Yet these are practical cars, as well. The G35 sedan offers more interior space than other near-luxury sedans. Its daring design, with stacked headlamps, catamaran fenders, and short overhangs, gives it a unique look we find appealing. The G35 costs less than a comparable BMW or Mercedes, but it gives up nothing in handling and performance. Infiniti substantially improved the G35 for 2005, with richer interior materials, more horsepower, bigger brakes, and a more refined ride.
The G35 coupe is more than just a two-door version of the sedan. It's a fastback GT with a visual character all its own. Mechanically, the G35 coupe is essentially a longer-wheelbase, more luxurious version of the Nissan 350Z. But the G35 coupe has a separate trunk instead of a hatchback like the Z, and it has a rear seat that can transport smaller members of the family. In short, it's more practical than the Z. For 2006, the G35 coupe gets some minor styling revisions.
New for 2006 is optional Rear Active Steer for the G35 coupe, which quickens the steering ratio and uses a computer and electric motor to continuously adjust rear suspension geometry. Several option packages have been upgraded for 2006: Premium packages now include a Bluetooth hands-free phone system. Projector-beam bi-xenon headlights are now standard on the coupe. Automatic coupes with the Sport Suspension Package now wear the same aero package as manual-transmission versions.
All-wheel drive is available for the G35x.
Infiniti G35 sedan automatic ($31,300); sedan 6MT (31,050); G35x AWD sedan automatic ($33,100); G35 coupe automatic ($32,750); G35 coupe 6MT ($33,350)
The styling of the G35 sedan was freshened for 2005 with new headlights, revised tail lamps, new bumpers, and an aluminum hood and trunk lid. In the front valance, air intake ports were enlarged. The changes were subtle, but give the G35 sedan a more substantial look and emphasize its resemblance to the G35 coupe. From the front, it looks sportier, more upscale, more expensive. From the rear, it looks tidier and classier.
Coupe or sedan, the G35 grabs your attention with its stacked, vertically oriented headlamps. Fog lamps are integrated into the complex headlamp cluster, adding to its aggressive appearance. The raised front fenders were inspired by a catamaran, and look great from both outside and inside the car. Those fenders also manage airflow by reducing spillage off the sides of the hood. The short rear deck ends in a crisp crease.
Aerodynamics played a strong role in the design, especially underneath the car. Extensive use of diffusers and deflectors helps the G35 achieve 0 degrees of front lift, reducing drag and wind noise at high speeds and contributing to stability. With the optional rear spoiler, 0 degrees of rear lift is achieved. While front-drive sedans use rear spoilers for decoration, the rear-drive G35 benefits, particularly in a wet, high-speed turn. The G35 sedan has an exceptional coefficient of drag of just 0.27 for reduced wind noise and increased fuel economy.
The G35 coupe shares visual elements with the sedan, as well as its 112-inch wheelbase. Yet the coupe is shorter overall than the sedan (182.2 inches versus 186.5), wider (71.5 inches versus 69.0), and lower (54.8 inches versus 57.7). And while the coupe has a lot in common with Nissan's 350Z, the two differ in several important ways. The G35's wheelbase is 8 inches longer than the Z's, and the G35 is nearly 17 inches longer overall. While the Z is a hatchback, the G35 coupe has a separate trunk. And while the Z has no rear seat, the G35 coupe is a two-plus-two, providing tight accommodations for back-seat passengers.
The G35 sedan and coupe share the same rear-wheel-drive mechanical platform as the Nissan 350Z sports car and the Infiniti FX35 and FX45 crossover luxury/utilities. This platform was specifically designed for mounting a V6 longitudinally behind the front axle in the so-called front-mid-ship position. (Front-wheel-drive sedans typically mount their engines sideways, in front of the front axle.) Moving the engine rearward improves the balance of the car, and is key to the G35's excellent handling. Rear-wheel drive is preferred by performance driving enthusiasts for its purer steering response and its inherent capability to turn the car using the gas pedal.
A long wheelbase (112 inches between front and rear wheels) contributes to the G35's stability, especially at high speeds. A wide track (the distance between the left and right wheels) adds to its stability in corners. Short front and rear overhangs, a hallmark of the widely heralded BMW 3 Series, improve handling by moving more weight rearward.
These design elements help the G35 lead the near-luxury class in interior room and trunk volume. The location of the G35's compact V6 also allows for a low, aggressive hood line, which flows into the sharply angled windshield and contributes to the G35's sporty, powerful silhouette.
From a functional standpoint, we prefer the exterior door handles on the coupe over those on the sedan, which aren't as easy to operate.
We found good headroom for a 6-foot 3-inch driver even with the optional sunroof, along with ample leg, shoulder and hip room. The interior is designed around the driver and succeeds in this regard. Luxury features abound. The interior is nicely laid out and, for the most part, offers sound ergonomics and easy of operation.
The steering column tilts and telescopes. The instrument pod moves when adjusting the tilt of the steering column, improving gauge visibility for drivers of all heights. Infiniti's steering wheel is not a thing of beauty, but features nicely designed cruise controls and audio controls, including a power button for the audio, convenient when you want immediate silence.
The gauge cluster is legible and are brightly illuminated during the day. Infiniti's trademark analog clock graces the dash. A thin panel on top of the dash houses digital readouts for compass and climate settings.
The audio system is not particularly attractive and looks downscale for this car. Ergonomically, it's a disaster, with buttons scattered around on the unit and on the surrounding silver dash panel, so you have to look at it and search for the button you want to press. At least stations can be set up by holding one of the preset buttons down. The CD changer has the capability to play MP3 encoded discs, and the optional Bose stereo sounds great with crisp bass and highs. Volume automatically adjusts for speed.
