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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Introduction
Infiniti has long targeted BMW as its bogey in the premium segment, and this has been especially reflected in the development of the Infiniti G entry-level models. Although the brand has been able to largely match its German rival's diversity in terms of body styles by offering a G sedan, coupe, and convertible, a dedicated ultra-high performance edition of the vehicle that could go head-to-head with the BMW M3 has been missing from the lineup.
And it still is. The 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible (Infiniti Performance Line) is a baby step towards a day of reckoning with the BMW M Division, but it's not quite the tire-smoking, tarmac-devouring package that one might expect from the priciest member of the Infiniti G family. Instead, the IPL G Convertible indicates what we might be able to look forward to in the near future from the Japanese luxury automaker.
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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Competition
The 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible is all-new for the current model year, although it was preceded by 2012's IPL G Couple. First and foremost, it's impossible not to imagine that well-heeled buyers won't be cross-shopping the IPL G Convertible against both the BMW M3 Convertible and the Audi S5 Cabriolet - vehicles that roughly bookend the IPL in power output and prestige. Other players for the open-top luxury performance crown include Audi's two-seat TTS roadster and the Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG roadster, and for those who don't mind sacrificing a premium feel for gobs of torque there are the Ford Mustang GT Convertible and Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible bringing up the rear.
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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Pricing and Trim Levels
The 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible comes in a single trim level that starts at an MSRP of $60,600. Unlike most Infiniti models, the IPL G Convertible does not feature a long list of options or packages - just a few trim items and a wind deflector can be added on to the drop-top in order to push the price past the $61k-mark.
The Infiniti IPL G Convertible we were given for the week by Nissan Canada featured a three-coat paint option, but other than that there was no extra equipment to be found on the vehicle. The Canadian-market IPL G Convertible features an MSRP of $67,300 CAD.
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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Exterior
The 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible is an absolute beauty queen of a car, and one of the few retractable hardtops on the market that doesn't suffer from ungainly proportions in the rear quarters in order to accommodate the stowed roof. Changes between the standard edition of the G Convertible and the IPL model are subtle, but numerous from the outside: a more prominent front fascia, extended rocker panel skirts on either side, and shiny twin exhaust tips that gape like the maw of a bazooka from underneath the back bumper are some of the highlights. The IPL G Convertible manages to appear more aggressive than its less expensive counterpart, but the effect isn't achieved by butching up the bodywork - rather, it is finessed in through the addition of extra muscle just under the skin. Our IPL tester was sprayed in a flattering shade of Moonlight White, one of only two exterior colors offered with the convertible (the other being Malbec Black). 19-inch rims wrapped in W-rated tires suggest that the drop-top means business and go well with the overall attitude of the automobile.
The retractable steel roof provides a silhouette that is flatteringly similar to that of the G Coupe when it is in its raised position, which gives it a certain grace that is not always achievable for a hardtop convertible. The mechanism itself is simple to use, with a single button mounted on the center console controlling up and down action for the roof. Due to its complexity, raising and lowering the top does take somewhat longer than a traditional cloth arrangement. Still, at a reasonably long traffic light the roof will fold dutifully into the trunk before red turns to green - which is a good thing, because the IPL convertible halts the open or close procedure if the car is moved forward at more than a snail's pace.
We did encounter one snag with the roof. One evening, with the car parked at a downward angle, the top abruptly stopped mid-way through the closing process and a chime alerted us to a dashboard message that said "Trunk Open." While this was technically true - the trunk had reared back on its haunches in order to unleash the roof panels - there was no way to actually 'close' the trunk except via the open/close roof button, which was suddenly inoperative.
Turning the car on and off several times failed to remedy the situation, and we were about to call Infiniti roadside assistance when one of us had the brainwave to rock the roof back and forth by putting the car in reverse and then drive. Magically, after completing this sequence, we were able to close the roof tightly and head in for the night - an ordeal that might be linked to wet and slippery mechanicals from an earlier rain shower that caught us by surprise with the top down.
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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Interior
The 2012 IPL G Convertible features a similarly limited palette when it comes to interior color choice. The vehicle we drove wore rich Monaco Red leather and trim matched with machined aluminum accents - a polar opposite on the flamboyance-scale when compared to the Stone beige that represents the other available color for the automobile's leather hides, but one that received plenty of compliments from almost everyone who rode in it.
The IPL G Convertible offers 2+2 seating, with rear accommodations that are not exactly intended to transport full-size adults for any length of time. Up front, however, the IPL's well-bolstered seats were extremely comfortable during the long highway jaunt between Montreal and Quebec City's historic Old Port district, provide a healthy degree of adjustability and - more importantly - three levels of cooling, which were an absolute must during the heat wave that swept over southern Quebec during our tenure with the car. With the ventilation cranked to the max there was more than a bit of noise emanating from the seatback fans, but the trade-off was well worth it from a comfort perspective. We also want to note that the IPL G Convertible makes use of buttoned-down leather clasps in order to keep the seatbelt in line with the top of the seat itself, a somewhat old-school affectation that seems a bit out of place inside such a modern interior.
