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.
Trunk space is almost completely used up by the retractable hard top.
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.
We like the shifter's short throws, but the gate was not very precise.
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.
With the Sport trim, the G37 Convertible gets four piston front calipers.
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.
The Bose audio system included headrest-mounted speakers.
Standard on the Sport-trimmed G37 Convertible is a Bose Open Air audio system, which uses 13 speakers, including two speakers in each front headrest. This system uses different audio profiles depending on whether the top is up or down, but in each case the sound quality was superb.
Many Bose systems we've heard in cars have tended to be powerful, but lacking in detail. The one in the G37 Convertible reproduces music with very fine detail across frequencies. We heard satisfying thumps from bass drum hits and the delicate strumming of an acoustic guitar played very clearly. Instruments and sounds on tracks that often get buried by lesser systems came through. This stereo had the fidelity that we've enjoyed so much from the likes of THX systems in Lincolns and Mark Levinson systems in Lexus models.
Strangely, there are no speakers facing the rear seats in the G37 Convertible; all speakers are in the front sides, dashboard, and front headrests. We assume this arrangement is a trade-off for the convertible design, and would not expect rear-seat audio to sound as good as it does in the front.
This controller is very easy to use, but the LCD is also a touch screen.
As our car came equipped with the navigation system, we controlled the stereo with Infiniti's unique interface: a dial topped by directional buttons. Of all the indirect cabin tech interfaces, we like how easy it is to select menus and make alphanumeric inputs with Infiniti's. The LCD is also a touch screen, but we never resorted to it.
Most of the music we listened to came off of an iPod connected to the car's stereo, making the Bose system's quality that much more impressive as a lot of the music was in compressed format. The G37 Convertible also included an onboard hard drive with 9.3GB of space for a music library. We had the option to rip CDs to the hard drive merely by putting them into the car's CD player.
The hard drive is also where Infiniti stores the maps for the navigation system. Map views include 2D and 3D, with the latter showing some landmark buildings rendered as 3D structures in downtown San Francisco. We have seen better-looking maps, but the G37 Convertible's were all very easy to read.
The navigation system includes traffic data, and will dynamically route around bad traffic. Further, it also shows a weather forecast. Among the POIs are restaurants with Zagat ratings.
The stereo rips CDs to the car's hard drive at the push of a button.
We liked its route guidance capabilities, as it showed rich graphics with lane guidance for upcoming turns. This system also read out street names while giving audible directions. Like many navigation systems, it shuts out address entry while the car is moving.
Rounding out the cabin electronics is a Bluetooth phone system. Along with making the phone's contact list available on the LCD and through voice command, with dial by name capability, there is a separate contact list for the car, a nice way of keeping some numbers with the car regardless of the phone paired with it.
When the top was up, we found the G37 Convertible's rearview camera very useful. As with other Infiniti models, it shows trajectory and distance lines. Infiniti also makes adaptive cruise control available as an option for the G37 Convertible, but not with the Sport trim. It can only be had with the seven-speed automatic transmission G37 Convertible.
We enjoyed driving the 2010 Infiniti G37 Convertible quite a bit, but had to concede it might be a little rough for an everyday driver, at least in Sport trim. The sport-tuned suspension works well in hard cornering, but does not lend itself as well to pothole-strewn city streets. The engine offers ready power, but at the cost of fuel economy. Its performance tech is generally conventional, making it more of a one-trick pony.
However, Infiniti does offer an excellent set of cabin tech. We were blown away by the quality of the audio system, and found the navigation very useful. Likewise, the car has all the audio sources we could want and a Bluetooth phone system that is well up with the competition.
As for the design, we would score the car higher without the convertible top. The hard-top coupe looks better. And the convertible top affects trunk space more than in any retractable hard top we've tested. But the G37 Convertible gets points back for the attractive front end and the usability of the cabin tech interface.
|Model||2010 Infiniti G37 Convertible|
|Powertrain||3.7-liter V-6, six-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||16 mpg city/24 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||16.2 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||Single MP3-compatible CD/DVD player|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, USB drive, Bluetooth streaming audio, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Bose 13-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Backup camera|
|Price as tested||$49,675|