2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan Journey

An ordinary sedan, the perfect sleeper, is superb in the street and inspiring at the track. The G37 sedan is the best ultimate daily drivable machine from the East.

Why sedans still exist in the era where SUV, SAV, CUV, MPV … are the norm? Even pickup trucks can transport a family day-in and -out with comfort and much more convenience especially in the land of the free where fuel consumption was never a concern. Well, until recently – the $4 price tag at the pump and negative equity.

This Infiniti G37 sedan provided the clear answer why sedans are still around. First of all, it is for someone with family responsibility but still value very much on driving. Secondly, there is something about showing off the awesomeness of the car attacking a corner with three others onboard. Those onboard can either be your mother-in-law, the annoying boss, and even your very own crying baby. You can also sneak to a track day without your stringent wife’s knowledge. And most importantly, you can still impress any potential date. The G37 sedan is the wolf in the chamois (sheep skin).

To put it in perspective, the purpose of the Accord or Camry become less glimmer since they are meant for pure transporting emotionless souls particularly when a gallon of petrol is cheaper than a gallon of milk.

On paper the G37 sedan with sport package is capable for the following stats:

0-60mph: 5.4[s]

¼ mile: 14.0[s] @ 102mph

Slalom: 64.2[mph]

300[ft-dia] Skidpad: 0.92[g]

70-0mph: 159[ft]

Those are sports-car territory figures. If these mind numbing performance figures did not have any meaning to you, consider that the G35/37 is the 10Best Cars for the Car and Driver magazine in 2004, 2007 & 2009. Also in 2009, the G37 topped Consumer Reports’ upscale sport sedan category.

“The Infiniti G37 continues its reign as top in the class. The drivetrain is still the highlight of the car, delivering very strong performance while getting better fuel economy than the previous generation. The G37 is very quick and handling is agile and fun,” says David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center.

All-in-all, the thoughtfulness and attention to detail of the G37 is second-to-none.

Introduction

The G37 sedan (chassis code: V36) was released in late 2008 for the 2009 model year, and as a refresher to the G-series lineup. The V36 is the 2nd generation of the Infiniti G35 series. It was completely redesigned and launched in late 2006 as a 2007 model. From the release of the 1st generation, debuted in 2003, to the release of the V36 in 2007, the G has been a ground-breaking phenomenon each time. It is a major leap in product upscaling for Infiniti to increase the performance aspects of the V36 even with its successful sales figure between 2007 and 2008.

As the acronym suggested, the G37 is now equipped with a state-of-the-art 3.7 liter (VQ37VHR) engine replacing the award winning, exhilarating VQ35HR, equipped from 2007. The VQ37VHR features Nissan’s Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) technology teaming with its Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control (C-VTC). This 5th generation VQ engine pumps out 328hp@7,000rpm and 269Ib-ft of torque@5,200rpm, an increase of 22 horsepower over the VQ35HR, with 7,600rpm rev limit.

Mated to the new engine is, a Jatco built 7-speed automatic transmission. The new unit retains the beloved Downshift Rev Matching (DRM), Drive Sport (DS) mode and Adaptive Shift Control (ASC), all tuned to extract and transfer the potent output of the engine to the rear wheels.

Apart from the changes to the powetrain, the suspensions, brakes and body were retained. Similar to the ’07 G35, traction is provided by a set of P225/55R17 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires. The chassis is supported by independent double wishbone in the front, and independent multi-link in the rear with stabilizer bars fore and aft featuring lightweight and low friction components. Stopping power is generated by 4-wheel vented discs brakes with ABS, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution with standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC). The tester is assembled in Nissan’s Tochigi plant in Japan, alongside with Nissan 370Z, and the almighty GT-R.

The tester, G37 Journey, is one of the four outstandingly equipped models. Model ranges from G37(base), G37 Journey, G37 Sport 6MT, and G37x (AWD). The tester equipped with Premium Package with ~$37,000 price tag. The broad features on the Premium Package combine with the Journey’s standard equipments; the laundry list of all the gadgets gets tastefully extensive.

