2011Infiniti G37S Sports Sedan

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Infiniti G37S sport sedan is based on the 370Z roadster.

SPORTS CARS don’t usually serve as the genetic donors for sedans, but then the G37 is an unusual sedan.

A lot of four-doors like to pose as sports cars, but this one actually is a sports car, underneath. Get your grandfather to tell you about the Datsun 240Z, that wondrous coupe that rode out of the Far East almost 40 years ago to challenge Europe’s top two-seaters.

Like many of us, over the decades it put on weight and got slower, but then went to the gym, slimmed down and re-emerged as the athletic 370Z roadster (while Datsun somehow became Nissan). And then someone at Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, made it into a sedan. A really good one.

Nice touches abound: The steering wheel tilts and telescopes, and the entire instrument binnacle moves up and down with it, so the wheel never hides the top of the speedo and tach.

The driver’s seat can be snugged around one’s bottom and torso, for better grip. The center stack has the usual myriad controls, but they were arranged by an adult with a grasp of both logic and ergonomics. Finding a radio station won’t raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels, nor even distract you much from the No. 1 job in an automobile. (Driving, not sipping coffee or applying makeup.)

The shifter paddles are fixed to the steering column—they don’t turn with the wheel—but they’re quite long and close enough to the wheel that my stubby digits can flick them easily. In fact, though, this 7-speed automatic transmission knows its job and needs no help from me.

But the best “touches” lie beneath the surface: Power, handling, balance, response, agility, stability, comfort, refinement, quality. All these things are spread over a wide range of G25 and G37 models and prices. Our test car, a 330-horsepower, $44,000 G37S, is the most upper-middle-class-European Japanese car I know.

Cars from Japan, Inc. seem to cluster at the opposite ends of the automotive spectrum. Over on the edge we have a few models such as Subaru’s STI, the $345,000 Lexus LFA, the toaster cars from Scion and Honda, Mazda’s bug-eyed RX-8 with its rotary engine and 2.5 doors, Nissan’s dreadnought GT-R, and the G’s donor car, the Nissan Z.

At the other end is nearly everything else—well-built and shiny, derivative and ultimately boring. Mainstream Japanese cars offer not a shred of lunacy (probably why they sell so well) or even much character. Except for this one, which is neither extreme nor tedious.

More and more sports-car makers are turning out sedans these days—Porsche, with its awkward-looking Panamera; Maserati’s growly Quattroporte; Aston Martin’s sublime Rapide; and now even Ferrari has built a monstrous four-door four-seater called the FF, with all-wheel drive. (I can’t wait to see what Ferrari dealers charge for a ski rack.) But I still cannot think of another sedan that’s not only built on a sports-car platform, but even improves on it.

Well done, Infiniti!