$27,000 - 35,000 Mid-Size Rear-Wheel Drive Sports Sedan
Who should buy this car:
A sports car lover looking for a sharp handling, fast, comfortable sedan with style and flair
Comparable cars in this class:
Rear-wheel drive models: BMW 3-Series, Cadillac CTS, Lexus IS300, Lincoln LS, Mercedes C-Class Front-wheel drive models: Acura TL, Audi A4, Audi A6 3.0, Chrysler 300M, Infiniti I35, Lexus ES300, Mazda Millenia, Oldsmobile Aurora, Pontiac Bonneville SSEi, Saab 9-3, Volkswagen Passat, Volvo S60 All-wheel drive models: Jaguar X-Type, Audi A4 Quattro
Traffic was crawling and I was impatient. I was driving a car intended to turn the sport sedan field on its collectiveear, but all I could do was evaluate seat comfort (not bad) and listen to the Bose stereo (excellent). Then, the eighteen wheeler in front of me stopped. Iwas trying to see around it when the driver got out of the cab and stopped traffic in the other lane. What's going on? He walked in front of the rig, bent down and picked upsomething that looked like a large rock, but no... it was a turtle. I watched the burley truck driver walk twenty feet into the grass to put it down safely away from the road. He turned and shrugged at theline of cars and was greeted with a round of applause. It was going to be a good day.
Now traffic was moving and I was inspired. The tortoise had his shot, now it's the hare's turn. I directed my attention back to the Infiniti G35 sports sedan that I was testing. I thought about the type of person this car wasdesigned to please--definitely an auto enthusiast, the kind of person who knows cars and enjoys driving.
The G35 is Infiniti's secondmid-size sports sedan and will be marketed alongside the very competent I35 in the same price range. While the front-drive I35 is a plush cruiser that competes with cars like the Lexus ES300 and Acura TL, the rear-drive G35 has its sights set on the likes of the BMW 330 and Lexus IS300. Infiniti clarifies the concept of having two cars with the same price by calling the I35 a "Luxury-Performance" car and this new G35 a "Performance-Luxury" car.
When a car is built on a front-wheel drive platform, there could be as much as 70% of the weight on the front wheels so that in a corner the front tires are struggling to maintain traction while the rear tires are just tagging along for the ride. This is fine and even desirable if you never push a car near its limits, but you'll never see a race car that is front-wheel drive. In fact, you won't see any car that costs more than $60,000 with front-wheel drive. They will either have rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. As far as I'm concerned, a proper SPORT sedan should be rear-wheel drive.
And a proper sport sedan this is, able to hold its own against the likes of the Audi A4, Lexus IS300 and the gold standard, the BMW 330i. The steering is sharp and responsive, the brakes are powerful, and the engine..., well, how does 260 horsepower with a 0 to 60 time of 6.1 seconds sound? Those numbers handily beat all those previously mentioned cars, some by a good margin.
The feeling that I get sitting behind the wheel is that of a very modern cockpit sprinkled with some new and interesting design features. Some of these new ideas are quite thoughtful, while others are just different for the sake of being different.
I'll start with the ideas that I like: When you tilt the steering column, (it doesn't telescope) the instrument cluster moves up and down with it. This allows you to adjust the wheel anywhere you want and still be able to see the gauges through it. The instrument cluster is always illuminated when the engine is running and is easy to read with large clear markings. I also like the radio controls on the steering wheel that use a single toggle type switch to raise and lower the volume and a second toggle to scan up and down the radio dial. Other cars use button type controls that are easy to bump while steering around a turn, causing an inadvertent change of the station and eliciting a cry of "Hey, I was listening to that!" from the passenger seat. Not so with these well designed controls. There is a matching set of controls on the right steering wheel spoke to work the cruise control that are equally friendly.
One of the ideas that is different, but not necessarily better is the power seat controls, which are on the top of the seat cushion next to the console. This positioning causes the seat to feel somewhat cramped (especially to large derriere people like myself) , while the outside of the seat, where the power seat controls usually reside, house the seat memory buttons. There is also a rocker switch next to the memory buttons to enable or disable the automatic exit feature. When turned on, this allows the seat to automatically slide back when you shut off the car to allow for easier entry and exit. On the bright side, the fact that the power seat controls are next to the console allows the driver to easily reach the passenger seat controls in case the passenger just awoke from a nap and got out of the car leaving the seatback reclined.
The rear seat was quite comfortable and, on our test car, included an optional manual REAR seatback recliner. At first, my back seat passenger was complaining that the rear seat was too reclined. I remembered that the rear seats were supposed to have reclining seatbacks, and told her, but she couldn't find the controls to return the seatback to its normal upright position. Since this was a pre-production prototype, there was no owner's manual for me to reference, but before I broke down and called the Infiniti rep, I made one last search and finally found the recliner controls hidden in the pocket where the seatbelt buckle sits when it is not in use. The lever was under the buckle.
