By on February 13, 2009

The BMW 3-Series has been the gold standard for small sports sedans since America had a gold standard. Well, it seems that way. The Ultimate Driving Machine has seen off the Germans (Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4), Americans (Cadillac CTS) and Japanese (Infiniti’s G-force). Repeatedly. Despite the min-Merc’s rep as a credible corner carver, it’s the Infiniti that’s posed the most dangerous threat to the 3′s rep. In fact, Infiniti’s persistence is the automotive equivalent of the posse in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Who are zees guys? These days, the G-Unit chases the 3 with a bigger engine, remapped power delivery and a Bimmer baiting tagline: “Beyond Machine.” We shall see.

The BMW 328 xDrive is the least Bangled of the Bimmer bunch, retaining its golden rule proportions—despite speed lines from a Japanese cartoon. This iteration finds itself more plump than its predecessors, but hey, would you complain it if was a steak? That long nose covers a straight six, the engine configuration that’s delighted generations of pistonheads. Literally. What else do you need to know?

The Infiniti G37x has an entirely different posture, with nearly the same stance. It is erumpent and rolling, like a silk scarf in the wind. The overall effect is more sinister than commanding. It doesn’t appear to be in the same weight class as the champ. Ha!

The Infiniti’s cabin had an interior decorator on their design team. The Washi paper-like aluminum trim is Shirley Temple-class cute. The flow and wrap looks sensuous, but also calming. The BMW’s innards were designed by engineers. No flourishes are found. From this seat, you drive your car. Ja? BMW breaks up the purposeful lines with varying textures and shades. Everything feels good, and that’s enough.

The BMW 328xi and Infiniti G37x’s stable-yards are grossly mismatched. BMW brings the venerable 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder engine making 230 hp @ 6500 rpm. The Infiniti wields 328 hp @ 7000 rpm from a 3.7-liter V6. Yes, the 335′s 300-horse turbocharged engine would crush the Infiniti into a fine powder. But that particular motorized meisterstuck is seven-Gs more (cash not cars). The truth is most sports sedanististas compare cars dollar-for-dollar.

The 328 is quick. It’s not going to make your mouth dry, but palpitations are not beyond the realm of possibility. Ye Olde variable valve timing produces a strong, steady surge up and down the rev range. A good driver can control and work with every ounce of the 328xi’s urge, using momentum to achieve what sheer grunt can not.

The G37 is fast. The engine’s 269 lb-ft of torque (@ 5200 rpm) reveals itself like it’s been there all along, waiting for you. Again, astute valve control delivers unto your right foot and two hands a strong, usable engine. Still, you gotta pay attention.

The G37′s dynamic vehicle control, traction control, ABS and all-wheel drive system do their level best to keep you at your level best, away from solid objects. I plowed this thing through light and heavy virgin snow. The experience was almost disappointing. The rear-wheel drive bias fools you into thinking you can break the rear end loose. You can’t. At least not if you’ve got a wife, two kids, a mortgage and a desire to support same.

The BMW’s equipped with almost the same system. I’m sure lawyers someplace will disagree. But the result is identical: more confidence than anyone other than Gunnar Thermaenius should have on a snowy road (to pick a neutral party).

Holistically speaking, the differences between the BMW 328xi and Infiniti G37x are remarkable (’cause that’s how we roll), but not profound. On dry pavement, the G has so much power you have to hold back, even when it’s not strictly necessary. It strains at the leash and then heads for the hills. If you’re not having enough fun, just hammer it and hold on. Done.

As you’d expect, the 328xi has a far more tossable, user-friendly feel. It encourages the enthusiastic driver to approach its limits a little at a time. By the same token, the G37′s stoppers are absurdly effective. But the 3′s brakes are effectively absurd; you can slow the sedan from outrageous speeds with logic-defying grace and seemingly infinite power.

The G37x’s new seven-speed is the world’s best continuously variable transmission (only not). The 3′s six speed is just as smooth, but lacks that final dollop of crème fraîche. Response under full throttle is identical, as are the official gas mileage ratings.

Overall, the cars are equal. The G trounces the 3 in the power department. Yet there is a purity to the 3 series that remains insuperable; it wasn’t designed to evoke or compete with anything. It’s a 3 series. It was built as a whole and ultimately it translates to a special, unified driving experience that can’t be overcome with power and tricks. I wouldn’t fault anyone for buying a G. But for me, synergy supplants paper prowess. The 3 wins.

[The original comparo crashed the entire site, due to some photo-related code. I apologize for losing your insightful commentary. I promise it won't disappear this time.]

