One of the most impressive new sport sedans to come along in a long time is the Infiniti G35. Now, despite its Asian origins, we described it as more BMW than Lexus and clearly designed and executed to please drivers raised on Europe’s best. Well, for an encore, the G35 loses two doors but gains a sport coupe. Lets see what else was lost or gained in the translation.
The translation from four doors to two can be awkward, but the 2003 Infiniti G35 Sport Coupe appears to have made a very smooth transition. It was a star at last spring’s New York International Auto Show, and for good reason. Built on the same frame , for front mid-ships , rear-drive platform as both the G35 Sport Sedan and Nissan’s 350Z sports car, the G35 Sport Coupe gives up none of the sedan’s longish 112.2-inch wheelbase.
Styling is also familiar. Like the Sedan, the Coupe’s short overhang front facia houses an aggressive grille, and tall headlamp clusters with available Xenon beams. But the coupe’s bodywork is far more elegant overall. The sharply defined character line that starts at the front wheel well, plus the low profile tires on standard 17-inch or optional 18-inch wheels , that’s up one inch on both from the sedan , also give the coupe an appropriately lean, low-slung look. The Coupe’s rear end styling, however, like the sedan’s, is less successful, with wide tail lamp clusters and a sharply raked greenhouse. Interior styling is sharp and contemporary as well, with the dash, Titanium trim, and analog clock taken directly from the four-door. We like its rich but businesslike approach, and the fact it’s totally different from the spartan cockpit of the 350Z. Like the Porsche 928, the instrument pod moves with the standard tilt wheel, for optimum viewing of the clean needle and dial gauges. If that doesn’t make you comfortable, a 6-way power drivers’ sport seat is standard, and it provides excellent support. The front passenger seat has 2-way power adjustments, and heat is available for both. Main controls fall easily to hand, especially for the standard automatic climate control and 6-disc CD stereo. A 200-watt Bose system is available.
This is a four-place coupe with contoured rear seat cushions. While rear headroom was expectedly tight, rear leg room was surprisingly generous. A one-piece folding seat back is standard, that greatly increases the already generous 18.9 cubic-feet of luggage space.
The power supply is also generous, thanks to the same 3.5-liter dual-overhead-cam V6 engine that powers both the G35 sedan and 350Z. In 2-door G35 trim, it pumps out 280 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. That’s 20 more horses and 10 more pound-feet than the sedan and nearly on par with the 350Z. Those horses then stampede to the rear wheels through either a new 6-speed manual transmission adapted from the 350Z, or the sedan’s 5-speed automatic with manual shift modes.
Our first chance to put those ponies to work was on the entertaining two-lane roads north of San Francisco, California. We found Infiniti’s first 2-door to be one very sweet luxury-sport ride. In the Sport Coupe, the engine was smooth and torquey, with the same free-revving character of the 350Z. We drove both the automatic and the new manual. The 6-speed is flawless, with short throws and perfectly spaced ratios. It allows you to really get the best out of a superb engine and chassis. Which, with its aluminum-intensive multi-link suspension, continues to impress. Sport Coupe tuning is, however, firmer than on the G35 Sedan. Still, the ride is comfortable, and like the four-door, it’s more European than Asian.
Handling was tested further at Sears Point Raceway. Turn-in is quick, with only a hint of push. There’s very little body roll, and excellent grip. But even with the quick, precise speed- sensitive steering, the G35 coupe didn’t deliver quite the cornering feel of the Z-car. Standard electronic aids include VDC stability control, traction control, and ABS for the fully vented disc brakes. Brembo brakes are standard on the 6-speed. Highway driving did reveal a bit more tire noise than some luxury buyers might like, but we’ll willingly pay that price for the Coupe’s high levels of grip.
Indeed, the G35 Sport Coupe delivers a lot of luxury and performance, with only a slightly sharper character than the G35 sedan. And at a slightly higher price. Base sticker for the Infiniti G35 Sport Coupe is $29,645. Add leather, for $31,945. Above that sits the 6-speed manual model, with a tag of $32,595. The Premium Package adds the Bose stereo, sunroof, and dual-zone climate. While the Performance Package adds the 18-inch tires, Titanium-tinted wheels, and limited slip differential. Satellite navigation is also available.
The 2003 Infiniti G35 Sport Coupe, like the G35 Sport Sedan, offers enough comfort and performance to please both traditional Asian-brand luxury buyers, and we think quite a few BMW and Audi fans as well. The Infiniti G35 Sport Coupe may have lost two doors, but both it, and its drivers, have gained a whole lot more driving excitement.
Engine: 3.5-Liter Dohc V6
Torque: 270 Lb Feet