2011 Infiniti IPL G Coupe Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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When a manufacturer whose name is already synonymous with luxury performance launches a new performance division, expectations can run understandably high. It's like throwing down the gauntlet at the feet of BMW's M group and Mercedes' AMG division and calling for "pistols at dawn."

So it takes a certain degree of courage to introduce such a new performance division without a barn-burning, pavement-shredding, fuel-guzzling halo car, but instead with a restrained, civilized and very drivable machine that represents only an incremental performance upgrade over its lesser sibling.

That's exactly what the new Infiniti Performance Line division has done with its debut product, the 2011 IPL G Coupe. If there's a philosophy behind the IPL G Coupe it would seem to be "less is more," and after a spending a week with a 6-speed manual version I'd have to say I agree wholeheartedly.

The IPL G Coupe starts out as a G37 Coupe, and retains all of the key mechanical bits and pieces. That means it has the same 3.7L, 24-valve DOHC V6 engine with continuously variable valve timing, the same choice of 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic transmission, and the same viscous limited-slip differential as the G37 Sport coupe.

What the IPL edition does change is many of the details: It gets high-flow dual air intakes and a sweet-sounding dual exhaust that creates 30-percent less backpressure. This allows reprogramming of the engine's ECU to boost power by 18 horsepower (from 330 to 348hp), and bump up the torque by 6 lb-ft (from 270 to 276 lb-ft).

The suspension also gets tweaked, with retuned shock absorbers and special IPL springs that are 20-percent stiffer in the front and 10-percent stiffer in the rear. To take advantage of the revised suspension there are big, beautiful, staggered-width 19-inch wheels with 225/45R19 inch tires on the front and 24540R19s at the rear. Bringing it all to a rapid halt are massive brakes with 14-inch front rotors and sculpted 4-piston front calipers.

Not forgetting that a performance edition car should look the part, the speed wizards at IPL created unique front and rear fascias for the upgraded coupe, plus a rear spoiler, ground-effect style side-sills, big chrome exhaust tips and some IPL badging. The overall effect is nicely balanced, managing to look convincingly menacing without appearing garish or over-the-top.

Inside the changes are quite subtle: There are "Silk Obi" aluminum trim accents, some contrasting red stitching, and a red-leather seating option for automatic IPL G Coupes. Everything else is standard G Coupe fare, but that's not a bad thing (the G, after all, has a stand-out interior) and with IPL "everything else" really does mean everything else: The IPL G Coupe is loaded to the hilt with leather seating, 8-way heated power seats, automatic climate control, power moonroof, remote entry and intelligent key, navigation system, Bose 11-speaker audio system with XM satellite radio, Bluetooth compatibility, rearview monitor, power doors and windows, and the list goes on. Indeed, the level standard equipment is so comprehensive that there are no options offered at all: You get to choose the transmission (automatic or manual), the colour (Asgard Grey or Malbec Black) and, if you chose the automatic, you get to select between red or graphite leather. That's it.

On the road, the IPL's mild performance upgrades don't so much transform the G Coupe as elevate it. The standard G37 already has first-class chassis dynamics, and the IPL is just that little bit better: It has quick, precise turn-in and remains well-balanced and level as a billiard table in the corners. On smooth pavement it displays prodigious grip, letting you negotiate on-ramps and back-road twisties at pucker-inducing velocities while still staying safely within the car's limits. Best of all, the improved handling doesn't come at the cost of a harsh ride - IPL seems to have borrowed some magic from its Germanic competition to produce a ride that is at once tightly controlled and admirably compliant. I did notice a little bit of tram-lining when braking on rutted pavement, and I'd have preferred a little more weight and feedback to the steering, but other than that, I'd say the IPL's handling is pretty near perfect.

The IPL's additional power shows up not so much in faster off-the-line acceleration times, but in a more linear, freer-revving feel to the engine in the mid-to-upper rev ranges. The power comes on strong around 3,000 and just keeps coming all the way up to the 7,500 rpm redline, with the engine singing a very sweet, smooth note through the dual exhaust. Low speed tractability remains every bit as good as the standard G37 Coupe, so if the occasion calls for loping around town without ruffling feathers, the IPL will happily amble along with the best of them while delivering city/hwy fuel economy ratings of 11 / 7.4 L/100km.

What the IPL G Coupe won't do is take four grown men golfing: The back seats are reasonably accommodating for average-size and smaller adults, but anyone over about 5'10" will find their head meeting the sloped rear glass. And the small, shallow trunk will fit only two sets of golf clubs (it's a tight fit, too - Infinity provides a little pictogram to explain how to perform the required magic to get both bags in).

For those who want an IPL but would like to take four people golfing, the good news is that Infiniti is expected to bring the IPL treatment to its G37 Sedan, M sedan and FX crossover lineups in the near future. In the meantime, with its mild performance and appearance upgrades, comprehensive standard features list and $57,200 suggested retail price, the IPL G Coupe is set to give the likes of the Audi S5 and BMW 335i a run for their money. AMG and the M group can put away the pistols for now, but they are on notice - because if the IPL engineers can build a car this good when they are acting with restraint, what are they likely to come up with when the gloves really do come off?
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Infiniti, 2011, IPL Coupe, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Infiniti

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