words: Stu

The convertible formula has always been a pretty simple one. Take a nice looking coupe, chop the top off, add some extra structural support elsewhere to compensate, and drop the resulting product on the lot at a hefty premium. With the latest batch of retractable hardtop convertibles, though, there's another step — stretching the rear decklid to accommodate the stack of metal panels. This extra step generally leads to a condition we call badonkadonkaplasia, the growth of a very large ass. See the Volvo C70, the upcoming Lexus IS350C, the Pontiac G6, and even the exotic Ferrari California for reference. Above all else, job one with the Infiniti G37 convertible — the brand's first open-air car since the 1990-92 M30 and only its second ever — was to avoid this.

To that end, the G convertible is less than one inch longer than the coupe and sits on the same wheelbase. It's a touch wider, thanks to a fatter rear track. The door sills flare out more dramatically thanks to the extra bracing hidden beneath the skin. All of this widening is a good thing if we're to believe those old Pontiac commercials we watched growing up. We don't have the exact measurements, but the trunklid isn't much longer than the coupe's, either, thanks to clever construction and a vinyl panel that folds out behind the rear headrests when the top is down. While exposed, the cabin is ringed by an attractive chrome strip that loops from one A-pillar continuously around to the other.

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The wider rear track wasn't added just to keep handling performance on par with the rest of the G line, though that is a nice by-product. The true purpose was to accommodate the folding top without losing the coupe-like proportions already mentioned. The rear suspension has been pushed outward and the shock towers have been shortened to free up as much room as possible. Unlike the BMW 3-series, which folds its panels in a stacked pattern, the G's top has two panels that flip upside down, shutting clamshell-style against the final, upright piece. According to engineers on hand, this construction allowed a trunk height reduction of two inches and a rear overhang that's a full four inches shorter than it would've been had the top folded like the Bimmer's. Unfortunately, all that work did little to save the coupe's 7.4 cubic feet of trunk room with the top down; while top-up, there's an impressive 10.33 cubic feet with the steel roof retracted that number reduces to just 1.99 cubic feet. (BMW's 3-series hangs on to 7.4 cubic feet with the top down.) While we're acting as deliverers of depressing news, we may as well tell you the 4095-pound G convertible weights 495 pounds more than a base model G coupe.

Fortunately, that weight isn't as detrimental to the convertible's performance as one might think. Making lemonade from lemons, the top-up convertible has a more ideal weight balance than the coupe; 52/48 front-to-rear versus 54/46 for the fixed-roof. Top-down numbers aren't available, but we presume the split would be close to 50/50.

Pushed hard on the twisties between the Pacific coast and Westlake Village, California, the G convertible maintains its composure quite well — with the top up, it feels like a G coupe that just needs to lay off the mayo. Top-down, the chassis neutralizes vibration but there's some added twist in the body through tight turns and over rough pavement, but the car's balance is still there. While the extra weight makes the rear tires stick harder, the convertible actually feels less prone to understeer than its relatives. The differences are noticeable but not huge; this is the same G we've come to love, only slightly different.

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If there's one thing that would disappoint a current G37 owner it's that this heavier car does feel — especially with the sevcn-speed automatic — a bit more sluggish off the line. If you opt for the six-speed stick, Infiniti will swap the car's 3.357:1 final drive ratio out for a more aggressive 3.916 gear, reclaiming a bit of sprinting power that's lost with the tubby top. Still, if your top priority is speed, you’ll want the coupe. Additionally, you should know that different exhaust routing and a larger catalytic converter mean the convertible is down five horsepower (to 325) and three lb-ft of torque (to 267) from the coupe.

With a convertible, driving dynamics take the back seat to looking good and being pampered, so it's an added bonus that the G37 hasn't gone too soft. The more important things are all there, the stuff that contributes to the top-down living. The most notable is the optional audio system developed by Bose, boasting thirteen speakers and sensitivity adjustments that alter based on the top's position. Four of those speakers are cleverly mounted like Princess Leia hair buns on the sides of each front headrest. By placing these speakers in such close proximity to the passengers' ears, Bose has created a system that sounds almost as good with the top down as it does when it's up. However, it isn't a setup for bass lovers; the small speakers accentuate high treble, not deep rumbling notes. There is a surround sound adjustment in the audio settings, and turning the dial down takes the emphasis away from the headrest speakers for a more balanced sound. We're not bass freaks and left the headrest speakers cranked up, and they were thoroughly enjoyable.

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There are more features that are unique to Infiniti convertible buyers. For the first time in the G line, heated and cooled front seats are available, though adding the fantastic sport seats that are part of the sport package takes away the option (heating is still available, but not the more summer-oriented cooling.) A standard adaptive climate control system takes in factors of speed, top position, and ambient temperature to help maintain an ideal cabin temperature. At outside temperatures above 77 degrees, air volume through the vents is increased by ten percent with the top down, and as the car moves faster, that percentage drops until it reaches zero at 60 mph. At that speed, the extra air wouldn't do much good. The system functions the other way at temperatures below 59 degrees; as speed increases with the top retracted, more heat is blown as speeds increase. This might also work as a speed deterrent — when there's a hurricane of hot air blowing in your face, maybe it's time to slow down.

Infiniti has done an excellent job maintaining the coupe's proportions with the hardtop convertible while adding some bonus features to entice buyers to make the jump, but that doesn't mean the car is without a few faults. We're obviously spoiled rotten in a day when 28 seconds seems like a long time for a top to retract, but BMW's 3-series convertible does the dance in just over 20 seconds and many can go from enclosed to exposed in the mid-teens. A few poor suckers trailing me on our drive route decided to have a face-off with a traffic light and lost, ending up being "that guy" sitting at a green light. Top up or down, there's at least enough room in the rear seat for two average adults for a short drive, but there's one problem: regardless of the car's coolness factor, there's no way that rear passengers in a convertible can avoid looking like losers. Dropping the top just opens up the rest of the world to see who wasn't important enough for the front seat. That isn't Infiniti's fault, of course. It's just one of those inalienable truths of the world.

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Beyond the added features specific to the convertible, the options and packages of the G37 coupe carry over. That means a sport package with 19-inch wheels, different seats, and bigger brakes, a premium package with a whole set of goodies, a wonderful touch-screen nav system, and intelligent cruise control, among other luxuries. Two optional trim surfaces, African Rosewood like that found in the FX50 and a new "Silk Obi" aluminum, are unique to the drop-top. The latter is similar to the "Washi Paper" metal of the other G models, but instead has flowing, curved grooves.

The convertible model of any range of cars is inherently going to be less enthusiast-oriented. Even the fantastic Porsche Boxster, a convertible designed as such from the beginning, is now the Cayman for softies. The Infiniti G37 family is no different, with the convertible being the boulevardier to the coupe's track star. But taken against its competitive set, the G's list of dynamic sacrifices is about as minimal as they get, while the added features make this new convertible even more appealing. Welcome back into the sun, Infiniti.