Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2010 Infiniti G37 - The Best G Yet

Recently I took my 2004 Infiniti G35 Sedan for an oil/filter change and a coolant flush and was given a loaner: 2010 Infiniti G37 Journey sedan with 10,500 miles on the odometer. I got to drive it for about 120 miles on city streets, LA freeways both at freeway speeds and in heavy "stop and go" traffic that clogs freeways around LA during rush hour.

Prior to that, I drove all model years of the G35 sedans and even though I was impressed with the 2007 model-year redesign and its improvements over the previous generations, the new 3.7-liter engine and the 7-speed transmission in the 2009 and later G37 unquestionably make it the best G yet. And let's not forget the now standard on Journey trim and above, rearview camera!

The 2010 G37 is an improvement over the 2009 G37 model in some areas, notably the interior. I will go over the car's features and performance as well as the improvements over the last year's model/models and the ownership/maintenance experience with the 2004 model, which is relevant to 2010 G37 as well.

About the 2010 G37 Sedan

The 2010 Infiniti G37 Sedan is a rear-wheel drive 4-door sedan with a 3.7-liter V6 engine, which produces 328 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 269 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm (with either a 7-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission). The power in the model I drove (Journey) is routed through the 7-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. Also available are an AWD version (G37x) as well as a rear wheel drive model with a 6-speed manual transmission (G37 Sport 6MT).


The new 3.7-liter V6 engine (code-named VQ37VHR) is improved over the VQ35HR of the 2007-2008 models.  Aside from the higher displacement, the most important feature is the VVEL system on the intake valves (Variable Valve Event and Lift).

The system allows to steplessly vary the valve lift (in addition to timing) instead of relying on the throttle plate. The concept is similar to BMW's Valvetronic, but the execution is different, including the ability to function at higher engine speeds. The system promises lower pumping losses, lower fuel consumption, more power and torque and better responsiveness, comparing to the conventional throttle.

Other improvements introduced during the switch from the VQ35DE to VQ35HR in 2007 are also present: higher rigidity, better cooling, longer connecting rods for less friction/lateral forces, iridium-tipped spark plugs, dual intakes with individual air filter elements as well as dual exhaust with equal-length headers. The 328 hp (SAE) is achieved even disregarding the ram air effect that, according to Infiniti, adds extra power as speed grows.


Another element of the improved performance is the transmission. The new for 2009 model year, 7-speed automatic transmission attracted my attention for several reasons. First of all, the service schedule indicates that, unlike the 5-speed transmission it replaces, it does not require any inspections or fluid changes. It would not have been a big deal had it been clear when to service the old 5-speed model. From reading my manual, I figured the answer was "never" in normal service and at specific intervals if towing or driving on rough or muddy roads. But since I drive on semi-rough roads some of the time, I have no idea what to do. No worries with the new gearbox. But I digress.

Also, with more speeds, the new transmission is supposed to improve acceleration and fuel economy. The car is rated to deliver 18 mpg in city and 27 mpg on the highway (with 7-speed transmission), with a 1 mpg improvement on the highway comparing to the 2009 model and a significant improvement over my 2004 G35, which (using the same rating system) would be rated 16/23.

Other Features

The Infiniti G37 features LED stoplights, which illuminate faster and last longer than conventional lights. The front features HID bi-xenon headlights. The brakes have electronic force distribution, ABS, vehicle dynamic control and brake assist. The car has front, side and head-curtain airbags as well as active head restraints (they move forward in rear-end collisions helping to prevent whiplash). It got great crash-test ratings in both front and side impacts.

I believe that the G37 is a great bargain: the interior space closer to that of a BMW 528 with more power for the price of the stripped BMW 328. Of course, there are other variables involved, even aside from the BMW's legendary handling and free maintenance. And then there is the turbo 335i with over 300 hp and lots of torque. But then, the BMWs are also legendary for their use of noisy and super-expensive (to replace) run-flat tires and not-so-stellar reliability.

All G37 trim levels (starting with Journey, I don't know who would get the standard trim, which is not much cheaper) have the rearview camera and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with homelink remote control as standard equipment.

The car I drove was the 2010 Infiniti G37 Sedan Journey. Journey models include Dual-Zone Automatic Temperature Control, rearview camera and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with homelink remote control as standard equipment. All G37 models include tons of features, including Power Windows, locks, Intelligent Key with keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, trip computer, USB port, color screen for radio and other information, etc.


When new, the G37 costs slightly over $30K in real-world prices for the very well-equipped G37 Journey.  The base (non-Journey) is only a few hundred cheaper. G37x has four-wheel drive and the G37S comes with 6-speed manual transmission. You can also order G37 Journey with Sport Package (auto has magnesium paddle shifters and will have G37S's sport seats, bigger wheels and tires, brakes and front spoiler).