The most important optional package in car enthusiasts’ perspective is the very reasonably priced Sport Package. For just $2,100, you get performance oriented 245/45R18 summer performance tires, sport brakes with 4-piston calipers with 14-inch rotors in the front and 2-piston calipers with 13.8-inch rotors at the rear, a pair of solid magnesium paddle shifters, front sport seats, unique sport stitching on steering wheel and front seats, most importantly are the sport-tuned suspension and Viscous Limited-Slip Differential (RWD models). A close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission is exclusively offered in the G37S 6MT model.

Impression
With our experiences of numerous VQ powered cars, ’06 G35, ’06 350Z, ’07 G35, nothing will get more precise than our collaborated opinions.So, to up the challenge, we took this ordinarily stock entry-luxury sports sedan to Buttonwillow Raceway in central California and see how much of a “sports” it is.

In our previous review on the 2007 G35, we stated that Nissan doesn’t need to base on appearance changes to generate attention from the public to capture more sales. Nissan has kept the same principle for 2009. Instead of giving the G35 a facelift to go along with the performance upgrades, Nissan decided to keep the exterior styling the same. Other than some minor interior trims upgrades, the only substantially visible change is the couple inches wide, few inches long G37 emblem on the upper right hand corner of the trunk lid. Proven that Nissan shoppers prefer function than form, character than norm, performance and driving engagement than comfort. They know exactly what they are getting.

Peel opens that aluminum hood unveil the glorious beast that Nissan enthusiasts are craving for. The silver-on-black VQ VVEL emblems engraved on the engine cover situated in the center of the engine bay stood out to gather all the well-deserved attention. At a broader glance by zooming out your pupils to sense the neatly organized engine bay with the near-to-perfect symmetrical front mid-ship layout; referring to the engine’s center of mass being located behind the front axle centerline, shifting weight to the middle of the car, leaving the front suspension less encumbered.

Sitting under that sound insulating composite engine cover is the 5th iteration of the legendary VQ series – the VQ37VHR. This new VQ37 engine contains about 35% new and unique parts from the VQ35HR. It is one of the 2008 Ward’s AutoWorld Ten Best Engines. The VQ series have earned a spot time-and-again for 14 years since the award began in 1995. Winning this award is not an ordinary task in the world of V6 engines; it is like picking a needle in a haystack, better yet, it is more like finding that astonishing marble in a quarry as the market is flooded with 3.5L V6 engines. The VHR is currently the masterpiece of the VQ series.

The old 5-speed automatic transmission was often criticized for lacking an additional cog. Ever since Mercedes Benz came out with a 7-speed automatic gear box, majority of the car manufactures jumped on the bandwagon. Lexus IS250 has a 6-speed, IS-F has 8-. For sure, they did widen the range, and reduce the gap between gear ratios; however, not all of them work as good as the one in G35/37 especially for driver control.

The IS250 unit for instance, the paddle shifters are mounted behind the steering wheel, encouraging the frequent use of them. The unit has a mind of its own; it is more of a toy than anything else. Initiate a manual gear change is unsuccessful 50% of the time when driving it at 5/10th. The gear indicator on the gauge cluster indicated that change, however, the gear position in the transmission has remained the same. So basically, the indicator can read 6, but you are actually going uphill going 20mph at 4,000rpm – that’s not 6th! The gear position indicator is not presentable for the arcade racing games of this era. It is very apparent that the change only happens under the logic terms of the tranny, not you – the driver. Then why even bother to let the driver think he has the control? Can Lexus try to better synchronize the indicator with the tranny instead of acting independently? Why is it such a “tranny”?

The transmission in the G37 however is much more flexible, communicative and with better logic built into it. You will know exactly what it can or cannot permit.

Driving Experience

Ok, enough of all the appraising talk, can the G37 walk-the-walk?

