As recounted last week, I had been wanting for years to meet up with my best friend and both of our fathers in a pair of Mazda RX-8s for a spirited West Virginia road trip. Finally, the appointed day arrived for the drive from Detroit to West Virginia. The car selected for the task: a 2010 Infiniti G37S six-speed coupe.
I requested the G37S because I’ve been curious about the right-sized rear-drive Infiniti ever since it launched back in 2002, but have never spent much time with the three-pedal variant. Also, while I’d personally need the sedan, I’ve never driven the coupe at all. The drive called for a car that would still be comfortable after 6+ hours, but competent on a challenging mountain road. A perfect opportunity to evaluate the G.
Nissan was not willing to let me drive the car all the way to Virginia and back (my original plan). Do other journalists ask the manufacturer if they can drive the car X miles, or do they realize it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission? Well, I had asked. Fortunately, when I offered to limit the miles to about 800, they relented. The Infiniti would sit in Bridgeport, WV, while we spent a few days in the RX-8s.
Leaving as little as possible to chance—delays happen—I asked Nissan to drop the car off two days early. They dropped the car off on schedule, but when I drove across town that evening to meet up with Edward and Ronnie for the Volt drive, I drove my personal car. After all, every mile spent driving in the Detroit suburbs was a mile I would not be able to drive in Ohio’s fabled Hocking Hills. This was all for the best. All three of us ended up in my car after the event, and even someone of Ronnie’s physical stature would find headroom lacking in the back seat of the G37 coupe.
Friday morning arrives. The temperature is a bit below freezing, and a thin layer of ice coats the coupe. The 2010’s shape is less chiseled than that of the first-gen coupe, but it’s still quite attractive, especially in “Athens blue.” Wheels with an even number of spokes tend to look less dynamic, and I’m generally no fan of multi-spoke designs, but the ten-spoke 19s look great on this car. The G37 coupe’s trunk is about as tight as they come, but I manage to fit a huge duffel containing far more clothes than I could possibly need (packed mindlessly at the last minute), hiking boots, laptop bag, and a box containing a 21.5” LCD panel (I work most efficiently with a pair of full-HD displays).
The road to Ohio is almost unavoidably Interstate. In general the G37 feels like a more refined, more upscale car than a Hyundai Genesis Coupe. As it should, given its significantly higher price. A comfortably cushy driver’s seat includes power adjustable side bolsters to provide lateral support when you need it, and space to relax when you don’t. But the sport-suspended Infiniti doesn’t ride well over expansion joints, tar strips, frost heaves, and the like, reacting with sharp vertical kicks. The more compliant base suspension isn’t available with the stick. Also, road noise on Michigan’s concrete is fairly high. The difference when you cross the state line into Ohio, which employs asphalt, is striking. One nit: the armrest on the driver’s door is too low to use while steering the car. Fuel economy isn’t bad: about 25.4 MPG while averaging 75 MPH.
Usually I hop onto the Ohio Turnpike southeast of Toledo, but wanting to employ the Interstate as little as possible head east on US 20 instead. US 20 is as straight and level as the Interstate—we are in northern Ohio—but though four lanes wide is much more a part of the surrounding terrain, and so (relatively) more interesting to drive. The small towns along the way provide some interesting sights—like the “Korean Karate” studio next to the American Legion post and canteen in Bellevue. You can see these easily: the Infiniti’s cowl is relatively low and its A-pillars are blessedly thin by current standards. The obvious downsides of towns: low speed limits and traffic lights. The latter highlight the heaviness of the Infiniti’s clutch. Farm equipment dealers seem more common than car dealers. I briefly stop at one just west of Norwalk, but with places to go and people to see do not request a test drive. Maybe next time. Aided by the 55 MPH speed limit, the Infiniti averages 27.5 MPG on US 20.
