Infiniti's G37xs takes on some tough competition.

When one thinks of sporty premium mid-size sedan, BMW’s 3-Series likely hops immediately to mind. Well, Infiniti has been trying to change that perception for years with the G35–now G37–and after a stint behind the wheel, one could make the case that Infiniti has succeeded.

See, the problem with the 3-Series is that while it offers almost near-perfection, it gets expensive with options. Not so our fairly loaded 2011 Infiniti G37 test car, which checked in at $44,875. Not exactly bargain basement, but a fair value in this class.

Our all-wheel drive G37xs Limited Edition sedan came with the 328-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. It also boasted a lengthy list of options that could take up half a review on its own.

That money buys you a pretty competent commuter that has some serious guts. Step on the gas and the G comes alive, launching forward in a manner that’s all business. The V-6 snarls a sinister tune as the G hunkers down, with the promise of swift returns on the investment made by your right foot. The only thing holding the car back is the weight of the all-wheel drive system. While AWD might be appreciated in the snow belt, the added weight does acceleration no favors, even if the additional traction helps keep the car planted.

Infiniti delivers a solid value with the G37xs.

Planted is the operative word while cornering, as well. The G isn’t rattled by much, and body roll is a non-issue. We attacked a familiar backroad and found ourselves hustling through corners at higher velocities than usual without any undue drama or fear. The steering is nicely weight and it cuts sharply, almost too much so at times. The G goes where it’s pointed, but the quick steering that is so appreciated in the twisties is a bit too fast for commuter duty.

Brakes are commendable if not remarkable, and the same sentiment goes for the transmission. The paddles work fine and using them can add some value to the proceedings, and the unit does its job dutifully when left in drive.

The ride is firm and sporty without being unduly stiff or punishing, and it works just fine for sedate commuter duty. Indeed, the entire car does. If back-road blasts aren’t your thing, and all you want to do is impress the boss at lunch, the G can calmly get you from point A to point B without any hint of its darker desires. The snarly V-6 is quiet and smooth at part throttle, and the cabin is done up with enough luxury to make any middle manager feel at home. The only blemish is an excess of outside noise—especially at highway cruising speeds (cell phone conversations on the wireless link were drowned out).

The G37 is a looker, inside and out, with curvy lines that give the car a sporty look without devolving into tacky caricature. The inside is handsome, too, though we’d opt to skip the retina-searing red seats if we could.

The Infiniti G37xs also comes in coupe form.

All the switchgear works well and most of the materials are high class, although there are some let downs here and there. The rear seat appears to be a bit tight for taller adults, but the front passenger area offers ample legroom and headroom. Trunk space is ample, but the opening isn’t what we’d call “huge.”

Fuel economy is EPA rated at 18 mpg city and 25 highway, and we achieved 17.5 in a mixture of city and highway driving, with a few lead-footed antics along the way. Be prepared to pony up at the pump—the G37xs requires premium.

While the 3-Series remains the benchmark in this class—especially for driving dynamics—the G37 is nipping at its heels, and many folks might find it to be a better value. We like it for its sleeper potential—one moment it’s a nice, respectable premium mid-size sedan, the next it’s terrorizing a curvy road outside of town. The only flaws we see are the added weight of the AWD system, the not exactly frugal fuel economy, and some tightness in the rear seat.

We mentioned the lengthy list of standard features, and here’s what we got:

Start, in no particular order, with a USB port, cruise control, satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, rear-seat climate control, fog lamps, heated outside mirrors, a rearview monitor, a 7-inch display with controller, a wireless cell phone link, a chrome grille, and keyless entry and starting. Because this car was a Limited Edition model, it had 18-inch wheels (replacing the 17s), a navigation system with weather and traffic updates, Infiniti’s Birdview lane guidance system, a rear sonar system, a black grille (replacing the chrome unit), red leather seats, an up-level audio system, voice recognition and a moonroof.

There was also a Zagat restaurant guide (we assume for the nav system, we saw no physical guide in the car and never used this feature because journalists aren’t allowed in Zagat-rated establishments), a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive, paddle shifters, a revised front fascia and side sills, revised headlights, and a 12-way driver’s seat plus an 8-way passenger seat.

Whew. That’s exhausting. Total sticker price: $44,000. Add the destination fee of $875 and you have the $44,875 number from above.

If you simply must have a 3-Series, no argument will convince you otherwise. But if you want sport and luxury without paying top dollar, the G37 might be the value for you.

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