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.
The 2013 Infiniti G37 maintains all the attributes of prior generations, and not much more. It is essentially the same car as the first G37, which came out in 2007.
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.
Music played through a 10-speaker Bose audio system, which came courtesy of the Premium package included with CNET's test car. This system delivers solid sound, well-balanced but lacking delicacy or a big punch. Listening to a Django Reinhardt collection, guitar and violin on each track came through clearly and were easy to distinguish, but I would have liked a brighter reproduction. The more bombastic production of tracks by Florence and the Machine could have also done with more robust bass.
Ready to pounce
The G37 drove like I expected from earlier versions. The suspension delivered an overall taut feeling, partly due to the Sport package Infiniti included in this car. That package combines a more rigid suspension with a limited-slip differential and 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone high-performance summer tires. With the sport tuning, rough sections of road became slightly uncomfortable, as the car transmitted bumps and jolts to the cabin.
On smoother sections of road the G37 felt like the premium sedan it purports to be. Still using a hydraulic power-steering boost system where many other automakers have gone to electric, the steering wheel maintains a comfortable amount of heft and resistance at speed. In low-speed maneuvering, it doesn't become overboosted, requiring a little effort to turn.
The engine should be more than familiar to anyone who follows Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. We most recently saw it here at CNET in a. This 3.7-liter V-6 uses variable valve timing, producing 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Stepping on the gas, I didn't feel all that power at once. Instead, there was about a half second where the car marshaled its forces, then let it rip.
This engine has earned plenty of praise over the years, but its days of appearing on the Ward's 10 Best Engines list are probably over, as other automakers have been pushing direct injection and forced injection to enhance efficiency. In this application, it gets the G37 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, still fairly average numbers but quickly being outstripped by the competition.
The seven-speed automatic didn't seem prone to seeking low engine speeds through short shifting, maintaining power on tap. In Drive mode, it was ready to shift down as quickly as the torque converter transmission could handle. In manual mode, shifting with the wide paddles fixed to the steering column, I got a sense of the slushy gear changes. Pull the left paddle for a downshift, wait a portion of a second, then feel the power come on and watch the tachometer needle jump.
Somewhat more supportive for playful driving was the transmission's Sport mode. While suffering from the same slushy gear changes, its programming told it to downshift as I jammed on the brakes ahead of a turn, then hold that lower gear as I accelerated through. It let the engine speed run up to 5,000rpm for extended periods of time, when I modulated the gas pedal correctly.
The Bridgestones included with the Sport package were not the best for even the light misting of a San Francisco Bay Area autumn. In just about any turn, they felt like they were ready to break loose, and the traction control stepped in frequently.
Finding its element
During my time with the 2013 Infiniti G37, I found it an enjoyable and easy car to drive. It was in its element buzzing around suburban streets, but I didn't like how quickly the fuel needle dropped in the city. For long freeway cruises, a softer suspension would have been nice, while the automatic transmission does not quite hold its own on a winding mountain road.
The cabin tech is absolutely solid, full of useful features that perform readily. With both a USB port and Bluetooth audio streaming, it should work with the gadgets most people bring into the car. The navigation system gave good route guidance, and the inclusion of traffic data is a necessity in a premium vehicle. However, the lack of any connected features for destination search or social-media integration show the G37's age.
|Model||2013 Infiniti G37|
|Power train||3.7-liter V-6, 7-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||19 mpg city/27 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||20.6 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard with contact list integration|
|Digital audio sources||Bluetooth streaming, onboard hard drive, USB drive, iPod integration, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Bose 10-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$44,595|