At Norwalk I exit onto US 250, which atypically for a US highway runs diagonally, in this case southeast through Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia. This generally two-lane road is the shortest route to where I’m going, but not the most entertaining, at least not in Ohio. So after twenty miles I hop onto OH 302, a more intimate road that includes the trip’s first entertaining hills and curves. There aren’t many, but they provide a taste of what lies ahead. Though no sports car, the Infiniti handles 302 with aplomb. I don’t feel at one with the machine, but the meatiness of the coupe’s steering and composure of its chassis are reassuring. With the fun up, fuel economy drops into the low 20s. A few miles east of Lattasburg I pass a horse-drawn cart—the Infiniti’s 330 horses easily outpace the cart’s one. We’re now in Amish country.
Which makes the VW dealer on the western outskirts of Wooster, where I rejoin 250, a bit of a shock. On the other side of the small city I pass a “Volvos & More,” with a few pre-Ford Swedes parked out front. I’m intrigued by the “& More,” but don’t stop to investigate. This stretch of US 250 is quite boring and I just want to get through it. After picking up I77 for a few miles I exit onto US 800 just south of Uhrichsville. After 230 miles the real fun can finally begin.
Well, not quite. Back during a college trip to Jamaica some friends bought batch after batch of ‘shrooms. With each batch they’d sit around the table and ask one another, “Feel anything yet?” “I think so…maybe…no.” My best friend Trey (also there) and I didn’t take part, but we certainly enjoyed spectating.
Well, this time I’m the one attempting to feel something, side bolsters cranked tight and seatback adjusted upright in anticipation. For the first 15 miles or so on 800 each curve made me think I had finally reached the promised land, only to exit into another long, boring straight. But the road does become increasingly curvy and hilly, and by Freeport (Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco!) you’re definitely feeling it. And, in the G37, it feels good.
Sounds good, too. The 3.7-liter “VQ” V6 isn’t the most refined engine, but its moderately throaty exhaust is appropriate for this car on this road. Given the big six’s plump, flexible midrange, there’s no need to venture near the redline unless you want to vastly exceed the speed limit. Even so, fuel economy averages 18.5 on OH 800.
Storied OH 26 more-or-less parallels OH 800, running a few miles to the east. But I’m planning to take 26 on my return trip, so I stick to 800 to see how it compares. Bad move. The seven miles between Barnesville and Somerton aren’t all that curvy, but are apparently too curvy to include even a single passing zone. I’m stuck behind a Ford Escort and a Chrysler minivan.
Suggestion for navigation system manufacturers: indicate the location of passing zones and/or the distance to the next one. A further suggestion for the supplier of the Infiniti’s nav system: provide an option to view minor roads even when zoomed out. As it is, zoom in far enough to view minor roads and you can’t see enough of them to learn where they go.
I reach Woodsfield, where 800 and 26 cross. But, given the need to keep the total miles near 800, I take neither. Instead, I head east on OH 78, which proves a thoroughly boring road. Luckily I’m only on it for about ten minutes before turning onto OH 536, which runs through barely populated Round Bottom and proves a match for the best roads I’ve ever driven. For ten miles this zero-traffic narrow two-laner hits curve after curve and hill after hill. My notes sum it up this way: “Awesome.”
Work the VQ, and it drinks to the tune of 16 MPG. The manual shifter, though pleasantly hefty and not overly long of throw, isn’t as willing a partner. Fourth can be especially hard to find in a hurry. The G37 initially understeers, but just a touch of throttle balances the chassis, and the car feels planted throughout, with the sport suspension as appreciated now as it was unappreciated on I75. The six-speed coupe seems less prone to excessive, unprogressive throttle-induced oversteer than the two-pedal G37 sedan I reviewed last July, and its stability control doesn’t cut in as early or as often (when I have it enabled). Also appreciated: the lateral support provided by the driver’s seat, with a tighter hug from the backrest and cushion bolsters always just a tap on a hard-to-reach switches away. I love this feature (the adjustability, not the poorly located switches) and cannot fathom why BMW seems to be phasing it out.
Well, you know what they say about all good things, and 536 terminates at the Ohio River. Six hours and 307 miles into my trip I cross into New Martinsville, West Virginia.
Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review
Follow Michael’s journey in part three of this piece here.
Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive and reliability data