Rating: 9.0
Bottom Line:
Infiniti takes a second shot at the BMW 3-Series with a new drop-top G37. Packing a no-compromise aesthetic and coupe-matching thrills, the G convertible could be the knockout long awaited by Infiniti.
  • Stunning top-up (or -down) looks
  • Power to trounce the competition
  • Sublime Bose Open Air sound system
  • Nonexistent trunk space with top down
  • Hefty price premium over the coupe
  • Can’t open the top while moving

Transforming an exceptional coupe into a convertible takes more than a little cosmetic surgery and a plasma cutter. Too often, topless versions suffer from Twizzler-like body strength — which compromises handling, ride and safety — and questionable styling. For example, the car looks as if the automaker just dropped a convertible top onto a coupe without any thought to incorporate it into the vehicle's overall design. The result is an awkward drop-top.

The new 2010 Infiniti G37 convertible suffers from none of these ills. In fact, Infiniti worked tirelessly to make it appear as though no modifications have been made whatsoever to the G37. The only way you'd know this is a convertible is when the top opens. The result is arguably the best hardtop drop-top since the Mercedes SL, and Infiniti didn't have to ditch any of the dynamics that make the G37 a top performer.

Model Lineup
Unlike the sedan and coupe, the G convertible is available in two trim levels: standard and Sport 6MT. As is typical for the class, the standard version comes with a variety of high-end features, including heated 8-way power front seats, adaptive climate control, intelligent key, a 7-inch information screen and a 6-disc in-dash changer with MP3 playback and aux input.

Building off the base trim, the optional Sport package adds 19-inch alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension and steering, sport seats, magnesium paddle shifters and styling accents both inside and out. For the few hard-core convertible buyers, the Sport 6MT model includes all the above features, but with a 6-speed manual transmission.

There's also a premium options package — a must-have, in our opinion — that adds key features such as a Bose Open Air 13-speaker sound system with iPod integration, Bluetooth hands-free calling capability and climate-controlled seats (not available with sport seats). Other notable options include the technology package, highlighted by intelligent cruise control and Adaptive Front Lighting, and the navigation package, which includes voice recognition and a music hard drive.

For those who crave exclusivity regardless of cost, there is also an über-limited Premier Edition featuring unique accents, such as Monaco Red seats and a Midnight Black grille. Initially the Premier Edition was available only through the Bloomingdale's catalog; Infiniti dealers will now sell you one directly.

Under the Hood
All Gs come standard with Infiniti's 3.7-liter Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) V6 engine. The convertible has 5 fewer horsepower than the coupe, due to a more restrictive exhaust. Still, there is more than enough power on tap to trump the competition — 325 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 5200 rpm, to be exact. To keep that power in check, all versions come equipped with traction control and Infiniti's Vehicle Dynamic Control.

The standard G convertible powers the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission with a rev-matching manual shift mode. A 6-speed manual gearbox is available only on the Sport 6MT and features quicker rear differential gearing to accommodate the convertible's added mass. Unlike its siblings, the G convertible is not offered in all-wheel drive, due to the added expense and weight.

EPA fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway for the base trim and 16/24 mpg for the Sport 6MT will not win the G convertible any awards, but are on par with the competition.

Inner Space
Step in to the G's sporty cockpit and premium materials abound. The deliberate upscale ambience is especially apparent when the car is optioned with African Rosewood trim. All models feature a glare-free 7-inch information screen mounted in the center of the dash that displays all systems clearly. Controls have a quality feel and function intuitively after a brief orientation. Voice activation found on the navigation package is said to further simplify operation.

The premium package takes top-down enjoyment a step beyond by way of climate-controlled seats and the Bose Open Air sound system. Along with the standard adaptive climate control, the killer sound system adjusts seamlessly to the varying topless conditions, creating a wind-free soundstage. The real genius of the Bose system is in the cockpit-mounted microphones, which allow optimized sound to be pumped through the integrated headrest speakers.

Interior space has remained nearly identical to that of the coupe, with the exception of a 2.7-inch reduction in rear-seat legroom. Still, there is enough room to fit two average adults without the need for a foot amputation. If you feel space-deprived, the automated 3-piece roof folds skillfully away in 28 seconds. Infiniti claims a mere 2 cubic feet of storage space with the top down, though one would be hard-pressed to make use of it. Storage improves to a livable 10.3 cubic feet with the top up — more than enough for a weekend trip.

On the Road
Trade-offs are a reality with all convertibles. In the case of the G37, this translates to a husky 453-pound weight penalty, with a stiffened rear suspension to compensate. The result is a slight loss in overall sharpness, despite the well-reinforced chassis. Ultimately, the experience retains most of the character and performance prowess of the original.

If performance is your game, the Sport-equipped versions reward with communicative quick-ratio steering and a largely unrivaled back-road experience. But the Sport package may not be for the average convertible buyer. The firmer ride accentuates the re-engineered rear suspension. While the suspension is never abusive, you might end up wearing your machiatto while cruising down a bumpy boulevard; the standard trim offers a bit more comfort for the daily grind. Either way, you'll have no trouble snapping the necks of onlookers, as there has clearly been no compromise in the aesthetics department.

The dual-personality 7-speed automatic is a perfect match for this performance convertible. It emulates sportier automated manuals with quick, rev-matched shifts in sport mode, or glides unobtrusively around town in full auto mode. While the auto is probably capable of satisfying the needs of most demanding drivers, the Sport 6MT's 6-speed manual is no less impressive. Either choice nets equally brisk acceleration, just shy of the far lighter coupe. While the V6 lacks some of the refinement found in the inline-6 competition, it is dramatically improved over previous iterations.

Right for You?
Although official pricing has not been released, the estimated base price for the G37 convertible is $45,000, with loaded versions topping out in the mid-$50,000 range. This is a substantial price premium over the coupe, but still a relative bargain. Paired with unspoiled hardtop beauty, the G gains serious ground on the benchmark BMW 3-Series.

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.