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2011 Infiniti IPL G37 (Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)
2011 Infiniti IPL G37 (Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)

Road Test Infiniti IPL G Coupe

Loaded Infiniti takes on BMW's M3 - at a lower price Add to ...

Have you ever heard of Infiniti’s IPL division? Don’t worry – you’re not alone.

IPL stands for Infiniti Performance Line; it’s a new specialty performance division from Infiniti designed to take on the likes of Mercedes-Benz’s AMG, BMW’s M, Audi’s S and RS, and Cadillac’s V-Series. The first vehicle to wear the IPL badge is the 2011 Infiniti G37 coupe.

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The IPL G coupe is available with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission. There are no other options available, but you don’t need them. The IPL G37 comes loaded to the nines.

My tester, an IPL G37 with a seven-speed automatic, starts at $57,200 and comes with every standard feature imaginable including a moon roof, a navigation system, a 9.3GB music box hard drive, voice recognition for the audio navigation, a rear-view monitor, keyless entry with a push-button start, cruise control, and an 11-speaker Bose sound system.

There are also numerous standard safety items such as ABS, electronic brake force distribution with brake assist, a tire-pressure monitoring system, side impact airbags, curtain airbags, vehicle dynamic control and traction control. For the price, it’s well-equipped, especially when you consider a base G37 coupe starts at $46,700. And once you add a hi-tech package with navigation, it jumps over the $50K mark, too.

The IPL builds on the second-generation G37 rear-wheel-drive coupe. Powering it is a 3.7-litre V-6, which engineers have tuned to tweak out more power and torque. The IPL generates 348 horsepower – that’s 18 more horsepower – and 276 lb-ft of torque (an extra 6 lb-ft of torque) over the non-IPL G coupe. Sure, it may not sound like much. But engineers also stiffened the suspension by 20 per cent in the front springs and 10 per cent in the rear compared to the base G coupe. It also has sport-tuned steering gear and hefty four-wheel sport brakes (14-inch front and 13.8-inch rear) with aluminum-alloy opposed calipers (four-piston front and two-piston rear) and Viscous Limited-Slip Differential.

The seven-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. It also comes with large magnesium paddle shifters for a sportier ride. Nail the throttle and the deep exhaust note echoes in the cabin; the power is instantaneous. The handling is taut and secure. The tires also offer great grip.

Unlike some other high-performance rides, the IPL isn’t punishing in its ride. It’s not harsh; there are few vibrations when driving over bumps and other degradations in the road. Granted, from my point of view the regular G37 Sport is also impressive in its ride and handling; it’s equally as aggressive and fun to drive as the IPL.

There are differences in the exterior styling, which Infiniti fans will notice instantly. Like the regular G37, the IPL is aggressive and seductive in its styling cues. But the IPL has a lower body, redesigned front and rear bumper/fascia with integrated fog lights and black finishers, sculpted side sills, an IPL emblem on the rear and dual round chrome exhaust tips to reemphasize the power under the hood. Nineteen-inch, split seven-spoke graphite-finish wheels and low-profile W-rated Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires create a confident stance and exquisite silhouette from the side profile. But with the IPL, you can only choose between two exterior colours – asgard grey and malbec black.

As well, only two interior colours are available – graphite and monaco red, which only comes with the malbec black exterior and seven-speed automatic transmission. There are nice touches inside including Infiniti’s signature analog clock, red-stitched leather front seats, a red-stitched leather steering wheel with audio and cruise controls and a tilt and telescopic steering column to help you find a suitable driving position.

Leather seats are standard, as are an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar support and eight-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat. The low-to-the-ground deep front bucket seats give a true sports car feel and hold you firmly in place when taking corners sharply. They also have thigh extensions for added comfort for taller passengers as well as a driver’s power-adjustable torso, thigh bolsters and aluminum pedals.

The two rear sculpted seats are tricky to enter and exit from the two side doors. Once inside, the low roofline means little head room and legroom for adults riding in the rear. Kids would be more comfy in the back seats.

The interior is driver-friendly with all functions right at your fingertips. A seven-inch colour monitor display is nicely positioned at eye level so it’s easy to read; it’s also set back slightly to reduce glare from the sun’s rays. The electro-luminescent instrumentation with white-themed illumination is also easy on the eyes, even at night.

The IPL G37 might not be as powerful as a Bimmer M3 (414 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque for $71,700), but it’s still fun to drive and costs a fraction of the price. Other IPL models in the Infiniti lineup will likely follow soon.

Tech specs

2011 Infiniti IPL G37 Coupe

Type: Two-door, four-passenger performance coupe

Base Price: $57,200; as tested, $59,120

Engine: 3.7-litre, DOHC, V-6

Horsepower/torque: 348 hp/276 lb-ft

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Drive: Rear-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.0 city/7.4 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: BMW M3, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, Audi S4, Cadillac CTS-V

pgentile@globeandmail.com

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