Among Japanese luxury car brands, Nissan’s Infiniti division has been a sleeper, and never lived up to sales expectations. That’s despite building the cutting edge Q45, as well as the high value I35. Both are every bit as desirable as their Lexus and Acura competition. But making Infiniti a brand in demand is a key component of Nissan’s much heralded revival plan. So, for 2003, Infiniti is going after the heart of the luxury-sport market with the all new G35. Is the sleeper finally waking up?
If so, it’s waking up with a shout! And the Infiniti most likely to be heard is the 2003 G35 sedan. Aimed squarely at compact luxury-sport sedan benchmarks, BMW 3-Series and Lexus ES300, the G35 is most enticing. Built on the all-new rear-drive FM platform shared with the upcoming Nissan 350Z sports car, the G35 rides on a very long 112.2-inch wheelbase. That’s less than an inch shorter than the big Q45.
Styling is far more aggressive than other Infinitis. The short overhang nose wears crisp, well-defined lines, with tall headlamp clusters. Xenon lights are optional. In the rear, the long greenhouse dips gradually to a high, but short, trunk lid, and less gracefully shaped LED taillights. Completing the look are 6-spoke 17-inch alloys, or these smart 5-spoke 17s that come with the sport-tuned suspension.
To motivate the G35, Nissan developed a new 3.5-liter twin-cam V6 that will also see duty in the 350Z. Here it delivers a robust 260 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Variable valve timing and drive-by-wire throttle are included. The only transmission choice is a new 5-speed automatic with a manual shift mode. A ‘‘proper’’ manual may be along next year.
At our test track, the G35 sprang to 60 in 6.2 seconds, and finished the 1/4 mile in 14.8 seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. The engine exhibited excellent throttle response, revving freely from one end of the tach to the other. The power band was extremely flat, peak torque arriving at only 4,800 rpm. The transmission’s manual shift mode, like many of its type, delivered abrupt downshifts and an annoying lag on upshifts. When left to do the work itself, however, the automatic box delivered firm, crisp shifts.
The G35’s suspension is unusual, being multi-link front and rear. The rear shock absorbers and springs are separated for smoother response. This, plus the stiff floor pan, give the G35 a firm, Germanic feel that’s more BMW than Lexus. Turn ins were lightning quick, thanks to the 15.9-to-1 ratio power rack-and-pinion steering. With the standard Vehicle Dynamic System engaged, there was a gentle front push on corner entry, which changed to a balanced, neutral feel at mid-corner. Switch the VDC off, and the tail tends to get light in hard cornering. Body roll is well controlled in corners, but our G35 with the sport-tuned suspension did have a nervous pitch from side to side on uneven paved roads. The ride improves with speed so highways are dispatched comfortably. The standard suspension fairs better.
The G35’s brakes are 4-wheel discs with standard ABS, Brake Force Distribution, and Brake Assist. They’re quite strong, stopping from 60 in 115 feet, but the pedal offers less feedback than we like.
We do, however, like an interior that’s roomy, largest in its class at 98-cubic feet, efficient, and luxurious. Occupant safety includes front side impact and front and rear side curtain airbags. The broad seats offer fine support and comfort for a wide range of body types. Manual seats with lumbar adjust and a tilt wheel are standard. Leather, power, memory, and seat heat are optional.
The dash shape is overall quite pleasing, and the gauges are all business inside a deep hood. Titanium trim is included with the sport-tuned suspension. We did find that some of the markings on the brushed center stack switch is hard to read. That said, both the automatic dual-zone climate system and available 200-watt Bose audio system have controls that are easy to use once you become familiar with them. The slickest feature is the optional pop-up navigation screen. The DVD-maps are better on side streets than most, and it’s easier to use than the Q45’s NAV.
Rear seat head and leg room does not fare as well as in the front. Those over 5’10’’ found things to be pretty tight. The fixed bench has a locking passthrough to a trunk which measures a respectable 14.8 cubic-feet, and is easy to load despite the short lid.
All-in-all, the Infiniti G35 is an outstanding luxury-sport sedan, with plenty of practicality for every day. And, if you just want a bit more sport, Infiniti will introduce a slick G35 coupe later this year.
As for the G35 sedan, today’s entry price starts at $27,645. Leather lifts it to $29,495. Pack on the options, however, and the price can quickly rise above $35,000. But even that’s a very competitive price, just as the G35 is a very competitive compact luxury-sport sedan.
Indeed, Infiniti is no longer a sleeper. It’s awake, and with the G35, starting to roar!
Engine: 3.5-Liter Twin-cam V6
Torque: 260 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.2 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 95 MPH
60-0 MPH: 115 Feet
EPA Mileage: 19 MPG City 24 MPG Highway