2012 Infiniti G37S sedan road test: Great fun at a good price, but . . .

2012 Infiniti G37s sedan

2012 Infiniti G37s sedan

Infiniti’s entry-level sports/luxury sedans have been nipping at the back bumper of the segment-leading BMW 3 series counterparts for years now, and the 2012 Infiniti G37S sedan is a reminder of just how close the Japanese entry has come to the German benchmark.

But there are a couple of blemishes that still keep the G37 sedans from pulling aside of the BMW. Are they enough to negate the price differential that pulls many buyers into the Infiniti fold?

To find out, let’s examine the impressions i had during what was a mostly enjoyable week with the rear-wheel-drive 2012 Infiniti G37 sport edition.

First, the downers, minor thought they may be. One is the six-speed manual transmission, the other is what I consider to be the uninspiring and dated design.

It’s time for parent Nissan to  work on the clutch and the sometimes balky shifter on the 6-speed manual transmission. For a certain percentage of buyers a manual transmission is a must in a car with sporty intentions. And, for it to extract maximum performance, it must shift smoothly and quickly.

But, based on several Infinitis I have driven over the past few years, the Infiniti’s manual shifter has a hair-trigger clutch that engages  too far from the floor, and the gears are also too notchy for smooth, fast shifts.

Anyone wanting to wring the performance out of a G37 or just insure smooth take-offs would likely be better off with the 7-speed automatic transmission. It clicks off lightning-fast upshifts with steering-wheel mounted paddles and makes downsifting a breeze with its automatic rev-matching feature.

Infiniti G37 instruments

Infiniti G37 instruments

It’s also time to come up with a new design for this very capable sports/luxury sedan. The 2012 model does not look a whole lot different than the 2003 model that began Infiniti’s pursuit of BMW.

It’s hard to figure out why the Infiniti G37 design remains static while the Maxima and Altima sedans being turned out by the down-market Nissan division have gotten handsome updates.

I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a fact highlighted by the continuing sales strength of the Infiniti G37. Still, to me the G sedan has gotten to look a bit tired.

That said, it’s still easy to make a compelling case for the Infinti G37, especially the rear-wheel-drive sport version that I drove. The driving dynamics are superb, manual transmission excluded, and the sedan is available with a whole host of comfort and convenience amenities.

The excellent 3.7-liter V-6 engine — 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque — pulls strongly and smoothly from a stop to its 7500 rpm red line. You can accelerate from a stop to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds, tear around the back roads and extract maximum performance pretty much by toggling among third, fourth and fifth gears, Or. you can just leave the shifter in sixth gear and let the available torque provide a satisfying romp in most road conditions.