Reviews

2011 INFINITI G Walk Around

The G37 sedan was last redesigned for 2007, and it gets a bit of mid-cycle freshening for 2011. Essentially what was sport-package front and rear styling is standard for 2011, and the Sport models get a more aggressive look and updated wheels.

Coupe and convertible models receive the same sport-package treatments for 2011, and the fog lights on the 2011 coupes have been relocated to the lower grille openings as they were on the 2010 sedan. All Gs share INFINITI's affinity for wave shapes in the aluminum hoods.

The new IPL coupes are even sharper at the lower extremities. The front spoiler is deeper and more square at the edges and we foresee many being remodeled on curbing or steep driveways. At the tail, eyes are drawn to a pair of tailpipe barrels almost five inches in diameter.

Despite the differences in styling, the INFINITI G sedan, coupe, and convertible have similar exterior dimensions and an identical wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels). All share the same chassis, and their basic structure is shared with the 370Z other Nissan and INFINITI.

The current, second-generation INFINITI G models are swoopier than the pre-2007 versions though bulkier around the shoulders and hips. From the side or three-quarter view the coupe and convertible share a mild family resemblance to the shorter, chunkier Nissan Z-car.

The INFINITI G cars have a striking look not often mistaken for anything else. The front wheel cutouts are larger than those on earlier models, leaving less metal for the fenders and making them appear to rise even more. The headlight clusters are loaded with separate lenses, yet they're smaller and sexier. INFINITI calls the aluminum hood a wave hood, although the sea looks pretty flat between the bulging shorelines of the fenders.

The G37 convertible has a power folding-mirror function that pulls the side mirrors up against the glass at the driver's request. The convertible has a unique design from the windshield pillars rearward. It's slightly wider than the other G models, with a modified rear suspension that allows for the top's power mechanism and stowage space behind the rear seat. The convertible has more heavily reinforced windshield pillars, side members and body sills, which help reduce body flex and vibration when motoring with the top down.

When its three-piece steel top is closed, the convertible looks much like the G37 coupe. Its heavily insulated headliner works almost as well as the coupe's fixed roof at keeping ambient noise outside the car. The top takes approximately 30 seconds from start to finish to open or close, initiated with the touch of a button on the center console. The Sport package gives the convertible a special, more aggressive looking grille and front end.

The factory wheel designs for the 2011 INFINITI G models are handsome. The standard 17-inch wheels on sedans feature a new five-spoke, triple-fork design. The massive 19-inch wheels that are optional fully complement the car's looks.

Interior

Improvements inside the 2011 INFINITI G37s are subtle, but welcome, and they point to a steady trend over the last several model years. The overall quality of the G passenger cabins has increased steadily. They're much better suited to the luxury class than they once were and lean toward contemporary design than traditional wood and warmth.

Generally, the G interior is lively and friendly without being fussy or overly busy. There are features aplenty, tempered by a focus on function and connecting the driver to the car. The materials, fit and finish are good, though we are still not enamored with the graining on some of the harder plastics.

Getting in and out of the G is easy with the four-door sedan, and a bit more difficult with the coupe and convertible, particularly if your driveway has a significant slant. The doors on the two-door models are long and heavy. The slightest incline can make it difficult to lock them in the open position, and they want to fall closed.

The perforated leather seats are comfortable, and the standard eight-way driver's seat has adjustable lumbar support. The Sport Package seats have more adjustment and bigger bolsters on the back and bottom cushions and are fully capable of containing the driver while exploiting the car's winding road capabilities.

The three-spoke steering wheel is wrapped in hand-stitched perforated leather, with audio and cruise control buttons on its spokes. Optional paddle shifters for the automatic transmission are magnesium, and they are attached to the column and not the wheel so their position never changes. That isn't the case with many cars, where shifting during busy maneuvers can be difficult. We like the shift sequence, too. You pull back on the right paddle for upshifts, and on the left for downshifts.

The dashboard and center console design is the same in all G body styles, with slight variation in the front door-panel designs. The dash applies INFINITI's double wave theme, and the company's signature analog clock sits front and center in the center stack of controls. For 2011, the revised aluminum trim is called Shodo, inspired by the traditional art of Japanese calligraphy, and it's elegant. Yet the subtly etched Silk Obi aluminum in our convertible test car might be the most beautiful metal trim we've seen. A high-gloss maple trim is optional in all models, while special editions may have red-tone maple.

