If there was ever a vehicle that defined a brand, it had to be the Infiniti G series coupe and convertible. I can’t think of any other automaker — at least, not one that sells most of its cars for less than six figures — that has done a better job of conveying their brand values in a single model.
I’m talking about the 2003-2013 Gs, by the way; with all due respect to G20 fans, your car doesn’t count. The G20 was a rebadged Primera, Nissan’s European answer to the Altima (this was a time when Nissan hadn’t yet stumbled upon the concept of global platforms and was building vastly different models for different markets). Nice car, the Primera — trim, decent to drive and reliable — but it was not what the Infiniti brand was all about.
No, the car that grabbed our chin and forced us to stare was the 2003 G35. Built on the same platform as the Nissan 350Z, the G35 always reminded me of a Bronx-born bouncer in a Brooks Brothers suit: Sure, it looked elegant, but it was a bruiser at heart. Powered by Nissan’s 3.5 liter VQ-series V6, one of the best engines of modern times, the G was elegant, to be sure — but it went fast, rode hard and handled aggressively. One had the sense that if a G35 and a Lexus IS350 disappeared in dark alley together, the G35 would come out first, taking a quick look left and right before disappearing into the crowd, while the dazed Lexus would follow a minute later with its nose bloodied and its wallet missing. See the Infiniti G35 models for sale near you
Things got even better with the 2007 refresh, which sharpened the looks and the interior style — but the real jaw-dropper was the 2008 coupe, which wore a G37 badge out back and had a punched-out 3.7-liter 330-hp V6 under the hood. The sedan picked up the same motor for 2009, and the G had reached its pinnacle. See the Infiniti G37 models for sale near you
Unfortunately, that was right around the time gas hit four bucks a gallon and the economy dried up, and with it went interest in powerful rear-drive sedans. Infiniti never seemed to have much of a plan B, and the G soldiered on largely unchanged for another four years or so — still a great car, but one that no one seemed to appreciate much anymore.
I remember only two dim spots in the G’s career. One was the G convertible: a retractable hardtop that didn’t get enough chassis bracing. With the top down, it flopped around like a dying fish. Second was the G25, an attempt to boost the G’s fuel economy with a smaller V6 engine. It was a nice-enough car, but it felt like a G37 that had been drained of testosterone. Fortunately, it sold in small-enough numbers not to tarnish the G’s image before suffering an early demise.
Inifiniti is just now in the process of getting its mojo back: The G’s replacements are the Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe, named following the silly notion that a showroom full of cars named Q will be less confusing to buyers than cars named G, M, EX and FX. Whatever. Either way, Infiniti finally has a full line of engines for these cars, ranging from a sharp 2-liter turbo to a 400-hp twin-turbo V6. And both are packed with technology, including a very cool steer-by-wire system that allows on-the-fly ratio changes. But what the Q50 and Q60 are missing is the G’s attitude: Send a Q50 Red Sport 400 into a dark alley with a Lexus IS, and the two are likely to emerge with their arms around each other’s shoulders, exchanging restaurant recommendations and stock tips.
As it happens, the spirit of the G lives on in an unlikely place: The QX50, formerly known as the EX37. This SUV is basically a G37 wagon with a slightly taller stance. I tested one just last year and was pleased to see that it had been pretty much stuck in a time machine. It’s exactly the same vehicle as it was in 2011, with the same interior, same attitude and the same sweet VQ 3.7 under the hood. The responses are a bit softer than with the G37, perhaps, and the whole package a bit more feminine, but this is the closest you’ll get to buying a brand-new G. Infiniti has improvements on the way, we’re sure, but right now gas is cheap and the slow-selling QX50 is aggressively priced. This is the last remnant of the greatest period in Infiniti’s short history — and I say grab it while you can. Find an Infiniti G35 for sale or Find an Infiniti G37 for sale