What's an auto company to do with a sexy-looking car like the Infiniti G37? Build more variations of it, of course.
The 2009 G37 lineup includes an addition: an all-wheel drive coupe that's every bit as sleek and well-proportioned as its rear-wheel drive siblings.
The electronically controlled all-wheel drive adds more surefooted performance on slick roads. It also heightens sporty driving for enthusiasts on dry pavement, and it's the only 2009 G37 coupe with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Other G37 coupes have a six-speed automatic transmission.
Also worth noting, the G cars are a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, where predicted reliability is "excellent."
The all-wheel drive, two-door, however, has the highest starting retail price of all G cars.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a base 2009 coupe is $36,765. The 2009 G37x coupe -- "x" denotes all-wheel drive -- starts at $39,565.
This is nearly $3,000 more than a sedan with all-wheel drive, which joined the lineup before 2009.
All G cars have the same engine: a powerful and easy-to-modulate 330-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6.
The G cars have become the mainstays at luxury brand Infiniti, which is a unit of Japan's Nissan Motor Co.
In the first half of this year, the G cars accounted for 55 percent of total Infiniti sales in the United States.
IT TAKES ONLY ONE LOOK at the cars, particularly the shapely coupe, to see why they are the brand's most popular vehicles. The silhouette is sporty; exterior styling is gorgeous and tasteful. It's just the right appearance to warrant a starting price in the mid- to high $30,000s and to force buyers to consider a coupe, for a change.
Coupes have declined in sales for decades as buyers have opted for sedans and SUVs that offer more rear-seat room and cargo space.
Classified as a subcompact by the federal government, the G37x does demand compromises.
For example, it took some work to get into one of the two back seats, and once there, I felt constrained with 34.5 inches of headroom. People in the front seats had to move themselves forward a bit in order to give me legroom, too.
Infiniti reports less than 30 inches of rear-seat legroom in the G37x Coupe. This is less than the minimal 33.7 inches in the back seat of a BMW 335ix coupe.
Rear windows don't open, and head restraints are rather low and built in to the rear seat backs.
Note that the one-piece rear seat back can be folded down via a lever in the trunk, thereby providing additional cargo space. Without the rear seat backs in the folded position, the trunk offers only 7.4 cubic feet of space.
I discovered on a grocery trip just how shallow the trunk is when paper grocery bags stood too tall back there and had to be rearranged so items wouldn't be crushed by the trunk lid.
In the front seats, good-size side windows and an optional moonroof gave an airy feel in the test car and legroom is a near-SUV-like 43.8 inches.
Headroom up front is better, too, at 37.7 inches, but it's still less than what's in the 335ix and the Audi A5 coupe.
Everyone in the G37x drops down into the seats and looks out at truck tailgates and SUV bumpers.
In the tester, the interior wasn't isolated and quiet, like in a Lexus. I heard road noise from the tires on most surfaces. During acceleration, the G37x V-6 sounds came through to the cabin confidently and in a pleasing manner.
STEERING WAS PRECISE without being twitchy, and brakes worked strongly.
I especially enjoyed driving this car through the mountains, where it clung to the pavement tenaciously and bounded out of curves with ease.
The all-wheel drive system is on all the time, providing a rear-bias drive most of the time. On slick roads, the system can automatically shift up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels when needed.
The system works by constantly monitoring where the driver is pointing the car, the throttle position and if any wheel spin has occurred.
Infiniti long has had one of the best navigation screens, in terms of its 7-inch size, easy use and features, and it remains to this day.
The optional Navigation Package includes an attractive Birdview feature that positions the vehicle on a map with a horizon in the distance. It's so much more interesting than the typical looking-down-from-on-high map view.
Standard safety items include electronic stability control, roof-mounted air bags, active head restraints and anti-lock brakes.
THE VEHICLE: 2009 Infiniti G37x coupe: a front-engine, all-wheel-drive, four-passenger, subcompact coupe
BASE PRICE: $35,900 for base coupe; $36,650 for Journey coupe; $37,000 for Sport coupe; $38,700 for all-wheel drive coupe.
DESTINATION CHARGE: $865
PRICE AS TESTED: $47,295
ENGINE: 3.7-liter, double overhead cam V-6 producing 330 horsepower
TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed automatic
EPA MILEAGE: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
LENGTH: 183.1 inches
WHEELBASE: 112.2 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 3,847 pounds
OPTIONS: Premium package (includes power moonroof, Bose premium audio system, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, iPod interface, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, two-way, power lumbar on driver's seat, memory driver's seat), $3,000; navigation package (includes nav system, voice recognition and 9.3 gigabyte music hard drive), $2,200; nine-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, $1,650; African rosewood interior trim, $550; illuminated kick plates, $330
ASSEMBLED IN: Japan