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36 Comments on “Comparo: Infiniti G37x vs. BMW 328xi (Again)...”


  • avatar
    Jason

    Guess I was one of the lucky ones, since the original article worked fine for me. I use Firefox, but then I’m sure lots of people do and some of those had issues.

    Anyway, I’d still take the G37x, because I tend to keep cars for quite a long time, and I trust once it’s 5+ years old, it would hold up better without pouring so much money into it. Also I’d feel less like a dick sitting in it then the (and any) BMW.

  • avatar

    The new G is less pure than the old one, but you gain a more refined, premium feel in the bargain. You can get a manual with RWD. With the 2007, the feel of the shifter and clutch left a lot to be desired. I need to drive a 2009 with the stick to see if they’ve fixed this.

    On the reliability front, these cars have similar repair rates for their first couple of years. After that, the BMW starts requiring more attention–assuming that the 2009s will follow the same path as earlier model years.

    TrueDelta now has a reliability results page for each model. Those for the G and 3:

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php?stage=pt&bd=Infiniti&mc=127&email=Guest

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php?stage=pt&bd=BMW&mc=13&email=Guest

  • avatar
    pb35

    My wifes G35x will be 5 years old this year (43k) and I just took it to the dealer for it’s first non-scheduled repair. A sensor in the throttle chamber came loose throwing a check engine light.

    My initial warranty had expired but the repair was covered under my powertrain warranty. Cool.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    “It was built as a whole and ultimately it translates to a special, unified driving experience that can’t be overcome with power and tricks.”

    Tricks? What tricks does the G play?

    The G is rear wheel drive.

    The G has multilink front and rear suspensions with strong, substantial linkages (no economy car struts or weak, constantly out of alignment linkages to be found, unlike with the BMW, and by the way, alignments are not included in the free maintenance).

    The G is technically mid-engined, with the entire engine behind the front axle.

    The G weighs the same as the 3 despite having a 5 series wheelbase.

    The G is incredibly well made and reliable.

    http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2008/autos/0810/gallery.cr_most_reliable/5.html

    Tricks are when one tries to make a FWD car handle like a RWD car (Audi), or tries to make an SUV handle like a sports car (Porsche).

    The G has no tricks, it is simply a perfectly designed sedan.

    BMW has a brilliant trick. It puts a historic logo on an overpriced, unreliable car and gets journalists that do not have to deal with long term ownership to rave.

  • avatar
    relton

    Well, I bought the BMW, though not the 328 but rather the 335. And in the coupe form.

    A compared the two cars, in coupe form, in 2007. The Infinit simply did not hzve the refined ride and handling and braking of the BMW.

    Sure there are a lot of obnoxious people who buy BMWs to show off their money (or credit). But I’m not one of them, and I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks.

    Is the BMW overpriced? What price can you put on the satisfaction of driving a great machine. And the European delivery experience, not available at any price on an Infiniti (or Cadillac). Besides, I was going to buy an Aston Martin, so I figure I saved $80,000.

    Bob

  • avatar
    KnightRT

    Didn’t like this article because this:

    “It was built as a whole and ultimately it translates to a special, unified driving experience that can’t be overcome with power and tricks.”

    .. is a bunch of nonsense.

    “The BMW’s innards were designed by engineers.”

    Have you any proof of this? BMW uses more rectangular shapes in the center stack. That’s the difference. This does not make it more technical or ‘teutonic’ or show anything other than a preference for 80s design influences by the stylists.

    Frankly, I don’t care who designed BMW’s interior. I’m bothered far more by the ‘BMW = better because it’s supposed to be better’ mentality that this article applies.

  • avatar
    Driver23

    As someone mentioned in original set of comments, G does 90% of BMW at 70% of the price. You decide if value is your thing or if you are willing to pay more to get 100%. IMO BMW has the best combination of luxury and sport. Infiniti makes good, reliable cars (I own FX), very sporty, but there is plenty of cost cutting in features and materials which makes G less luxury than BMW. Seats are only 8 way, I don’t see heated rear seats or heated steering wheel or fold down rear seats or park distance control – maybe it’s all irrelevant for you 0-60 fans, but it is important for me. Seat heater is instant in my 5 searies while it takes like 3 minutes to heat seats in FX. Leather quality in G loaners I drove while my FX was serviced was way lower than BMW Dakota leather. If all you need is speed and power, then G is the best choice.

