2008 Infiniti G35 Expert Review:Autoblog
Click image for a gallery of 39 high-res shots of the G35 sport
It's not easy living in the midwest and reviewing vehicles, specifically in Cleveland, Ohio where schizophrenic weather that calls for boots and gloves on Monday can switch to shades and shorts by Tuesday.
In mid January, Infiniti gave us the choice to test either the 2007 G35 S or G35x AWD. At the time, skies were blue and the temperature mild, so we felt comfortable indulging ourselves by ordering up the G35 S. This would allow us to review the new 306-hp VQHR 3.5L V6 in its unadulterated, rear-wheel drive glory. Little did we know that by the time our car was delivered in early February, the region would be gripped by the biggest snowstorm of the year. To make matters worse, our car wasn't able to be fitted with all-season tires and arrived wearing a set of well-worn, low profile summer tires. This was going to be interesting.
We engineered our schedules so that the Infiniti tester would be our sole means of transport from Cleveland to Chicago for the 2007 Chicago Auto Show. Ideally, the 700-mile round trip was to be the perfect laboratory in which to test all facets of the new G sedan's performance. In reality, it became a white-knuckle drive through fog, freezing rain and snow at 35 mph. Our dream of reaching Chicago in record time was shattered the first time a Kia Sorento passed us without a care in the world. Though the new VQ V6 kept tempting us to tap the gas, each stab was greeted with a wave from the back end. So while our attempts to flog the 2007 Infiniti G35 S were thwarted in every meaningful sense, we have have lots to talk about after spending a week with the car.
The 2007 Infiniti G37 Coupe has already been revealed ahead of its official debut at the New York Auto Show next week, and the application of the G's redesign to the two-door has received mixed reviews. The sedan, in our opinion, wears the new organically shaped sheetmetal better. The new G35 sedan comes off as a direct evolution of the first generation model. Straight lines and creases have been universally replaced with curves around the whole body, while the visual weight of the car has increased. According to our research, the 2007 model is about 100 lbs. heavier than last year's, as well as being a half an inch longer, less than an inch wider and half an inch shorter in height.
We think the G35's best angle is a head on shot thanks to its new grille. Whereas the old model sported a few horizontal bars, the new G35 features four chrome bars that are "crimped" on the outside and thinner in the middle. The HID bi-xenon headlights also have a more expressive shape, which gives the car an evil glare befitting its performance prowess more than the previous car's wide-eyed stare.
The G35 sedan's profile is clean and not adorned with any cladding. There's an indented character line down by the base of the vehicle that begins after the front wheel and extends across the rear wheel. From the side, it's clear that Infiniti designers wanted the sedan's shape to imply that of a coupe, hence the chrome outline around the windows that ignores the blacked out B-pillar and the general rearward bias of the car's greenhouse.
The rear of Infiniti's new G35, however, is its least flattering angle. While we loved our tester's Garnet Amber paint (read: red), the color overwhelms the rear and makes it look larger than it actually is. The short deck lid topped by an awful chrome "spoiler" and red-colored taillights don't help. Infiniti should consider blacking out a portion of the rear below the bumper to reduce the visual height, as well as clear taillamp covers to differentiate the stoppers on cars wearing this color.
The award for most improved component on the new Infiniti G35 has to go to the car's interior. The first generation was constantly derided for its cheap interior plastics, and Infiniti made a point to address this criticism with better materials, lots of leather and a new surface texture for the center console modeled after Japanese washi paper. We dig it cause it's different than the overused nickel metal or aluminum trim on other cars and offers a subtle connection to the car's Japanese origins.
The front seats in our S model were heavily bolstered, clueing us into the fact that this sedan is a sports car underneath its utilitarian skin. While the black leather-covered chairs weren't the most comfortable for a 700-mile slog, they do feature 8-way power adjustments. In addition to the bolstering for your legs and body side, the S model also gets a thigh extension on the front of the seat, though ours didn't like to securely lock in position.
These new Infinitis come with keyless entry and starting the car is a simple matter of leaving the fob in your pocket and pressing a start button on the dash. The fob itself is a little disappointing, since it's based on the same one you get with a Nissan Versa, though we've become fans of keyless entry, if only for the reason that it eliminates the risk of scratching surfaces on the interior and exterior. Plus, pushing a start button is way cooler than turning a key. We also give props to whoever designed the G35's new steering wheel, as the old wheel was a major touch point that contributed to the interior's cheapy feel.
Not all was roses and tulips inside the new G35 sedan, however. The top of the center console is dominated by a 7-inch recessed screen that features an iDrive-like controller and set of buttons angled up towards the ceiling. While this display would've been great had our tester been equipped with the $2,100 Navigation Package that adds touchscreen navi and a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive, it was not. Instead, the display sits front and center as a reminder you were too cheap to get the upgraded system.