A fully-loaded G37 with premium package, navigation and 4-wheel steering can still be bought for under $40K (street price currently; no taxes or fees included in numbers).

Improvements Over the 2009 Model

The major improvement is in the interior. The center armrest, shifter and console and seat heater controls are new and look/feel much better than before. Also, the aluminum trim is better looking than before as well. The center armrest is fore comfortable. The seats, especially the driver seat feel more comfortable than before. I had difficulty finding a comfortable position in the 2009 model, but in this 2010 G37, I felt comfortable. The lateral support is also better.

The exterior appearance has been changed and I do like the new 17-inch wheels better than the ones on the 2009 model, ditto the redesigned bumper and fog lights below it.

Improvements Over the 2003-2006 Models 

As an owner of a 2004 model year G35, I find the improvements over that model year very relevant. At some point I will be switching from my 2004 model to something newer and I am waiting for a compelling reason. Comparing with my car, I noticed improvements immediately. The exterior looks much more sporty and stylish and more modern. The interior features significantly better materials and easier-to-use controls, including the screen. The buttons and controls seem to have better feel.

The gauges and displays don't seem to suffer from backlight as much as they do in my 2004 model. The strange orange backlight is gone and is replaced by more conventional white illumination scheme (which is easier on the eyes than the 2009's red/blue/white). The steering wheel has better leather cover with seams that are no longer under your fingers.

The seats have better shape and seemingly better leather. The armrests on doors and center are soft and leather (or leatherette) covered. This is unlike my 2004 G35, which has plastic that tries (but not nearly hard enough) to look like leather.

I like the intelligent key feature. You do not have to remove the key from your pocket, just push the button to unlock the car and push the button in the dash to start the engine.

The car is much quieter in the engine noise at low revs and the noise under full throttle is more refined. The tire noise is inaudible. The suspension is also more compliant while feeling even sportier. And the feedback from the steering wheel as well as the assist amount and the linearity are much better and feel just right.

The 2010 G37 I drove had seemingly better tires than my car's initial OEM Bridgestone Turanza EL42 (which I gladly replaced with Yokohama YK520 before they wore out, so terrible they were).

The interior uses real aluminum trim and, unlike 2003-2006 models I have driven, this particular car had no rattles whatsoever. I prefer wood interiors, but this particular aluminum trim is very nice.

Impressions About the Engine and Transmission

Aside from being more refined than 2003-2006's VQ35DE, the engine feels much stronger and, more importantly, keeps pulling hard in the upper rpm ranges, whereas my VQ35DE seemed to run out of breath when the needle approached the redline. The torque curve feels flatter and the power delivery, therefore, more linear.

With the pre-2007 G35s, the WOT (wide open throttle) sound was quite mechanical, an angry growl. It was a bit unrefined but I still like it. The new engine does not run out of breath and keeps pulling in linear fashion up to redline, all while making awesome sounds - refined yet powerful.

I still wish for more torque in the lower rpm ranges, but fortunately the 7-speed transmission helps you stay out of them.

Speaking of transmission, it is great overall, and the annoying traits I saw in 2009 model seem to have been rectified. It still provides excellent acceleration, fast downshifts when needed and no need of maintenance. The car is never in the wrong gear. And the fuel economy with this engine and transmission combination was exceptional (for VQ engines that is) at over 29 mpg on freeways when the traffic "behaved" and 25 mpg overall, including city streets and heavy "stop and go". Mixed freeway with good traffic flow 50% and stop/go 50% resulted in 28 mpg in the broken-in G37 (10,500 miles on the odometer).

The annoyance I had with the 2009 model was that when the transmission downshifted when coasting, it generated inconsistent amounts of engine braking at same speeds. In other words, although I didn't dislike that the engine braking existed, the intensity of the engine braking varied widely and became excessive when the transmission downshifted to lower gears. I was afraid to get rear-ended in heavy traffic, because, when coasting to a stop, the mild deceleration would suddenly change to pretty drastic slowing down as the lower gear became engaged. The deceleration level was definitely sudden and excessive.

With 2009 Infiniti G37, not only was I worried about people behind me damaging the rear bumper of this new G37, this behavior also made it really difficult to figure out the correct brake pedal application and the point at which to stop accelerating in "stop and go" traffic. It was very easy to release the gas pedal and start to coast hoping to come to almost a complete stop behind a car in front of you, when the deceleration would become much more pronounced in a couple of seconds, requiring you to push the gas pedal again and feel like a novice driver. Not any more, the 2010 model didn't display any of this behavior. The shift (especially downshifts) felt smoother as well.


Unlike the 2008 G35's brakes, which were a bit disappointing, the G37's were actually quite good. They are no longer squishy; they are responsive and easy to modulate.

