Cigar Aficionado

If you know which way to head, it takes less time than you might imagine to drive out of the Los Angeles sprawl. So as we turn off from the smog- and traffic-choked U.S. Route 101 freeway and into canyon country, we pause to roll back the top on our new Infiniti G37 Convertible. It is the briefest of stops. The hardtop folds away like metal origami, and in 30 seconds we're on our way again, shooting through some of the finest roads for serious driving in the country.

Infiniti has made a great set of wheels—the G37 Coupe—even better. The coupe has already received plenty of much-deserved kudos for its grace and agility, and the convertible retains those qualities while avoiding the stumbles so common to hardtop-to-convertible conversions. The new cabriolet outweighs the original two-door by 450 pounds—an expected onus of adding a foldaway top—but pulls off the near miracle of the eye-catching shape of the coupe. Because most hardtop convertibles grow markedly longer to create a hideaway for the roof, the G37 makes one trade-off in keeping its shape: the trunk is barely spacious enough to tuck away a few shirts from the dry cleaners. But that's what rear seats are for. You wouldn't want to put a pair of adults back there, at least not for long.

Other than that, the compromises are minimal. Even with the added weight, there's been little impact on the G37 Coupe's peppy performance. Credit the seemingly endless pulling power of the 325-horsepower 3.7-liter DOHC V-6 that both versions of the G37 share. In the drop-top, it'll move the metal from 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds, only a couple heartbeats slower than the coupe. You have a choice of both a fuel-sipping seven-speed automatic and a six-speed manual. The latter is a responsive and reasonably short-throw gearbox certain to appeal to serious performance fans. The coupe's all-wheel-drive option is not available with the G37 Convertible.

While the new Infiniti isn't quite the match for BMW's own hardtop convertible—at least in the tightest curves—it has impressive handling and delightfully precise steering. Get the throttle and gearbox in sync and it's a matter of point-and-shoot. There's nary a squeal of tires, even in the most challenging corners.

The Japanese maker—Nissan's luxury brand—adds a few particularly nice touches to the G37 Convertible, including a climate control system that is designed to automatically adjust to the position of the top and the ambient temperature, as well as the speed of the car. The 13-speaker Bose Open-Air Audio System meanwhile, uses noise-compensation software and headrest-mounted speakers to deliver studio-quality sound, whether you're driving al fresco or with the cocoon-like top up.

Launched 20 years ago, at the same time as Toyota's Lexus brand, Infiniti has long been a luxury also-ran. The G series, starting with the sedan, then the coupe, and now the G37 Convertible, is changing all that. And for good reason. For those who really need just two seats, it's a must to consider.