For a compact, entry-level luxury car, the Infiniti G37 certainly has a large wardrobe. It can go to the country club dressed as a coupé, a sport coupé, a sedan, a sport sedan, or a retractable hardtop.

It can accessorize its assorted sheet-metal garments with rear-drive or all-wheel-drive, four variations on a 3.7-liter V-6, sport suspensions or relatively relaxed undercarriages, a seven-speed automatic transmission, or a six-speed manual.

I closed my eyes, reached into the closet, and came up with a G37 S, a sport sedan with a 328-horsepower V-6 and, in this case, the six-speed manual gearbox.

With its performance-minded drivetrain, suspension, braking, and steering, the G37 S is the top Japanese rival for the BMW 3-Series, the benchmark for compact sport sedans.

And with a base price of $41,000 (about midway through a G37 sedan price range of $36,400 to $49,800), it throws down the gauntlet at about the same buck as a three-liter, 300-horsepower BMW 335i.

Actually, the G37 S drives a lot sportier than it looks. After you get beyond the reasonably sporty front fascia, the G37's styling is an exercise in attractive conservatism.

I found the car's interior a lot more moving. The design might strike some as a tad Spartan for this price point, but it is so clean and aesthetic that you forgive the absence of wood veneers.

The tester's innards, dominated by silver trim and charcoal-gray leather upholstery, did hit one dissonant note, however: The leather was inexplicably saddle-stitched with white thread on the front seats and black on the back ones.

The well-bolstered smooth and perforated leather seats proved comfortable and supportive. Afforded an excellent driving position, I had a clear view of the instrument cluster and information/navigation screen, and ready access to the screen-related controls.

The G37 turns out to be a fairly roomy compact, although calling it a five-passenger vehicle is a bit euphemistic. Unless you can find someone small enough or masochistic enough to deal with the intruding driveshaft tunnel and front console, it's better to will the center rear seating position to the console that folds out of the backrest.

Two people would be quite comfortable back there, however. There is adequate leg and head room for someone 6-2.

Trunk volume, at 13.5 cubic feet, is about par for the compact course.

And now to what I like most about the G37 S: its fun quotient. It seems those wily operatives in engineering did party hearty with the automotive HGH. First, they made the high-revving 3.7 available with a manual gearbox as well as an automatic. (They won't peddle many of those manuals, of course, but we tree-dwelling Luddites like them.) Then they equipped the S with a stiffer sport suspension, quicker steering, and bigger brakes. (The front discs' diameters go from 12.6 inches to 14, and the back binders from 12 to 13.8.)

Accelerating from a standing start is a hoot to the third power. That sweet, smooth V-6, coupled with a gearbox that boasts nice gear spacing and short gearshift throws, produces 0 to 60 times a little north of five seconds, which is not exactly loitering in front of the corner store.

The firmer suspension raises the cornering ante without aiding in the marketing of Preparation H. Aggressive cornering is a walk in the park in this car. It is very composed in the corners and keeps body roll on a short leash. Wide performance tires give it grip in the turns like a pit bull holding on to its bone.

Braking is another delightful note. You are immediately reminded of how big these brakes are when you stomp on them at speed. I didn't brake aggressively long enough to raise the possibility of brake fade, but I suspect that term isn't in this system's vocabulary.

The G37 S turns out to be very well-equipped in base form, and comes with an exceptional four-year/60,000-mile bumper to per warranty.


Contact columnist Al Haas at