First Drive: 2011 Infiniti IPL G Coupe Road Test & Review
"You must be loving life!" were the words the motorist next to me shouted as he took the time to roll down his window and catch my attention. And indeed I was, cruising through the streets of Venice (California, not Italy silly) in the all new 2011 Infiniti IPL G Coupe. The Infiniti Performance Line (or IPL) is Nissan's bid to cast their line into the luxury performance tuning pond.
The company aspires to offer greater individualization and breadth in their luxury marque, not simply to compete against the likes of BMW M or Mercedes AMG which have a huge head-start and are positioned on a much higher rung of the in-house tuning ladder.
The 2011 IPL G Coupe is the first vehicle to wear Infiniti's new badge of honor and it wears it well. The overall appearance is striking and immediately jolts casual onlookers to attention. Available in just two color options, Graphite Shadow or Malbec Black, the cosmetic tweaks are arguably subtle but, taken holistically, give the car a strongly aggressive vibe.
The IPL kit serves up re-contoured front and rear fascias, pronounced side sills, a rear spoiler and large (borderline obese) 120mm chrome exhaust tips. The other thing that sets it apart from the base G37S are the staggered 19-inch 7-spoke graphite wheels shod with low-pro W-rated Bridgestone Potenza RE50A rubber.
Inside, the IPL G Coupe is appointed with sports seats and a steering wheel wrapped with graphite leather and red accent stitching, Silk Obi aluminum accent trim, and an aluminum pedal set and footrest. In addition, the IPL comes with the Premium, Sport and Navigation packages all tossed in the mix. The Infiniti Studio on Wheels by Bose delivers hard core sound and substantial bass for a factory system thanks to its 11 speakers.
The Hard Drive Navigation system functions flawlessly; and the 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive is awesome if you would rather load up your ride with tunes and forgo plugging in an MP3 player or Phone via the USB connector/iPhone jack (which, incidentally, works extremely well also). Other niceties include XM Satellite radio, backup camera, rear sonar, Bluetooth, Homelink universal transmitter, power moonroof, dual zone climate control, a tire pressure monitoring system, memory seats for the driver, HID headlights as well as fog lights and LED tail lights.
The heart of the IPL G Coupe is the G37's 3.7-liter V-G engine with an ECU tune and high-flow crossover exhaust system with fatter tubing reducing back-pressure by 30%. The result is that the base model's 330-horsepower, 270 pound-feet of torque gets elevated to 348-hp and 276 lb-ft of twist at 5200 rpm. This is not a huge delta but significant nevertheless. The brakes are the same as those found on the G37S with four-piston grabbers up front and two-piston calipers in rear. The suspension is tweaked with springs 20% stiffer in front and 10% stiffer in back with damping rates calibrated to the tighter spring configuration.
If you are a fan of the G Coupe, the IPL is absolutely the pinnacle and the best ever iteration. Acceleration is just a scant quicker than the Infiniti G37 Sport and is actually much smoother and linear, feeling less high strung and more robust. The throatier exhaust note adds a bit of aural confirmation but is never intrusive (although others have found it so). The six-speed manual remains the only sore spot, with improvements made in the previous version's notchiness but still way too much pedal travel required before uptake, which, in turn, is also a tad too nervous. The stick offers nice, smooth, short throws but still doesn't like to be rushed.
The IPL G Coupe’s ride is tight but never harsh and the car is pancake flat during hard cornering. It eats up bumps and uneven pavement without any jarring and remains composed at all times. The steering feedback is solid with greater communication provided the further you get from center, which still could be more expressive at 12 o’clock. This IPL is not exactly track-ready but the handling is sharp, it eats up corners at will, and exits completely composed. The brakes are impressive for street driving but not ready for any heavy road course workouts. We'd like to see some drilled or slotted rotors but understand that most consumers don't want to be blowing through brake pads like mad. Our model did feature optional R Spec High Friction Brake Pads at $370 a pop, so maybe there is some appetite after all.
At an MSRP of $47,950 for the manual transmission model, the 2011 Infiniti IPL G Coupe is not cheap but still an impressive offering on an already stellar platform. Sure, we'd love to see more power under the hood, a stronger and more reliable clutch and tougher brakes, but Infiniti is taking baby steps in this new endeavor and rightfully so… The BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V and Lexus IS-F will eat the IPL's lunch all day long but Infiniti wasn’t convinced that folks would pony up $60,000 for a tire-vaporizing G Coupe in enough quantity to make it viable from a purely business standpoint. Especially with gas mileage already sucking up petrol at 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, anything less might not be as attractive.
The IPL offers a fairly significant all-around performance improvement over the Infiniti G37 S, definitely ups the ante in the looks department and comes with enough goodies to have you flipping through the owner's manual for quite some time. You only get two color choices and the option of 6 speed or automatic but that's probably a good thing and cuts down on any cognitive dissonance. You'll be relegated to challenging BMW 335i, Audi S5 and Mercedes E350 coupes but you'll have the distinction of rocking the IPL badge and knowing that low production numbers will keep your ride pretty much exclusive.