Infiniti G35 Review


The Infiniti G35 sedan is among the sportiest of the so-called near-luxury cars. It's a true sports sedan, with a powerful V6 engine, rear-wheel drive and a sports suspeThe G35 is also available as a coupe, essentially a long-wheelbase, more luxurious version of the Nissan 350Z. The G35 coupe has a separate trunk instead of a hatchback like the Z, and it has a rear seat that can transport smaller members of the family.nsion. All-wheel drive is available for the sedan.

The Infiniti G35 brings substantial upgrades. The interior has been improved with richer materials, softer leather, and real aluminum or rosewood trim, along with revisions to the switchgear. The G35 gets more horsepower for 2005. The brakes are bigger. The sport suspension has been refined to improve ride quality. Styling revisions front and rear make the 2005 G35 sedan more closely resemble the hunky-looking coupe.

The G35 sedan corners better than most front-drive sedans like the Acura TL and it boasts more horsepower than the rear-wheel-drive BMW 330i, Lexus IS 300, and Mercedes-Benz C320. It's also practical, offering more interior space than other cars in the near-luxury class. The G35's daring design, with stacked headlamps, catamaran fenders, and short overhangs, gives both sedan and coupe a unique look we find appealing. The G35 costs less than a comparable BMW, Lexus or Mercedes, but it gives up nothing in handling and performance.

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The Infiniti G35 comes in two forms: four-door sedan and two-door coupe. Each offers a choice of five-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Infiniti's slick all-wheel-drive system only comes on the G35x AWD sedan with the automatic.

All G35s are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine, the same engine used in the Nissan 350Z. In both the coupe and sedan, it's rated at 280 horsepower with the automatic or 298 horsepower with the manual.

Leather upholstery is standard equipment for 2005. Also standard: automatic climate control, power-adjustable heated front seats, heated power mirrors, a 120-watt AM/FM/CD stereo with RDS, steering wheel audio controls, illuminated visor vanity mirrors and high-intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlamps.

The least expensive model is the sporty G35 sedan 6MT with the six-speed manual ($30,400). The sedan 6MT features a firmer, sport-tuned suspension, viscous limited slip differential and W-rated tires on 18-inch alloy wheels. The engine is tuned for 298 horsepower.

The G35 sedan automatic ($30,700) is equipped almost identically to the 6MT, but comes with a softer suspension, narrower V-rated tires on 17-inch wheels, and is tuned for 280 horsepower. The G35x AWD ($32,500) adds ATTESA E-TS, for Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split all-wheel drive, but is otherwise equipped exactly like the automatic sedan.

The G35 coupe automatic ($32,400) and coupe 6MT ($33,000) are equipped identically to the sedans with corresponding transmissions. The sport suspension on the manual coupe includes 19-inch wheels, however.

G35s with automatics can be equipped with the sport-tuned suspension ($750 sedan, $1,600 coupe). Other stand alone factory-installed options include the sunroof ($1,000), a new rosewood Wood Package ($250) Sirius or XM satellite radio receiver ($400), a DVD-based navigation system ($2,000) and an Aero Package ($550) that adds a rear spoiler and under-bumper fairing on G35s with the sport suspension. Premium Packages for the sedan ($3,150) and coupe ($2,450) add a glass sunroof, premium Bose audio with eight speakers, automatic headlights, a HomeLink transmitter, dual-zone temperature control, and other features.

Safety features include dual-stage front air bags, curtain airbags designed to provide head protection for front and rear outboard passengers, and front-seat side-impact airbags designed to provide thorax protection. Also standard: active head restraints, seat belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren). A tire-pressure monitoring system is standard. Active safety features include an electronic stability program (VDC) to help keep you from skidding off the road, antilock brakes (ABS) for maintaining steering control in an emergency stopping situation, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) for shorter stopping distances and more stable braking, and Brake Assist to maintain full braking force in an emergency stopping situation even if you accidentally relax brake pedal pressure. The brakes are larger on 2005 models. All-wheel drive further enhances safety on the G35x AWD.

