The Price of Vanity: The aesthetic gap between coupe and sedan tightens, and a 10-grand advantage should make BMW jittery. BY MICHAEL AUSTIN August 2007 Back in the so-called good old days, when a car was offered in both coupe and sedan forms, you could count on the two-door version being lighter, sportier, and more stylish. That’s almost the case with the 2008 Infiniti G37 coupe, but not quite, because it’s about 100 pounds heavier than its sedan counterpart, the G35, which mostly underpins it. What gives? Infiniti says the coupe’s larger doors require more reinforcement to achieve a high side-impact crash rating. Extra crash structure adds weight, but don’t expect a “Safety Kills the Sports Coupe” headline any time soon. Larger brakes and a slightly heavier engine contribute some pounds as well. Gaining 100 pounds is an unfortunate but not inexcusable way to shed the family-car image and increase your sex appeal. The G37 copes with the extra heft over its sedan stablemate—and satisfies the sportier criterion—with a new 3.7-liter version of Nissan’s venerable VQ V-6 engine. The boost in displacement comes from a longer stroke; both the 3.5- and 3.7-liter engines in the G-car feature a taller block than the previous generation’s powerplant. The G37 takes the latest engine improvements a step further and adds variable valve timing and variable lift on the intake side, and the compression ratio increases to 11.0:1. Power is up 24 horsepower at 330, and the torque output increases two pound-feet to 270. The extra power doesn’t make much of a difference at the test track. The 0-to-60 sprint of 5.3 seconds is 0.2 second quicker than that of the G35 we compared with a BMW 328i [“Winds of Change?” April 2007], but 0.1 second slower than the first ’07 G35 we tested in October 2006. By the quarter-mile mark, the G37 is dead even with that October G35: 13.9 seconds at 103 mph. A far more important improvement in the G37, power increases aside, is the fact that it no longer sounds like it’s making grits inside the engine. The VQ is smooth again, and the exhaust note is a pleasing burble that’s always available with a quick mash of the electronically controlled throttle. The six-speed manual transmission has been revised as well. The difference between G35 sedan and G37 coupe is more subtle than the engine change, but the coupe’s new gearbox feels slightly smoother. The shift throws are short, and so is clutch-pedal travel, which engages with a smoothness that BMW is only beginning to approach with the latest 3-series. The G37 suspension is the same control-arm-front and multilink-rear configuration as the G35 sedan’s. Our test car came with the Sport package, which is standard with the six-speed manual and optional with the automatic transmission. It adds a red “S” to the rear badging and includes a stiffer suspension, limited-slip differential, and 19-inch wheels with high-performance Bridgestone rubber. The setup is good for 0.89 g on the skidpad, and the G37 is impressive on the road. When it comes to optional sport packages, we’re suckers for the promise of better grip and handling, but the resulting harsh ride usually leaves us cussing the low-profile tires and stiff springs. Not so with this G37. The chassis soaks up road bumps without the slightest chatter, and the steering remains precise and communicative. The ride is stiffer than that of a BMW 3-series, but the G37 is a huge improvement over the old coupe with the sport suspension, which was jarring on any surface rougher than freshly waxed linoleum. Dive into a turn, and the G37 transfers its weight gradually and without any surprises. Oversteer can be achieved on corner exit, but the neutral balance of the car means that any opposite-lock maneuvers are more of a four-wheel drift than throttle-induced tail wagging. The only thing we would ask for is a stiffer brake pedal, even though the 70-to-0 stopping distance is a respectable 164 feet. Still, the G37 is a most-satisfying driving experience. It has the trait of any good sports car: Driving the G37 hard is so enjoyable that you forgive its faults. So what’s to fault? The problems are mostly the result of the styling. Make no mistake, the G37 is more stylish than the sedan and thus satisfies most of the criteria for sedan-to-coupe conversion, but the resulting compromises are, well, a pain in the ass. The G37 is about four inches shorter in length, two inches wider, and 2.5 inches lower than the G35 sedan. Compared with the old G35 coupe, the G37 is about an inch longer, and slightly wider and lower. All three cars ride on the same 112.2-inch wheelbase. Inside—and here’s the problem—the G37 has 1.4 fewer inches of headroom than the G35 sedan when both are equipped with sunroofs. Clearance is low enough that sub-six-footers might find their hair brushing the headliner, depending on posture and the amount of mousse in their ’dos. The rear seat, which has 4.7 fewer inches of legroom than the G35 sedan’s (and 1.6 fewer than in the G35 coupe), is more than cramped. Adults sardined in the back are faced with the option of tilting their heads sideways or slouching past the point of reasonable comfort. At least there’s a nifty button next to the front-seat folding lever that powers the seat forward for ingress and egress and then returns the seat to its knee-crushing original position. The rear seats fold in one piece to extend the length of the trunk, a good thing because seven cubic feet of storage isn’t much. There’s a diagram that illustrates how to load two golf bags, but the first impression of the shallow trunk is that a case of beer might risk getting crushed (it doesn’t). As in any coupe, the front seats are the place to be. G37s equipped with the Sport package get power-adjustable bolsters on the driver’s side to go with the manual thigh extension that’s also on the passenger’s seat. The dashboard is identical to the G35 coupe’s, with a color monitor to control the radio, climate-control, and optional nav system. It’s pleasant enough—the aluminum trim has an especially handsome surface finish—but some of the plastic looks cheaper than it should, like the pieces surrounding the steering-wheel audio and cruise-control buttons. So that’s the price of vanity, and thus the real issue with the G37. The previous-generation coupe was far more attractive than its sedan counterpart. The ’07 four-door G35 is significantly prettier than its predecessor, and the aesthetic gap has been narrowed. As far as most drivers will be able to tell, the performance of the two is nearly equal. Are the sweeter engine and the sporty seat worth the loss of rear-seat and cargo space? Perhaps that question is missing the point. The argument of coupe versus sedan is more an issue of taste and style than one of facts and figures. What matters is that the G37 is a successful luxury coupe: fast, stylish, fun to drive. There’s another question, though: How does the G37 stack up against the BMW 335i coupe? It’s hard to say without putting them side by side in a comparison test, but you can bet the G37 will give the Bimmer a good fight. THE VERDICT Highs: Engine smoothed out, sexy looks, great steering. Lows: Trunk is shallower than a kiddy pool, short on headroom, interior plastic needs an upgrade. The Verdict: Performance, style, and luxury all in one place. And in that order. COUNTERPOINT TONY SWAN In case you hadn’t noticed, this staff has a deep affection for BMW 3-series cars, particularly the current coupes. So inevitably, there will be invidious comparisons made between the 335i coupe and the G37. The G37 is heavier, isn’t quite as quick, and takes a smidge longer to stop. On the other hand, it’s handsome, gratifying to drive, and could save you up to 10 large versus the BMW. Unless you have acute BCS (Bimmer Compulsive Syndrome), that’s hard to ignore. DAVE VANDERWERP Sure, the G37 has big horsepower, steering feel that’s awfully close to that of the top-dog 3-series, and graciously neutral handling. In an owner’s hands, however, the G is bound to catch laid-back commuting detail, and that’s when the engine seems a bit coarse, the clutch is tough to engage smoothly, and the viscous shifter vibrates like nothing attached to a luxury car ever should. Make sure you’re a performance addict before choosing a G37 over the sublimely polished BMW 328i.