The 2007 Infiniti G35 uses rear-wheel drive, a necessity for true sporty handling. But there's also an all-wheel-drive model, the G35x, that gives up none of the handling but adds capability in rainy climes and where winters bring snow. The V6 engine on the 2007 models is more powerful and more efficient than before even though it's the same size. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode remains standard across the line. However, the Sport model 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.
G35 buyers choose from four versions: a nicely equipped entry-level model with leather trim and automatic climate control; the Journey model with dual-zone air conditioning, a navigation system, a premium audio system, and a self-adjusting cruise control; the G35x with all-wheel drive; and a revised Sport model with upgraded front seats, active four-wheel steering with variable ratio power steering and a firmer suspension that turns the G35 into a serious sports sedan.
The substantially reworked 2007 engine invites a heavy right foot, delivering its added power smoothly and strongly right up to the borderline motorcycle-level, 7500-rpm red line. The icing on this cake is that estimated fuel economy for the 2007 model is up over the '06, by 1 mile per gallon, at least for those who can resist the implicit urge.
Infiniti didn't forget the people just along for the ride. The base sound system is competitive with that in any luxury sedan. But 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.
When Infiniti first arrived in the U.S., many saw it as Japan's counterpart to Jaguar, much like Lexus was perceived as Japan's answer to Mercedes-Benz. That's changed, at least the part about Infiniti. Clearly, Infiniti has now set its sights on BMW, long touted as the ultimate driving machine. The 2007 G35 sedan is loosening BMW's grip on that crown.
Unlike the sedan, the 2007 G35 coupe carries over unchanged from 2006. It will be redesigned and introduced as a new model for 2008.
Infiniti G35; G35 Journey; G35x AWD; G35 Sport
The grille doesn't change shape, but its crossbars 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 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 2007 G35 the look of a sporty coupe over that of a four-door sedan. 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 opening 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.
Most commendable is Infiniti's refusal to follow the crowd, lemming-like, and dump many everyday settings and functions into a multi-level, virtual bin and make them accessible only through a single, often counter-intuitive and super-sensitive, massive knob planted in the center console. Yes, the new G35 has a large, multi-function, knob-like control in the panel beneath the screen at the top center of the dash, but its duties and operational planes are limited, minimally distracting and difficult to confuse or unwittingly activate.
This leaves controls for climate and most audio settings conveniently located out in the open, on the face of the center stack, audio above and climate below, as they should be. With the navigation system, all elements of which are managed by that aforementioned knob and neighboring switches supplemented by voice commands, comes a slot below the climate panel for the compact flash media. And the nav system has one of the more pleasant perspectives, called the Birds Eye, that gives a perception of distance, incorporating a horizon and, depending on the available mapping data, three dimensional building footprints for the local surroundings.
Standard trim accents are 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 models were standard or at least available across the line. The adjustable torso and thigh bolsters on the Sport models 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. In fact, and 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 2007 G35 sedan into a $100,000-plus, European sports coupe with that marque's top-level sound system and could not distinguish the two stereos. 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.
As for interior roominess, the 2007 G35 sedan's designers somehow managed to find almost two inches more front seat headroom, an inch more rear seat legroom and almost three inches more front seat hiproom inside a car essentially the same size if not a smidgen smaller than the previous (pre-2007) G35 sedan; trunk space, though, declines by more than a cubic foot. Wide rear door openings leave room aplenty for legs, knees and feet. Against the most probable competition, the BMW 330i and the Lexus IS 350, the new G35 sedan is as roomy or roomier in all
The engine may be the same displacement and configuration, but it's far from merely a mildly tweaked carryover from the 2006 G35. By way of emphasis, Infiniti says some 80 percent of the engine's major components have been redesigned. Variable exhaust valve timing has been added, for example. A beefier engine block, modified pistons and, of course, new coding in the engine management computer have endowed the engine with a higher rev limit, now 7500 revolutions per minute versus last year's 6600 rpm. These modifications, together with a higher compression ratio (10.6:1 vs. 10.3:1), additional knock sensors, improved cooling, Iridium spark plugs and a freer flowing intake and exhaust system, not only boost the horsepower but also are supposed to deliver that added power more smoothly and over a broader power curve.
It works. Where last year's engine seemed to run out of breath, so to speak, as it neared its red line, the '07's pulls right up to its maximum rpm. It willingly and heartily revs to levels normally associated with smaller, less complex engines, along the lines, say, of the 2.2-liter, four-cylinder screamer that powers the Honda S2000 sports car. Fuel economy is up, too, by one mile per gallon in both city and highway driving, according to EPA estimates. That said, the new G35 still trails the 2006 BMW 330i and Lexus IS 350 by as much as 2 mpg in city and highway driving.
The transmissions ably handle the engine's power and power curve. Clutch operation on the six-speed manual is heavier than we would expect on a sedan, even a sports sedan. This makes for sometimes rocky clutch engagement, especially at low speeds and light throttle. A luxury car's shift lever ought not vibrate as much as the one in the pre-sale test car, but Infiniti techies said this was an anomaly that will be cured in cars built for sale to consumers. Similar assurances were given for a whine in the first four gears that evoked memories of straight-cut gears in full-on race cars. Shift pattern and gear selection, though, were tight and precise, respectively, requiring little effort.
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.
Ride and handling are consistent across the line with the notable and commendable exception of 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, that option 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 combination is the preferred. 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
The 2007 Infiniti G35 is Nissan's entry in the highly competitive sports sedan class. And it's definitely competitive, with its slick styling, comfortable interior, 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.