Grand touring in grand style
There’s something about a convertible that gets right to the core of driving. Perhaps it’s due to the relative scarcity of times when weather, season and road come together. Perhaps its just the fact the convertible offers a chance to emerge from our steel cocoons and take a break from everyday reality.
Whatever it is, it works.
At Nissan’s upscale Infiniti division, “IPL” stands for “Infiniti Performance Line” a series of cars that not only have a number of performance tweaks, but are so loaded with standard features there are virtually no options offered other than some accessories that are mostly dealer-added.
Case in point is the 2013 Infiniti G37 IPL convertible. Infiniti offers the IPL convertible in your choice of two colors: Moonlight White or Malbec Black, a deep wine red named for the very dark grape often blended in Merlots or Bordeaux clarets. Interior color choices are also simplified, Stone or Monaco Red with Silk Obi aluminum trim. We received a Moonlight and Monaco car.
In keeping with the performance line philosophy, the G37 convertible was massaged with the same adjustments Infiniti engineers used to upgrade the IPL coupe, including a real dual exhaust system that helps boost the 3.7-liter VQ engine’s horsepower to 343 @ 7000 rpm and adds six more pounds-feet of torque for a total of 273. The added power is delivered to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic that one can control with magnesium paddles shifters on the steering column.
There are also some body modifications to let passers-by know this isn’t just any run-of-the-mill car. A new front fascia and a rear spoiler are among the changes.
The G37 IPL drop-top enjoys a retuned suspension with stiffer springs, fore and aft, and special shock absorbers. There is also some serious stopping power: 14-inch front discs with four-piston calipers and 13.8-inch discs with two-piston calipers on the rear.
Our first day with the small Infiniti was surprisingly unpleasant. Getting secured in the seats meant dealing with a recalcitrant seatbelt that didn’t want to release, even when allowed to retract all the way and pulled gently. This turned out to be due to a twist; once corrected, it was never a problem again. Once settled in, the G37’s driver’s seat is a nice place to be. The seats were comfortable, controls were properly positioned and the quality of the fit and finish was what one would expect in a top-tier luxury car.
On our first outings in the G37, the car felt sluggish and heavy, which we attributed to the fact that it weighs over two tons. A trip to the grocery store meant dealing with the vagaries of a space that must alternatively serve as a trunk and stowage for the three-piece top. Furthermore, the rear deck lid, which is cut deep for a low lift-over to ease loading, doesn’t open quite wide enough for a six-footer to avoid a nasty blow to the top of the skull.
This first day brought back a memory of a Mercedes roadster that also proved an initial disappointment. The solution in that case was putting down the top and adding a pretty girl, a beautiful afternoon, and a twisty country road.
It’s a matter of 28 hand-free seconds to raise or lower the top on the G37 IPL. While the resident pretty girl wasn’t available, the twisty country road was on tap as was a cool summer morning, just right for al fresco driving.
Voila! The G37 comes alive. Get serious about the throttle and any heaviness disappears in a smooth flow of what seems like endless power. The open air invigorates and the Bose speakers mounted in the headrests delivers sound quality one seldom hears in a convertible. All the earlier impressions were erased with the realization that the G37 IPL is intended for an owner who wants to drive the car, not just operate it.
Handling was superb; even washboard couldn’t shake the G37 IPL’s composure, though there was a fair amount of noise from the top moving in the trunk.
With the top up, the G37 was quiet with no wind noise, even at 80 miles per hour.
Downsides: Price, lack of space, heavy feel, and the rear deck lid.
Back in the real world with a new understanding of how the G37 communicates, the car performed admirably. Even short trips were fun, especially if the sun was out and the top was down. We used the column-mounted paddle shifters frequently: they worked well and the extra control over shift points made it spirited driving even more rewarding.
Incidentally, raising or lowering the top always drew a few spectators entranced by all the panels opening and closing. Even when we went down to Harris County’s Bear Creek park for our photo shoot, the car drew a crowd.
Plus, the G37 had a “cool” factor unmatched by any review vehicle we have tested. When one has more than a passing resemblance to Santa Claus, one is seldom regarded as cool by anyone much over four years old. However, when collecting a teenage son after high school football practice, arriving in the G37 with its top down brought more than a few approving comments from young men and women and even a teacher or two.
