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by Paul Williams
Palm Springs, California – Taking on the big dogs in the sports luxury segment, like BMW and Audi, is no easy task. But from its introduction in 2002 (as a 2003 model), the Infiniti G35 has been major success for Nissan’s upscale division.
The G35’s combination of sensational looks, brisk performance, comprehensive equipment and a very competitive price has generated sales for Infiniti that have propelled it toward the top of the luxury category; higher, even, than Lexus and Audi, according to Infiniti Canada president, Brad Bradshaw.
“This G35 met and exceeded all of our expectations,” he said at a recent event to introduce the G35x, and its Infiniti stable mate, the QX56 SUV. “There’s no doubt it’s been a home-run vehicle for Infiniti.”
With its rear-drive platform, the G35 offers a splendid driving experience to go along with its sleek looks. But even with traction control and electronic stability aids, a rear-wheel drive car can be a handful on slippery winter roads, especially when powered by a gutsy 260-horsepower, 3.5-litre, V6 engine.
For buyers looking for extra grip, the G35x Sedan is a new model that uses Infiniti’s ATTESA ET-S all-wheel drive system found on the FX35 and FX45 premium crossover SUVs. Torque is split between the front and rear wheels to provide the traction benefits of an all-wheel drive car, and the handling benefits of rear wheel drive.
A “snow mode” feature reduces the aggressiveness of the electronic throttle, and fixes the torque distribution ratio between front and rear wheels at 50:50 at speeds up to 19 km/h. In all other driving conditions, a standing start generates a 25:75 split front to rear, after which the system will distribute power between the front and rear wheels in ratios between 0:100 and 50:50. These ratios change continuously and automatically, and require no driver input to select them.
The result is a car that can operate using full rear-wheel drive when conditions warrant, through to a range of front-to-rear ratios determined by sensors at each wheel that respond to particular road surfaces. In addition to the all-wheel drive capability, standard vehicle dynamic control maintains stability, and a sophisticated traction control system called Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) uses the ABS sensors to detect wheel spin and applies braking to counteract it.
The exterior design of the G35 continues to turn heads, even though the car has been on the road for over a year (the G35x is externally identical, except for some minor badging). With this car Infiniti has penned a look that would seem difficult to improve upon. What makes the appearance of the G35 special are its proportions, pleasing shape, and fresh, modern lines. It is at once classy, sporty and avant-garde (but not radical).
The exterior flair continues inside the car. Interior panels and surfaces are high quality, with wood and titanium-look accents. Seats are comfortable and easily adjusted, and the big, clear instruments are easy to read at a glance. A unique feature is that the driver’s seat is padded differently to the passenger’s seat for greater support during sporty driving. The passenger seat is oriented toward a more relaxed seating position.
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The engine makes a pleasant exhaust note under acceleration and is quiet at speed. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and responds quickly when you put your foot down. This car is low and wide, with front fenders that are visible from the driver’s seat, which helps properly situate the car when driving, and a long wheelbase (2,850 mm) with wheels pushed out to the car’s corners for increased stability and interior space. Coefficient of drag is a low 0.27, contributing to the near elimination of wind noise at speed and presumably improves fuel economy on long trips (fuel economy for the G35x, by the way, is only marginally reduced compared with the rear-drive G35).
My opportunity to drive the G35x took place during warm, dry conditions, in which it felt securely connected to the road and every bit as quick as the rear-wheel drive version. The all-wheel drive system doesn’t intrude at all, and doesn’t make the car feel heavier (all-wheel drive adds 137 kg). On gravel, under hard acceleration, no wheelspin was evident. Steering response was sharp and the four-wheel independent suspension provided a smooth ride, while minimizing body roll in corners.
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Standard on all G35 models are a 220-watt Bose audio system with seven speakers, 17″ aluminum alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting and xenon headlamps, leather seating surfaces and automatic climate control. Two premium packages are available that add memory seating, dual zone automatic climate control, sunroof and navigation.
Safety features include front seat, and front and rear curtain side-impact air bags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, and a retracting brake pedal to reduce lower leg injury in a severe crash.
For 2004, all G35s receive an improved six-disc CD changer, standard tire pressure monitoring system, and a standard four-way power front passenger’s seat, and the six-speed manual transmission version (not available with the G35x) also receives a standard limited slip differential. The 2004 Infiniti G35x has an MSRP of $42,300.