The Infiniti G35 is a true sports sedan. It features a powerful V6 engine, a sports suspension, and rear-wheel drive, all marks of sporting sedans. Rear-wheel drive offers handling response that front-wheel drive can't usually match.
There's also an all-wheel-drive model, the G35x, that gives up nothing in handling but adds capability in rainy climes and where winters bring snow.
The G35 was completely redesigned and re-engineered for 2007: New styling gave it a tauter, more buff look but without forfeiting its signature styling cues. The V6 engine was made more powerful and efficient without increasing its size. Inside is a richer, warmer look and feel, with performance-oriented enhancements that add to the driving experience.
The substantially reworked engine invites a heavy right foot, delivering its added power smoothly and strongly right up to the borderline motorcycle-level, 7500-rpm red line. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode remains standard across the line. However, the Sport Package kicks it up a notch, offering a choice between a six-speed manual gearbox or an automatic with Formula 1-style magnesium paddle shifters on the steering column.
For 2008, the G35 offers more choices. Most significantly, a Sport Package is now available on all-wheel-drive as well as rear-wheel-drive models. A new 18-inch wheel-and-tire package is available. Option packages have been revised, and an iPod interface is now part of the Premium Package.
Leather upholstery comes standard on all G35s along with a full complement of luxury features. The base sound system is competitive with that in any luxury sedan, while committed audiophiles will find the top-level, Studio On Wheels system from Bose delivers a richer, fuller, more intricate and crisper sound than many mega-buck home stereos. Various other options and packages add dual-zone air automatic conditioning, navigation, and self-adjusting cruise control. The Sport Package provides upgraded wheels, tires, and brakes as well as seriously supportive front seats and unique appearance items. For the ultimate in handling, tick the Sport Package plus active four-wheel steering with a firmer suspension.
The G35 sedan is based on the Nissan 350Z and the Infiniti G37 coupe, which are covered in separate NewCarTestDrive.com reviews.
Infiniti G35 ($31,600); G35x ($34,100)
When the Infiniti G35 was redesigned for 2007, it was an evolutionary styling change from the first-generation model (2003-06).
The grille has crossbars that flatten at their extremes, an expression the car's stylists liken to sword blades. Compound, multi-element, L-shaped headlight housings wrap around the fenders. A one-piece fascia with three large air intakes across its lower reaches embraces the front end. The tops of the front fenders flow over into the hood, emphasizing the G35's width and enhancing its planted look.
The side view presents a relatively long hood, steeply raked windshield, fast backlight and brief rear deck, giving the G35 more the look of a sporty coupe than the four-door sedan it is. Recessed door handles sit almost flush with the sheetmetal. Tires snugly fill slightly flared, circular wheelwells. A rocker panel accented by a deep indent along the bottom of the doors pulls the sides of the G35 closer to the road.
Large, LED taillights repeat the L-shape of the headlights, crossing over from the fenders into the trunk lid. The trunk lid dips several inches into the rear fascia, compensating somewhat for the restricted opening imposed by the short rear deck. Proper dual exhaust tips exit beneath each side of the fully integrated rear bumper.
The interior is lively and friendly without being fussy or overly busy. There's luxury aplenty, but tempered by a focus on function, on connecting the driver to the car while at the same time providing passengers a pleasant and comfortable environment and entertaining diversions.
Audio and climate controls are conveniently located out in the open, on the face of the center stack, audio above and climate below, as they should be. A large, multi-function, knob-like control in the panel beneath the screen at the top center of the dash controls some functions, but its duties and operational planes are limited and minimally distracting.
The navigation system is controlled by this knob. Voice commands can be used for many operations. The navigation system offers a Birds Eye, which gives a perception of distance, incorporating a horizon and, depending on the available mapping data, three-dimensional building footprints for the local surroundings. It's neat to look at, though the regular overhead view the system uses works better for us. The XM Satellite Radio system provides real-time traffic updates, where available.
The cabin is trimmed with aluminum alloy, finished in what the designers call Washi, a texture intended to recall traditional Japanese rice paper. The optional African Rosewood trim looks as authentic as it is. Violet hues dress up white-on-black gauges.
The seats are comfortable, with thigh support a bit above average; even so, we wish the manual thigh-support extensions on the Sport Package seats were standard or at least available across the line. The adjustable torso and thigh bolsters on the Sport seats do what they're supposed to but favor slender bodies. The gas pedal and the rest for the driver's left foot are on different planes, leaving the knees at different angles, which is not the most comfortable position for long drives or for spirited motoring on winding roads.