    There is even bigger difference between M and 5 series. Oh, and all BMWs except 7 are available with a stick. So if I want AWD 6MT, Infiniti does not offer anything.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    In reality the only reason many people would buy either car is to get RWD with a manual transmission in a modern platform with a roof and a back seat.

    The Hyundai Genesis Coupe will be $22K with power locks and windows, cloth, 6 airbags, ABS, cruise, aux jack, 6 speed manual, etc. (i.e. no options are necessary, the base model is not obnoxiously stripped with things like vinyl seats, unlike, say, a base BMW).

    The price justifying fluff in the RWD “luxury” cars has been put on notice.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2009/02/11/2010-hyundai-genesis-coupe-to-start-at-22-000/

  • avatar
    B.C.

    There is even bigger difference between M and 5 series. Oh, and all BMWs except 7 are available with a stick. So if I want AWD 6MT, Infiniti does not offer anything.

    You’re forgetting the X5 and X6. Amazingly, the X3 is available in stick.

  • avatar
    B.C.

    The price justifying fluff in the RWD “luxury” cars has been put on notice.

    You’re forgetting the hideous factor. Or are they challenging BMW in that category too?

    I’d get one, but only as a stripped out track toy.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Both of these cars have the flash that folks like in a “sporty” car. For the few who will take the car to the track/autocross then you want the BMW. Everyone else will shop price and consumer reports.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Looks like the BMW is out of the shop again, we’ll see for how long this time. There is a bigger difference between the M and 5 – while the G is good, the M is fantastic. The G still usually loses comparison tests to the 3 series, while the M smacks down the 5 series almost every time, even in BMW worshiping C&D.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    At last I’m able to read this interesting review. I like the styling of ‘G-unit’, it’s better then original G35. I’m not sure about exhaust note on G37, but I dislike sound of G35/Coupe/FX35. Inline six in a BMW sounds superior to ‘fancy Nissan’s’ V6.

  • avatar
    TeeKay

    I just decided not to renew my BMW club membership this year. With a new kid, less income, and no time for tracks & autox, the extra expense is not justified. Also, I won’t be buying another bimmer anytime soon (and thus won’t be able to take advantage of the club’s $1000+ rebate), as BMWs are quite expensive.

    That being said, if I have the cash, I would no doubt take the 328 over the G37. As many here have noticed, the two simply don’t compare on paper – the G wins hands down. But cars are meant to be driven, not read about on paper. And once you spend some time in both cars, the difference becomes more pronounced, and the difference favors the bimmer. It’s simply a much more coherent package. The power is much more linear, usable, and controllable. Push it around the corners, and you feel like it’s an extension of your arms and legs, rather than a powerful car you’re trying to restrain. The steering is more direct; the shifter feels better. You simply feel more confident and feel like you can extract more out of the car. The G has more power, but not much else.

    I’ve driven all the generations of the G, in coupe & sedan forms, and I’ve done the same with the 3 series. The bimmers are more expensive, provide less bang for the bucks, and are probably more expensive to maintain. But every time I take a test drive in both cars and compare the two, I inevitably tell myself that I would take the 3 over the G.

    So, for the naysayers and G-lovers, I advise you not to take a test drive in the 3 series. That way, your opinions about the cars would remain intact. Beware!

  • avatar
    Mark Morrison

    I won’t recreate my earlier comments here suffice to say that with a hard 35K limit I will be seriously looking at a G37S when it comes time in August to replace my ’06 325.

    Yesterday I doubled down into 2nd to take a turn on a whim and the resultant metallic snarl of that glorious straight six made me smile.

    The BMW is a fantastic car. If it was my own money I’d buy another. Pity about the brand image and the haters. Oh well.

  • avatar
    Mark Morrison

    @Bimmer the exhaust note on the G coupes I hear near me sound like a badly synthesized arcade sound track. The BMW is mechanical music

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    We are favorably impressed with our Infiniti FX’ quality of design, execution and owner relations. They are vastly superior to our Acura RL.

    I have always wanted a BMW but expense related horror stories scared me off. Accordingly, our next car will likely be an Infiniti G or M series.

  • avatar
    Lynchenstein

    @ B.C.

    You’re forgetting the hideous factor. Or are they challenging BMW in that category too?

    Hideous? Seriously? I thought BMW had patented hideous and were licencing it to Toyota…

    Hyundai has had some questionable designs in the recent past (original Tiburon, anyone?). More recently they seemed to get either the front or the back of their cars right, but not both. Now however, the Genesis coupe looks to be their best styling effort to date; the front and the rear looks quite nice and well proportioned to my eye, and the profile reminds me of the G coupe. It is certainly not the most beautiful car, but far from hideous, IMHO.