Our test car was equipped with the optional DVD-based Infiniti GPS navigation system. A button on the dash pops the screen up from the center stack when it is needed. When the screen pops up, it blocks the Infiniti trademark analog clock, but this is not a problem because the display contains a digital clock that, to my mind, is easier to read than that stylized clock dial.
While this pop-up affair is cute, it offers no protection against bright sunlight. If the sun is overhead, the screen is almost totally washed out by the sunlight coming through the windshield. The panel can be tilted through a small range but it is not vary helpful for this problem.
The navigation system provides Nissan's trademark birds-eye view where the map is at an angle making it appear as though you were a few hundred feet above the road surface and seeing a panorama as a bird might see it, all the way to the horizon. I found it easier to judge where I was and where the local roads were around me with this feature. I also liked the fact that you can see all the small roads and streets in the range of about 1/4 mile, and the major roads and Interstate network as far as ten miles away. On a conventional display, you would have to zoom out to see the distant highways and zoom in to see the local streets. This system even displays 3-D representations of major buildings, bridges and points of interest like zoos, amusement parks, etc. If the birds-eye view doesn't appeal to you, you can easily switch to the plan view which is the same as all the other navigation systems that are currently available.
The G35 is equipped with Dual zone temperature controls with separate temperature settings for the driver and front seat passenger. The front A/C vents in the dash are rather unique. Instead of moving the fins up and down like on most cars, the entire vent rotates up and down like a turret (see the left photo above) and was quite effective at directed the air flow where I wanted it to go. There are also conventional AC vents at the rear of the console for rear seat passengers.
The powerful V6 engine emits a pleasant but persistent growl that can be heard even during light acceleration. The personality is definitely that of a sports car with the muscle to back it up. The engine quiets down during light cruising which is great if you appreciate listening to the optional Bose sound system. This thoroughbred engine is backed up by an equally refined 5-speed automatic transmission that produces crisp shifts under power and almost imperceptible shifts under light throttle. The shifter is equipped with a shift-it-yourself gate that allows you to manually hold any gear you want. If that's insufficient for you purists out there, a close-ratio 6-speed manual will be available in February 2003. After all, a proper BMW fighter has to have a stick, right?
The new platform for the G35 was designed from the ground up for duty as a performance car. The engine sits in the chassis behind the front wheel centerline and drives the rear wheels through a fully independent rear suspension. Infiniti calls this layout a Front-Mid-ship platform. Most cars center the engine between the front wheels or, in the case of some front-wheel drive cars, slightly ahead of the axle centerline. This rearward positioning of the engine allows for a more balanced weight distribution between the front and rear wheels giving each tire a more equal share of the load. With this kind of balance, ultimate cornering grip, not to mention stopping power, improves because each tire has more of an equal role to play. In fact, Nissan, the parent company of Infiniti, is so convinced that this is an outstanding platform for a sports car, that they are also using it for their new Z-car revival, the Nissan 350Z. In November 2002, Infiniti will also introduce a gorgeous G35 Sports Coupe with 2 + 2 seating on this chassis with a 275-Plus horsepower engine and a choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission.
This car feels like the athlete that it is. There is excellent throttle response from the drive-by-wire throttle, steering is lively and direct, cornering is flat, and there is good directional stability on straight roads. With 0.27 CD (Coefficient of Drag) and zero degrees of front lift, this is one of the most aerodynamic cars sold in the US. If you order the optional rear spoiler, it will improve to 0.26 CD with zero degrees of rear lift as well. The ventilated disks on all 4 wheels produce phenomenal stopping power in the same league as Corvette and Porsche. But unlike those raw-power sports cars, the G35 is a smooth and comfortable cruiser when driven with a light touch and has a firm, but comfortable ride.
This car gives you a lot for your money. Just about everybody that I mentioned the price to after seeing and riding in the G35 was pleasantly surprised. My passengers enjoyed riding in the back seat and liked the idea that they could recline the rear seat and relax (as long as I resisted the urge to tip into the fun pedal)
This new G35 trounces the competition in all the qualities that are important in a mid-luxury sports sedan. My bet is that this will become the new benchmark by which other sports sedans will be judged.
Infiniti and Chrysler are each trying to out do each other for the most unreadable clock face. I would use a chronograph style face with an LCD display for the date, in keeping with the hi-tech look of the rest of the interior.
Find a way to shade the navigation screen so that it doesn't wash out in bright sunlight
What's a $30,000 car doing with a prop rod to hold up the hood?
How does theG35 fit yourdriving style?
Conservative driversThe performance character of this car is always in your face. Seems like a waste for someone who doesn't like to feel G-forces. This driver would be happier with the I35
Sporty driverswill love the fact that the performance character of this car is always in your face. Power is effortless, cornering is flat and the brakes try hard to keep you out of trouble.
Fast driverswill love to take this car for a weekend on a racetrack, but even though the the standard tires are V-rated, you may want some stickier rubber, like maybe Michelin Pilots. The ride may suffer but traction would improve.