Speaking of sons and passengers in general, Infiniti bills the G37 IPL as a four-seater. However, unless the person in the front seat has short legs, the person in the rear seat better be in a car seat because actual legs are out of the question. Best to view the G37 as a 2+2.
As is true of most vehicles in this class, the Infiniti G37 IPL has enough electronics to keep even a gadget-head happy for hours. Fortunately for those of us with more mundane needs, the Infiniti system is reasonably intuitive and features large buttons on its touch screen. It’s still a multi-stage operation to make any major changes to entertainments sources, but it is possible to do with momentary glances. Once again, though, programming the navigation system and syncing a phone are tasks best done with the car in park.
The instrument cluster is wonderfully straigntforward with legible analog gauges and a small stutus display in the center. The controls on the steering wheel are well-placed and quickly become intuitive. One item that is more of an omission than a defect is the lack of a lane-change feature for the turn signals. The Infiniti will happily flash the turn signals as long as the lever is actuated but we have become used to the feature we have on our personal vehicles and have found on most recent vehicles we’ve tested: a momentary activation of the turn signal level results in the appropriate signal flashing three times. It’s not a huge sticking point, but it’s a handy feature in traffic when you need to change lanes and want to be legal while doing it.
The Infiniti G37 IPL comes with a long list of equipment. But it also comes with a fairly hefty price tag that at first glance puts it in the range of the 3-Series convertible from BMW and Mercedes-Benz SLK roadsters. The trick is that the G37 IPL delivers so much more content that it would cost several thousand more to get a comparable vehicle.
The Infiniti G37 IPL isn’t really a sports car: it’s a grand touring car in every sense of the word, cosseting the occupants in luxury while providing the driver with a richly rewarding experience behind the wheel.
2013 Infiniti G37 IPL Convertible Base price: $60,000. Price as tested, including options and destination: $61,495. Final assembly point: Los Angeles, California.
Key standard features: 3-piece power retractable hardtop; HID xenon headlights; Front fog lights; LED rear brake lights and center high-mounted stoplight; IPL aerodynamics with front fascia and side sills; remote power-opening of windows using Infiniti Intelligent Key; closing via key in exterior door lock; Dual heated power-opening outside mirrors; speed-sensing flat-blade variable intermittent front windshield wipers; unique IPL emblem and larger diameter dual chrome exhaust tips; Infiniti intelligent key; push-button ignition; adaptive climate control system; rear-seat heater ducts under front seats; power front windows; power door locks; illuminated entry system with delayed fade-out; dual overhead front map lights; dual front cup holders and door bottle holders; console with armrest, storage compartment and 12-volt power outlet; leather seating including red-stitched front seats with embroidered IPL logo; 1-way power driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support; 8-way power front-passenger’s seat; dual occupant memory system for driver’s seat, steering wheel and outside mirrors, linked to individual Intelligent Keys; climate-controlled front seats with cooling function; Silk Obi aluminum interior trim; leather-wrapped 3-spoke steering wheel with red stitching; leather shift knob with aluminum accent; aluminum door-sill kick plates with Infiniti logo; aluminum pedals and footrest; Bose 13-speaker sound system including Bose Personal front seat speakers; USB connection port for iPod® interface and other compatible devices; multimedia playback of DVD or digital file from a USB flash drive on 7-inch WVGA color display; SiriusXM Radio; steering wheel-mounted audio controls; fine vision electroluminescent gauges; power tilt-and-telescopic steering column synchronizes gauge cluster with column for improved vision; solid-magnesium paddle shifters; Bluetooth; multi-function trip computer with fuel range and outside temperature display; Infiniti Controller with color display for audio, climate control, fuel economy, maintenance, and comfort and convenience features; Infiniti navigation system with seven-inch color touch-screen, lane guidance and 3-D building graphics; Infiniti Voice Recognition for audio, information and navigation systems; NavTraffic with real-time traffic information; NavWeather with real-time weather and 3-day forecast; Zagat Survey Restaurant Guide; rear-view monitor; rear sonar system auto-dimming inside mirror with HomeLink universal transceiver; cruise control with steering wheel-mounted switches; analog clock; tire repair kit.
The 2013 Infiniti G37 convertible has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. G37 models that have been tested scored “Good” (the highest possible grade) in Frontal and Side Impact testing, “Acceptable” (the second-highest grade) in Rollover and “Marginal” in Rear collision testing.
Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the site contact form.