    When these start showing up in Canadian showrooms, I’m planning to take one for a drive. Screw the R-Spec though, I’m going for the V6. It’ll be north of $30k here for sure, but if it goes, stops and turns as well as I think it should…

  • avatar
    AKM

    Seats are only 8 way,

    No offense whatsoever to the commentator who wrote this, but it’s a perfect example of how spoiled we are, and, more to the point, how numbers and gimmicks are often deemed too important. Good seats with only 3 types of adjustments are better than crappy seats with 8 types of adjustments. And please, please, put cloth back in the seats. Leather is horrible for lateral support.

    And I agree with other posters on the exhaust note of FXs and G coupes: horribly annoying. Sound like a bad videogame.

  • avatar
    like.a.kite

    “Leather is horrible for lateral support.”

    How?

    I would prefer the sedan G37 to its Bimmer equivalent. I don’t like the current 3 sedan much at all (though the recent update is better, though I at first thought it worse (but not anymore)). But coupe-wise, 328 alllll the way.

  • avatar

    they’re both crap in my opinion.

    Driven them both, the new BMWs leave me numb, like a dry hump – there’s little of that teutonic steering feel we’ve grown accustomed to in the E30, E36 and even the E46 bodies. Not to mention about 200-400 extra pounds of bloat.

    The G thrashes like some sort of garage band. The motor would fit better in a tractor. I found the interior to be incredibly cheap and the steering feel to be even MORE vague than the BMWs.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Irvine

    Funny to read the comments on the Nissan (sorry Infiniti) exhaust note. I am a big fan of Formula 1 and the G sounds more like one of those racing engines than anything else I’ve heard on the road. The first few times I heard that note I actually wound down the window and shushed my wife.

  • avatar
    rodster205

    Speaking of the Genesis Coupe, does Hyundai realize that if they stretch it out for two more doors, keep the price/engines/RWD, they would OWN the 3-series (and every other midsize sedan) market? A turbo-4cyl, RWD, Accord-sized sedan for $25K? I WILL BUY ONE RIGHT NOW!!!

    I think they messed up calling the Coupe and the big sedan the same name (Genesis), because now what would they call a 4 door version of the Genisis Coupe?

  • avatar

    I’d still rather have an E46 330i. The G is worthy in many respects, but has a vaguely thuggish aura that I don’t care for, and the only current 3-series whose styling doesn’t make me frown is the E92 coupe.

    To get extra luxury toys on the 3-series, you have to pay through the nose — otherwise, you get vinyl upholstery and a lot of cheap touches. Not that nice upholstery makes something a good car, but a drawback of the 3-series has always been that it’s really pretty Spartan in standard form.

  • avatar
    R1

    Sorry, but this comparison is horrible. The G37 wins this hands-down. In one sentence you call them equal and in the next you pick the BMW.

    Then you say this:

    …it translates to a special, unified driving experience that can’t be overcome with power and tricks.

    The G37 is the perfect expression of a pure RWD sports sedan with no tricks.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    About the exhaust note: the one thing I hated more than anything was the exhaust of the 350Z. It sounded so “canned” – so manufactured – it hurt just listening to it. The G is a bit muted, but you can still hear that canned “mmmmmoooooooooooooooooooooooooooo – mmmmooooooooooooooooooooooo” sound. Like a diseased cow in severe pain.

    Other than that, I’d take a G37 coupe in all black with a 6-speed. I’ll figure out what to do about the exhaust note later :^)

  • avatar
    DeanMTL

    I had never driven a BMW in my life until I got into a 330 coupe last year. Decades of propaganda from friends, magazines, and the internet led me to believe it would be a religious experience, a true unification of machine and man, true automotive nirvana.

    So I floored it and bombed my way through a desolate industrial neighborhood in Montreal, pushing the car to its limits for about 10 minutes.

    I can’t say I thought it was anything special. Call me crazy, but I have more fun tossing my girlfriend’s Mazda3 GT around.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    DeanMTL,

    Your comment confirms very much what I thought when I first drove a BMW, e34 540i. I thought it drove well but nothing out-of-this-world, excellent in every respect but nothing way, way better than other similar cars. Then I bought it, drove it for 6 years and have become a bimmer man. I would like to find a car that feels as good as a bimmer, from the seats, knobs, stereo, to the actual driving experience but I haven’t found such a car yet. I do believe that bimmers even though they are excellent are overpriced at least for me hence I have been buying them used and will until I find a cheaper equivalent.