The climate controls are mounted high on the center stack; like the stereo controls, the switches were improved for 2005 for ease of operation and aesthetics.
Seats for the driver and passenger are designed differently: In the driver's seat, a center mound of high-damping urethane foam, backed by a special spring design, provides support for sporty driving. The front passenger's seat has a flatter lower cushion and is shaped to allow a more relaxed posture. The controls for the power driver's seat are located on the right side of the seat and are a bit awkward; the manual adjustment for rake is on the left. Opt for the sedan's Premium Package, and a two-person memory function means that you won't have to use the controls as often.
The sedan's rear seats are comfortable for a 5-foot 10-inch passenger, with plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and headroom, although knee room is limited when the driver's seat is set all the way back to accommodate a 6-foot 3-inch driver. Hidden front seat rails widen foot room for back-seat passengers. With the Premium Package, rear air conditioning vents help keep back-seat riders comfortable. The rear seat itself is contoured to resemble two wide bucket seats. With the Premium Package, the sedan's rear seats can be reclined.
Storage inside the car is limited. Two glove boxes are provided, but both are small, and the optional DVD navigation system ($2,000) fills the top one. A handy storage compartment on the top of the center dash offers room for wallets and such, but the navigation system replaces it with a clever pop-up display. Center console storage is partly taken up by a power plug that's handy for cell phones. Overhead are nice map lights and a sunglasses holder.
HomeLink is available to open gates and garage doors and turn on the house lights. Visor extensions help keep the sun out of your eyes. Interior door handles are easy to grab and the doors close with a nice thunk. The optional sunroof features one-touch open and close. It's not immediately obvious whether the doors are locked, however, something we've noticed on other Infiniti and Nissan products.
The sedan's trunk leads the class with 14.8 cubic feet of storage. A large pass-through in the center armrest acc
The 3.5-liter V6 is rated at 298 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque when ordered with the six-speed manual transmission or 280 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque when ordered with the five-speed automatic.
The G35 feels stable at high speeds and around fast sweepers. The driver feels well connected to the road. On winding roads, the G35 rewards the driver with quick, precise steering that offers good feedback. Drive it harder and it responds beautifully. It never surprises the driver with errant behavior, yet its chassis can be rotated or steered with the throttle through corners.
The available sports suspension includes special shocks and springs and P225/45WR18 summer tires. The G35 rides nicely with this setup, comfortable but firm. There's a bit of wind noise at 70 mph.
The G35 doesn't offer the razor-sharp response of a BMW, and the rear end bobs a bit in fast, sweeping turns, especially when the pavement is bumpy, but the Infiniti is clearly one of the best sports sedans in the class, offering better handling than any of the front-drive cars. The G35's long wheelbase, low center of gravity, aerodynamic downforce, and lightweight suspension are all designed to keep its tires on the road where they can generate maximum grip.
For its part, the G35 coupe is supremely stable and offers great handling. It's precise, like a BMW, and firm, but has a nice ride. It feels like a high-performance sports car, not a sports-luxury car like the Lexus SC 430. It jiggles on highway undulations, for example. Overall, it's a great balance. You feel connected to the road in the G35. It can be driven precisely at high speeds. It's very stable, perhaps more so than the Z.
We haven't tried the available Rear Active Steer system, but Infiniti claims it improves handling by adjusting the rear suspension geometry according to steering input and vehicle speed. The system's electronic control unit calculates the desired vehicle dynamics from a series of inputs, including vehicle speed and steering angle, and directs an actuator motor to move both rear suspension lower links. With the Rear Active Steer option, you also get a slightly faster steering ratio (15.1:1 vs. 15.9:1), and the variable-assist servo tracks vehicle speed instead of engine speed.
The G35x all-wheel-drive sedan employs a system Infiniti calls ATTESA E-TS, for Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split. That alphabetic mouthful means that a computer controls an active center differential for smoother starts, better fuel economy, and better traction and maneuverability in snow. Most of the time, the system sends 100 percent of the driving torque to the rear wheels, so the G35x handles like a rear-wheel-drive sedan. (Many all-wheel-drive sedans are based on a front-drive system that biases more torque to the front.) Nissan's system will divert up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels if it senses that the rear wheels are slipping. A Snow mode, selected by a button on the console, locks torque distribution at 50/50 front/rear, and reduces the sensitivity of the drive-by-wire throttle. This is the same all-wheel-drive system used in the Infiniti FX luxury crossover SUVs.
The G35's V6 produces a unique and sporty sound. There's lots of low-rpm torque, which makes the G35 feel responsive around town. Stand on the gas and it delivers brilliant acceleration performance.
Shifting the manual gearbox is direct and precise, though it requires some deliberate attention. It doesn't feel as light as an Acura gearbox, and the clutch pedal is relatively firm, which makes it more challenging to drive smoothly.
The five-speed automatic transmission is super-smooth in normal
The Infiniti G35 sedan is one of the quickest, best handling cars in its class. It's a compelling choice for drivers who want the performance and handling of a true sports sedan for thousands less than the European benchmark cars. The G35 is also comfortable and practical, with a roomy back seat, a big trunk, and the trappings of a luxury car. The G35x adds the stability of all-wheel drive, making it an alternative to the Audi A4 quattro. The Infiniti G35 coupe is a true sports car. It's more luxurious, roomier and more practical than the Nissan 350Z, with a rear seat and more usable storage space.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough is based in California.