April 9, 2010

Infiniti's luxury G37xS sedan not 'two' shabby

- Unless you're talking about heads or wives, I'd generally rather have two of almost anything than one.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Scoops of ice cream. Bags of money. Days off.

Pairs of car doors.

But four-door sedans traditionally tend to be more stodgy and pedestrian than two-door coupes. Even when the same model is available as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan, the former is almost always sleeker, sexier and sportier than the latter.

Worse yet for four-door fans, their coupe counterparts sometimes are available with more powerful engines, higher performance suspensions and manual transmissions that aren't offered on sedan versions.

Opting for the four-door version of Infiniti's wonderful G-series, however, doesn't require sacrificing such goodies.

Sure, there are a few bits and pieces that distinguish the Coupe, including styling that is just a bit more striking. But the G37 Sedan is anything but homely. Rather it is one of the most elegant four-doors on the road, a confluence of sinuous lines more frequently found in fluids than solid objects.

It takes only a few minutes behind the wheel of a 2010 G37xS to realize that it's a solid hit. The G37xS delivers nearly the same scintillating performance, comfort and luxury as the last G37 Coupe I tested but adds a second pair of doors that make it more versatile and accommodating.

My test vehicle added a pair of something else that I appreciated: Propulsion wheels. That's my silly way of saying it had all-wheel drive.

It may not be as silly, however, as the acronym Infiniti uses to describe the all-wheel drive system available on the G37: ATTESA E-TS. That bowl of alphabet soup stands for Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split, which definitely deserves an explanation.

In most of its configurations, the G37 is a rear-wheel drive vehicle. It was engineered that way because it was created to compete with rear-wheel drive European thoroughbreds such as BMW's 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Rear-wheel drive vehicles are inherently better balanced than front-drivers and are frequently more fun to drive for that and other reasons we won't explore here.

But the same handling characteristics that make rear-wheel drive performance cars fun to drive also can make them a handful on slick surfaces. Traction control and anti-skid systems have gone a long way toward making rear-wheel drive vehicles more capable in snow and rain, but there's nothing quite like an advanced all-wheel drive system for driving in crummy weather.

Infiniti's all-wheel drive system is about as advanced as they come ... aside from the silly acronym. Simply put, the system is designed to deliver rear-wheel drive performance characteristics during normal driving conditions, but automatically distribute power to the wheels with the most traction when the going gets slick.

It is available only on one of the four G37 Sedan models, designated as the G37x. That model is available only with a seven-speed automatic transmission and the same potent 3.7-liter, 24-valve V6 engine that powers all G37 Sedans and Coupes.

It's unlikely any of those components are going to disappoint would-be buyers.

I encountered sleet, snow and rain during the week I was testing the G37xS, and came away impressed with its "stiction." Driving a performance car in crummy weather can be like visiting a New York City bakery when you're on a diet. But the G37x's all-wheel drive enabled me to enjoy the car's other performance attributes even when the roads were yucky.

Its attributes are many, starting with an engine that is responsive from idle to redline. Although not as silky at its rev limit as BMW's vaunted in-line six-cylinder models, the engine nevertheless delivers a steady flow of thrust that makes every nudge of the throttle a treat.

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