2009 Infiniti G Series

Slicing the roof off a slinky coupe such as the 10Best-winning Infiniti G37 is fraught with danger. A graceful corner eater can be wrecked by the added weight of structural reinforcements and pulled like taffy to package the folding roof. But as long ago as last August, when Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura showed the first alluring pictures of the Infiniti G37 convertible, we suspected Infiniti had preserved its best looker.

Nakamura’s accomplishment has been to throw out the roof while keeping the rest of the hot bod. In the G37, the muscular shoulders, the short overhangs, and the flat, athletic beltline are all still there. Infiniti proudly proclaims that the convertible is just 0.2 inch longer than the coupe, even though all the sheetmetal behind the seats is unique to the convertible. So far, we’re cheering.

Then the roof goes down with a button push, and we see why coupes tend to balloon in the top-cutting process. In a seamless, 30-second ballet of pirouetting panels and tumbling glass, the G37’s steel roof, engineered and supplied by Germany’s Karmann Group, efficiently fractures into three sections and stacks in the trunk. And then the trunk is full, stuffed like a steel egg roll. There’s barely enough room for a Subway foot-long once the G37’s top is stowed. The BMW 328i convertible, its base price right where the G37 convertible’s should land at about $45,000, leaves behind more usable space.

Ah, trade-offs. Another biggie is the 450 or so pounds added to the G37’s curb weight as Nissan welded in gussets and braces to preserve the coupe’s sporty stiffness. Although heavy, the reinforcements work. The G37 convertible exhibits only slight shivers over the rough stuff, and the convertible arcs through corners with the same balanced aplomb as the coupe. It still bolts hard under full throttle, although the extra pounds will no doubt add a few tenths to the coupe’s 5.3-second 0-to-60-mph sprints.

The sonorous 3.7-liter DOHC V-6 carries over from the coupe, with peak output of 325 hp coming in five fewer than the hardtop’s, thanks to some exhaust changes. A seven-speed automatic will be the popular transmission. A six-speed manual is available only with the Sport package, which also includes 19-inch wheels, summer tires, a quicker steering ratio, more sportif interior trim, and a revised front bumper. Get the automatic with the Sport pack, and the steering wheel sprouts magnesium shift paddles. All-wheel drive, however, will not be offered, due to the extra weight and cost.

Like many luxury convertibles, the G37 droptop boasts a few technologies intended to smooth over the differences between top-up and top-down driving. The Premium package (not available with the Sport package) includes a 13-speaker Bose Open-Air Audio system with noise-compensating software and headrest-mounted speakers, which change their sound signature depending on the roof’s position. Similarly, the climate-control system self-adjusts the fan speed and temperature in accordance with speed, ambient temperature, and top position. The goal is to keep you cooler when it’s hot and warmer when it’s cold.

Of the four-seat droptops, BMW’s 3-series convertible is still a killer, with its benchmark dynamics, a choice of two ultra-smooth inline-sixes, and a folding hardtop that leaves usable space in the trunk. It feels a bit stiffer, too. But the G37 offers more horsepower and luxury, dollar for dollar, than the Bimmer. And Nakamura’s convertible is definitely a knockout in the design department.

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