Goodbye Infiniti G37S Coupe - 10 June 2011
There was a real sense of loss as I watched the G Coupé being trailered away this month. It was a car that endeared itself with every passing mile, one brimful of character and confidence. It was an unusual day if I wasn’t asked about the Infiniti – who made it, how much it cost and what it was like to drive were the commonest questions – and it was a car that made me feel special, something arguably far more important than top speed, fuel economy, purchase price or any other criterion used to judge a car.
The Infiniti enjoyed its drink – the G gorged itself on the best part of 1300 litres of unleaded during its six-month stay, returning around 21.6mpg. But I never begrudged the £90 weekly fuel bill because burning every drop of petrol was a delight. The grunty 316bhp 3.7-litre V6 was quite happy to amble along around town and burble around country roads but it was at its aural and dynamic best hammering up against its 7500rpm redline, the powerhouse slingshotting the coupé along with license-loosing addiction.
Although its on-paper stats of 265 lb ft at 5200rpm make it sound peaky, the all-alloy unit was anything but. As soon as it was above 2500rpm it rocketed along in any gear, an appetite for pace matched by the taut suspension, wrist flick four-wheel steering and agile tail-happy chassis. Flinging this car hard and fast along well-known roads was magic.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox was the dynamic weak point in what was otherwise a polished and driver-centric package. Although the paddle-shifter was a learner, it just never seemed to deliver the requisite gearshift quality when it was needed. I got slushy when I wanted crisp, jerky when I wanted smooth and ponderous when I wanted quick. Note to those Infiniti engineers working on the next-gen G – an eight-speed double clutcher next time round, please. And make sure it and the engine fully understand each other.
I loved the G’s cabin. More flamboyant than anything from Germany, it combined a superb ergonomic layout with extravagant levels of standard luxury, safety and infotainment equipment. There wasn’t a great deal of room in the back, but my two young daughters didn’t mind, enjoying the Infiniti’s acceleration and sense of drama instead.
The intuitive Connectiviti+ satnav, stunning Bose audio set-up, excellent chairs, active bi-Xenon headlights and smart cruise control all deserve a special mention. They were quite brilliant, as appealing as the car’s design. Although it had its detractors, I thought the G looked just the way a powerful and opulent coupé should – muscular, elegant and distinctive. That it made a highlight of its Japanese origins, rather than try and mimic its European rivals heightened its appeal.
As did the people behind it. Whenever I spoke to Infiniti global boss Andy Palmer, European head honcho Jim Wright or chief designer Shiro Nakamura, I was always struck by how they talked about Infiniti’s success in emotional rather than statistical terms.
Don't get me wrong, the company has a huge challenge ahead of it – one made even harder by the current economic climate and the recent devastating earthquake in Japan – but Wright and Palmer know just how hard fought success will be. Hence the modest sales aspiration and equally pragmatic levels or market penetration. As Palmer told me at Geneva, “It will be tough, but I am extremely ambitious about Infiniti. Its time is now.” Having spent a hugely rewarding six months in his company’s performance flagship, I wholeheartedly agree with him.
By Ben Whitworth
Still smitten with the styling – 26 April 2011
With the Infiniti’s departure just days away I decided to take advantage of the recent bout of fine weather and give it a good clean inside and out. No, not handing an extortionate amount of money to a bunch of Albanians in the local supermarket car park, but a full-on DIY job. Two hours of lathering, polishing and Dysoning gave me plenty of time to reflect on just what a glorious bit of metal the G is.
I’ve never tired of looking at the Infiniti. I know that its looks don’t appeal to everyone – for every mate who loved it, there was one who turned up his nose – but I was and still am smitten with its proportions and detailing. I love the way its side-on squat muscularity turns all sleek and graceful from the rear three-quarters. How the low creased bonnet races upwards into the broad shoulders, and the beautiful simplicity of the flowing roofline. And kudos to Infiniti for being boldly Japanese in a sector defined by geometric European style – check out those flowing headlamps, the organic tail lights, the crescent-shaped grille and the precisioned style of the ten-spoke alloys.
Big coupes – and I mean proper two-door coupes, rather than these parvenu four-door saloons with shoddy headroom – should be fleet, stylish, desirable. They should be as much a pleasure to look at as to pilot. And that makes the G a bona fide coupe in my book.
