Infiniti G35 Coupe
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by Haney Louka

Coupe d’Etat

Merriam-Webster’s definition of a coup d’état is “the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.” So it logically follows, then, that a coupe d’etat would be “the deliberate and decisive alteration of the performance coupe order by a single new model.” Or something like that.

The vehicle that has inspired this new definition is the G35 Coupe by Infiniti. On paper it has all of the necessary ammunition: a front/midship mounted V-6 that pumps out 280 hp. Rear wheel drive. Six-speed manual transmission. Huge cross-drilled brakes with Brembo four-piston calipers up front. And it certainly has the looks to complement its performance credentials.

The icing on the cake? It comes at a price that is sure to cause lineups at the neighbourhood Infiniti dealership.

The Lineup

Starting at $45,000, the G Coupe comes standard with a five-speed automatic transmission, 17-inch wheels, power sunroof, xenon headlamps, power heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, premium Bose stereo, and side curtain airbags. Check the Performance Package box on the order form and you get 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip rear differential, and titanium interior trim. That’ll add a grand to the base price.

Infiniti G35 Coupe
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My tester was an M6 model, which stands for “manual transmission, six speed.” In addition to the extra cog in the transmission and a third pedal on the floor, the M6 package includes the aforementioned Brembo brake package, a rear spoiler, and underbody aerodynamic fairings that bring the Coupe’s already low 0.29 coefficient of drag down to 0.28. The M6 Coupe lists for $47,000.

There is only one other option to be had: For $3,400, a DVD navigation system is available, which includes a trip computer.

The Powertrain

Powering the G35 to the head of its class is yet another application of Nissan’s acclaimed VQ-series V-6 engine; in this guise it displaces 3,498 cubic centimetres and produces 280 hp at 6,200 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. This is the same engine architecture that, in various forms, propels the 350Z, Maxima, Altima, Pathfinder, and Murano from Nissan and the I35, G35 sedan, and QX4 sport-utility vehicle from Infiniti. These engines range in output from 240 horsepower in the Pathfinder/QX4/Altima to 287 in the 350Z.

2003 Infiniti G35 coupe 3.5 litre V6
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The engine employs the requisite dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, and throttle management is of the electronic “drive by wire” variety.

Power is transferred to the rear wheels via either a five-speed automatic transmission or my tester’s optional six-speed stick. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised when I absolutely recommend the manual with a car of this nature. I’m sure the automatic is fine, given the flexible power delivery of the engine, but it would just be a shame to sit back and let the car do the driving.

The backbone of the G35 Coupe is the same FM (front-midship) platform that supports the G35 sedan and Nissan’s 350Z, so named because the engine is at the front but mostly behind the front axle. It would be a stretch to call it a mid-engined car (normally used to refer to vehicles that carry their engines just ahead of the rear axle), so they decided to call it front-midship.

Riding on the same 112.2-inch wheelbase as the sedan (the 350Z gets an abbreviated 104.3-inch wheelbase), the coupe employs the same basic suspension layout. It’s a four-wheel multilink setup (BMW’s 3-Series uses MacPherson struts in front) that makes extensive use of aluminum to help reduce unsprung weight. Compared with the sedan, the G35 Coupe’s suspension tuning is firmer for better handling.

2003 Infiniti G35 coupe Brembo brakes
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Nissan turned to the experts at Brembo for the G35’s brakes. Brembo furnished the G Coupe with four-piston calipers in front and two piston calipers in the rear, applying pressure to vented and cross-drilled rotors at all corners. The rotors measure 325 mm in diameter up front and 323 in back, compared with the standard brake measurements of 297 and 292. ABS, of course, is standard issue, as are Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD). Brake Assist senses an emergency braking situation and applies full braking pressure faster than the driver otherwise could. EBD ensures that even braking is applied front and back and adjusts according to vehicle load.

Style to Spare

The first thing I noticed after getting behind the wheel of the G35 Coupe is how many looks it gets from approving onlookers. The second I pulled out of the dealership lot it started happening. As I was exiting the lane behind my house, I stopped to let a jogger go by. I began pulling out and noticed that the jogger who had just passed across my path was now running backwards with his eyes fixed on the car. This slinky coupe certainly has curb appeal.

