2013 Infiniti IPL G

October 17, 2012

The 2013 Infiniti IPL G retractable-hardtop convertible doesn't raise the performance bar enough compared with the regular G37 droptop, and neither does it improve on that car's shortcomings.

The Infiniti Performance Line launched last year with an IPL G37 coupe, followed by the 2013 IPL G convertible. IPL represents Infiniti's first cautious dip into the sea of performance sub-brands available from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac and other luxury competitors.

The IPL G convertible starts at $61,495 including an $895 destination charge. The convertible comes well-equipped with luxury features, but a few extras — a wind deflector, illuminated scuff plates and a first-aid kit — raised the as-tested price of the version we drove to $62,415. Click hereto compare it with the Audi S5 Cabriolet, Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet and BMW 335is convertible.

V-6 Performance

Engine and exhaust modifications yield an extra 18 horsepower from the IPL G convertible's 3.7-liter V-6, for a total of 343 hp. It's a potent engine, but its performance characteristics are too similar to the regular G37's V-6. This is Infiniti's debut effort with a performance brand, but the automaker had to have known it would be compared to specialty lines like BMW's M, Mercedes' AMG, and Cadillac's V, to name a few. Some of those models add literally hundreds of horsepower over their mainstream siblings. For the IPL brand to be a serious contender in this space, a more heavily revised V-6 or a unique engine — a detuned version of the Nissan GT-R's power plant, anyone? — is in order.

Having said that, the 3.7-liter V-6 remains the strong performer we've experienced in other Infinitis. The convertible accelerates eagerly, but the V-6 is burdened by a lackluster seven-speed automatic transmission. (A manual transmission isn't offered, which is odd given the G37 Sport convertible and IPL G coupe come with a six-speed manual.) The automatic transmission is unobtrusive in leisurely driving, but it becomes less cooperative the harder you push it.

Part-throttle kickdowns happen readily, but when you floor the gas pedal, the automatic hesitates, as if questioning what you want it to do. It then winds up for a second before dropping to a lower gear. The manual-shift mode is similarly slow to react to upshift and downshift requests, a reminder of how uninspiring these systems were not too long ago — and still are in this car. The relatively recent proliferation of dual-clutch transmissions in other models has done away with response lag, to varying degrees.

The IPL G convertible gets a true dual-exhaust system, and the mufflers have been tuned to provide a performance sound, Infiniti says. The result is a droning exhaust note that accompanies you everywhere. It's not exactly loud, just omnipresent in a bad way. There are great-sounding performance exhausts like the Ford Shelby GT500's, but the IPL G's doesn't have anywhere near the same appeal.

Despite modestly higher output, the IPL G convertible's EPA-estimated gas mileage — 17/25 mpg city/highway — is the same as the regular convertible.

Ride & Handling

The ride and handling story is much the same as the powertrain one. The ride is firm but not punishing — a lot like the G37's suspension tuning — and the IPL G retains the nicely weighted, feedback-rich steering that's one of the regular G37's best qualities. The car encourages you to attack corners, and it gives you a lot of useful information in the process.

Among luxury cars, the G37 lineup has been one of the few to legitimately challenge the BMW 3 Series' handling prowess. IPL suspension modifications include firmer springs and stabilizer bars and retuned shocks, and the changes heighten the car's already-impressive handling. The only time the suspension feels a little busy is when traveling on grooved concrete roads.

Convertible Shortcomings

The G37 convertible's retractable hardtop has a number of shortcomings, and they drag the IPL G convertible down, too.

One of the biggest problems — especially for a performance-oriented car — is that there's too much flex in the convertible's body, which results in numerous rattles — some quite loud — when driving with the top up. With the top down, windshield-frame shudder is your constant companion on bumpy roads. Whatever measures were taken to account for the loss of a fixed roof structure, they clearly weren't enough.

The retractable top's operation is rather slow, too, taking about 33 seconds to lower and 29 seconds to go back up. It's also not graceful, as the trunk lid slams down — shaking the car — right before the top makes it to its up position.

When lowered, the top takes up too much of the already-limited trunk room. The trunk measures 10.3 cubic feet with the top up, but just 2 cubic feet when it's down. Lift the trunk lid — itself a heavy piece, though it does include a soft-close feature — and the only spot for cargo is a tiny slice of open space at the rear of the luggage area that's big enough for little more than a rolled-up yoga mat. The space is comically small. Fortunately, the convertible has a two-person backseat that can double as an auxiliary cargo area.

Cabin Luxury

The IPL G comes loaded with leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, a navigation system and a Bose premium stereo. Beyond the wealth of standard luxury features, IPL-specific cues are subtle. There are embroidered IPL logos on the front seats, red stitching on the steering wheel and seats, aluminum-trimmed pedals and IPL floormats.

This generation of the G is now in its seventh year. Its interior luxury remains competitive overall, but there are places in the cabin that reveal its age, including the basic look — for a luxury car — of the power window and lock buttons and some of the accessory controls.

Safety

Low-volume models like convertibles are less likely to be crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and neither group had tested the 2013 IPL G convertible as of publication.

Standard safety features include antilock brakes and an electronic stability system , which are required on all new vehicles as of the 2012 model year. Additional standard features include side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags that open from the side doors, pop-up roll bars, a backup camera and active front head restraints.

For a full list of safety features, check out the Features & Specs page.

IPL G Convertible in the Market

Luxury-car shoppers have plenty of choices in the $60,000-convertible market. For the comfort-minded, there's the E350 Cabriolet. Performance enthusiasts might consider the 335is convertible or the S5 Cabriolet. The IPL G's power and handling characteristics slot it at the sporty end of the spectrum, but the convertible conversion leaves too many unaddressed issues that derail the overall experience — top up or down.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

Even though the IPL G convertible's overall styling is similar to the G37 convertible, it features a unique front bumper with a stepped design.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The convertible's retractable hardtop decently mimics the coupe's roofline. It takes about 33 seconds for the top to motor down and 29 to go back up.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

True dual exhaust contributes to the IPL G convertible's slight horsepower gain over the regular G37, but the system's droning is unappealing.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, which are a half-inch wider in back, have a graphite finish.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The 3.7-liter V-6 makes 343 hp at a high 7,400 rpm and 273 pounds-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. Both figures are modestly higher than the regular G37 convertible's V-6, but EPA-estimated gas mileage with an automatic transmission is the same, at 17/25 mpg city/highway.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The convertible has standard leather-covered, heated-and-cooled front seats that have an embroidered IPL logo on the backrest and red stitching.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

There's red stitching on the steering wheel, and the steering-column-mounted shift paddles are appropriately large for easy use.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The IPL G convertible has a small, two-person backseat, but it makes a better auxiliary storage area when you lower the top, which takes up most of the trunk when down.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

The buttons for the power locks and windows look dated, and the convertible doesn't have a single button that operates all the windows at once.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

Included with the convertible's standard Bose Open Air Sound System are speakers built into the front-seat head restraints.

Photo Courtesy of Evan Sears

With the top up, there's 10.3 cubic feet of trunk space, but the lowered roof takes up most of the trunk, leaving just 2 cubic feet of cargo room.

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