The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2009 Infiniti G37S Coupe Review and Roadtrip

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Road Therapy and Automotive Indulgence
From a Shunpiker’s Journal
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

I’ve been planning this road trip for quite some time. Every spring the Midwest Auto Media Association (MAMA - a group I joined a few years ago while covering the Chicago Auto Show) holds an event at the legendary Road America race track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. They assemble dozens of cars and light trucks sold in the US so that we journalists can just hop into and out of them, one right after another, for hot laps on the race course, spirited drives around the hilly Wisconsin county side, challenging runs through off-road courses for those vehicles capable of that, and even passes through a short autocross course. I’ve been told it is one of the best events of the year. This is the first year I’ve not had a conflict during the MAMA Spring Rally time.

The time and location make this perfect for a good dose of road therapy – spring time, 600 miles away. We could probably all use that kind of therapy once in a while. I never seem to get enough. I need road therapy in order to step away from the multitude of projects on my desk that tends to clutter up my mind. Sometimes the calendar gets so full that I just need a break, and the best break in my experience is a long, leisurely, solitary drive in a car with which I can develop a gratifying relationship.

So, the other question we need to answer is about the therapeutic value of this Infiniti G37S Coupe Journey I happen to have this week. On the surface we would guess that it would be just the thing for this kind of road trip – front-engine, rear-wheel drive, lots of horsepower, plenty of sophisticated good looks, and XM satellite radio for those long stretches across Michigan’s UP.

The Los Angeles-built G37 is the Infiniti version of the hot Nissan Z-car (370Z) that I wrote about a few weeks ago. It’s on the same platform with essentially the same engine. Dimensions are similar except that the Z is a two-seater and the Infinity is a two-plus-two, with just enough back seat for small people or pets. The Infiniti is certainly less brash in appearance (my Z was bright yellow, this one is electric blue) and has more elements of luxury. The Infiniti styling cues are evident inside and out – very attractive without being particularly bold or eye-catching. We hope not to catch the attention of the authorities.

So what does that have to do with being therapeutic? If you have to ask, you may not yet understand the concept. The idea is to have a car that makes you feel good when it’s wrapped around you and one with which you can communicate on the road. I have had gratifying road therapy experiences in a variety of cars. My old XR4Ti comes immediately to mind from a back-road trip to Greenville, South Carolina some years ago. But I have had the privilege communing with dozens of great cars on these long road trips.

The route for this trip will take me straight north through the middle of Michigan’s lower peninsula, across the mighty Mackinaw Bridge, then west along the north shore of Lake Michigan to Escanaba. We’ll continue to follow the Lake Michigan coastline all the way to Green Bay then do a little exploration on our way to Elkhart Lake, located about an hour and a half northwest of Milwaukee.

Our therapy car has a great audio system along with that XM satellite radio but we’re not going to use it much on the first leg of our journey. We’ll start out with a local news station on until we get out of town headed north, then we shut it off. That’s what therapy is about – quiet, sustained contemplation. Some need inspiring music, but silence is essential to me. It’s 3 ˝ hours to the Mackinac Bridge and I’m taking full advantage of the mid-week, mid-morning lack of traffic. I have the road nearly to myself.

My found my favorite breakfast place in St. Ignace (just over the big bridge) was still closed for the season so I headed west on US Highway 2 skimming along the lakeshore stopping at a little café in Naubinway, where the fellows at the next table (one appeared to be Native American) were planning a zoning appeal to facilitate a wind generating project.

Back on the road headed west I still have the road nearly to myself. The cruise control is set at a barely extralegal speed and I seem to making close to 30-mpg according to the car’s computer. The 3,600-pound G37 Coupe is rated at 18-city and 26-highway on premium fuel. I fueled up at Mackinaw City and with the 20-gallon fuel tank the needle hardly moves at all. The computer shows a 500-mile range.

