JULIAN, Calif. -- Engineers Road, a trickle of narrow pavement heading off California 79 at Lake Cuyamaca in the Laguna Mountains east of San Diego, scales a flank of North Peak before descending through one hairpin kink after another into an isolated valley that leads toward Julian.
We're following this seldom-traveled trace as it wraps, wiggles and drops into the valley of Boulder Creek while pushing the pace and running revs up to red in a spirited premium sports sedan from Infiniti, brand for luxury and performance cars spinning off Nissan of Japan.
Badged as the G37 Sport 6MT, our tester on the California curve course rides on a stiff rear-wheel-drive (RWD) platform rigged with a sport-tuned suspension and awesome torque developed through a big six-cylinder engine borrowed from Nissan's swift 370Z sports car.
Sensuous new sheetmetal on the body and a revamped cockpit with more technology features mark the G37 of 2010, which trims out in four versions laced with the seemingly incongruent combination of elegant cabin appointments and sport-tuned mechanical hardware.
But that's the way Infiniti works the G-car, planting an aggressive personality in the practical format of a four-door and five-seat sedan.
The original G35 sedan rolled out in 2002 as a 2003 model cast strictly in RWD format but subsequently spawning a racy two-door coupe variation which used the same name.
By 2004, Infiniti borrowed a smart electronic all-wheel-drive (AWD) device from the FX crossover utility vehicle and adapted it to work on the RWD platform of the G35 sedan for snow-country markets.
That mechanism carried an obtuse moniker of "advanced total traction engineering system for all electronic torque split." It sounded better when crimped to the long acronym of ATTESA E-TS, and the G-car packing this equipment was dubbed G35x with that letter 'x' denoting the AWD traction.
In 2007 the G35 emerged in a second-generation treatment with options for RWD or AWD traction. And in 2009 the nameplate changed to G37 to reflect increased engine displacement from a new dual-cam 3.7-liter V6.
The G37 of 2010 dresses in sleek skin with muscular shoulders and a wave-shaped hood chiseled from painted sheetmetal and sparkling chrome. Humpy blisters over the front fenders are separated by a broad hood that slinks down from the raked windshield to a low front fascia.
Forward corners are pegged by compound headlight clusters with bi-xenon high intensity discharge (HID) lamps as stock, as the smooth prow carries a revised wide-mouthed grille filled with sharp horizontal slats and foglamps reset on the lower fascia below headlamps.
On the platform the front wheels mount way forward and the engine is positioned so that its center of gravity falls behind the front axles. This placement results in a weight distribution biased slightly in favor of front wheels.
Yet the front wheels are slightly heavier by design of the suspension geometry to pre-load them with more weight when the car turns into a curve. Add acceleration coming out of the curve and the result translates into optimum weight balance which enables the aggressive driver to carve one corner after another in the G37 with keen confidence -- which is the way we work it on serpentine Engineers Road testing the limits of tire adhesion.
The suspension is independent with lightweight aluminum components. Up front is a double wishbone and the back is a multi-link arrangement with stabilizer bars fore and aft.
Steering, through a quick-to-respond rack and pinion mechanism, feels firm despite the assist from a vehicle-speed-sensitive power boost.
A vented disc brake mounts at every wheel and ties by computerized links to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) with brake assist (BA) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Further, all G37 models carry Infiniti's vehicle dynamic control (VDC) device which automatically checks lateral skidding on slippery pavement.
Motivation for the 2010 G37 stems from an upgraded edition of Nissan's VQ-series dual-cam V6 keyed to an electronically controlled drive-by-wire throttle. The plant uses ladder-frame construction for rigidity with molybdenum-coated pistons, symmetric twin air intake system and a tall rev limit (7600 rpm). It also employs a high-tech valve controller -- VVEL (Variable Valve Event and Lift).
The VQ37VHR V6 spits out 328 hp at 7000 rpm with torque rising to 269 lb-ft at 5200 rpm.
G37 supports two transmissions, a seven-speed electronically controlled automatic featuring downshift rev matching (DRM) and manual shift mode (via paddle shifters on the steering wheel), or a six-speed close-ratio manual stick planted on the center console.
Three of the four trim versions of G37 stock the automatic shifter. The three are labeled as a leather-lined base edition G37, the G37 Journey with automatic climate controls and upgraded luxury equipment, and the G35x AWD edition.
The G37 Sport 6MT edition and G37 Journey with Sport Package employ a sport-tuned suspension, quicker steering gear, viscous limited-slip differential, larger 14-inch vented disc brakes with four-piston opposed front calipers and 18x7.5-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with summer performance tires (225/50 front and 245/45 rear).
The five-place G37 cabin, with form-fitting seats and lots of electronic gizmos, is an artful design trimming in leather with aluminum accents.
New elements for 2010 models include revised LCD instruments with a white color scheme for gauges.
The optional Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation Package brings a 7.0-inch touch screen monitor and 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive, plus XM NavTraffic and NavWeather, streaming audio via Bluetooth and Zagat restaurant guide.
The optional Technology Package consists of enhanced safety features like Intelligent Cruise Control, Preview Braking, Adaptive Front Lighting and the RearView Monitor.
Standard features on G37 range from automatic climate controls to leather upholstery, driver's seat with eight-way power, keyless entry and starter, an audio kit with six speakers and AM/FM/CD, HID headlights and 17x7.5-inch aluminum wheels with 225/55 all-season tires.
G37 Journey gains power controls for the front right passenger seat, automatic headlamps and a CD changer for six discs.
Infiniti stretches price points for the 2010 G37 sedan from $33,250 to $37,000.