Story and photos by Laurance Yap
It’s hard to tell whether the Infiniti G35 is a real Infiniti or not, but I sure hope it is.
Infiniti, after all, is a company whose lineup is stocked with competent, value-packed products, cars that offer a lot of equipment, and a lot of performance for the money but also cars that, even now, lack a real sense of unity. There isn’t the one-sausage-different-sizes styling of BMW, for instance, or a set of shared interior design cues like Mercedes offers, or the relentless deployment of all-wheeling drivetrains of Audi. Infinitis are nice cars, but they lack a cohesive sense of Infiniti-ness.
Which is where the G35 comes in. It too lacks a sense of unity with its brethren–it’s lean, not fat like a Q45, it’s sleek where the QX4 is blocky, and is rear-drive when the similarly-powered I35 is front-drive. But it’s sufficiently different not only from other Infinitis, but other sporty luxury cars on the market, to be a true brand icon, the very definition of what Infiniti should be. A fast, fine-handling, and most importantly, distinctive sort of car, the G35 may also, given its $38,900 base price, redefine the segment as we see it.
While Infiniti’s advertising has been focusing on G35’s performance bang for the buck–more on that later–it’s the car’s design that’s its true trump card. Not only does the G look like nothing else in the segment, inside or out, but it possesses an elegance of line and an neatness of execution that cars costing twice as much often can’t match. From a brand normally associated with fussy, bloated designs, the lithe-looking G, whose 17″ wheels even sport a pared-down look, is a revelation.
Click image to enlarge
More so even inside than out, where intelligent design has redefined some of the interior basics we’ve long taken for granted. Why should we, for instance, reach around to the side of the seat to adjust it? The switches are now integrated into the top of the side bolsters. Why should tilting the steering wheel obstruct our view of the instruments, when the binnacle can instead tilt along with it? Why should wood be a symbol of luxury when brushed aluminum is nicer to the touch, and looks better, too? (Four token fillets on the grab handles do liven up the ambiance on luxury and premium-trim cars.) Why shouldn’t the navigation system offer a bird’s-eye view as well as a flat map? Why shouldn’t it disappear when not in use? And why should a compact-ish luxury car at an entry-level price not have enough room for four adults, when a long wheelbase and wheels at the corner can liberate sufficient space?
Cleanliness of design begets cleanliness of motion, too. With Nissan’s butter-smooth VQ 3.5-litre 260-hp engine supplying motivation, and a five-speed automatic to keep it on the boil, it’s no surprise the G is fast, but what’s surprising is how calm and unruffled it feels at any speed. Clever aerodynamics are at work underneath the minimalist body: the G sports a low drag coefficient, flat underbody panels, and carefully-sculpted mirrors for a super-silent highway cruise. An optional aero package gets even cleverer, reducing lift to zero and ensuring optimum stability in fast corners. Even without it, the G remains uncommonly stable.
A couple of less-refined touches do put a damper on the fun. Primary among them is the disjoint between the throttle pedal’s long-travel linearity and the abrupt, almost nervous deceleration at even the lightest brush of the brake pedal. Infiniti’s brake assist system, unlike other manufacturers’, always boosts pedal pressure, rather than activating only in panic stops. This makes for very short and stable stops but makes it hard to brake the G smoothly into a turn. Less noticeably, the fore-aft compliance designed into the rear suspension (it’s stiff and stable in side-to-side motions but is allowed to wobble back and forth for a better ride) gives the car a slightly disconnected feel at really high speeds.
Other than that–and except for volume and temperature controls that not only haven’t been relocated from their right-hand-drive roots, but are up-down toggles despite knob-suggesting roundness–there isn’t much to complain about with the new G, especially when it’s priced up to $13,000 less than less-powerful, smaller competitors like BMW’s 330i and Mercedes’ C320.
In the past, the whole intangible character issue could have been raised, but now that Infiniti’s found its high-tech, avant-garde groove, indeed found a groove far more interesting than the ostentation-and-flash standard, the brand’s now poised with an advantage instead of a deficit. Given the keen pricing (a full load still ticks in under $47,000 with navigation, aero package, and reclining rear seats) the G is sure to fly off showroom floors. And it deserves to.
|2003 Infiniti G35|
|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|
|Fuel||Premium Unleaded recommended|
|Tires||P215/55R17 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.)|