Retractable hardtops might seem like a modern innovation, but they date back to the 1950s. Ford, for one, marketed a retractable-hardtop coupe in 1957-59. The forward portion of its steel roof folded downward, so the entire unit could fit into the trunk - taking up virtually all the space that would otherwise be usable for luggage.
After disappearing for several decades, the retractable-hardtop concept has made a bit of a comeback in the past few years. Volvo, for example, launched its second-generation C70 convertible as a retractable hardtop, for the 2006 model year. Even Mazda's little MX-5 (Miata) sports car can be fitted with a retractable roof rather than the usual cloth top.
Infiniti, Nissan's luxury division, joined that small parade late in the 2009 model year with the stylish G37 retractable-hardtop coupe. Joining the "G" coupes and sedans that have been marketed since 2003, the convertible has a three-piece retractable roof. Beneath the hood is a 3.7-liter V-6 engine that develops 325 horsepower, driving either a seven-speed automatic transmission (with available paddle shifters) or a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox.
Leather-appointed seats are standard. An available Bose Open Air sound system includes front-seat personal speakers and a 2-gigabyte Music Box. Optional climate-controlled front seats have a heating and cooling feature. The available Advanced Climate Control System adjusts fan speed in accord with vehicle speed and top position.
Plenty of energy emanates from Infiniti's V-6 engine. In fact, it ranks close to stirring; and better yet, is delivered smoothly and effortlessly. The taut suspension is a trifle out of character for a luxury convertible, but the ride cannot be called stiff or harsh at all. Same for the G37's slightly heavy steering: a bit curious for a car in this league, but not a detriment. Both attributes aombine to produce handling that approaches sporty - if not quite all the way there.
This retractable two-door runs quietly, except for very light rumble at idle and a mild foghorn sound from the exhaust while accelerating. Automatic-transmission shifts can be felt, in the traditional mode, but not much. Fuel economy qualifies as only fair, averaging 18 mpg in mostly city driving. The EPA fuel-economy estimate is 17 mpg for city driving and 25 mpg on the highway.
Beautiful inside and out, the G37 is quite an attention-grabber. Despite lowness of the roof, getting inside is fairly easy. Front-seat space is adequate, but hardly overwhelming. Elbow space is restricted, but the driver gets plenty of legroom, as well as sufficient head space unless the seat is raised high. Gauges are nicely lit for easy reading.
Visibility is excellent - especially forward - with the seat raised a bit, but seatbelts are hard to reach; and on our G37, the strap that's supposed to hold the belt in position would not clasp shut. Because of space needed for the retractable hardtop, there's not much room for luggage in the trunk. Getting into the back seat is a formidable challenge for less-agile folks, and only youngsters are likely to fully welcome the opportunity to ride back there,
Sticker price for the 2010 G37 convertible is $44,350 with automatic, or $46,950 for the Sport edition with a manual transmission. A Premium Package that includes the Bose Open Air Sound System is standard with the Sport edition.
For 2011, a new Limited Edition model will become available (in November).
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