Walkaround
The G35 sedan was introduced in March 2002 as a 2003 model, representing an affordable alternative to theBMW 3 Series sedans. The G35 coupe followed that fall. Infiniti launched the G35x sedan as a 2004 model with the all-wheel-drive system from its well-received FX luxury crossover vehicle. For 2005, G35 gets a good makeover inside and out.

The styling of the G35 sedan has been freshened for 2005 with new headlights and bumpers and a new, lightweight aluminum hood and trunk. In the front valance, air intake ports are larger and wide open, rather than split by a horizontal bar. The hood is shaped with a single crease running down its center. In back, LED taillights are now molded in a single red color, and the bumper has fewer creases. The matte black strip that previously ran around the bottom of the bumpers and door sills is now painted to match the body. The changes are subtle, but give the G35 sedan a more substantial look and emphasize its resemblance to the G35 coupe. From the front, it looks sportier, more upscale, more expensive. From the rear, it looks tidier, classier, more upscale.

Coupe or sedan, the G35 will never be mistaken for one of the anonymous looking Japanese coupes or sedans that pepper the marketplace. The G35 grabs your attention with its stacked, vertically oriented headlamps. Fog lamps are integrated into the complex headlamp cluster, adding to its aggressive appearance in the rearview mirrors of other drivers. The horizontal grille identifies the G35 as an Infiniti.

The raised front fenders were inspired by a catamaran, and look great from outside and inside the car. These fenders also manage airflow by reducing spillage off the sides of the hood. The smooth visual line flowing from the front fenders through the side profile cuts off crisply at the rear, expressing a balance between sport and function. The C-pillar and rear fenders accentuate the spaciousness of the cabin, while the large greenhouse provides good visibility from all seating positions.

The short rear deck ends in a crisp crease. L-shaped tail lamps suggest BMW performance and use a cluster of bright LEDs to pierce the fog and illuminate more quickly when the brake pedal is depressed.

Much of the G35's design was developed from Nissan's experience racing prototype sports cars in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There's a strong emphasis on aerodynamics, especially on the control of airflow under the body. The extensive use of diffusers and deflectors helps the G35 achieve 0 degrees of front lift, reducing drag and wind noise at high speeds and contributing to stability. With the optional rear spoiler, 0 degrees of rear lift is achieved. While front-drive sedans use rear spoilers for decoration, the rear-drive G35 benefits, particularly in a wet, high-speed turn. The G35 sedan has an exceptional coefficient of drag of just 0.27 for reduced wind noise and increased fuel economy.

The G35 coupe shares visual elements with the sedan, as well as its 112-inch wheelbase. Yet the coupe is shorter overall than the sedan (182.2 inches versus 186.5), wider (71.5 inches versus 69.0), and lower (54.8 inches versus 57.7). And while the coupe has a lot in common with Nissan's 350Z, the two differ in several important ways. The G35's wheelbase is 8 inches longer than the Z's and the G35 is nearly 17 inches longer overall. While the Z is a hatchback, the G35 coupe has a separate trunk. And while the Z has no rear seat, the G35 coupe is a two-plus-two, providing tight accommodations for back-seat passengers.

From a functional standpoint, we prefer the exterior door handles on the coupe over those on the sedan, which aren't as easy to operate.

The G35 sedan and coupe ride on the same rear-wheel-drive platform as the Nissan 350Z sports car and Infiniti FX35 and FX45 crossover luxury/utilities. This platform was specifically designed for mounting a V6 longitudinally behind the front axle in the so-called front mid-ship position. (Front-wheel-drive sedans typically mount their engines sideways, in front of the front axle.) Moving the engine rearward improves the balance of the car, and is a key to the G35's excellent handling. Rear-wheel drive is preferred by performance driving enthusiasts for its purer steering response and an inherent capability to turn the car using the gas pedal.

