Infiniti G37 Coupe, Murano LE AWD: 2 from Nissan
DAMASCUS, Md. (MarketWatch) -- This weekend, a look at two 2012 Nissan models: the sporty Infiniti G37 Coupe and the Murano LE AWD, one of the more stylish crossovers on the market.
Infiniti G37 Coupe
The Infiniti G37 with all-wheel drive was good fun on back roads with an impeccable interior that was upscale and easy to work with. Nissan (NSANY) (7201) has built a coupe that turns heads and is fun to drive.
The test car came with the 3.7 liter V-6 engine good for 330 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It was matched with a seven-speed automatic that was fast acting, especially when I used the paddle shifters.
Out on the interstate, this was a good combination that was quiet and comfortable gobbled up miles at a fast pace. Zero to 60 figure should come in the mid five-second range, which should meet the demands of most buyers.
The suspension was firm without becoming pain-in-the-butt hard. Steering feedback was very good and the sport seats will keep you glued in them while you enjoy curvy ramps.
If fuel economy matters in this price range, it's 18-25 mpg according to the EPA. I just cracked 20 mpg during a week of driving fun.
Option packages galore were a part of the test coupe, and they were far from inexpensive. Nearly $2,000 for the Sport Package that offered, among other things, 19-inch wheels with all-season tires, a sport-tuned suspension and limited-slip differential.
There was also $3,000 premium package that included an upscale Bose audio system that cranked out excellent sounds, rear sonar system, power lumbar support driver's seat and powered tilt-telescoping steering wheel.
The effect of all these goodies and others was a feeling of driving a very upscale auto with lots of soft-touch surfaces, and excellent fit and finish. The instruments were easy to read. The tach and speedo pods rose or fell along with the wheel position for maximum visibility. I am amazed that more luxury makers don't offer this feature.
The tested coupe went out the door for $48,445 from a base price of $40,700.
There's plenty of room for a 6-foot-tall driver even with the sunroof, but reserve the back for packages only. There's not much room back there, and cargo space isn't generous at just 7.4 cubic feet. I would leave the rear seats folded down most of the time for maximum storage space.
If you're looking for a good combination of handling, upscale interior and excellent power and want a car that you won't see coming the other way very much, the G37 is well worth a test drive.
Murano LE AWD
It was nice to have a Murano back in the driveway; it's long been a favorite. The original broke ground with its swoopy styling when it was introduced in late 2002, and Nissan has stuck with the theme through the years.
The only real penalties are smaller storage space out back than some of the competition. There is also a problem with rear visibility. Back-seat headrests intrude on a rear window that really isn't all that large to begin with.
Beyond that there was little to carp about, except I remain one of those who still dislikes most CVT transmissions. But I will admit that the one on the Murano is one of the better of its ilk.
Under the hood is a 260-horsepower, very responsive, 3.5-liter V-6 with 240 pound-feet of torque. EPA rated the combination at 18-23 mpg, and I got 20.5 mpg.
While not really up for much offroad romancing, the test vehicle did quite well on a gravel, mud and stone favorite in West Virginia. A switch atop the center console engages the all-wheel-drive.
The day of my West Virginia drive was an excellent one for testing the Murano. It stayed its ground even through 35 mph or more wind gusts and occasional downpours of rain. Not once did I have to make a steering correction on the interstate.
One nifty feature had a voice warning me that five miles ahead some bad weather advisories had been posted. One less-than-impressive feature was the intermittent wipers that often weren't responsive to changes in setting. In the end I just controlled the wipers by hand through the steering column-mounted lever.
Outside of all that, you end up with a quiet, stylish, and if you check all the right options, upscale crossover vehicle. The test vehicle contained the new for 2012 "Platinum Edition Package" that brought a 7-inch center console mounted monitor with touch screen and voice recognition. Twenty-inch alloy wheels and something called a rear bumper protector were also a part of the deal.
The front seats were all-day comfortable, it was easy to program both audio and ventilation. But the system was slow to warm the interior on a cold morning unless you switched off the automatic ventilation system, and ran it yourself.
There was ample room to the rear for two adults and three in a pinch. Cargo space comes out to 31.6 cubic feet with the rear seats raised and 64 cubic feet with the seats folded.
Handling was excellent for this type of vehicle, yet the ride didn't suffer from the stiffer suspension settings. Power was excellent for merging onto interstates or quick passing moves.
While a fairly well-equipped Murano can be found in the low to mid $30K range, our well-optioned, top-of-the-line test vehicle carried an Infiniti-like price of $44,440.
If you're looking for something in a crossover that contains style as part of the package you'd to check out the Murano.
Vehicles tested for this column are on loan from the auto companies through local distributors.