The Gs new gauges feature electroluminescent lighting: white needles and numbers on a black background with violet highlights. An easy-to-read information display shows useful trip functions such as fuel mileage, average speed, elapsed time, running distance and distance to empty, as well as outside air temperature, odometer, and warning displays; the switches for this display are on the sides of the instrument hood.

The center stack falls from a high-resolution LED screen that displays climate and audio data or navigation information. The stereo and climate controls are located out in the open below the information screen, with our preferred layout of audio on top and climate below. The design is attractive and very good from the functional perspective, though some would prefer the knobs for volume and temperature were larger or not identical.

The navigation system is controlled by a mouse-like knob below the screen, by touching the screen itself for some functions, or by voice commands. INFINITI's point-and-click device is one of the more effective, least cumbersome interfaces in the luxury class, but it's still more difficult to use than the best touch screens.

The nav screen itself is quite sharp. The map offers a bird's-eye view, which gives a perception of distance by incorporating a horizon and, depending on the available mapping data, three-dimensional building footprints for the local surroundings. It's neat to look at, though many testers prefer the regular overhead view. The XM satellite radio system provides real-time traffic updates on the screen, where available, and the Zagat restaurant guide to the navigation software.

The standard sound system is competitive with that in any luxury sedan. The upgrade Bose Studio On Wheels audio delivers a sound that's richer, fuller, more intricate and crisper than many systems in cars costing thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars more. We stepped directly from a G into a $100,000-plus European sports coupe with that marque's top-level sound system and could not distinguish a difference between the two.

The upgrade audio in the convertible is called Bose Open Air, and it's standard, with an extra pair of speakers in the front headrests, right behind the ears. It adjusts volume and re-mixes the audio in real time according to ambient noise. The available 9.3 gigabyte hard drive will compress and copy about 90 CDs in short order. The audio directory can access music by artist or type.

The G37 Convertible comes with an adaptive climate control system that automatically adjusts airflow and fan speed based on top position and road speed. Lots of rear glass makes for good rearward visibility, even without the optional back-up camera. Both the sedan and coupe have quite good outward visibility.

The front door pockets are small in all G models, half-taken by armrests, although each includes a hollow for a water bottle. There are also two cupholders behind the shift lever. The center console has been redesigned, and cubby storage includes a respectably sized glove box. The back side of each front seatback has a magazine pouch (unless you order the cooled seats). Two cup holders pop out of the fold-down, rear seat center armrest, which also has a unique compartment masked by a Velcro-type flap on the right side.

Interior roominess is competitive for the class. The G sedan's wide rear door openings leave room aplenty for legs, knees and feet when getting in and out of the back seat.

The coupe is a different story. Headroom and legroom are compromised by 4 to 6 inches. The driveshaft hump runs high between the two rear seats, and there's a wide crack between the seatback and seat cushion that might get uncomfortable over the miles.

Rear seat space in the G37 Convertible is just as tight. Access in both coupe and convertible is at least eased by a power walk-in device with position memory. In both, the front seatbacks tilt forward with a lever and then move forward automatically at the touch of a button to ease entry/exit. In either two-door the rear is suitable only for kids or smaller adults.

With 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space, the G sedan slightly surpasses the cargo space offered by the Lexus IS and BMW 3 Series but falls well short of the Audi A4 (17 cubic feet).

The coupe fares worst of all in trunk space with 7.4 cubic feet and no hatchback versatility. A folding rear seatback improves things by allowing larger items to flow from the trunk into the passenger space, and it explains that notable crack between the back and bottom cushion when the rear seatback is upright.

The G37 Convertible offers competitive trunk space when compared with other cars in the class, with 10.3 cubic feet, but only with the roof up. With the top down there is two cubic feet of space so the open-top trunk becomes the back seat. So on longer trips, you may be forced to keep the top up. The convertible's top works easily and without a hitch, but we wish it would operate when the car is rolling at moderate speeds (up to 15-25 mph), as the tops do in many convertibles.

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