Engine Compartment 

I like to do some of the maintenance myself. The pre-2007 models were a PITA in this respect: engine lid used a prop rod, the oil dipstick has a lot of bends and twists and the dipstick had to be inserted into a hole in the engine that was obscured by the intake hose, the air filter replacement required removal of the aforementioned air intake hose.

The G37 is much better. The hood uses gas-filled struts, the dipstick is in front and easy to use, the dual air filters are replaceable in a couple of minutes with no tools required.


The car is roomy inside and I find the seat very comfortable, due in part to the adjustable lumbar support. There is plenty of leg room up front and in the back seat. The wheel tilts together with the instrument cluster. The visibility is good and the large rearview mirrors, together with the backup camera help.

The car has a dual automatic climate control, which is easy to use. The audio control buttons on the steering wheel make it easy to control the CD playback or radio without even looking. The steering wheel is convenient and has buttons for cruise control as well as for audio control functions. The back seat does not fold, but has a pass-through with an arm rest for the back passengers, which doubles as the cup holders. The car even has A/C vents in the center console for the rear passengers.

Intelligent Key 

The Intelligent Key itself looks like an egg-shaped remote control. It has buttons to lock/unlock doors, lock the trunk or sound panic alarm.

You can lock/unlock the car or unlock the trunk by pushing buttons on the remote. Alternatively, you can unlock the trunk by pushing a button on the rear of the car, while having the IK in your pocket. In the same manner you can lock/unlock the front doors by pushing a small black button on the outside door handle (the car will beep).


The standard 17-inch aluminum wheels look nice and are fitted with 225/55R17 tires (the sports package equipped cars get W-rated tires in 225mm front, 245mm rears on 18-inch wheels).

The outside power heated mirrors can be folded (manually). They are quite large and have good visibility.


The trunk is relatively roomy and has a cargo net. The opening is quite large and the trunk lid has gas-filled struts. The trunk can be opened from the cabin or by pressing a button on the remote. Or you can open it by pushing a button on the trunk lid while having the intelligent key in the pocket (or purse).


Whereas my 2004 G35 features handling that is rather good in terms of ultimate lateral forces you can develop in turns, acceleration and braking (after I replaced the mediocre Bridgestone Turanza EL42 tires with Yokohama YK520), the handling has always been unrefined. The tail would get twitchy at the limit with sudden oversteer (if you have the stability control off) being the trademark The car always felt rather large and heavy, possibly due to the steering calibration.

The new G37 model handles better (again, maybe due to better steering). The steering feedback is better, the response and on-center feel is better and the controls (steering, brakes and gas) produce more linear result.

Also, the new G37 feels solid and more planted than the older models. It also (at least in non-sport trim) has very compliant suspension. And it corners and brakes quite flat. This is another gradual improvement from the 2008 G35 and a big improvement from my 2004 model. The combination of ride and handling is very good and moves it closer to the ideal combination of ride and handling desired of a sport sedan.

I didn't get a chance to explore the handling limits of the 2010 G37 (this is disallowed on public roads in the state of California), but up to 9/10 of the performance envelope, the handling was extremely competent.


As described above, the brakes are now less sensitive (comparing to the 2003-2004 models), but are easier to modulate and are supposed to last longer. They produce linear braking modulation (meaning the braking forces are proportional to the force applied to the pedal). I did several trial hard decelerations and the stopping distances were short with no "nose dive" or lateral movement of the car.


Unlike some makers like BMW, which provide you with free scheduled maintenance for 3-4 years, you have to pay for your maintenance with Infiniti. Some newer Acura, BMW, Mercedes and even Honda cars have flexible service system which tells you when to change the oil (in some cases up to 10K-15K miles if using synthetic oils).

Just as was the case with my 2004 model, Infiniti still has 3 service schedules, with driving in ideal conditions requiring oil changes every 7,500 miles or 6 months. Two other schedules: "Premium" (for people who are paranoid or have OCD) and "Severe" (for all others) require oil changes every 3,750 miles or 3 months.

Obviously, I have more important things to do than to have my oil changed every 3 months. And fortunately this is not what I have been doing for the last 8 years I had my G35, but more on that later.

The manual explicitly states that Infiniti recommends mineral-based oils. Based on experience with my 2004 models, the maintenance costs at the dealership are pretty high. Oil changes with inspection are currently $65 at the dealership I go to. Bring your own oil and filter and it becomes less than $30. I paid $130 for 7.5K mile service, which included only oil change, tire rotation and a couple of inspections. This is not counting the annual (or 15K miles, whichever comes first) in-cabin air filter replacement that dealerships normally want about $100 for.

Worse, I was quoted almost $500 for 15K maintenance, which included an oil change, tire rotation and some inspections. After I asked to have service elements itemized, the service advisor agreed to perform the 15K service for $170. Still a rip-off, but at least I got a loner car.

