Driven: 2012 Infiniti IPL G Coupe
While we grant you that “Infiniti Performance Line” is not the most inspired moniker imaginable for the hottest models from the Infiniti family, the initial product, in the form of the Infiniti IPL G Coupe, actually acquits itself rather well on the road. And while the uninspired nature of the naming scheme, probably intended to evoke thoughts of AMG’s remolding of many Mercedes-Benz products, continues on the IPL G’s spec sheet, this car repeats the story we’ve told before about the devil being in the details.
To state it as clearly as we can, the IPL idea seems to involve two notions. First off, IPL tweaks the base car, in this first example the Infiniti G37 Coupe, in seemingly subtle ways. Horsepower is raised by 18, from 330 up to 348, torque gets a bump and the suspension tuning gets revised. Wheels and trim are tweaked a bit as well, and most luxury and technology features available on the G Coupe are standard here (though a few non-sport features like Intelligent Cruise Control are missing). These changes add about $5000 to the base price of the car, with the manual version we drove listing at $50,500.
These tweaks are not that impressive on paper, perhaps, but proof is in the driving not in the reading. That’s because the second IPL idea seems to be to actually care about the driving dynamics resulting from these tweaks. Just as we saw on the Nissan 370Z Nismo, where seemingly minor changes to the spec make a significant difference behind the wheel, the IPL is easily our favorite car in this series.
Before reflecting further on why the IPL G works so well, a few words are in order about what kind of car this is, because this affects the standards by which we judge it. One way to think about the IPL G is that it is the most complete rendition of the core G Coupe concept. Which is to say, the IPL G, like the other G Coupes, is a luxury sport coupe. In simple terms, that means these cars are comfortable, feature-laden, attractive, and fun to drive. Not a lot of emphasis is placed on practicality, though there are child-sized rear seats and a usable trunk for two people’s luggage.
We would add to that, when speaking of the IPL refinements, that the G Coupe experiences a subtle realignment of emphasis from “luxury sport coupe” to “sporting luxury coupe.” The IPL treatment takes a car that is simply too reserved to be genuinely fun and makes it engaging and spirited, without tossing luxury aside at all. Therefore, do not be mistaken, this is not a hardcore Nismo, or Evo, or even M version of the G Coupe.
One centerpiece of the IPL G comes through its controls. The steering is direct without being darty or jittery. The manual gearbox has short throws and a solid, pleasing feel. The clutch is easy to control, and combined with just enough torque to feel punchy, the IPL G is engaging at typical street speeds. Feeding in part throttle is met with a solid response and the car feels quick enough to be effective in the cut and thrust of city and suburban driving. The IPL G, however, is not ideal for those who crave genuinely hard acceleration.
In keeping with the goals of this type of car, the IPL does a brilliant job in another area: sound management. The basic G coupe is on the quiet end of the scale, which has its advantages for highway cruising and daily living. The IPL massage enhances this with just enough engine and exhaust sound that you get pleasure from running through the gears and you can hear the revs well enough to manage shifting by ear. At the same time, the mechanical sounds are polished enough that the car generally sounds enthusiastic about being driven. From 2000 to above 4000 rpm, the range you’ll use most often, we found ourselves subconsciously running through gears just to enjoy the aural experience. For a car that shares so many parts with the Nissan 370Z, it is hard to imagine a more transformative makeover.
The IPL retains some of the best aspects of the basic G coupe when it comes to chassis engineering. The IPL has a similar, which is to say excellent, level of highway stability. Nissan’s better cars are engineered to be straight-line tracking monsters, and the IPL G doesn’t disappoint. This stability carries over into the IPL G’s handling, which has good roll control and feels quite balanced.
The G Coupes in general don’t feel quite as willing to rotate as some shorter wheelbase cars, of course. But the changes made by IPL manage to sharpen up the car’s responses in a most welcome way, and yet we can’t say that any harm has been done to ride quality. The coupe feels solid and handles broken pavement rather nicely. Note, however, that our tests were conducted on southern roads, and we would always recommend a test run in your local habitat to assess how suspension tuning matches prevalent road surfaces.
When it comes to design, we’ll say that we think the G Coupe shape has held up well, and that the IPL team sensibly resisted tarting it up too much. The interior is also nicely finished, though it is probably at least a smidge behind Audi or Range Rover in refinement and materials. The electronic controls are a mixed bag, with some adjustments being effected through the LCD screen and others by direct button press or knob twirl. This is not uncommon, but is slowly becoming better organized in newer designs. We suspect owners would quickly learn how to do most operations here, but if there are particular electronic functions that you need to do regularly, you will want to check that Infiniti’s particular implementation won’t prove frustrating.
Most of us want a car that is comfortable to drive and fun in the real world, and the IPL manual delivers about as well as any car in this price range. Of course, it offers its own mix of those attributes, with an emphasis on refinement and involvement more than pure pace. Most of us also want a car that looks and feels special. That assessment will tend to be more subjective, but if you are the kind of iconoclastic buyer who respects the Infiniti brand and enjoys the subtle pleasure of having the best that brand can deliver (though others may have no idea), then the Infiniti G aligns well with your interests.
2012 Infiniti IPL G Coupe
Engine: V-6, 3.7 liters, 24v
Output: 348 hp/276 lb-ft
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 17/25 mpg
Weight: 3718 lb
0-60 MPH: 5.4 sec (est)
Base Price: $50,500