Story and photos by Laurance Yap
Maybe it’s just me, but I notice a lot of the Infiniti G35s out on the road – and there are a lot of them now – being driven a whole lot faster than the rest of the traffic flow, and indeed, a whole lot faster than they should probably be going. Peeling in and out of traffic, slipping slickly between lanes, G drivers always seem to be surprised, when stoplights or off-ramps loom, by just how fast they’re actually going.
Who can blame them, really? Never has so much power been put in the hands of so many. Think that for the 260 horsepower G35’s $38,900 base price, you can only get 184 horsepower in a BMW, or 168 in a Mercedes. No wonder these drivers are blazing along as quickly as they are: they’ve probably never had access to quite so much go in their entire motoring lives. The G35 is a car that will slam its way to 100 km/h in under seven seconds, and would probably top 250 km/h if you wound it out to its max (if it didn’t have an electronic limiter, that is). Performance, once the exclusive territory of sports cars, is now available in a convenient, family-sized package.
With the availability, now, of a 6-speed manual transmission, you’ll probably see even more G35s being driven quickly on the road, though my intuition tells me they’ll likely be better-driven than the automatic-only models that have been available up till now. That’s because I think they’ll be driven by true enthusiasts who understand and are able to better control such power; people who will buy this car and not be surprised by the amount of go it has, but will rather buy it because of the amount of go, and the control it gives them over it.
The 6-speed G35, which stickers at $42,500 including the transmission, unique 17-inch wheels, and an aerodynamic package that endows both front and rear axles with zero lift, is a true sport sedan, one that will not only keep up with the best of the rear-drive Germans, but that singlehandedly dispatches them on a price-performance basis. There’s a reason that, when you twist the key, the “wheel slip” indicator is the first to light up on the dash, you know; this car’s built to burn rubber.
In fact, even though its 3.5 litre V6 – yet another variation of the motor used in the Nissan Altima, Maxima, and 350Z as well as other Infinitis – is rated at 260 horsepower compared to the coupe version’s 280, this G was subjectively the fastest iteration of the theme yet, rocketing away from stoplights, mining a thick trough of torque to waft effortlessly past freeway traffic in sixth, and snarling angrily on country-road downshifts. Maybe it was the fact that the sedan’s shifter was beautifully slick and well-weighted (while the Z and G35 coupe both have a clunky, very metallic feel), or the four-door body, which is actually a lot more compact than the coupe’s.
There are yet other reasons I prefer the sedan to the coupe, and they have nothing to do with extra practicality a single guy like me doesn’t need. The tires are 17-inchers (a six-speed coupe has 18s), making the steering marginally lighter but, more importantly, endowing it with better feel while simultaneously reducing the tendency to follow freeway ruts. The suspension – whose complex multi-link arrangement in the rear is stolen straight off the GT-R supercar – treads a better balance between ride comfort and cornering grip, both of which are simply above reproach. And the engine, breathing through a slightly more restrictive exhaust system, is quieter during cruising, without sacrificing aural satisfaction when you rev it up.
Which is not to say that the G35 doesn’t deliver on the practicality front. In fact, for the price, you’re getting way more space and way more versatility than its major competitors – save, perhaps, for the Cadillac CTS – offer. For less than the price of most 3-series BMWs, you’re getting 5-series space and a trunk that’s bigger than almost any other car out there. You’re getting an interior littered with useful storage spaces – door pockets in all the doors, two console bins, two gloveboxes – as well as tons of head- and legroom. You’re also getting quality that, in the last two years, has improved to the point where all of my previous reservations about cheap plastics and parts-bin pieces are rendered irrelevant: this Infiniti’s interior is right up there with the best of them.
Perhaps what’s most impressive, though, is the level of standard equipment. Even a base model packs in leather, a sunroof, Bose 6-disc CD stereo, automatic dual-zone climate control, power heated seats, and all of the other goodies you would expect. This when the Germans still get by with cassette players, leather-“ette”, and often times, plastic wheel covers. If you’re already spending forty grand on a car, to be told that you’ve got to ante up another couple thousand just to have a set of good-looking wheels and a CD stacker must be almost insulting; the only option package that Infiniti offers is a $3400 navigation system, whose bird’s-eye view and DVD-based map make it the best in the industry.
The G isn’t perfect. Nice as it is, the interior has a few ergonomic issues, primary among them the fact that it wasn’t fully converted from right-hand-drive, the way it’s sold in Japan. This means that primary controls like those for temperature and stereo volume are a long reach away, on the other side of the console. The company’s “signature” analog clock is difficult to read at a glance and easy to scratch. The instruments that tilt with the steering wheel are genius, but because the driver’s seat height adjustment doesn’t go low enough, I still found the tops of the gauges cut off when everything was where I wanted it to be. Other quibbles? A rear seat that has only a pass-through rather than true split-fold facility (it does mean better structural integrity), an armrest so low and so far back that it’s useless, and door mirrors that are too small for such a driver-oriented car. Most glaringly, I wish I could have the massive Brembo stoppers fitted to the G coupe – not because the sedan’s feel in any way inadequate, but because I have a bit of a brake fetish and like the stylish gold calipers.
Other than that, however – and believe me it was a stretch to get all of it down – there’s barely anything to dislike about the G. Its space and pace for the price eclipse any competitively-priced offering. Most importantly to me, it’s wrapped in a unique design that, in an age where most other manufacturers are rehashing and exaggerating old styling cues for nostalgic effect, the Infiniti really tries to give us something futuristic with its stacked headlights, striking LED rear indicators, and laser-cut shutlines. I had my reservations about the G35 initially, thanks to quality that wasn’t quite up to scratch and an automatic-only drivetrain; almost two years on, those concerns have been addressed and the Infiniti has vaulted to the head of my head’s own class.
Is this the future of the sports sedan? Are we destined to drive amongst ever-multiplying streams of zooming G35s? Gawd I hope so, if only because a generally-barren, backward-looking auto-design landscape is a lot better off for its existence.
|2003 Infiniti G35 6-speed|
|Price as tested||$42,500|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger mid-size sedan|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive|
|Engine||3.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, cont. var. valve timing|
|Horsepower||260 @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||260 @ 4800 rpm|
|Tires||P215/55R-17 all season performance tires|
|Curb weight||1513 kg (3336 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2850 mm (112.2 in.)|
|Length||4629 mm (182.2 in.)|
|Width||1815 mm (71.5 in.)|
|Height||1395 mm (54.9 in.)|
|Cargo Capacity||411 litres (14.5 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 11.8 l/100 km (24 mpg)|
|8.0 l/100 km (35 mpg)|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||6 yrs/100,000 km|