Infiniti's catchword when it comes to designing its driver / vehicle interfaces must be "simplicity," because all of the necessary controls fell easily to hand from behind the wheel. The only reaching that must be done is when accessing the cowl-mounted buttons that control the rectangular vehicle information screen that is perched between the analog tachometer and speedometer that dominate the driver's gauge package. The shifter and shift paddles (attached to the steering column) are a natural fit, and the climate controls and stereo buttons and knobs make it easy to overlook the positioning of Infiniti's trademark analog clock in the middle of the center stack. The navigation system, entertainment system, and Bluetooth features were also straightforward, and we were particularly impressed with the thought put into the navigation of music files found on portable USB storage, which could be done entirely from the steering wheel. We were unable to access the vehicle's voice command system, however, without first pairing a Bluetooth phone.
As with most hardtop convertibles, the Infiniti IPL G is mixed bag when it comes to luggage space. With the roof up, there's a decent amount of storage to be found inside the shallow trunk for one or two overnight bags. With the top down, however, the entire storage area is occupied by the roof panels and rear glass. Infiniti provides an almost-comical warning graphic that highlights the vehicle's envelope-sized reserve storage cubby at the very lip of the trunk, just in case one was tempted to pile objects on top of the roof itself.
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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
The 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible is outfitted with the same 3.7-liter VQ-series V-6 engine that is found under the hood of the standard G, but with a few important modifications on-hand to improve overall output. Horsepower is up by 18 ponies (348 in total) compared to the entry-level G Convertible, and torque rises to 276 lb-ft - figures that are made possible by the installation of a full dual exhaust system and the recalibration of the vehicle's engine management software. Our test car came with a seven-speed automatic transmission, although a six-speed manual is also available with the car. Fuel mileage for the IPL G Convertible checks in at 16-mpg city and 24-mpg highway.
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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Driving Impressions
It doesn't take much time behind the wheel of the 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible to come to the conclusion that one is piloting a very competent grand touring car rather than an open air sports car. This is due primarily to one inescapable fact about the IPL G Convertible: it's heavy. Tipping the scales at 4,189 lbs means that the vehicle's small power bump and the installation of significantly heavier springs front and rear (along with upgraded sway bars) are not enough to overcome the convertible's considerable mass.
This is not to say that the IPL G Convertible handles poorly or feels underpowered. In fact, the IPL will happily corner at higher speeds, and it musters up a good amount of forward thrust when it comes time to pass out on the highway. The extra weight of the vehicle's roof mechanism - and the general structural reinforcements that come with all convertibles - is never entirely out of the picture, however, constantly hovering over the driver when things start to get twitchy after entering a turn with too much momentum, or when flooring the accelerator off of the line and being rewarded with a competent, but not overwhelming push forward.
The vehicle's seven-speed automatic transmission also seemed somewhat mismatched with the vehicle's performance mission, which is surprising considering how well it works in other G models like the G37s Coupe. We kept the car in the sportier DS setting rather than D during most of our time driving it, and we found that unless the throttle was mashed it was difficult to achieve the amount of downshifting necessary to really unleash the car's power. In addition, we had the uncomfortable sensation of constantly floating around in too high of a gear when simply puttering down city streets, an impression that was backed up by the drone of the exhaust (which, to its credit, sounds glorious under full throttle). Paddle shifts were reasonably crisp, but the auto-rev matching that was such a delight in the G37s seemed strangely muted in the IPL edition of the car.
Strange, too, was the fact that the IPL G Convertible did not come with the contents of the G Coupe's technology package, in particular intelligent cruise control. This is not even an option with the IPL model, which struck us as unusual considering the considerable price gap between the two vehicles.
That being said, ride comfort was excellent at all times when driving the IPL, an important consideration when benchmarking it against other luxury convertibles. This further reinforced our feeling that the IPL G Convertible would be a great car to drive to the track, but once there it would behoove owners to switch to a more focused - and lighter - automobile in order to avoid disappointment by the end of the first lap.
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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Safety
The 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible offers a strong suite of safety features, including electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, anti-lock brakes at all four corners (with four-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors up front), and electronic stability control. Seat and door-mounted side impact airbags help to protect passengers in the event of a severe collision, as do dual-stage forward airbags. The convertible is additionally outfitted with pop-up rollbar that deploys should the vehicle detect that a rollover is imminent.
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2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible: Final Thoughts
In order to fully understand the 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible it's necessary to back away from the idea that the IPL line is in any way aimed at the BMW M Division and instead look to how Audi has chosen to re-brand its performance efforts in the United States. The S line and vehicles like the Audi S5 are focused on providing sporty performance and style without going all-out, a task that is now reserved for RS models. The Infiniti IPL G Convertible is roughly equivalent to the S5 in that it delivers in both categories and does not compromise comfort, creating an open air experience that is well suited for cruising contentedly through canyons and enjoying the burble of the automobile's exhaust.
Will Infiniti bring forth its own M or RS rival to do battle for the hearts and minds of buyers looking for a break from the M3's dominance of the segment? The Nissan GT-R supercar certainly proves that the brand has the engineering smarts to make such a vehicle a reality. The real question becomes whether Infiniti will have the guts to actually build it. In the meantime, the IPL line will continue to whet the appetite of those who want a little something extra from the G's already excellent package.
What We Like About The 2013 Infiniti IPL G Convertible
- Elegant styling for a hardtop convertible
- Excellent manners both on the highway and around town
- Slick-sounding exhaust note
- Comfortable interior
We Aren't So Hot On:
- Heavy curb weight's effect on performance
- Out-of-sync transmission programming
- More power would have been nice
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