It was mentally nerve acting for this track event. By all means, it was not a competition event. There was nothing to win. All to gain is experience but furthermore we also gained even more respect to the G37. Set the fear aside, knowing Nissan has the reputation of making great rear wheel drive cars for decades – first session out, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) off.

The handling dynamics of the car on the road is simply superb. ” Suspension design, tuning and setup are something that [extraordinary] cannot be described in words…” based on our 2007 G35 review. The track performance is just inspiring. The G37 can corner with the kind of velocity that you will not believe there’re two more doors in the back. Turn-in at high speed is generally neutral with a hint of mild and predictable understeer in mid-corner even with the application of smooth throttle input. The G37 is uncomplicated to drive fast contributed by the static 53/47 front and rear weight distribution. This weight bias becomes 50/50 under acceleration and offers the well-balanced, secured feel at the limit. Effort is needed to kick the tail out by rapid lift of throttle along with lateral weight transfer, but the oversteering angle isn’t so dramatic that it’s scary.Trail-braking induced oversteer can be frisky if not catching properly.

This undiluted communication of how the car is reacting to the inputs is endorsed by the properly tuned suspension setup. The suspension is firmly supportive despite the lack of sport suspension package. Under high lateral g-force during hard cornering and heavy braking, the body roll and nose dive have much less magnitude than expected. It does not feel like the car is near 3,600ibs.

Steering feedback is state-of-the-art. Not too rough, not to numb, just the right amount of feel, and weighed perfectly at any speed although may seem heavy for some in parking lot speed. On center feel is as natural as the Amazon forest, you know exactly what the front tires are doing. The forged aluminum single pivot short-long control arms design optimizing lightweight components, provided increasing negative camber gain under cornering as the chassis rolls against the outside wheel, thus kept the tire perpendicular to the road and allowed for maximum possible cornering traction. The steering wheel in the G is now an extension of your extremity.

The G37’s steering is the best of the bunch. It has the best compromise between performance and luxury. It is not as hardcore as a 2007 Subaru Impreza STI where a grain of sand on the road gets transmitted to the wheel, and driving over the pea size gravel has the tendency to shock the palm. It is also very unlike the Toyota Camry’s stirring-a-straw-in-water steering feel. The 16.4-to-1 steering ratio is just perfect. It is not as ultra sensitive as the STI, and not as retarded as the Camry. The sport package comes with a quicker 14.7-to-1 ratio.

To match with the front suspension design, the multi-link independent rear suspension that use extensive aluminum parts offer superb road handling and ride characteristic. Unfortunately, due to the lack of limited slip differential (LSD), this G37 Journey seemed to transmit power mostly to the passenger side rear tire, or is it just the impression due to the fact the Buttonwillow Raceway has more right turns.

With that in mind, the G37 had the hiccup of laying down full power at the Off-Ramp turn. The Off-Ramp is a 2nd gear 40mph superelevated right sweeper that you can throw the car into it knowing that the car will glue on to the pavement planted. But as the passenger side rear corner suspension uncompressed due to the momentum of the car shifting to the opposite side, the rear passenger side tire would lose traction. In result, all you hear was a single tire spining in searching for grip. By the use of 3rd gear, using the midrange of the engine power through this corner could often tame the tire shearing spin and slightly improve exit speed.

The VQ37VHR has sufficient power to fully utilize the G37’s superb handling. Down in the main straight, the G37 is capable of achieving a very stable 120[mph] thanks to the slick 0.29 drag coefficient with zero-lift front aerodynamics. In exchange for the linear engine output, the ”…a turbo engine like expansive, long-lasting acceleration…” sensation in the HR is no longer apparent. However, this effect may have been diluted by the significantly shorter 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear ratios than the old 5-speed AT because the engine does not spend as much time in the lower rpm as in the past.