The Bose Studio On Wheels delivers a sound that's richer, fuller, more intricate and crisper than any system we can recall in cars costing thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars more than the G35. Although we're not prepared to go as far as Infiniti and compare it with a custom-configured, high-tech, in-home system, we stepped directly from a G35 sedan into a $100,000-plus European sports coupe with that marque's top-level sound system and could not distinguish a significant difference between the two. The G35's system's digital processing and eight-channel equalizer no doubt play a huge part, but our ears told us that almost as important is the Bose-designed speaker array. Infiniti claims, for instance, that the G35 is the first in the industry with a three-way, 10-inch subwoofer in each front door; the remaining eight speakers are traditionally located, with another 10-inch woofer in the rear parcel shelf, a 6.5-inch, full-range speaker in each rear door, three mid-range speakers across the front of the cabin, and a one-inch tweeter in each A-pillar.
Interior roominess is competitive for the class. Wide rear door openings leave room aplenty for legs, knees and feet when getting in and out.
Trunk space is competitive for the class.
Cubby storage includes a respectable glove box. The front center console provides as many as three cup holders, one inside the covered storage bin, and a can holder is molded into the hard-plastic map pocket in each door. Two cup holders pop out of the front of the fold-down, rear seat center armrest; a unique compartment masked by a Velcro-type flap on the right side is the surprise. The back side of each front seatback has a magazine pouch.
The Infiniti G35 delivers responsive performance. Stand on the gas and it pulls right up to its maximum rpm. It willingly and heartily revs to levels normally associated with smaller, less complex engines.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated City/Highway 17/24 mpg for the G35 automatic, 17/25 mpg with the manual, and 17/23 mpg for the G35x. The 2008 Lexus IS 350 betters the G35 by 1 mpg.
The manual and automatic transmissions ably handle the engine's power and power curve. The automatic does its job rather casually at part throttle. Holding the right foot unwaveringly hard to the floor produced sharper, more solid shifts at the engine's redline. The automatic changes gears the quickest and, interestingly, the smoothest with either the shift lever or the column-mounted paddles and under full throttle; it's like a power shift but without the clutch. Credit this to the engine's electronics, which feather the throttle through the instantaneous shift. The same electronics deliver smooth downshifts, too, whether in full auto mode or manual override, by blipping the throttle to match engine rpm to transmission speed in the lower gear; think double clutching a pure manual gearbox. The all-wheel-drive G35x has a snow mode that also electronically tempers throttle response.
The six-speed manual shift pattern was tight and gear selection was precise, requiring little effort. Clutch operation is heavier than we would expect even on a sports sedan. This makes for sometimes rocky clutch engagement, especially at low speeds and light throttle.
Ride and handling are consistent across the line.
The notable and commendable exception of this is the Sport models with four-wheel steer. Besides actively adjusting the rear wheel toe by up to a degree depending on vehicle speed and steering angle, the four-wheel steering brings with it a sportier shock and spring setup and road speed-sensitive, variable ratio power steering. For hustling down winding roads, this suspension and 4WS is the preferred combination, and it's not all that far out of its element cruising the Interstate. It's solid and taut and manages the G35's mass very well without exacting a price in stiffness. It's firm, yes, and will transmit pavement heaves more dramatically into the passenger compartment. But over anything less than chunking blacktop or weathered concrete, it gives up very little against the standard suspension, which leans a bit more toward supple. Not that the base suspension is floaty by any means, far from it, actually. But as demonstrated over several fairly hot laps on a racetrack, it's not as planted and controlled as the 4WS Sport.
On freeways, the G35 cruises comfortably and quietly. Gone is the irritating drone that often plagued rear seat passengers in earlier G35 sedans. There's little wind noise even at extra-legal speeds. There's more road noise from the optional tire packages than from the standard treads, but the added grip and, frankly, sharper looking 18-inch wheels are worth it.
The Infiniti G35 is Nissan's entry in the highly competitive sports sedan class. And it's definitely competitive, with its slick styling, comfortable interior, and power and handling on par with any of its peers. For people wanting a sports sedan that's as accommodating of its passengers as it is rewarding for its driver, the new G35 is hard to beat.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Lenox, Massachusetts.