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Infiniti's new G37 drop-top has distinct appeal

Rafay Ansar

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We're cruising through Beverly Hills, Calif., in the new 2009 Infiniti G37 convertible, top down, sunny day, following a beautiful Ferrari 360 Modena. Up next to us pulls a 40-ish woman with hair so orange it could be on a traffic cone. She is driving a ratty '90s Celica GT convertible, also with the top down. Does she even look at the Ferrari? No. Instead, Carrot Top's sister yells out, "Beautiful car!" and gives a thumbs-up to the Infiniti. She didn't even see the Ferrari.

So, maybe buyers to whom this svelte cabrio appeals will be more interested in style than in performance. Now, the G37 convertible is no slouch in the performance department. It shares a drivetrain and a rear-wheel-drive platform with the magnificent Nissan 370Z. It's powered by a 325-hp, 3.7-liter V6 driving the rear wheels through your choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic. We are on record as liking the coupe version of the G and loving the 370Z.

This version is nearly as powerful and graceful under hard tromping as its fraternal coupe twin with the roof, but it's considerably heavier. Curb weight is listed at 4,095 pounds, 453 more than the coupe. When they chopped the top and added all of those trusses and staples to hold the magnificent carcass together, it slowed the whole thing down--not by a huge amount but enough that you won't mistake it for a Z. You might not even mistake it for a G coupe, at least from behind the wheel when you're paying attention to the corners through which you fly.

A more aggressive final drive ratio tries hard to compensate for the added weight. We're estimating 0 to 60 mph at six and a half or seven seconds, given speeds for the lighter G37 coupe and the Z. And the G does hunker down and grip well when it has to. It's just that the sheer mass of it makes it a persnickety grand tourer

We're guessing that none of this matters to buyers likely to get behind the wheel. The car's appeal--to them--is evident when it's just sitting there. It is a stylish and gracious enough beast to behold regardless of how tossable it is.

When that retractable hardtop folds into three pieces of sheetmetal in the trunk in 30 seconds, it goes from a near-coupe look to full open tourer. But once the top is stowed, say good-bye to your trunk space, which shrinks to two cubic feet. An average adult can sit in the back seat, though there's not enough headroom with the top up. The front seats are comfortable and supportive enough for the tasks at hand.

Like the old Mazda RX-7, the G37 convertible has a sound system made just for topless cruising. The 13-speaker Bose system includes speakers in the headrests, as the Mazda did, and noise-compensation technology to limit outside interference. On our drive, it sounded a little front-heavy, despite playing with the fader. You can use it to drown out the compliments you'll get from orange-haired 40-something Jack in the Box workers.

The car goes on sale June 19. Pricing will be announced this month, and we expect it to be in the $40,000-to-$50,000 range. You could buy a lot of orange hairspray for that.

SPECS

ON SALE: June 19

BASE PRICE: $40,000-$50,000 (mfr est)

DRIVETRAIN: 3.7-liter, 325-hp V6; RWD, six-speed manual

CURB WEIGHT: 4,095 lb

0-60 MPH: 6.5-7.0 sec (est)

FUEL ECONOMY: N/A
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