The 7AT initially felt lazy and shifted roughly. There was the seemingly long pause at each shift and had the tendency to slam into gear even in the street. Bear in mind that the car had less than 150 miles on the odometer. It became apparent that as miles started to accumulate on the odometer, allowing the powertrain to calibrate and approach its learning curve plateau, the shifting quality improved significantly. Not only the transmission was smoother, shifted quicker and even the throttle input was more responsive. In the cyber gadgets era when the powertrain is controlled by a computer that is way more sophisticated than the one in Apollo 13, break-in is still required to offer time for the software to sort things out by coordinating the engine and transmission while adapting to the driving habits of the driver. We would expect the powertrain to be more efficient once reached Infiniti’s recommended break-in period at 1,200 miles.

The Drive Select (DS) mode with the Downshift Rev Match (DRM) makes the driving experience even more engaging. The electronic program does not override the manual gear selection in which case if the gear is in 3rd, it will stay in 3rd and the engine will ride on the communicative rev limiter at the 7,600rpm redline. It is not a rev limiter that will softly let the engine run at max rpm, but it is a good one that it communicates to you that it is there by cutting off in a well mannered way. On the same token, the program will not automatically downshift for you even if you floor the pedal, slightly lugging the engine. But the engine is so powerful that, you can hardly lug it unless you do that purposefully.

The DS is awesome for spirited driving, carving through mountain passes and attacking freeway on/off ramps. Under those circumstances, it is just as good as any clutchless manual transmission like VW’s DSG. But of course, the 7AT is still an auto in its heart, where the limitations are not noticeable on the street becomes obvious – particularly at the track.

On the track, the DRM function had the tendency to lurch the car forward during downshift as if the driver was jabbing the throttle with the clutch engaged. This phenomenon probably does not happen in a stick shift since the clutch will be completely released when shifting. Perhaps, the engine and transmission could not be completely disengaged from the engine under DRM due to the nature of AT mechanisms.

The other deficiency on the track was the logic of the 7AT sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own. It could be an override to protect the powertrain from excessive wear and tear. In the first 15 minutes of the 25 minutes track session, the transmission was shifting per input willingly, if the input was logically legit; i.e., of course, the software will not allow downshifting from 6th gear at 120mph to 2nd. When the hardworking Eagles and overheated brakes smell were noticeable, it was generally when the transmission would refuse to downshift per demand, and upshift softly at lower than usual rpm on its own, despite the downshift was permitted under the same corner, same condition initially.

Therefore, on the track, extra leeway was needed in the braking zone to account for the lurching and to anticipate for your anticipation that the 7AT may not downshift per your input. Then you were stuck with that gear for the turn. It was not a problem of using the proper gear for exit; the engine has enough power to carry pull the car through the corner. The problem was the inconsistency.

The brake feel is simply extraordinary. It is the industry benchmark on how brakes suppose to be. The initial pedal input is firm, has that quality – braking is your second nature type of feel. Pedal has minimal freeplay, has none of the flimsy, the stepping on marshmallow feel. Braking force generated is linear per your pedal input, the more you squeeze on the brakes the more braking power there is. The brakes are virtually noise and vibration free. Brake pads are great for street performance. As the result, the brakes are very easy to modulate and offer enormous confidence.

On the track, the brakes offered consistent braking performance initially. The braking distance seemed to be the same regardless the pads are cold or hot, and always stops dead straight. ABS involvements were hardly noticeable. The EBD, brake assist intervention was not noticeable but they could very well be the unsung hero for the balanced feel. Similar to the 7AT, the brakes were great for the first 15 minutes of the 25 minutes session. Then as approach the end of the session, the brakes had the tendency to fade dramatically with pedal sunk to the bottom without much precursor notice. These warning signs suggested the both the pads and fluid were overheated. However, they were quite good again after some cool off in the next session. But we could not expect more on a set of ordinary brakes and actually praised them.

Toward the end of the day, the brakes definitely required attention; rotors resembled the vinyl records – full of grooves. Pads were merely millimeters thick. The brake fluid level in the reservoir is as low as the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir after years of drought, and probably has changed property in which the pedal felt more like a sponge.