By Ben Whitworth
Infiniti in need of a double-clutch gearbox – 6 April 2011
With the Infiniti’s departure just around the corner, I took it out last week for a long, fast run from the south coast up to a meeting in Milton Keynes. It’s the journey, not the destination…
While shifting through slower traffic along the A34 I cast a critical eye over the G and played that what-would-I-change-if-I-could game. While the charismatic engine, distinctive styling, well-damped ride, tidy handling and intelligently configured cabin all got the thumbs up, the transmission was sent to the stand in the corner.
While the automatic gearbox’s stats look good on paper with its seven speeds and shift paddles made of magnesium (an odd choice of metal, but that’s Infiniti’s quirkiness for you) in reality it lets the dynamic side down. It always feels out of step with what you want, never delivering slurringly smooth shifts around town and quick crisp changes at speed, but a rather mixed bag or slow or jerky or both, no matter what your speed or driving style.
The transmission software is a ‘learner’, monitoring your driving and adapting shift speeds and timings accordingly. Apparently. To me it just feels old-tech and dim-witted – the very antithesis of what Infiniti is all about.
What the next generation G Coupe needs is an advanced double-clutch 'box that can imperceptibly shuffle through the gears in full auto mode when the driver wants to relax, and then dish up seamless, machine gun-quick changes in manual mode. That’s not too much to ask, is it Tochigi?
By Ben Whitworth
A wet week in our Infiniti – 17 March 2011
n interesting wet week in the G. The Pirelli winter tyres Infiniti fitted to the G before Christmas have proved a godsend. Grip and traction have improved dramatically, and the front end bite is as sharp as you’d want it to be. Winter tyres, then, are a very good thing.
Although the tyres were swapped at the behest of the press office at Infiniti, a quick call to the company’s flagship outlet in Reading revealed that the dealership would be more than happy to source and fit winter tyres for any Infiniti driver.
Despite their superior performance over the standard all-weather rubberware, it’s surprising just how quickly and often the G’s traction control light flashes up when the roads are anything but bone dry. Which is why, during the recent cold and wet weather, I decided to tackle my regular office commute for a full week with the traction control switched off.
Well, it was a hell of a week, most of it spent staring out the side windows. The Infiniti may look all posh and prim with its leather and metallic paint and shiny wheels, but in reality it’s a right sideways sliding hooligan. I arrived at the office on my first ESP-free day wide-eyed and sweaty-palmed because it seemed like the G was intent on spinning me off into the scenery at any given opportunity.
By Wednesday I was beginning to thoroughly enjoy it, learning to be far more sensitive with inputs and really focussing on chassis and steering feedback. By Friday I was addicted, revelling in the forgiving chassis and the quick and feelsome steering. My point-to-point times tumbled and I probably drove more slowly than I would have done had the ESP been on, but I reckon I appreciated every office- and home-bound corner. Even the ones on the straights...
By Ben Whitworth
Golf bags! – 16 February 2011
The sticker on the G’s inner boot lid always leaves me bemused. It shows you how to stow two sets of golf clubs in the car’s rather oddly proportioned and shallow boot. Now, although I’m quite partial to a game of golf I can fully understand the pejorative motoring image the sport has. It’s perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a game for, well, the slightly older and less time-pressured driver. An image that I think is more than slightly at odds with Infiniti’s performance-oriented and technically advanced character. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into this and should shut up before I upset all golfers reading this…
The G also has a new name. For as long as possible I’ve avoided carting about my two young daughter in the Infiniti because getting their heavy and bulky Isofix car-seats in and out is a complete pain. Even with the front seats shunted fully forward, it’s still a very tight squeeze getting the seats in. And you then have to crouch Quasimodo-like in the rear while slotting the seats into place. And after all that the children still whinge about the lack of legroom even when my seat is so far forward I’m head-butting the windscreen. But I’ve found a very effective means of turning their gripes into giggles. A redline squirt in second gear instantly elicits a ‘Wheeeeeeee!’ from the girls, promptly followed by a chant of ‘Doitagain! Doitagain!’ So the G is now called the Wheee car.
By Ben Whitworth
Back in the G – 3 February 2011
I’ve missed the Infiniti. Much of December and January was spent driving from one family event after the other, which saw me spend a lot of time manhandling our cumbersome Volvo V70 about. Safe but slow and soporific.
