When I took my 2004 Infiniti G35 Sedan for an oil/filter change and a coolant flush as well as for some potential warranty-related repairs (which turned out to be nothing, but still it was a good idea to check three weeks before the powertrain warranty expiration), I was given a loaner: 2009 Infiniti G37 sedan with 6,700 miles on the odometer. I got to drive it for 120 miles on city streets, LA freeways both at above-legal speeds and in heavy stop/go traffic.
Later, in June of 2010, I got to drive another 2009 G37, this one with 11500 miles on the odometer. I drove it for about 100 miles, mostly on freeways, both at high speeds and in stop/go traffic.
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 new G37 sedan unquestionably make it the best G yet. And let's not forget the self-healing paint!
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 2004 model, which is relevant to both 2004 and 2009 models (you will see why).
The 2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan is a rear-wheel drive car 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 very 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.
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 throttles and 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.
The new 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. Then, with more speeds, it is supposed to improve acceleration and fuel economy. The car is rated to deliver 18 mpg in city and 26 mpg on the highway (with 7-speed transmission).
The 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.
You can get more information elsewhere, but I just have to say that I believe that the G37 is a great bargain: the interior space 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 twin-turbo 335i with over 300 hp and lots of torque. But then, the BMWs are also legendary for their use of super-expensive (to replace) run-flat tires and not-so-stellar reliability.
Regardless, the car I drove was the 2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan Journey with Sunroof package. Journey models include Dual-Zone Automatic Temperature Control. All G37 models include tons of features, including Power Windows, locks, Intelligent Key with keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, etc.
When new, the G37 cost slightly under $30K in real-world prices for the very well-equipped G37 Journey. This is most likely due to housing/economy-induced car sales declines and general deflationary economic environment.
The base (non-Journey) model lacks dual-zone climate control and replaces the 6-CD changer with a -CD player. G37x has four-wheel drive and the G37S comes with 6-speed manual. 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). Sadly, you still cannot get sport seats, etc. combined with wood interior and/or Journey's front spoiler (I like it better than G37S's).
A fully-loaded G37 with premium package, navigation, rear-view camera and 4-wheel steering can still be bought for well under $40K (street price currently; no taxes or fees included in numbers herein).
Improvements Over the 2008 Model
Aside from the aforementioned engine and transmission improvements, the G37 has a self-healing paint that can heal small scratches over time. There are other minor improvements as well.
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 red/blue/white illumination scheme. The steering wheel has better leather cover with seams that no longer under your fingers.
The seats have better shape and seemingly slightly 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 seems to be quieter in the engine noise at low revs and the noise under full throttle is more refined. 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 car I am currently driving has Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires as opposed to my car's initial OEM Bridgestone Turanza EL42 (which I gladly replaced with Yokohama YK520 before they wore out, so terrible they were). The steering feels more precise but there seems to be more tire noise.
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 uses interesting texture inspired by washi paper. I like it better than the pattern on the BMW X3s I have driven a while ago.
Engine and Transmission
Aside from being more refined, 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. 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, but has one major annoyance, at least until Inifiniti reprograms it. It 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 27.7 mpg in the broken-in G37 (11,500 miles on the odometer).
But the annoyance is the transmission downshift when coasting and generates inconsistent amounts of engine braking at same speeds. In other words, although I don't dislike that the engine braking exists, the intensity of the engine braking varies widely and becomes excessive when the transmission downshifts 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.
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.
Update 03/2010: The transmission in 2010 Infiniti G37 is much better, or at least better programmed. No issues described above.
Unlike the 2008 G35's brakes, which were a bit disappointing, the G37's were actually good. Not sure if they changed something or I got used to them, but they are now less squishy.
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 more bends and twists than a mountain road, the air filter replacement required removal of the air intake hose.
This 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 2 minutes.
The new engine pulls very well. The old VQ35DE would seem to run out of breath as it approached the redline, probably due to the restrictive single intake and exhaust. The VQ35HR improved on that and the new VQ37VHR is even better.
The WOT sound was, quite mechanical, an angry growl. It is a bit unrefined but I still like it. The new one does not run out of breath and keeps pulling in linear fashion up to redline, all while making awesome sounds - refined yet powerful.
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 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 I drove even had A/C vents in the center console for the rear passengers.
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 225mm V-rated Goodyear Eagle RS-A 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). I love the new exterior styling, but it makes rearward visibility from the driver's seat somewhat worse than before. On the flipside, if you depress the "loud pedal" all they way, there is a chance you don't have to look back as carefully as before.
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.
My 2004 G35 handles really well, but the tires (Bridgestone Turanza EL42) were disappointing and it doesn't handle as a BMW 3 series I drove in BMW performance driving school.
The new model with Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires seems to handle better (maybe due to the tires and better steering).
The new G37 feels solid and more planted than the older models. It also (in non-sport trim) has compliant suspension. And it corners and brakes quite flat. Another gradual improvement from the 2008 G35 and a big improvement from my 2004 model.
As described above, the brakes are now less sensitive (comparing to the 2003-2004 models), are easier to modulate and are supposed to last longer.
Unlike BMW, Mercedes, Volvo or Audi, which provide you with free scheduled maintenance for 3-4 years, you have to pay for your maintenance with Infiniti. BMW and Mercedes cars have flexible service system which tells you when to change the oil (up to 10K-15K miles).
Just as with my 2004 model, Infiniti still has 3 service schedules, with driving in ideal conditions requiring oil changes every 7,500 miles. Two other schedules - preferred (for people who are paranoid or have OCD) and severe (for all others) - require oil changes every 3,750 miles.
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. 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 $25 (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 have 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.
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 a good synthetic oil would not only allow them extent 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 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.
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.
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 other players from Acura, Lexus, BWM, Audi or Mercedes are pricier. And new BMW and Mercedes models do not inspire me from the interior or exterior design perspective (aside from the exterior of the C-class).
But there are things that seem to have been missed. 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? Why do I have to pay extra for Premium package to get the ability to open all 4 windows remotely, whereas the cheapest base 2007 Honda Accord VP (that's Value Package, folks), purchased for $16.4K provided this feature? I know this last gripe is going to be addressed in the 2010 G37, due in January 2010.
These are small items however. The 2009 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.
Pros: Stylish, powerful, inexpensive, excellent handling, features, fuel economy/power, expected reliability
Cons: Jerky downshifts of the 7-speed transmission, short oil change interval
The 2009 G37 is powerful, nice-looking, inexpensive, feature-rich, easy to use, good-sounding, very well-handling car with good expected reliability. The 2009 G37 is better than ever and I highly recommend it.