First Drive: Infiniti G37 Convertible [Review]

Nissan is about to launch the centerpiece of its premium collection of Infiniti luxury automobiles. The new G37 Convertible marks the "completion of the G Brand," joining the well-established and recently revised G37 sedan and coupe models. Coming to your Infiniti dealer in late June, the convertible model brings a host of new features and technology with it.

First of all, this is not merely a coupe with the top chopped off. It's built on the renowned Infiniti FM platform, the same front-engine, rear drive platform that's utilized by the Nissan 370Z and 470-hp Skyline GT-R. Nice bones, if you will.

Infiniti's second-ever production convertible (or the first, if you ask Ice Cube's character in "Three Kings") - recall the M30 of the brand's early days - the G37 is Infiniti's answer to the long-standing success BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Saab and Volvo have had in the four-seat, open-top luxury market. Not to be left out, Lexus' IS droptop will arrive later this year, as well.

Designed from the beginning to be a convertible, it's an inch wider than the G37 coupe and completely new from the windshield back, even if you'd be hard-pressed to tell with the top up. Designers and engineers worked closely to develop a rear deck design that encloses a three-piece folding steel roof without ungainly body proportions and at the same time retains a coupe-like profile when the top is raised. With design help from Karmann, the German convertible top wizards, the top climbs or descends in less than 30 seconds.

A revised rear suspension with a wider track was needed to accommodate the three-piece top that, when lowered, gets inverted and lowered into the trunk. Masterfully sculpted lines and rear lip spoiler cleverly conceal the height needed but somehow the designers pulled it off. And they didn't stop there. The A-pillar was positioned to reduce air turbulence, a rear-view camera was built into the rear spoiler, and a Bose Open Air Sound System was developed with headrest speakers that really work, enveloping you in your choice of audio.

Innovation might come standard on a Chrysler, at least as far as the automaker's advertising is concerned, but the G37 has its share. Based on input received when the top is down, the adaptive climate control system increases cooled air volume at low speed when the temperature is high or, conversely, increases heated air volume at high speed when the temperature is low. Very clever. And to top it off, a feature we're thankfully seeing on more and more open-top models: Heated and cooled seats that only help to extend the driving season anywhere but San Diego.

Infiniti offers two convertible models and several option packages. The standard G37 Convertible comes with a seven-speed automatic and the Sport 6MT has a six-speed manual. Both are equipped with a 325-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 yanked from the hardtops. Manual shift drivers will like the positive shifter feel, smooth clutch take up, and quicker 3.9:1 final drive. But the seven-speed auto has overdrive in the top two gears, a taller 3:55 rear gear and downshift rev matching, Drive Sport (DS) mode and Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) that allows for quicker shifts in sporty driving and optional magnesium paddle shifters. That taller gear enables the automatic to get better fuel mileage than the manual transmission-equipped model by 1 mpg.

With the top up, there's little to differentiate the G37 Convertible from a standard coupe, at least as far as driving dynamics are concerned. It displays the same, predictable rear-wheel-drive handling tendencies and the thickly-insulated top gives up little, if any, noise suppression. Top down, you'll notice ever the slightest amount of cowl shake endemic to all convertibles, but the wind tunnel work has helped keep most of the air out of your face.

Its extra weight gives it a slightly more open-tourer-style drive than the standard coupe, but only the most seasoned driver will truly detect a difference.

Technical details aside, one of the hallmarks of the G series is the way the coupe's ride and handling is beautifully preserved. Combined with its luxuriously appointed interior that can be tailored to almost any taste -from sport seats with special stitching and aluminum petals and trim to real African Rosewood on the doors, instrument panel, and console, the G37 Convertible fits like a custom glove.

Words and photos by Brenda Priddy.