Now that’s amazing. This is a 330-hp car with neck-snapping acceleration. The 0.30 coefficient of drag, accomplished partly through a zero-lift undercarriage design, contributes to that great mileage, of course, but so does the super-efficient design of the engine with variable valve lift and timing, lots of valves, light weight aluminum parts and a smooth, quick-shifting 7-speed automatic transmission that senses our driving style and adjusts itself accordingly.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Inside, the G37 Coupe is more comfortable than a therapist’s couch – though certainly more vertical for this kind of therapy. The leather seats and trim along with the other materials inside are excellent, as we would expect in this level of car. The little analog clock rounds out the elegant statement nicely. I was a bit worried about the stiffly bolstered sport seats but found that both the butt and the torso bolsters are adjustable with positions comfortable enough for my broad beam, even after 4 or 5 hours of sustained driving without a break.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

My first stop after brunch was all the way into Wisconsin, about 30 miles northwest of Green Bay. I promised my pretty blonde that I’d scout out the little town that was named after her people - Zachow (rhymes with taco), WI. Otto Zachow, her great-great-uncle, is credited with inventing 4-wheel drive back in the 19-teens. He was also one of the founders of the FWD Corporation. Old Otto was a mechanic, not a businessman and was bought out of the company early. The town of Zachow (probably not named after Otto himself) barely survives with perhaps two-dozen homes. The post office is in the back of a small dress store and the only other businesses are a big grain elevator, a dairy processing plant and a party store.

The Infiniti’s navigation system got me to the little town out in the middle of nowhere with ease. Our test car is equipped with the hard-drive managed system that includes touch screen and reasonably intuitive controls. With each new generation these systems get more user-friendly – and this low-tech user needs it to be. I had my nice new Rand-McNally with me but didn’t need it much. The nav system also directed me expeditiously along the back roads to our final destination – Elkhart Lake.

I finally pulled in to the classic old Osthoff Resort Hotel in downtown Elkhart Lake just in time for dinner with a host of other out-of-town journalists. The Osthoff has been a mainstay on the lake since the days that most tourists arrived by train from Chicago and Milwaukee. It has been updated over the years and is large, modern and luxurious today. I felt like the G37 Coupe fit in well with all the other special cars assembled there for the big event.

For the next two days we (perhaps about 50 journalists) hopped in and out of about 80 cars for hot laps on the 4.1-mile Road America race course, short drives through the Wisconsin countryside, zigzags through the autocross course, creeping along three different off-road courses of varying degrees of difficulty and a few of us even tried smoking and squealing around the Hyundai drifting pad where the new Genesis Coupe was mercilessly abused.

Personally, I spent a good deal of time taking hot laps in everything from the new Camaro SS to a hot, sophisticated Porsche 911 Carrera 4S and the soon-to-be-gone Pontiac G8 GTP. The only cars that everyone didn’t get a shot at were the three “boutique” cars – Rolls Royce Phantom, Bentley Continental Convertible and Aston Martin. Fortunately, I got my greedy hands on all three. A dozen or more autocross cars, including a red BMW M3, got my adrenalin pumping again. Then, in a light rain, I challenged all three off-road courses in a Volvo, Subaru, a couple of Jeeps and a Land Rover, slipping and sliding and testing the various hill descent control systems.

I guess we’d have to put these few days into the category of “tough work that someone has to do.”

With the small cargo area of the Infiniti G37 Coupe packed with all my stuff I headed back north for the return trip and final therapeutic drive. My adrenalin had dissipated and I was back into a therapeutic mode.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Just east of Manistique in Michigan’s UP I encountered another of those back road discoveries that make this sort of travel intriguing. Someone had created a life-size farmer and cow out of whatever came to hand and displayed it in a field beside the road. Known as bricolage art, we find this kind of folk art all over the country, usually reflecting the local culture. Don’t you just love it? I continued to reset the Infiniti’s trip computer to check the mileage. On sustained sections with cruise set at less than 65-mph I was getting almost 31-mpg. On the freeway at 75-mph I managed just over 27-mpg – quite satisfactory, I must say.

The starting price on the Infiniti G37 Coupe Journey is $36,650. That includes a lot of content for the money. Our tester has the $3,200 Premium Package, the $1,850 Sport Package and a $2,200 Navigation Package bringing the total with destination charges to $45,045. The G37 can also be had in all-wheel drive configuration for just a few grand extra.

The new car warranty covers the G37 for 4 years or 60,000 miles and the drivetrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles. The body is guaranteed against rust through for 7 years. So, if we did the math I could actually buy this car for what it would cost for about 40 sessions with a good therapist. Certainly, there are other considerations but I’m sure you can see the value of some good road therapy.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved