2007 Infiniti G35 Road Test
Most automotive journalists believe that the benchmark for all sport sedan wanabes is the BMW 330i. The 3 series is a car that feels like an extension of a good driver, following his or her every whim. Other cars have come along that tried to match or beat the precise control and visceral feel of the small Beemer, only to be slapped down by the automotive press as "almost, but not quite".
One of those pretenders, and a good one at that, was the Infiniti G35 sedan. The first G35, introduced in March 2002 as a 2003 model, was a sweet handling car that had fine amenities and plenty of power to put a smile on the faces of driving enthusiasts everywhere. The G went on to become a very important car for the Infiniti brand, accounting for about a third of its sales.
When I wrote my review of the previous G35, I thought that it was a good car that handled beautifully and had a decent interior with a few quirks that required getting used to. Then, along came the new 2006 BMW 330i that proceeded to raise the bar considerably in this market segment. Infiniti had a lot of work to do to even come close to this new 3.
Well, after spending a day with the all new 2007 G35 sedan, I gotta tell you that I was grinning from ear to ear. I don't know if it was caused by the car or the magnificent roads and countryside that snaked around the San Francisco bay area. One thing's for sure, Infiniti knows how to show their cars in the best light.
Before I get back to my driving impressions of the new G, let's take a stroll around this chariot and see what Infiniti has done to improve their bread-and-butter sedan.
The 2007 G35 is available in five different configurations. All models use the same 306 horsepower V6 engine. There is the base model, simply called the G35, followed by the G35 Journey which has a bit more standard equipment like dual zone climate control instead of the single zone system in the base car. Next up the line is the G35x AWD. This car adds all-wheel drive and heated seats. All three of these models come with a standard 5 speed automatic transmission and 17 inch wheels with V rated all-season tires. Finally there are the two Sport models, one with the automatic and the other with a slick 6 speed manual transmission. The sport models are equipped with 18 inch wheels and high performance tires, larger brakes, a limited slip differential and highly adjustable sports seats. This is the enthusiast's car and the one we drove for this report.
The look of the 2007 G35 has been revised, but retains all the styling cues of the previous model including the angular taillights that made the car immediately recognizable. The long hood has a sensual wave in it and fits snugly between the fenders in perfect alignment. This is partially due to twin hood latches at the forward corners of the hood to keep the body gaps true and even. The grill has sculpted twisted horizontal blades inspired by traditional Japanese swords. I think the design works quite well.
While the outside was tweaked hear and there, the big improvement is in the interior. The quality and finish of the cabin is a quantum leap better than the previous model. The things that worked have been retained, like the adjustable steering column that moves the gauge cluster up and down with the steering wheel. This allows the instruments to always be visible through the wheel. This time, the column is power operated and also telescopes for a good fit. The touch points, like the dash and door panels, now have a soft feel and the controls have been revised for ease of use. There is an overall feel of quality here that was simply lacking in the previous model.
The central control stack, which houses the audio system and climate controls, now has a standard color display whether or not you opt for GPS navigation. If you do opt for the nav system and also subscribe to the XM satellite radio service, you get Nav-Traffic. This system will display current traffic flow as well as real-time accident information and construction delays right on the map display.
We had a demonstration of Nav-Traffic in San Francisco where we sat in a car parked on a street near the bay bridge. The navigation screen showed the bridge and roads leading up to it. There were two lines with arrows representing the traffic in each direction. In one direction, the line was red, in the other direction, it was yellow. When we looked up at the bridge, we could see that the traffic was congested, but moving at a moderate clip in the direction represented by the yellow line, and much slower on the red side, just like the screen indicated. This information is updated directly from the automated traffic monitors on the roadways and broadcast in real time to the Nav-Traffic system. We were told that this information is updated every 3 minutes. Nav-Traffic information is currently available is 44 metropolitan areas nationwide. The service is .95 per month
Seats on our Sport model had a number of adjustments that made them a perfect fit. The length of the driver's cushion was adjustable as were the side bolsters and seat cushion bolsters. The 8-way power seat controls are now on the side of the seat where they belong. The previous model had them on the top of the cushion, near the console, a layout I just couldn't warm up to.
All G35s now have keyless entry and start. The key never leaves pocket or purse. As long as it is on your person, the doors will unlock by pressing a button on the door handle, and the car will start using a large start-stop button on the dash.
A touch of the start button brings the G to life with a pleasant exhaust note. At the same time, the gauge cluster lights up with back lighting and a soft purple glowing ring in the tach and speedo dials. These gauges are called "Fine Vision" and are easy to read day or night.
The dash, door panels and console are trimmed withWashi-style textured aluminum-alloy accents. Washi is a form of Japanese hand-made paper that is often used to make origami. It has an interesting texture that gives the interior a rich appearance. This aluminum trim can be replaced with elegant looking Genuine African Rosewood if desired (the wood option is not available on the Sport models).
The VQ35HR V6 engine has been significantly redesigned for 2007. It is still a 3.5 liter V6, but horsepower jumps to 306 and torque comes in at 268 lb-ft. The previous engine was rated at 280 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque (298 hp and 260 lb-ft if ordered with the 6 speed manual)
This silky smooth new engine has 80% of its parts redesigned and now includes variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust valves for improved engine efficiency. The air intake is now split into right and left systems, each with their own ducting and air filters. The design causes a ram effect during performance driving, adding 3 hp at 60 mph.. There is also a dual exhaust system with equal length headers. The previous 3.5 liter engine was one of the best V6s in the industry, winning numerous awards. This new V6 is smoother and more powerful, and gets better fuel economy to boot.
The automatic transmission is no slouch either. During spirited driving, the automatic will hold the gear when you lift off the throttle and will blip the throttle during down shifts to match the revs with the gear you have selected. If you leave the automatic in sport mode, it will almost read your mind and select the correct gear for the task at hand.
As I was slowing down to enter a corner, I was about to take it out of automatic so I could down shift, but the automatic beat me to it and selected to gear that I would have chosen. This was due to the fact that there is a lateral G-force sensor telling the computer that you are doing some hard cornering, so the correct gear is selected for you to accelerate out of the corner as efficiently as possible.
This transmission may be a five speed in a world that is adopting automatics with six or more gears, but it seems to be well matched to the power curve of this engine. I can't see how adding more gears would improve it.
The steering wheel has a nice grip that is not marred by course stitching or lumpy seams. The leather cover is hand sewn and feels smooth and comfortable. Just behind the steering wheel is a pair of magnesium paddle shifters. These paddles come standard on the Sport model with automatic transmission. They are attached to the column and do not move with the steering wheel, so they are always in the same place with the right paddle assigned to up shift and the left for down shifting. They are long enough so that you can shift while steering around a curve. During my day-long drive, I put them to use on a number of occasions and found them to be well placed. Unlike most systems that use paddles attached to the steering wheel itself, you always know where the upshift and downshift levers are located, even when twirling the steering wheel to negotiate a turn in the road.
And steer around turns we did. Lots of turns. Narrow winding roads that snaked through the redwood trees as the road twisted and switched back while climbing up the side of a mountain. No sooner did we negotiate around one 180 degree bend in the road than we encountered the next bend. This went on for many miles with little traffic to block our fun. If a car did appear in front of us, they would move over and wave us by at the first opportunity. Is this heaven or what?
The G35 took to these roads like a cat to the kitchen counter at dinner time. It wanted to be there and it wanted to go ever faster. I reached my limits well before the car reached its limits. This type of driving makes it clear how absolutely connected this car makes the driver feel to the road.
The G35 felt balanced, poised and ready to trounce with beautiful road feel, good throttle response, Great brakes, and the ever present stability control to catch the more inexperienced driver that might overshoot his abilities.
The road we were on took us past a landmark of sorts. It was Alice's Restaurant (where "you can get anything you want"). We just had enough time to stop and take a couple of photos before we had to be back on our way, but the next time I am in the area, I plan to stop their and test their slogan out.
Once we got to our destination for a lunch break, I then had the opportunity to try the G35 with the active four wheel steering. What? It gets better? Yep, it does. Not by much, mind you, but enough so that you can feel the difference.
The four-wheel active steer option also includes a computer controlled variable ratio steering gear that tightens up the steering ratio during slow speed maneuvering. Below around 35 miles per hour, the steering is quite fast so that I rarely had to reposition my hands on the wheel while driving on the twisted mountain roads. Bring it up to highway speeds and the steering ratio gets less aggressive so it doesn't feel too sensitive for relaxed cruising.
On this option package, not only do the front wheels steer, but the rears do as well. At slow speeds, the rear wheels turn opposite the fronts which tightens the turning radius and allows you to park in a tighter space. On the highway, the rear wheels steer at a small angle in the same direction as the front wheels, which improves highway stability.
The car I drove with the active four-wheel steer option was a pre-production prototype, the only one available for a dozen journalists to drive. After a short drive in this car, I was pried out so my peers could have their turn at the wheel. The price for the active four-wheel steer option option is a very reasonable ,500.
The four-wheel steer effect is noticeable when you drive the cars back to back and it makes the G feel like an extension of your brain. I need to spend more time with this car to be sure, but I have a feeling that this will be my choice for all around best driving car yet.
The 2007 G35 will begin arriving at Infiniti showrooms in late October 2006 for a November 1. launch date.