When reviewing a car, any car, it is not wise to take possession of the keys with any preconceived ideas. While, for example, I am probably never going to be in the market for a seven-seater people carrier, if I am given one to review, I have to keep an open mind. This means I will review it on its merits and ask myself who the car is aimed at and whether it successfully fills a niche in the market.
When I was offered the chance to get behind the wheel of an Infiniti G37 saloon, I had very few preconceived ideas. In fact, I had none. I pretty much did zero research about the car, I just took possession of it when it arrived on the back of a truck at the office. And I'm glad that I did - as soon as I saw the G37, I liked it and I had a feeling we'd get along well. Infiniti is the prestige brand for Nissan, similar in intent and pricing to Lexus, Toyota's prestige brand, but I kept any "It's just a Nissan and a Nissan is just a Datsun" cynicism at bay.
It was sleek and black, a four-door with a hint of coupe and a hint of Bentley in the shape, both pluses in my book. The chrome slats of the grille looked elegant. It was a much prettier car than I was expecting. The two-door coupe incarnation of this model has a touch more sex appeal and looks more menacing, but the four-door styling was classy indeed. Gently, the car was lowered off the truck and I was handed the brochure and the keys. Once inside, I was surrounded by elegant leather, including leather trim on the paddle shifters, which was a nice touch. The car feels high-end. Infiniti have created a proper luxury car that turns heads and makes passengers say "Ooh, nice car!" as soon as you glide into their drive to pick them up.
But the truly pleasant surprise occurred when I fired her up with the push-button starter and put my foot down. My first drive of the G37 was just a trip around the corner to find a parking space but even in that brief encounter, I felt a fantastically torquey rush - 366Nm to be precise - and as I flicked it around a corner and realised it was a rear-wheel drive. Which is always so much more fun than front-wheel drive. The rev counter easily flew up over the 5,000 mark and it soon became apparent that this was not just a sober executive car, or a car that should be used merely in fleets of overpriced hotel taxis.
There was a cheeky hint of over-steer as I took the first corner - not enough for me to be a public menace but enough to set the heart racing - and on subsequent drives, even doing a U-turn at the lights was enough to cause the traction control to kick in. This created a controlled thrill - I had the rush of a bit of oversteer but never did I feel like I was going to fly off the road. The seven-speed transmission was also pleasing, aside from the metal on top of the gear shifter that gets mighty hot in the summer sun. The automatic mode offered pretty seamless gear changes that were comparable to the seven-speed box offered in a Mercedes.
Like many of these cars with a sequential manual option, this is a bit of a gimmick with preset ratios so you can't always put it into the gear you want, even though this is the point of giving a car a manual option. Still, for open road driving, the choice of a spot of paddle shifting or sequential shifting on the floor makes this car a worthy competitor to the likes of the Audi A8 or the Mercedes E-Class, but at a more affordable price.
But what really impressed me, not to mention excited the male passengers, were the reversing camera and parking sensors. It made the nerve-racking headache of Abu Dhabi parking easy. The car has a pretty long wheelbase and it can be hard to gauge where the front of the car ends because of the sloping shape, so the sensors, which were sensible, rather than hyper-sensitive, helped enormously. Even when someone did the time-honoured Abu Dhabi trick of parking right up the middle of road seemingly inches from the back of the car, the reverse camera lets you know exactly how much room you had to move with lines on the screen to indicate where the car was headed.
But does this car do what it is meant to do? Just as the seven- seater people carrier gives precedence to comfort rather than sex appeal, the G37 does very well as a classy executive car with a cheeky dose of potency under the bonnet. It won't look out of place in the recessionary executive car park - far less flashy than the boss turning up to work in something new, shiny and German, but still with plenty of elegance. On the weekend, even the boring boss might want to play on the open roads, the wind in his hair via the sunroof. And during the week, there's no chance he'll back into one of his underling's Corollas in the car park at work. firstname.lastname@example.org