A long wheelbase (112 inches between front and rear wheels) contributes to the G35's stability, especially at high speeds. A wide track (the distance between the left and right wheels) adds to its stability in corners. Short front and rear overhangs, a hallmark of the widely heralded BMW 3 Series, improve handling by balancing weight rearward, toward the center of the car (instead of toward the front). These design elements also help the G35 lead the near-luxury class in interior room and trunk volume. The location of the G35's compact V6 allows for a low, aggressive hood line, which flows into the sharply angled windshield and contributes to the G35's sporty, powerful silhouette.

Interior
For 2005, the G35's interior offers a new, higher quality look and feel, along with a redesigned instrument panel and console area. Materials and textures have been refined to provide a richer impression and the use of real aluminum and new wood-tone trim provides a degree of authenticity to the interior. Rosewood is used more liberally throughout the cabin. Our biggest grip with earlier models was the quality and choice of interior trim, so these are welcome changes. A new Stone (gray) and Wheat (beige) interior colors join the previously available Graphite (black). EveryInfiniti G35 comes standard with leather-appointed seating.

The G35 sedan has the roomiest back seat and largest trunk in the near-luxury class. The G35 offers substantially more interior space than the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, and Lexus IS 300, thanks to its long wheelbase and wide track. We found good headroom for a 6-foot 3-inch driver even with the optional sunroof, along with ample leg, shoulder and hip room. The interior is designed around the driver and succeeds in this regard. Luxury features abound. The interior is nicely laid out and, for the most part, offers sound ergonomics and easy of operation.

The instrument pod moves when adjusting the tilt of the steering column, improving gauge visibility for drivers of all heights. Better still, Infiniti has addressed another of our key gripes by adding a manual telescoping function to the steering for 2005 (power is optional). Previously, the wheel was closer or further than many drivers preferred when the seat was set to reach the food pedals. Moreover, a redesigned gauge cluster is more legible and more tightly packed the before, reducing the need to scan with the eyes. Instruments are brightly lighted during the day.

Infiniti's trademark analog clock graces the dash. A thin panel on top of the dash houses digital readouts for compass and climate settings. Infiniti's steering wheel is not a thing of beauty, but features nicely designed cruise controls and audio controls, including a power button for the audio that's convenient when you want silence right now.

The audio system is not particularly attractive and still downscale for this car. Ergonomically, it's a disaster, with buttons scattered around on the unit and on the surrounding silver dash panel, so you have to look at it and search for the button you want to press. On the positive side, Infiniti has at least begun to address this problem for 2005. The buttons are still in the same places, but their operation has been improved and the lettering makes them somewhat easier to read. It's easy to set stations by holding one of the presets down. The CD changer now has the capability to play MP3 encoded discs, and the optional Bose stereo ($900) sounds great with crisp bass and highs. Volume automatically adjusts for speed. The climate controls are mounted high on the center stack; like the stereo controls, the switches have been improved in both ease of operation and aesthetics.

Seats for the driver and passenger are designed differently: In the driver's seat, a center mound of high-damping urethane foam, backed by a special spring design, provides support for sporty driving. The front passenger's seat has a flatter lower cushion and is shaped to allow a more relaxed posture. The controls for the power driver's seat are located on the right side of the seat and are a bit awkward: and the manual adjustment for rake is on the left. Opt for the sedan's Premium Package, and a two-person memory function means that you won't have to use the controls as often.

The sedan's rear seats are comfortable for a 5-foot 10-inch passenger, with plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and headroom, although knee room is limited when the driver's seat is set all the way back to accommodate a 6-foot 3-inch driver. Hidden front seat rails widen foot room for back-seat passengers. With the Premium Package, rear air conditioning vents help keep them comfortable. The rear seat itself is contoured to resemble two wide bucket seats. With the Premium Package, the sedan's rear seats can be reclined.