Since all G35s come with the 7-inch screen and accompanying controls, those without the nav system serve to display only radio functions, HVAC settings, fuel mileage and other various bits of info. Of course, there are redundant physical controls for the radio and HVAC immediately below the screen, and the other functions displayed on the screen would normally be found in a small display nestled between the gauges. Without the nav system, the display comes off as completely unnecessary and overkill for the few functions it performs. The upward-angled controls, meanwhile, are difficult to use and not entirely intuitive. Infiniti's touchscreen nav system is above average in capability and ease of use, and after our experience with this tester we wouldn't consider buying the G35 without it. Unfortunately, those who feel the same will be forced to add over $2,000 to the price of the car.
Many things can be forgiven, however, when the start button is depressed and the new VQHR 3.5L V6 comes to life. Our G35 S model burbled like a sports car in idle and blasted a heavy metal soundtrack when opened up, which wasn't often, considering our area was hit by the biggest snow storm of the season upon our return from Chicago. Nevertheless, we found some safe roads to floor it and were instantly intoxicated with this new engine. Like previous VQ V6s, the new generation offers gobs of power and feels eager to pull across the rev range. In fact, the G35 S left us wondering if it were really just a Nissan 350Z with two extra doors.
We've read other reviews of the new G35 that have panned it for being a little too loud, a little too raucous, and a little too extroverted, so to speak. Know that if you opt for the S model, you're just asking for more of it. It drops any pretension of being a luxury sedan and goes straight for the throat, aligning the willing engine with a stiff suspension, tight steering and sweet snicking 6-speed manual. We're not entirely convinced, however, that we'd want to live with the Sport model as a daily driver, as the base and/or G35x AWD models likely offers much cushier seats and a ride that soaks up bumps rather than traces their outline.
Unfortunately, we're not able to offer more on the performance of Infiniti's G35 S since we drove it at 35 mph in a straight line for 700 miles before returning home and discovering it swallowed by a snow drift the next day. The gods were against us on this one, which means we'll just have to do it again when the new G37 Sport Coupe becomes available with an even bigger version of the VQ37VHR V6 producing 330 horsepower. We'll require some all-season rubber and a clear 7-day forecast before we take the keys, though.
New Car Test Drive
World-class sports sedan.
The Infiniti G35 is a true sports sedan. It features a powerful V6 engine, a sports suspension, and rear-wheel drive, all marks of sporting sedans. Rear-wheel drive offers handling response that front-wheel drive can't usually match.
There's also an all-wheel-drive model, the G35x, that gives up nothing in handling but adds capability in rainy climes and where winters bring snow.
The G35 was completely redesigned and re-engineered for 2007: New styling gave it a tauter, more buff look but without forfeiting its signature styling cues. The V6 engine was made more powerful and efficient without increasing its size. Inside is a richer, warmer look and feel, with performance-oriented enhancements that add to the driving experience.
The substantially reworked engine invites a heavy right foot, delivering its added power smoothly and strongly right up to the borderline motorcycle-level, 7500-rpm red line. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode remains standard across the line. However, the Sport Package kicks it up a notch, offering a choice between a six-speed manual gearbox or an automatic with Formula 1-style magnesium paddle shifters on the steering column.
For 2008, the G35 offers more choices. Most significantly, a Sport Package is now available on all-wheel-drive as well as rear-wheel-drive models. A new 18-inch wheel-and-tire package is available. Option packages have been revised, and an iPod interface is now part of the Premium Package.
Leather upholstery comes standard on all G35s along with a full complement of luxury features. The base sound system is competitive with that in any luxury sedan, while committed audiophiles will find the top-level, Studio On Wheels system from Bose delivers a richer, fuller, more intricate and crisper sound than many mega-buck home stereos. Various other options and packages add dual-zone air automatic conditioning, navigation, and self-adjusting cruise control. The Sport Package provides upgraded wheels, tires, and brakes as well as seriously supportive front seats and unique appearance items. For the ultimate in handling, tick the Sport Package plus active four-wheel steering with a firmer suspension.
The G35 sedan is based on the Nissan 350Z and the Infiniti G37 coupe, which are covered in separate NewCarTestDrive.com reviews.
The 2008 Infiniti G35 is offered in two models: G35 and the all-wheel-drive G35x. Both are powered by the same 3.5-liter V6 engine making 306 horsepower. A five-speed automatic is the standard transmission; a six-speed manual is available as part of a Sport Package. Option packages make it possible to tailor the G35's personality to your personal preferences.
The G35 ($31,600) comes standard with leather-appointed upholstery, an eight-way power driver's seat, and a four-way power front passenger seat; automatic climate control; power windows, outside mirrors and central locking; AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM stereo with 3-pin auxiliary audio input; multi-function trip computer; seven-inch color center-dash LCD monitor; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; analog gauge cluster that tilts with the steering column; aluminum interior trim; RFID-based, keyless ignition; HID bi-xenon headlamps; fog lamps; fold-down rear center armrest with lockable trunk pass-through; and aluminum-alloy wheels with P225/55VR17 all-season tires. The Journey Package ($450) adds dual-zone automatic climate control with rear air conditioning vents, eight-way power for the front passenger seat, an in-dash six-CD changer, and automatic on/off headlights.