    What many people don’t seem to understand when reading a review like this is that with cars like these 2 the difference is mostly in your head. And it’s not just the quality of the difference but quantity as well. It’s all up to you how much value you assign to the differences. If you look at the specs and they are overwhelmingly in favor of G then G is your choice. If you drive both cars and try to be as neutral as possible most people would say that the bimmer has an edge. How big an edge it is is up to you. You may think the actual driving edge is just not worth the clear spec superiority of the G. And that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with that. But why get upset at people who pick that slight driving superiority of the bimmer over the G?

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    @ra_pro

    You’re way too level-headed in your analysis. What do you think you’re doing?

  • avatar
    benpatti

    Why does no review I read mention the issue with the run flat tires on the BMW?

    http://www.bmwrunflattire.com/

  • avatar
    turtledude558

    I would never go for the Infiniti over the BMW in that the Infiniti is bloated and fat and is nothing more than a car trying to out do the best.

    Its trying because it still hasn’t beaten it, and no matter how many things it has that look better than the BMW on paper, it doesn’t have that extra factor that really makes it come alive.

    The Infiniti is like a precision engineered soldier – no emotions, no feelings, just there to serve its purpose. The BMW, on the other hand, is much like a puppy – playful and fun, and though it may disobey at times, its always lovable.

  • avatar
    JJ

    I think the G hasn’t got the right looks inside and out to compete with the 3-series, nor the A4/C-class for that matter.

    I don’t particularly like the A4/C-class but still, that G35 looks way too 90s Japanmobile to me, only with a coule of big headlights.

    If memmory serves me right the M is much better, but here in Europe I never see one (maybe I will since the brand has been here for a couple moths now, although as of yet I saw 1 or 2 FXs and that’s it), so I’ll check out some pictures now.

  • avatar
    matt

    no_slushbox:
    The G is technically mid-engined, with the entire engine behind the front axle.

    Unless they’ve changed the chassis from 05 to the new ones (which is entirely possible since they seem to update the G/Z line every 2 years), it’s only the center of gravity that’s behind the front axle. On my ’05 350Z, the engine clearly is over the front axle (offset towards the rear by a few inches).

  • avatar
    klossfam

    I promise – no owner bias as I’d driven more 3′s than G’s prior to buying my 2008 G35xS…Even with access to 335i’s, M3′s, etc at the test track in Spartanburg, I feel the G is a superior daily driver…Better combo of lux and sport, far better ergos (and I think superior interior materials), bullet proof reliability, better audio system with the Burr-Brown/Bose setup…I know we are talking 328i but to compete in a performance war, the 335i is the comparable car…and don’t tell me the twin turbos of a 335 spool right up…they DON’T…esp on the track. A VW GTI has far less turbo lag. So the 335i has run 4.8 sec 0-60s…It’s just not the same 0-60 feel of power you get in the G doing it in 5.4 or so…Even at the SAME price, I’d take the G…PLUS adults can ride in the back seat of G35/37 (yes, I know it’s 9″ longer)…

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I completely agree with the review except for the fact that I believe the 335 is a better match. The numbers may not all line up in BMW’s favor, but when you take the car as a whole, it delivers more than the G. To each thier own and I will not fault anyone for purchasing the G, which is a great car. However for me…it’s the last 10% of the experience that’s worth the extra $10000.

  • avatar
    Cougar Red

    The 328i sedan wins? Gimme a freaking break. A comparably equipped G37 sedan kicks a 328i’s ass in performance. And it’s cheaper. And it’s just as nice inside.

    The G37 sedan is Infiniti’s bread and butter. Out of every 100 vehicles Infiniti sells, 40 are G37 sedans. No other manufacturer relies so heavily on one sedan except perhaps Audi with the A4.

    And the G37 faces the most competitive segment in the market (entry luxury sedan) against the 3-series, A4, C-Class, TL, CTS, Genesis, ES/IS, etc. Bottom line, Infiniti has much at stake in the G sedan. You’ll get their best effort at a fair price every time.

    I recently purchased a RWD G37 sedan with all the creature comfort options except adaptive cruise control, but none of the hot rod options. Mine has the premium leather interior, navigation, wood accents, etc. $36.4K + TTL. You can’t buy a comparably equipped 328i sedan for less than $40K. And a 335i sedan with the same options will cost $10K more than the G37.

    Infiniti’s G sedan recipe is that they give you a lot of performance and a lot of other goodies at a very competitive price. They have to. It’s their bread and butter.


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