Storage inside the car is limited. Two glove boxes are provided, but both are small, and the optional DVD navigation system ($2,000) replaces the top one. A handy storage compartment on the top of the center dash offers room for wallets and such, but the navigation system replaces that one as well, with a clever pop-up display. Center console storage is partly taken up by a power plug, handy for cell phones. Overhead are nice map lights and a sunglasses holder. Three-channel HomeLink (also part of the Premium Package) can be used to open gates, garage doors, and turn on house lights. Visor extensions help keep the sun out of your eyes. Interior door handles are easy to grab and the doors close with a nice thunk. The optional sunroof features one-touch open and close. It's not immediately obvious whether the doors are locked, which is a problem we've noticed on some other Infiniti and Nissan products.

The sedan's trunk leads the class with 14.8 cubic feet of storage. A large pass-through in the center armrest accommodates long items such as skis.

The coupe's interior is similar to the sedans in most ways. The coupe's front seats feel more like a bucket, more like a racing seat. At times, I had trouble getting comfortable. The coupe may not be the most comfortable car for cross country trips, though it's certainly no worse than a Corvette.

Compared with the Nissan 350Z interior, the G35 coupe is much nicer and trimmed more luxuriously. The door trim, for example, is very nice. It reminds me of the Acura NSX cabin in feel and flavor. Like the G35 sedan, the coupe offers some handy storage cubbies. The cup holder is awkwardly located too far rearward to be useful for commuting with a cappuccino. That's probably fine because the firm suspension would make it hard not to spill any.

Unlike the two-seat 350Z, the G35 is a two-plus-two. The back seat offers much more legroom and feet room than we expected, but there's a distinct lack of headroom and its snug on the outboard side. It's best for little people. As if someone would really want to spend time back there, the center console offers a tray, a small amount of storage and cup holders. And at least access is relatively easy. Simply open the passenger-side door, flip the seatback down, and the passenger seat automatically slides forward on the tracks for easier access to the rear. An additional release lever is located in the middle of the passenger seatback, making it easy for the driver or rear-seat passenger to flip the seatback forward.

While the Z is a hatchback, the G35 coupe has a proper trunk. Though slightly more than half the size of the sedan's trunk, the coupe's shallow cargo space can be expanded by folding the rear seat flat, which forms a flat cargo space even with the level of the trunk. A lip on top of the rear seatback helps keep stuff from flying forward under hard braking. The pass-through is narrow, however, to allow for the rigid chassis structure. Also, the trunk lid opening is small. Still, it works just fine for a big suitcase or something long. We're sure there must be an interior trunk release, but we could not find it.

Driving Impressions
The most compelling aspect of the Infiniti G35 is its sporty driving dynamics. The four-door G35 is a true sports sedan. Like all of the world's greatest sports sedans, it uses a rear-wheel-drive layout. Rear-wheel drive delivers sportier handling characteristics than front-wheel drive. Indy champ cars, Formula 1 cars, Nextel Cup stock cars and drag racing cars use rear-wheel drive because it's a better layout for managing power.

The G35 gets more power for 2005, increasing its power advantage on nearly all of its competitors. Nissan's 3.5-liter V6 has been improved for 2005, starting with a more advanced variable valve-timing system. Airflow to the engine has been increased and key internal components strengthened, allowing higher maximum rpm. Output for G35s equipped with the five-speed automatic has increased to 280 horsepower, an improvement of 20 horsepower over last year's engine. Torque has been raised to 270 pound-feet (from 260). The V6 in cars with the 6-speed manual increases to 298 horsepower (from 280).

The G35 feels stable at high speeds and around fast sweepers. The driver feels well connected to the road. On winding roads, the G35 rewards the driver with quick, precise steering that offers good feedback. Drive it harder and it responds beautifully. It never surprises the driver with errant behavior, yet its chassis can be rotated or steered with the throttle through corners.

The available sports suspension includes special shocks and springs and P225/45WR18 summer tires. The G35 rides nicely with this setup, comfortable but firm. There's a bit of wind noise at 70 mph.