Do It Yourself (a.k.a. DIY) 

I do some maintenance items myself. Replacing the in-cabin microfilter normally costs $80-120, but you can do it yourself for about $20 (price of the filter). You have to remove the glove box, but it is no rocket science.

Some items require less maintenance than in other cars. The new iridium-tipped spark plugs need replacement every 105K. The engine uses long-lasting timing chain rather than timing belt, which would need replacement every 60-100 K.

The engine air filters are now easy to replace. One gripe I have is - why can't Infiniti develop a system similar to Honda's Maintenance Minder? Even GM has oil life monitors that tell you when to change oil based on how you drive. I used to stick with the conservative 3,750-mile interval instead (I like to employ Wide Open Throttle technique sometimes). This is probably the shortest oil change interval of all manufacturers, which is not good for me or the planet. So after following that routine for the first 40K miles, I switched to a better model: synthetic oil and better oil filters. Current fill: Shell Rotella T Syn 5w40 mixed with Valvoline Synpower 10w30 and Bosch Distance Plus oil filter.

Even Lexus does not ask you to change oil as often, let alone Volvo or Audi even with their turbocharged engines. If Infiniti positions itself as a luxury vehicle manufacturer, do they not consider the time of their target client segment valuable? Using good synthetic oil would not only allow them extend the oil change interval, but would also improve the cold engine startup wear somewhat. I just don't understand why they don't do this. For my part, I switched to synthetic oils are extended my oil change interval to over 5,000 miles.


The manual recommends Premium 91-octane and this is what I used. The fuel tank holds 20 gallons. I averaged 25 mpg in mixed city/highway/stop-n-go driving (including quite a few wide open throttle runs), which is much better than the 20-21 MPG I average in my 2004 G35 in similar mix of driving conditions. And I got to over 29 mpg in freeway driving, which is something I would never be able to achive in my G35 (the best I got was slightly above 24 mpg).


The car was crash-tested and got the best (GOOD) rating in the frontal and side crash tests. The previous generation of G35 had the lowest driver fatality rate among sedans, the same as BMW 7-series and second only to Chevy Astro minivan. The G35 had 11 fatalities for each 1 million vehicle-miles, same as the BMW 7-series. For comparison, Volvo S40 was somewhere in 40-60 range, Honda Accord and VW Passat in 30-40, similar to Volvo S60, BMW 3 and 5 and Mercedes C and E.

Not Good 

Although the G37 improved, there are still small items of concern. The interior is appreciable at a first sight, but it is still no Lexus or Acura. The leather is no match for Lexus or Acura hides. The dash uses plastic that looks better than the 2003-2006 G35, but still no match for the above two. The engine start/stop button on Lexus models looks better as well. And even though the center console is now much better looking and feeling than before, on the car I drove, the chrome ridge around the button that opens the compartment under the center armrest was peeling.

The trip computer buttons are pretty far, so you have to reach for them and therefore get distracted from watching the road.

The value content, which has always been the G's strong characteristic is higher than ever. The competing models from Acura, Lexus, BWM, Audi or Mercedes are pricier while providing fewer features. Plus, Acura vehicles are now mutilated (have chrome beaks), BMW 3-series is not pretty to look at (although slightly better than previous couple of years) and Mercedes C-class's interior looks cheap. Then, there is German reliability, or lack thereof. Audis are notorious for electrical issues and eating camshafts. Former applies to Mercs and Bimmers as well. And Lexus IS (or GS) vehicles can't be called "sport" sedans due to uninspiring handling (even if they accelerate and brake well).

But there are things that seem to have been missed in the 2010G. Why do I still have to change oil every 3,750 miles? Why does Honda models have flexible oil life (and overall maintenance) monitors while being 50% of the price of the G35? At least you no longer have to pay extra for Premium package to get the ability to open all 4 windows remotely.

The 2010 G37 is powerful, nice-looking, inexpensive, feature-rich, easy to use, good-sounding, very well-handling car with good expected reliability. In comparison with positives, the small issues are almost immaterial. I will probably still keep my 2004 G35 for a few years, but with new G models it is getting more and more difficult.

After I returned the 2010 G37 and got my car back, I suddenly felt like I am driving an old Nissan. But then again, this old Nissan can produce some mean mechanical groan when prodded and I have the upkeep and feeding of this beast all figured out.

Pros: Feature content for price, performance, looks, MPG, expected reliability, ride quality, 7-speed auto transmission
Cons: Interior is still not up to Acura/Lexus standards, short oil change interval

Bottom Line 

So there you have it, if you want a very well-handling, spacious and inexpensive sport sedan that will be reliable and easy on the eyes, you have to get the G37. With better than ever fuel economy, features and power, it is hard to beat.

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