What can we say about the Infiniti G35? Simply put, it is one of the most significant cars to hit the American market in the last decade. It restored direction to Infiniti, and showed the rest of the automotive world that American consumers will buy true sports sedans.
Before the G35 came along, automakers used maddening wisdom when configuring cars for the American market. One time-honored nugget of this wisdom was that if an American consumer bought a bigger motor, he was less inclined to want to shift for himself. As a result, Japanese manufacturers lost millions of enthusiast buyers who wanted their hotter motors coupled to a manual transmission. Another nugget of this horrid wisdom was that Americans didn’t want rear-wheel drive cars. The success of the entire Honda/Acura lineup seemed to confirm this. Fortunately for the true enthusiast, Infiniti bucked this wrongheaded conventional wisdom and brought us the G35.
Originally, the rear-wheel drive G35 was only offered with an automatic transmission. However, a 6-speed manual followed, and so did all-wheel-drive. All of a sudden, there was a legitimate alternative to BMW’s silky sixes and snickety 6-speeds. Infiniti hit BMW’s enthusiast market head-on, and also scooped up scores of younger buyers who were looking to hang up their Honda keys. The G35 blazed a new trail, offering a combination of luxury, performance, and value that the American market had not previously seen.
The G35 was introduced in the United States in March 2002, and was promptly awarded Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” award for 2003. It made Car and Driver’s “Ten Best List” in 2003 and 2004, and accounts for 33% of Infiniti’s U.S. sales. So, was it a success? Absolutely. Did it pull the heads of some foreign automakers out of their collective rear ends? Without doubt. So, only one question remains-how on earth does a car like this get better?
Enthusiasts-including myself-watch with horror as automakers continually neuter their cars in an effort to go ‘upmarket.’ And they never seem to learn. For example, Acura’s best-selling model, the Integra/RSX, went belly-up because buyers didn’t respond to its fancy new name and image. So, this enthusiast waited with baited breath to see if Infiniti would resist the eternal temptation to compromise a wonderful car’s character in pursuit of some nebulous corporate goal.
Thankfully, they resisted. Thankfully, the new G35 builds on the strengths of its predecessor. Thankfully, the car has not gained a ton of weight or an extra pair of cylinders. Thankfully, the G35’s styling is an evolution of a car that already looked great.
Now let’s get down to brass tacks. Infiniti was not screwing around with the new G35 sedan, and left no stone unturned in the improvement of what is perhaps its most important model. For now, we’ll skip the corporate talking points, and answer the question that is undoubtedly on the minds of those who actually want to buy one-“is it faster?” Yes!
The G35’s renowned powerplant has been one of the best six-cylinder motors in the world for as long as Infiniti has been building it. The motor-engine code VQ-powers many an Infiniti, and its sonorous wail is unmistakable even in stock form. Anyone with an ear for engine-bay music will know, without even lifting his or her head, when an Infiniti V6 is passing by. Or loafing through a parking lot, for that matter.
The new VQ35HR endows the 2007 G35 with 306 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 268 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. That may not seem like a huge increase, since the old car made between 280 and 298hp, but this new G35 is much quicker than its predecessor. At 3,497 lbs., the new G35 is only 29 lbs. heavier than the old car, and now scoots to 60mph in just 5.4 seconds. The quarter-mile comes in just 13.9 seconds with a trap speed of 102mph. Not only are those times a good bit quicker than the old G35 could muster, they also eclipse most of the new G’s competition. A BMW 330, for example, takes almost a second longer than the G35 to perform either of those acceleration tests. The Audi A4 3.2 and the Mercedes-Benz C350 can’t keep up, either. The only competitor that can is the Lexus IS350, but Lexus still won’t offer it with a manual gearbox.
Our love for the manual ‘box aside, the G35 we sampled came with Infiniti’s freshly mapped 5-speed auto. This transmission is easily the best conventional automatic we have ever tested. Most slushboxes infuriate their drivers, particularly those with sporting inclinations. They downshift too slowly, and upshift too quickly. And even in so-called ‘manual’ modes, most of them still try to outsmart the driver. Not this one. Infiniti’s 5-speed automatic gearbox may be down a gear on some of its competitors, but its mapping is spot-on. More importantly, it does only what you tell it to do. Slide it into “D” and then over into “Drive Sport,” and the car will stay in gear until you upshift, using either the shift lever or the paddles mounted on the steering column. What’s more, this auto will bang off real rev-matched downshifts-not the slow, lethargic kind that most automatic users are well accustomed to. Although enthusiasts tend to prefer a conventional manual, this auto is as good as autos have ever been. We certainly weren’t complaining and if I was in the market for a sports sedan with a manumatic style gearbox the G35 would be the one for me. It is the best choice in it’s class.
We also noted that the G35’s main flaw-its interior-has been corrected for 2007. The old G35’s interior wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either, and had a distinctly early-90’s feel to it. However, the new cabin now matches the car’s world-class body. The vent design has been cleaned up, the radio and climate-control buttons have a much nicer hand to them, and the trademark Infiniti analog clock now lights up in a dazzling blue. Directly above it, the G35’s standard 7-inch monitor display completes what is now a very high-tech center console.
Despite its more luxurious feel, the new G35’s cabin still feels like that of a sports sedan. Infiniti has preserved the overall shape of the gauge cluster. It’s kind of a funky tortoise-shell shape, as opposed to the sweeping, extra-curvy varieties found elsewhere. It’s very no-nonsense, with white-on-black gauges for better contrast, and is finished off with accents of violet-a traditional representation of Japanese royalty. The wheel poking out of this cluster is also very no-nonsense. Infiniti has ditched the old 3-spoke model and its long, droopy third spoke for a thoroughly modern take on the classic sports wheel. It’s thicker in all the right places, and looks like something out of the Momo catalog. The stitching is done by hand, a reflection of Infiniti’s push to make its cars organic and personal.
Having got it right with the new cabin, Infiniti has transformed a great sports sedan into one of the world’s best. The G35 is more capable than ever, and is now as unique and inviting as its European competitors, while still costing thousands less. At Roadfly, we try to find the good in each car we come across. With this new G35, though, you won’t have to try-it’s everywhere you look.
A few important points about the G35 sedan:
* Japanese quality and reliability
* The best manual-automatic in it’s class.
* Distinctive complex styling
* It’s interior is much more spacious than it’s primary competitor the BMW 3 Series.
* Available AWD option