So getting into the G for a recent fast run up to Oxford was something to revel in. And it didn't disappoint. The Infiniti seems as adept at scything through West Sussex’s winding B roads as it does tackling fast motorways. It feels surefooted and pointy, mustard keen to slingshot past slower traffic and onto the next bend.
The engine dominates the driving experience. The 3.7-litre V6 dishes up a chunky 316bhp at 7000rpm – good for a 5.9second sprint to 60mph – and 265 lb ft at 5200rpm. If those stats sound like a peaky engine, the real-world experience couldn't be more different. The all-alloy slugs hard the moment the rev needle swings past 2500rpm delivering killer mid-range acceleration and a howling lunge to the redline.
It’s the propulsive equivalent of Richard Burton. Burly, vocal, powerful - and keen on a drink. With petrol nudging £1.30 refuelling the G’s big 80-litre tank brings tears to my eyes. I don’t begrudge a single penny spent because the Infiniti genuinely lifts my spirits and makes even the dullest of trips something a little bit special. But I am looking forward to something a little less juicy.
By Ben Whitworth
The best of both – 20 December 2010
The Coupe passed my airport test with real panache the other night. I landed at a snowy and bitingly cold Heathrow last week after a 12-hour flight. I was tired, cold and after being away for three days, I desperately wanted to get home to see my two young daughters before they went to bed. Effortless get-me-home pace was needed.
The Infiniti’s keyless entry meant I didn’t even have to scrabble around in the dark for the keys – I simply walked up and opened the boot, stowed my luggage and climbed in behind the wheel. Within a few seconds my heated seat took the chill out of my bones and the cabin was soon warmed by the powerful climate control.
With the Bose stereo set to Radio 4 (just in time to hear Eddie Mair slice through an endless stream of dense politicians), the piercing bendy bi-xenons shining bright and the intelligent cruise control set, the Infiniti shrunk the 90-odd miles between cold airport and warm home into a effortless 90-minute run. Home in time for bedtime stories. Perfect.
I took a few hours off the next day – it was freezing cold but clear – and went for a punt around the back of the Goodwood Estate, through to Petworth, west to Midhurst and then down the A3. The Coupe took on the role of cross-country blaster as effectively as it did high-speed nocturnal cruiser, its grunty V6 engine, intuitive chassis and sharp four-wheel steering making it a delight to push hard along the familiar winding country roads. The Infiniti seems to know what kind of car I want as I open the door. And I like that level of intuition very much indeed.
By Ben Whitworth
The really rather good Connectiviti+ infotainment system – 2 December 2010
As well as a few minor trim changes for the MY2011 G37, one of the major – and most welcome – upgrades is the introduction of Infiniti’s latest Connectiviti+ infotainment system, one that’s already standard on the G Convertible, EX and FX. The outgoing satnav/phone/stereo system was pretty awful (see pic) with indecipherable graphics and counter-intuitive menus that made the system feel very 1990.
The Connectiviti+ system couldn’t be more up-to-date. The ultra-fast satnav system is superb, offering a choice of different single or split-screen three-dimensional views, incredibly clear graphics, and a simple touch-screen input system. The system also incorporates a digital version of Michelin’s pan-European food and sight-seeing guide. Very useful.
The Bose stereo is stunning. The Premium Sound System powers 11 loudspeakers to deliver a rich and deep surround sound experience. The clarity is superb, no matter how loud you crank it up. Steely Dan’s Everything Must Go never sounded so immaculate and polished.
Throw in automatic Bluetooth and iPod connectivity as well as a 10GB music hard-drive (enough to store 300 discs) hooked up to Gracenote’s database, all with steering-wheel controls and you have a awesome set-up. But the best bit? The chirpy ‘welcome home’ trumpet fanfare that plays whenever I turn into my driveway.
By Ben Whitworth
Life... with a G37 saloon – 11 November 2010
While waiting for my G37S coupe to arrive, Infiniti very kindly loaned me a G37 saloon to break me into the Infiniti way. And despite not initially being bowled over by the styling – I thought it looked a bit frumpy and glutinous – I quickly warmed to the G. It was different for a start. Not being a default German saloon counts for a great deal. I liked the fact that it wasn’t trying to be European, either. Despite not being sold in Japan, Infiniti makes much of its origins – it’s inherently Japanese, and proud of it.
