DEBUTING IN 2002, NISSAN MOTOR CO. Ltd.'s Infiniti G35 coupe instantly became one of the sexiest vehicles available in the U.S., at least for less than $40,000. Its sinuous lines and low-slung stance turned heads, and unlike its Nissan 350Z cousin, did so without garish ornamentation.

Nissan thankfully has left the original design language intact with the new G37, although the auto maker says the sheet metal is all new. Also, the coupe shares just the door handles with the new G35 sedan, which debuted last fall in the U.S.

The big story with the new G37 is under hood, as Nissan's much-lauded 3.5L VQ V-6 (see story, p.22) grows 0.2L in displacement, upping horsepower to 330 from a maximum 293 in the old G coupe and 306 hp in the current G35 sedan.

Infiniti shows it will not back down in its fight with BMW AG for top sport-coupe honors. In the horsepower wars, Infiniti has usurped the 3-Series coupe — for now, with the 335i making 30 fewer horses. Infiniti, however, considers the 230-hp 328i the G37's direct competitor.

The displacement boost comes at no cost, as Infiniti proudly contends the bulked-up VQ is cleaner-burning and more fuel efficient than the 3.5L it replaces, thanks in part to the new Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) timing system.

While conventional engines control air intake using a throttle valve, VVEL does this directly at the intake valves, continuously controlling their valve events and lifts.

VVEL works in tandem with Nissan's Continuous Valve Timing Control (C-VTC) system to govern the valve phases, resulting in more efficient airflow through the cylinder and significantly improving responsiveness. The new engine also emits up to 10% less carbon dioxide.

Based on the Environmental Protection Agency's new fuel-economy ratings, the addition of VVEL nudges the automatic-equipped G37 to 18 mpg (13 L/100 km) city and 24 mpg (10 L/100 km) highway, an increase of 1 mpg (0.42 km/L) for each from the previous automatic G coupe and an extra 1 mpg in the city than the current G sedan with automatic gearbox.

Also, the boost in power comes with 40% lower hydrocarbon emissions. That's great for the few customers concerned with the green quotient when shopping a sport coupe. This market is about style and speed — both abundant in the G37.

Buyers can match the 3.7L V-6 to a 5-speed automatic, with available magnesium paddle shifters and downshift rev-matching, or 6-speed manual.

Nissan has dampened the clutch pedal vibration that haunted the previous G35. Engineers modified the shifter's linkage and isolator and revised the dynamic damper to curb clutch quivering.

There are no quibbles with the handling, as the tires confidently grip the pavement. The steering, which some may find too light, is nicely weighted, with only slight play in the steering wheel.

The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspensions provide 45% greater lateral stiffness over the old G coupe.

The interior carries over the inviting look of the sedan, with the same sharp aluminum trim that resembles Japanese rice paper as one choice (the other option is a beautiful African Rosewood).

Interior panel fits are precise in the pre-production models driven.

The '08 G37 is available in three trim levels. Pricing begins at $34,965, up $800 over last year's model.

Infiniti won't predict sales. But the horsepower bump and reasonable price could keep the model on an upward trajectory for a while.

[+]PROS/CONS[-]
> Sexy design > Light steering
> Sterling interior > Kid-only back seat
> 330 hp > Console cupholder