car well-composed as we took tight turns at high speed, the body remaining very flat. But as we've noticed with other Infiniti G models, the car gets a little slippery in hard cornering, with the back end in particular always ready to walk out. The traction control lights flickered like a Christmas parade as we tested the car in the bends.
One particular advantage of the manual transmission was the ability to get the engine speed up, as the car's 3.7-liter V-6 makes a mighty roar. This engine is from Nissan's well-regarded VQ series. Making 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, our desire for motive power was immediately communicated from gas pedal to wheels with thrilling results.
The car made us fearless in taking advantage of passing zones to get ahead of slower traffic, as we knew it had the guts to leap ahead of lines of cars before the inevitable oncoming traffic appeared. Likewise, the engine showed no hesitation as we asked it for power while exiting a turn.
Although we enjoyed the excellent power from this engine, fuel economy was less impressive. The EPA ratings for the car put it at 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, but we only averaged 16.2 mpg in combined city and freeway driving. During some slow highway driving, the trip computer rose as high as 22 mpg, but even breaking 20 mpg in this car is not easy.
The low fuel economy is partly because of the engine. It does use variable valve timing to gain some efficiencies, but Infiniti has not gone to direct injection or explored turbocharging. The transmission is also partly to blame; its low sport gearing making the engine run at 3,000rpm in sixth gear on the freeway.
Much of that mechanical feeling we noted while city driving smoothed out on the better paved surfaces of Interstates, but there still seemed a little more road noise than we would expect, most likely because of the low-profile summer tires that come with the Sport package. When driving with the top down, the rush of the air masked all car noises.