I’m a horrible car guy; I dislike convertibles. It’s not really for the usual reason car buffs dislike going topless, it has nothing to do with the inevitable loss of stiffness or added weight and complexity and everything to do with the reduction in practicality. I realize that a practical convertible is something of an oxymoron, but some are worse than others. It’s no wonder the convertible landscape is littered with has-beens, convertible sales only account for 2% of passenger car sales in North America and premium ‘verts are an even smaller part of the pie. It is therefore no surprise that the G37 convertible is only the second ever Infiniti convertible.
Released back in 2008 as a 2009 model the G37 Convertible was designed from the beginning to be a convertible. Huh? Yes, the G37 convertible is not just a G37 coupé with its top removed, although on the face of things you would be forgiven for thinking so. Although the G37 sedan, coupe and convertible ride on the same Nissan FM platform as everything from the Nissan 350Z to the Infiniti FX and even the GT-R, the Convertibles parts sharing stops at the curvaceous proboscis, overall style and dashboard. The convertible receives a wider track and a modified rear suspension unique to the topless cruiser in addition to the three-part folding hard top designed by Karmann. Fortunately for the public, considerable time was spent making sure the G37 looks as good with the top up as down unlike some topless abominations I could mention.
From the driver’s perspective there is little difference between the convertible and the coupe inside the cabin. The G37’s three-spoke steering wheel, gauge cluster and center stack with 7-inch infotainment/navigation screen and funky rotary-joystick/button tower are all where you expect them to be. Glancing rearwards and the differences become more obvious. The front seats have speakers growing out of the headrests and the B pillar is conspicuously missing. This missing pillar combined with essentially the same seats as the coupe means the seatbelts are mounted to the body of the car looping thru a leather holder fastened with snaps. The belt arrangement is a tad less elegant than some of the competition and makes ingress and egress difficult for rear passengers compared with in-seat safety belts. Speaking of the rear, while leg room is just bearable for a 6-foot rear passenger and a 6-footdriver, head room is severely limited, so keep those foursomes limited to short drives.
Speaking of driving, packed under the curvaceous hood beats he same 3.7L engine as other G variants tuned down slightly by 5HP to 325HP and 267lb-ft. The reduction is apparently due to different exhaust routing, not that 5HP makes much difference when you’re motivating 4,100lbs. Yes, that’s right; the G37 convertible weighs in at over two tons as the folding lid and required structural modifications to the FM platform have added over 450lbs vs the G37 coupe and sedan. Despite the added weight however the convertible seems to retain the vast majority of the driving ability of the coupe due largely to the 52/48 percent weight balance (slightly better than the coupe) and standard 225-width front rubber and 245 out back (the base coupe and sedan have 225s all the way around). As with the coupe and sedan, the convertible routes all 325 horses to the rear wheels via Nissan’s relatively new 7-speed automatic. While the shifts don’t seem quite as fast or as crisp as ZF’s 6-speed, the svelte magnesium paddle shifters mounted to the column rather than the wheel are as close to perfection as it comes and the acompanying rev-matched downshifts are likely to make a few die hard manual fans opt for the ease of the automatic. Unlike many other manual modes, the Nissan setup queues shifts and dispatches them quickly and neatly with zero drama on its way to a measured 5.9 second run to 60.
When the going gets twisty, the G37 shines with handling unquestionably better than the Audi A5 cabriolet and superior poise when pushed compared to the Lexus IS350c. Much like the Lexus however, the Infiniti possess the ride of a GT largely due to the added weight and revised suspension. Still, with road holding ability only a notch below the BMW 335, I’ll take the softer ride any day.
One of the reasons I dislike convertibles (aside from sunstroke in the hot California sun) is the practicality sacrifice. You lose enough cargo room in a soft top, but most hard tops make the sacrifice even more severe. The G37 is no exception to this rule; a 10.3 cu-ft trunk doesn’t sound too bad (considering the tiny 7.4 offered by the G37 coupe) until you see that it drops to an astonishing 1.99 cu-ft with the top down. If two-cubes weren’t small enough, most of that is under a hatch in the trunk floor that can’t really be accessed without raising the top. Literally just two lightweight adult male jackets will fit in the remaining cargo cubby. In comparison, the Volvo C70 offers three-times more schlepping with 6cuft of top-down space (almost equal to the G37 Coupe) and the Volvo’s roof will lift up and out of the way at the press of a button to make access easier. The G37’s main competitor, the 335i convertible, still has room to stow and retrieve a large computer bag with the top down. My prejudice aside, no hard top convertible should ever be thought of as a practical luggage hauler, so on long road trips to a weekend getaway in Napa, your rear seats will act as leather-clad cargo space.
The G37 convertible includes all the heated leather and (optional) red-stained maple wood trim you could ask for. Roofless models also get a slight standard feature boost as compared to the coupe and sedan. Also on the option list you’ll find: cooled thrones, navigation, and Bose audio systems that adapt to the top being up or down. The optional Bose “Open Air Sound System” in our limited edition tester uses 13 speakers including two speakers in each headrest and two 10-inch woofers, and 9.3GB of music storage on the integrated hard drive. As unusual as the headrests may look, they work surprisingly well for the front passengers, but they do make sound for the occasional rear passenger sound strange. (Who cares? They are in the back.) The integrated Bluetooth system even manages to work surprisingly well even with the top down at highway speeds. USB and iPod integration is standard on all G37 convertibles with or without navigation and it works as well as most competitive systems allowing full on-screen access to my iPod and iPhone 4.
The 2011 G37 convertible wears a $45,750 base sticker price and our Limited Edition tester was essentially fully loaded save the radar cruise control with a $58,125 price tag. While the top-end pricing of the G37 may raise eyebrows, the rest of the luxury import convertible market is similarly priced. Compared to the Lexus IS350C which would be the G37’s most direct competition, the IS350C enjoys a larger trunk, but its interior suffers from the same thing the IS350 AWD we reviewed recently: age. From Europe the RWD competition comes in the form of the 335i and the new W212 Mercedes E350 cabriolet. The E350 wears the largest base price in the class at $56,850 and $63,565 sticker comparably equipped. While the Infiniti may not have the snob value the E350’s tri-star exudes, it does come across as the better performance value. The 335i on the other hand has aged extremely well and the torque curve of the turbo-six helps scoot the 335i to 60 faster with a more linear feel than the Infiniti’s naturally aspirated mill. The G37 fights back with a base of $52,650 and a comparably equipped price of $61,250, scoring big value points in most trim levels.
Usually most reviewers seem to stop the comparo after mashing the G37 up against the Germans and the Lexus, but at TTAC we march to a different drummer. Volvo enjoys a similar brand value proposition as Infiniti in the eyes of most American shoppers, both notching below the major players from Germany and Japan. The 227HP C70 convertible is unquestionably slower and less exciting to drive, but with a chic Scandinavian interior and a base price just below 40-large (similarly equipped price of $47,175) and sporting the largest trunk in the group, it’s worth at least a glance from shoppers not interested in drifting while they tan. If you’re looking to import your next convertible from Detroit, the Mustang GT convertible delivers an interesting alternative. Although there is no hard top ‘stang, it will please your aural senses with its 412HP 5.0L V8. Of course cross-shopping is unlikely, but as a comparison, the GT will burn the socks right off the Infiniti.
0-30: 2.3 seconds
0-60: 5.9 seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.3 seconds @ 98 MPH
Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.