These deficits between the AT and the brakes on the track in combine with the rush of testosterone in the driver can make the situation dicey very hastily. Going into the last corner, Sunset, the car was carrying a lot of speed through Esses and with the brakes already overcooked at Sweeper. In combo with the lack of help from downshift engine braking, excessive speed was unintentionally carried through the Sunset. With the mild understeering nature of the car, some off-roading at the first portion of the main straight, just before the spectator stand is unfortunately and embarrassingly inevitable.

The other option is to kick the tail out, and treacherously uses oversteer to shave off the excessive speed by powersliding. But make no mistake on recovery from the corner though, because there is a magnetic concrete barrier in the inside corner attracting your aluminum hood and its composite front end.

So yes, even with these we think G37 Journey sedan is still one of the very best sports sedans from the land of the rising sun. It is not hardcore track material, but plenty sufficient for a non competitive track day in its street clothing and very exciting for the street. We can pretty much guarantee that not many people will drive the G37 as hard as we did. Just keep in mind that, there is the sport package available and will definitely overcome the issues we experienced on the track. But for street use, we just do not think the benefit will be that noticeable in a daily basis. Conversely, it is highly recommended to opt for the sport package due to its value.

At the end of the day when the dust settled, sun in the western horizon, molten tire smear the rocker panel. The once shiny rims are now gunmetal, covered by the metal shavings accredited from the evaporation of brake pads and rotors, and the chips/dents on the hood by rocks traveled at bullet speed. None of that smearing and chipping has changed our initial respect of the G. We now understood why gunmetal is such a popular wheel color for high performance cars, because you have to go really-really fast, and brake really-really hard to paint your rims with brake dust. Hopefully, the rock chips will self-heal with the standard Scratch Shield paint. This G37 is once again ready to go back for its daily commute duty after a car wash.

The car got very respectable 25[mpg] on the freeway, and very acceptable 8[mpg] under track condition. Freeway fuel consumption can definitely be in the high twenties when the car is fully broke-in, and if driven more like your mother-in-law is there at all times.

Overall Impression
Scoring System:

Performance & Acceleration: 10
Comment: More power will be deemed impractical.


Drivetrain: 10
Comment: Ultra responsive and efficient.

Handling & Cornering: 9.75
Comment: It handles like sports car, despite the two extra doors. The G37S should get a full score.

Brake Feel: 9.75
Comment: Confident feel with short braking distance to support the claim. What more to ask for?

Ride Characteristic: 9.75
Comment: Firm, sports car ride with no noticeable body lean in corners and it has the proper composure if your Camry-driven mother-in-law rides along.

Interior Comfort: 9
Comment: Seats with sufficient support for long journey and efficient/intelligent automatic climate control.

Workmanship: 9.5
Comment: Major improvement over old car. Perfect fit-and-finish. Absolutely rattle free.

Functionality: 9.5
Comment: Don’t be blindfolded by its performance. It is still a 4-door sedan.

Technology: 10
Comment: Has more then you’ll ever need in an automobile with the optional package.

Afterthought
Our previous review of the 2007 G35 summed up as “Beyond Infinity”. It was an awesome car on both the paper and on the road. This time, the 2009 G37 is far above and beyond infinity with our big thumbs and toes up from its positive reflection on the track. The fact is, a car with 328hp was forbidden back in the early 2nd millennium in the land of the rising sun, when a car bears the name of Nissan Skyline GT-R with 280hp(listed) with the help of twin turbochargers was portrayed as the king of all Japanese sports car. The Skyline GT-Rs had been untouchable, almost unheard of in the land of the free until recently. Even today, the GT-Rs are considered as a special item for a lot of car enthusiasts. A pristine condition second hand imported R34 can go for $50,000 easily. With that prestigious heritage, a $37,000 Infiniti G37 is definitely worth every penny, not only for its performance aspects but also Nissan’s attentions to details and sleeper nature of this entry-luxury sports sedan.