Granted, the G35 lacks some of the razor-sharp response of a BMW 3 Series, and the rear end bobs a bit in fast, sweeping turns, especially when the pavement is bumpy. But don't get us wrong: the Infiniti is clearly one of the best sports sedans in the class, offering better handling than any of the front-drive cars. The G35's long wheelbase, low center of gravity, aerodynamic downforce, and lightweight suspension are all designed to keep its tires on the road where they can generate maximum grip.

The G35's handling characteristics are designed to be less-fatiguing on the driver, a lesson Nissan learned in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in FIA Group C racing. Using a large-diameter tire instead of a wide tire makes the contact patch longer rather than wider for less noise and improved wet performance. Also, taller tires are less sensitive to camber changes and benefit from better sidewall support than a wider tire with a smaller diameter and shorter sidewalls.

For its part, the G35 coupe is supremely stable and offers great handling. It's precise, like a BMW, and firm, but has a nice ride. It feels like a high-performance sports car, not a sports-luxury car like the Lexus SC430. It jiggles on highway undulations, for example. Overall, it's a great balance. You feel connected to the road in the G35. It can be driven precisely at high speeds. It's very stable, perhaps more so than the Z.

The G35X all-wheel-drive sedan employs a system Infiniti calls ATTESA E-TS, for Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split. That alphabetic mouthful means that a computer controls an active center differential for smoother starts, better fuel economy, and better traction and maneuverability in snow. Most of the time, the system sends 100 percent of the driving torque to the rear wheels, so the G35X handles like a rear-drive sedan. (Many all-wheel-drive sedans are based on a front-drive system that biases more torque to the front.) Nissan's system will divert up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels if it senses that the rear wheels are slipping. A Snow mode, selected by a button on the console, locks torque distribution at 50/50 front/rear, and reduces the sensitivity of the drive-by-wire throttle. This is the same all-wheel-drive system used in the Infiniti FX luxury crossover SUVs.

The G35's V6 produces a unique and sporty sound. There's lots of low-rpm torque, more than what's available from the BMW 330i, Mercedes C320, and Lexus IS 300. This makes the G35 feel very responsive around town. Stand on the gas and it delivers brilliant acceleration performance.

Shifting the manual gearbox is direct and precise though it requires a little deliberation. It doesn't feel as light as an Acura gearbox. But match the revs perfectly and you can shift without depressing the clutch pedal. This is no Solara or Accord coupe. The clutch pedal is relatively firm and takes more effort to depress than the pedal in a Toyota, Honda, or even a Porsche. This makes it more challenging to drive smoothly than those other coupes, harder to drive smoothly than a Porsche Boxster or 911.

The five-speed automatic transmission is super-smooth in normal use and quite responsive when pressed. It offers a manual mode, which can be activated by pushing the shift lever to the right, then back to downshift or forward to upshift. Some drivers find pushing the lever to the outside awkward, but we didn't feel it was an issue. Once in the manual mode, this transmission will assume you know what you're doing and are paying attention. If you select third gear, for example, the transmission will still automatically shift down to second when needed, but will not shift up to fourth; it will hit the rev limiter instead. This manual mode reduces the tendency for the transmission to upshift unnecessarily on winding, mountainous roads. It won't shift up when you lift off the gas to brake for the next corner; that gives you some engine braking when you lift off the gas, making your mountain climbing assaults more enjoyable. Still, the transmission is so responsive in the regular automatic mode, we tended to put it in Drive and leave it there.

Summary and Specifications
The Infiniti G35 sedan is one of the quickest, best handling cars in its class. It's a compelling choice for drivers who want the performance and handling of a true sports sedan for thousands less than the European benchmark cars. The G35 is also comfortable and practical, with a roomy back seat, a big trunk, and the trappings of a luxury car. Improved interiors, more power and other improvements enhance the 2005 models. The G35x AWD adds the stability of all-wheel drive and is an alternative to the Audi A4 quattro.

The Infiniti G35 coupe is a true sports car or GT for the enthusiast driver. It's more luxurious, roomier and more practical than the Nissan 350Z, with a rear seat and more usable storage space.

New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough reports from California.
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