Power, styling and luxury mix for top down fun
by: Infiniti, Inc. The 2011 Infiniti G37 Convertible looks great with the top up or down.

For those of you who find the Nissan 370Z stunning but want a little more room and luxury, Infiniti has just the car for you - the G37 Coupe. Not only does it look like a 370Z 2+2, the G37 Coupe comes with a similar 3.7-liter engine, the same choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission, and an optional retractable hardtop, along the lines of the one available on the 370Z. Higher performance versions of both cars are also available.

Of course, because Infiniti is Nissan's premium brand, such similarities are to be expected. The two cars share much of the chassis and a number of other components. But the G37 Coupe and Convertible comes with a more upscale interior, a slightly softer but still sporty ride, and more sophisticated climate, entertainment and navigation systems.

Despite their similarities, the styling is different enough the two will not be mistaken for each other on the street. For starters, the G37 has a longer wheelbase to accommodate small back seats that are not available with the 370Z. The Nissan also has a blunter nose and wider rear flanks, while the G37 is more angular. But they are still corporate siblings and the basic concept is the same - a small, well-made sports car that is not only a blast to drive but comfortable and reliable enough for daily use.

Unlike the 370Z, the G37 models are part of a series that includes two compact sedans, the G25, which is powered by a 2.5-liter V6, and the G37, which share the 3.7-liter with the G37 Coupe and Convertible. In some respects, the four and two door models differ more than the 370Z and two-door versions of the G37. Everything behind the front doors is different on the G-series sedan and two door models, allowing the designers to give the Coupe and Convertible a true fastback look.

On the road, the 370Z and G37 perform differently enough that no one will mistake them for one another blindfolded. Both are quick and well-composed, but the Nissan is engineered to be visceral while the Infiniti is far more refined. While the 370Z sounds raspy even at low speeds, the G37 is almost silent until the gas is punched, when it then emits a low growl. Both handle well over rough pavement, although the Infiniti is harder to upset than the Nissan, which is more stiffly sprung.

But enough of the comparisons. Our test model was a Convertible version of the G37, and suffice to say, it was a pleasure to drive at any speed. All of the parts meshed effortlessly together, creating an aura of poise and sophistication. The steering was light, the suspension was supple, and the power flowed effortlessly from the 328 horsepower engine. 'Smooth' was the one word than repeatedly came to mind.

The interior was a balanced mix of sport and creature comforts. All of the materials were high grade. The heated, 10-way power front bucket seats were deeply sculpted and wrapped in premium leather. The dash was refreshingly simple for a luxury car, a welcome change from the complex control panels that some competitors prefer. The Bose stereo was phenomenal, aided by speakers built into the headrests of our seats. Although the rear seats were small, they could accommodate teenagers for short trips.

But of course, the real attraction of the Convertible model is the retractable hardtop. It goes up or down in less than 30 seconds, with various body panels opening and closing in a ballet that everyone around us compared a Transformers movie. With the top down, the G37 is even better looking, with the trunk line slightly higher than the front end, giving it an aggressive stance. Putting the top down also made it much easier to get in and out of, especially for back seat passengers.

Unlike some convertibles, we did not feel any body flexing in our test car, even on bad pavement or through fast turns. And with the top down and the windows up, buffeting was surprisingly minimal, even at freeway speeds.

Our test car was also a Sport version. That meant it had numerous performance upgrades, including 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, aluminum four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers, and a short-throw six-speed manual transmission that flicked easily between gears. It also meant the price starts at around $50,200 - $4,450 more than the base Convertible.

Whether the added performance is worth the higher price is something only buyers can decide for themselves. However, we can gladly say that, when pushed to its limits, our test car was an exhilarating ride.

But if you want even more entertainment, Infiniti offers the IPL G Coupe, which comes with 18 more horsepower, a special tuned suspension, unique body moldings and more. To get back to the 370Z comparisons, it is Infiniti's version of Nissan's Nismo model, which comes with 350 horsepower and a variety of performance upgrades. Both can be had for a little under $50,000 and compete well against far more expensive sports cars in published tests.

With all its model designated by letters and some made up of more then one model, the Infiniti line can be a little confusing to the uninitiated. Just keep this in mind - if you are looking for a fast, styling coupe or convertible, G stands for Gold.

Facts and figures

• Model: 2011 G37 Convertible Sport.

• Manufacturer: Infiniti.

• Class: Compact sport coupe.

• Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive.

• Style: Four-passenger, two door car.

• Engines: 3.7-liter V6 (328 hp).

• Transmission: Six-speed manual (as tested); seven-speed automatic.

• EPA estimated city/highway mileage: 18/25.

• Price: Beginning at $50,200.

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