Infiniti G35 Coupe
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It’s not only because the G Coupe is new that it attracts attention. It has the kind of shape and proportions that will keep it looking fresh for years. The kind of styling that includes a low-slung profile. And sheetmetal that appears to be stretched taut around the rubber; tires that fill every available cubic inch in the fender wells. In a word, timeless.

Inside the look is more aptly described as modern rather than timeless, with brushed “titanium” trim and chrome accents applied liberally throughout. But if there was one area where Infiniti cut some corners to keep the price competitive, it’s in the material quality department. In this class, Audi is king, and Infiniti has a long way to go before its interiors can compare favourably against the Ingolstadt benchmark. Apart from the plasticky grade materials and amber dash lighting (Audi and BMW have it right with a more reddish tone), the layout is first rate. Controls are where expected (except for the power seat controls, which are oddly located on the top surface of the seat bottom next to the centre console) and the feel of the switches and knobs, particularly on the steering wheel-mounted controls, is quite substantial.

The seats are beyond reproach. Smooth leather, aggressive side bolstering, and enough adjustability to keep backsides of all sizes happy. For drivers, the left-side seat includes a central bolster into the bottom cushion to keep both legs braced.

In back, though, function follows form. While the long 112-inch wheelbase allows for plenty of legroom for rear seat passengers, the sleek roofline severely cuts into headroom back there. For a coupe, it’s quite capacious. Just don’t expect the same accommodations that are found in the sedan.

The Driving Experience

Infiniti G35 Coupe
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Even though I would recommend that people buy this car on looks alone, Infiniti has backed up the slinky styling with a world-class powertrain that deserves equal attention. The healthy power output and robust torque curve propel this coupe to the front ranks of performance cars, while the chassis and suspension tuning keep things firm but comfortable. It is softer than the similar 350Z, but not by much.

I drove the G35 in rather slick weather so I can’t vouch for its cornering capabilities or how well the Brembos work. But I can say that with the Pirelli winter tires, stability control, and various electronic helpers, drivers no longer have a reason to stay away from rear-drive cars during the winter. This car felt as stable and glued to the road as one could expect on those snowy winter days.

A few gripes though: First, the front seatbelts are really awkward to strap on. The seats are so wide at the shoulders that they don’t allow a hand to reach between the seatback and the B-pillar to grab the belt. In an attempt to make this task easier, Infiniti’s designers incorporated an arm that pivots on the B-pillar and extends forward to guide the belt toward the driver. It’s a good idea, but falls apart in the execution. A minor thing, but one that might very well annoy an owner day in and day out.

2003 Infiniti G35 coupe
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Second, there is no memory feature for the seatbacks after they’re tilted forward to allow ingress to the rear seat. Each time the seat is tilted forward to throw people and things back there, the seatback angle must be readjusted. This is something that my 1989 240SX had right, so what’s the problem here?

To Sum It Up

I am smitten enough by this new G35 Coupe to declare it one of my personal favourites. Such a combination of power, handling, and stunning looks make this coupe a must have. Throw in the bargain price and we’re talking about a serious product that has what it needs to permanently rattle the performance coupe order.

Shopping Around

Here is a list of competitors that will be seeing the G35’s taillights:

  • Acura CL Type S ($41,800)
  • BMW 330Ci ($48,900)
  • Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 ($61,900)
  • Saab 9-3 Cabriolet ($54,000)
  • Volvo C70 ($60,295)

Technical Data: Infiniti G35 Coupe

Base price $45,000
Price as tested $47,000
Type 2-door, 4-passenger sport coupe
Layout longitudinally mounted V-6, rear wheel drive
Engine 3,498-cc V6, DOHC, 24 valves, continuously variable intake valve timing
Horsepower 280 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 270 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Fuel premium
Transmission Six-speed manual
Curb weight 1,551 kg (3,420 lb)
Wheelbase 2,850 mm (112.2 in)
Length 4,628 mm (182.2 in)
Width 1,816 mm (71.5 in.)
Height 1,392 mm (54.8 in)
Fuel consumption City 11.8 L/100km (24 mpg)
  Hwy 8.0 L/100km (35 mpg)
Warranty 4 yrs/100,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 6 yrs/100,000 km

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