Over the last decade, the Infiniti G model, as a premium sedan or coupe, became a decent competitor to the BMW 3 Series. I was impressed when Infiniti upped the power, going from the G35 to G37 model name, and always liked the solid cabin tech suite, which features one of the most intuitive interfaces in cardom.
While the G37 stood still, its competition in the premium sedan market took a few odd turns. BMW broadened the appeal of the , Audi's made a technological leap, and Acura is giving its TL a serious update. Other competing cars, such as the and the , have remained relatively static.
The major advances passing the venerable G37 by have to do with improving drivetrain efficiency and bringing connected features into the cabin. That said, I still like the cabin tech suite in the G37, which comes as part of the optional Navigation package. It was cutting-edge in 2007 and retains its usefulness today.
Foremost is the interface, a crucial area that too many automakers get wrong. Infiniti mostly solves problems of usability by mixing a touch screen with buttons and a dial, making many operations controllable by either. For example, the G37 let me use its dial controller to scroll through menus, or push virtual buttons on the touch screen. Buttons below the touch screen give quick access to navigation, phone, and stereo. The dial controller, fitted with directional buttons, makes menu selection simple. The system responds quickly to inputs.
Voice command works for every area of the infotainment system, but shows a few limitations. Although you can place a call by saying the name of any contact stored in a Bluetooth-paired phone, the system isn't capable of recognizing artist, album, or song titles from iPods or flash drives plugged into the car's USB port. Entering an address for navigation requires saying each part of the address separately, a very tedious process, whereas competitive systems can parse complete address strings.
The navigation system, with maps stored on a hard drive, shows 2D and perspective views. It also shows some buildings rendered in 3D to serve as landmarks. The maps don't look as pretty as Audi's or BMW's, but they are clear and functional. Infiniti complements the navigation system with traffic data, shown on the maps and used to dynamically calculate routes. The points-of-interest database includes Zagat ratings for restaurants, helping drivers find good places to eat.
I found the navigation system's route guidance easy to follow, as it showed useful graphics to explain upcoming turns and also read out the name of each street. However, I had to look at the center LCD for any visual guidance, as Infiniti does not take advantage of the instrument cluster display for navigation, and there isn't a head-up display.
On-demand traffic and weather information comes to the car courtesy of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, instead of the cellular data channels coming into play among other automakers. That, of course, means the G37 has a satellite tuner, as well. Both the tuning knob and the touch screen work for finding stations, enhancing usability.
What now seems kind of old-school is the G37's Jukebox, space on the navigation hard drive reserved for music storage. I could have ripped CDs using the car's CD/DVD player to that hard drive, if I wanted to spend a couple of hours feeding CDs to the stereo.
More convenient was the USB port in the console, which worked with both an iPhone 5 and a flash drive. For the iPhone, the car showed a full music library, with music organized by album, artists, and genre. With a flash drive, the interface merely showed a list of folders, and had the annoying feature of beginning playback immediately from any folder as soon as it was selected on the screen.
The stereo supports Bluetooth audio streaming, which may be the most convenient source. As is typical with streaming, the car offers only play and pause controls, with no option to browse a music library. The interface also shows track data, but no album art. Infiniti implemented the system so that I had to first pair my phone with the hands-free phone system, then designate it as an audio source. Although it required an extra step, I appreciate this type of system as it let me choose whether to use my phone as a streaming-audio source.