The saloon rode with a well-damped compliance – firm enough to relish tackling corners, but comfortable enough to waft along and sponge away all but the worst of intrusions.
It was exceptionally well equipped, its 3.7-litre engine was thirsty, but it rocketed the Infiniti along with a snarling aggression, and it steered with a lovely precision and accuracy. The one weakness was the seven-speed automatic transmission which was occasionally abrupt and a little uncouth. My appetite for the more athletic and sleeker coupe was well and truly whetted.
During this warm-up period, I also took the opportunity to visit Infiniti’s superb new dealership in Reading. If only all car showrooms were like this. Rather than walking in to an echoey and flair-free aircraft hangar-sized room stuffed with fast-talking shiny-suited blokes with bad facial hair, the Infiniti dealership is laid out like a top-end boutique hotel.
There’s a welcoming reception desk, bespoke artwork on the walls, expensive-looking and very comfortable sofas, excellent coffee and subdued lighting. The sales staff occupy glass-walled offices without doors – the idea being that you don’t feel locked in and trapped when discussing your order. The overall feeling is one of comfort, quality and professionalism. I was made to feel valued and appreciated from the moment I arrived. Bring on the coupe…
By Ben Whitworth
Ordering my new Infiniti G37 long-termer – 2 September 2010
After a great deal of thought, I think I have finally settled on my ideal spec for my Infiniti G37 Coupe long-termer. I’ve gone for the S Premium model, with seven-speed automatic transmission. Colour? Well, no contest there – the metallic Athens Blue (£565) wins hands down. I would have liked to have opted for the tan Stone leather interior, but I know that it would only take a few trips ferrying my two young daughters about to leave the cabin looking a little worse for wear, so stain-hiding Graphite black leather complemented by brushed Shodo aluminium trim it is. I’ve deleted the standard sun-roof. I hate sunroofs. They are such pointless things. They create a lot of noise when open and they rob me of headroom when closed. Wheels? The big 19-inch 10-spoke alloys are standard, but I have gone for a glossy black front grille (£485 including fitting) which I think tones down the glitz factor and gives the Infiniti’s face even more visual muscle.
So the final bill comes in at £41,865. Compared to its German rivals, that conspicuously good value. The Infiniti’s phenomenally comprehensive spec list includes goodies such as Intelligent Cruise Control, active bi-Xenon headlamps, a 3D navigation system with integrated Michelin guide, 'self-healing' paint and a stunning 11-speaker Bose audio system complete with a 10GB storage system. Impressive, no? Try and spec an 300bhp+ E-Class Coupe or an Audi A5 to a similar spec and you’ll need much deeper pockets. The only downside is now having to wait for it to arrive.
By Ben Whitworth
How would you spec your Infiniti? – 24 August 2010
We like Infiniti. Ask anyone in the CAR office and the Japanese newcomer – well, new to Europe and the UK, that is – gets the thumbs-up. We like the fact that it’s proudly Japanese, with a successful design and engineering ethos that embraces its culture rather than trying to emulate something generically European.
We like the intelligent way the company has set about tackling the European market. It hasn’t waded into the executive sector – arguably the world’s most competitive marketplace – and thrown around a lot of flashy figures and made a lot of hollow promises. It’s been refreshingly realistic – almost painfully so – about it’s sales ambitions and dealer rollout.
We like the way they look, too. From the manga-inspired madness of the FX50 to the voluptuous Essence concept car, from its slick website to its sumptuous hotel-style showrooms, Infiniti’s design language can be heard loudly and (mostly) mostly proudly above its key rivals. So, a company with an astute approach to breaking into Germany’s stranglehold on the premium sector, back-up by a rapidly growing line-up of distinctive cars.
But perhaps the thing we like most is the unequivocal answer we received from Infiniti’s European boss Jim Wright, when we asked him what was Infiniti’s core value. His immediate one-word answer? 'Performance.'
Which is why I’m about to take delivery of a new G37 Coupe – the most dynamic car in the current Infiniti line-up. However, I have a bit of time to play around on Infiniti’s on-line car configurator before the order goes in, so I'm open to suggestions as to the colour combinations. Click 'Add your comment' below and let me know what you would choose...
By Ben Whitworth