Fat people in shorts, missile testing, horse farms and fake tans. That pretty much sums up the 2009 Infiniti G37 Convertible, the latest hard top convertible from Japan.
Full Disclosure: Infiniti wanted me to drive the new G37 Convertible so badly they flew me out and put me up in a pretentious hotel to make sure I wrote about it. Also, they fed me steak, but they spelled it "STK." Is nothing sacred?
Rounding a corner quickly somewhere in the part of Malibu that looks like Kentucky, there's suddenly a fat chick in a sweaty halter-top waddling down the middle of the road. A screeching halt and, out of nowhere, there's cops. Waving at us. They seem to want us to pass tubby. Not wanting to interrupt this interesting flow of events we do what they want and proceed down the road, considerably slower than before.
"The Biggest Loser: Marathon" mile markers we'd been passing fairly regularly for the last few miles should have been a clue, but pushing the Infiniti's communicative front into, then working the rear tires with the revvy 325 HP V6 out of the 90 degree, perfectly flat corners, passing horses standing behind white board fences and getting a sunburn was proving too much of a distraction.
Only after encountering Cayenne-mounted camera crews did it dawn on us we'd entered some kind of bizarre reality show in which fat people embarrass themselves with the hope of regaining some sort of dignity.
Slowing down, the G37 transforms from an out-and-out sportscar into a mild mannered cruiser, just two guys slowly easing past overly-tanned presenters in our light shade of we're-confident-in-our-sexuality blue, top down, not a care in the world except for avoiding the darker blue-veined jiggling mounds of cellulite creeping out underneath the cuffs of jogging shorts.
On to a missile-testing facility on the coast and suddenly the landscape is all landslides and fog, the risk of skin cancer replaced by clammy salt air. Up with the top and on into traffic hell as we snarl our way to eat English food next to an old-timey pier complete with a vintage Ferris wheel.
Through a quirk of culture, geography and prevailing winds, this tiny little corner of Southern California packs the ups and downs of an entire world into an afternoon's drive. It's got the worst traffic on the continent, but some of the best driving roads. Some of the ugliest industry but breathtaking views. There's risk of forest fires, floods, earthquakes and landslides, yet here lie the nicest houses in the country. It's through variety like this that the G37 Convertible was designed to excel.
Over the Coupe, the Convertible gains a folding roof, loses all but 2.5 cubic feet of storage space in the trunk when that roof is folded, adds a wider track, unique rear suspension and a bunch of chassis bracing to retain rigidity. Retained is the Coupe's 3.7-liter, 325 HP, 267 Lb-Ft engine and all of the Coupe's driving ability.
It also gains a new Bose stereo with speakers mounted in the headrests. Top up or down it delivers crisp, powerful sound. That lack of compromise - aside from the lack of trunk space - is what defines the G37 Convertible. Top down, it doesn't allow the wind to muss my pretty hair, top up it's vault-quiet. Drive fast and the chassis is responsive and feelfull. Drive slow and revel in the cushy ride. The seven-speed autobox is good too, shifting gears with aggression when your right foot is planted and fading into the background when its not. The optional six-speed manual shifts slickly too.
Unlike traditional folding hard top convertibles, the G37 doesn't sacrifice its looks. Top up, it's hard to tell its not a coupe, with panel seams carefully integrated into the design. Top down and you have something even prettier; Infiniti's design has finally come of age with last year's G37 Coupe and now this Convertible.
Drive the G37 Convertible in traffic and you have a mild-mannered luxury car, isolating you from the creeping rage of a city without a unified identity. Drive the G37 fast on a country road and you have a responsive, open-air sports car. Cruise down the PCH and you have a good-looking poseur's car that won't whip the gel out of your carefully coiffed publicist's do.
But these are also reasons why we'd never buy a G37 Convertible. Pasty, malnourished, under-exercised East Coasters, we prefer to suffer for our art instead of having the easy life delivered to us on a golden platter. We're not happy with a sportscar unless it's hard to drive, uncomfortable in any car that makes it look like we can afford to pay rent and can't own a convertible because we don't want to be more in touch with the things around us; we don't like the things around us.
Those fat people were waddling a marathon so that thin people in LA can remind themselves what wonderful people they are. The G37 needs to define itself in a similar way; it's better than its competitors in every easily definable way — better looking than a 335i, better handling than an A4, faster than an IS250, less boring than a CLK — but seeks to achieve nothing greater on its own. Attempting merely to be better than others, rather than fulfilling the promise of its own potential in some unique way. If it pushed the limits in one specific direction at the expense of another, we'd probably love it. But, as it is, its smile is just a little too white, its tan just a little too bronze.