The G35x ($34,100) adds the content of the Journey Package, heated front seats, and all-wheel drive. Options are similar to those for the base model.
The Premium Package ($2,500) adds a power tilt-and-slide glass sunroof, heated front seats with additional power adjustments, an upgraded memory system for seat and mirror preferences, power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, a 10-speaker Bose Studio on Wheels system with Burr Brown Digital Audio Converters and iPod interface, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and other convenience items.
The Sport Package ($1,650) includes bigger brakes, 18-inch aluminum wheels with W-rated summer performance tires, a limited-slip rear differential, magnesium paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel, front sport seats, and unique front fascia and side sills. The Sport Package MT ($1,700) includes the same equipment, but replaces the five-speed automatic transmission with a six-speed manual, and replaces the automatic's pedal-operated handbrake with a pull-up lever. Buying the Sport Package MT is the only way to get a manual transmission in a G35. New for 2008 is a Sport Package AT ($1,100) for the G35x, which comprises similar equipment but skips the larger brakes and mounts 18-inch all-season tires.
The GPS Navigation Package ($2,150) includes such advanced features as a 9.3GB Music Box hard disc drive (instead of the in-dash, 6CD changer) MP3-capable compact flash media slot; lane guidance, which preps a driver for a left or right exit ramp from a freeway; and voice recognition for climate control, audio and navigation functions. This package is available only with the Journey and Premium Packages. The Technology Package ($1,100) adds Intelligent Cruise Control, adaptive front lighting, and Preview Braking. It requires the Navigation Package.
Other options include a tilt-and-slide glass sunroof ($1,000); an 18-inch Performance Tire and Wheel Package ($400); an African Rosewood interior trim package ($450); and active four-wheel steering ($1,500), which includes unique suspension tuning, but is not available with AWD. Very few options on the G35 are truly stand-alone; almost all require the Journey Package, and some options exclude others.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual-stage frontal airbags with occupant detection and seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters; front seat-mounted, side-impact airbags (for torso protection); roof-mounted, front and rear side-impact air curtains (for head protection); active front-seat head restraints; rear seat child safety seat anchors (LATCH); antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist; electronic stability control; and tire pressure monitoring.
When the Infiniti G35 was redesigned for 2007, it was an evolutionary styling change from the first-generation model (2003-06).
The grille has crossbars that flatten at their extremes, an expression the car's stylists liken to sword blades. Compound, multi-element, L-shaped headlight housings wrap around the fenders. A one-piece fascia with three large air intakes across its lower reaches embraces the front end. The tops of the front fenders flow over into the hood, emphasizing the G35's width and enhancing its planted look.
The side view presents a relatively long hood, steeply raked windshield, fast backlight and brief rear deck, giving the G35 more the look of a sporty coupe than the four-door sedan it is. Recessed door handles sit almost flush with the sheetmetal. Tires snugly fill slightly flared, circular wheelwells. A rocker panel accented by a deep indent along the bottom of the doors pulls the sides of the G35 closer to the road.
Large, LED taillights repeat the L-shape of the headlights, crossing over from the fenders into the trunk lid. The trunk lid dips several inches into the rear fascia, compensating somewhat for the restricted opening imposed by the short rear deck. Proper dual exhaust tips exit beneath each side of the fully integrated rear bumper.
The interior is lively and friendly without being fussy or overly busy. There's luxury aplenty, but tempered by a focus on function, on connecting the driver to the car while at the same time providing passengers a pleasant and comfortable environment and entertaining diversions.
Audio and climate controls are conveniently located out in the open, on the face of the center stack, audio above and climate below, as they should be. A large, multi-function, knob-like control in the panel beneath the screen at the top center of the dash controls some functions, but its duties and operational planes are limited and minimally distracting.
The navigation system is controlled by this knob. Voice commands can be used for many operations. The navigation system offers a Birds Eye, which gives a perception of distance, incorporating a horizon and, depending on the available mapping data, three-dimensional building footprints for the local surroundings. It's neat to look at, though the regular overhead view the system uses works better for us. The XM Satellite Radio system provides real-time traffic updates, where available.
The cabin is trimmed with aluminum alloy, finished in what the designers call Washi, a texture intended to recall traditional Japanese rice paper. The optional African Rosewood trim looks as authentic as it is. Violet hues dress up white-on-black gauges.
The seats are comfortable, with thigh support a bit above average; even so, we wish the manual thigh-support extensions on the Sport Package seats were standard or at least available across the line. The adjustable torso and thigh bolsters on the Sport seats do what they're supposed to but favor slender bodies. The gas pedal and the rest for the driver's left foot are on different planes, leaving the knees at different angles, which is not the most comfortable position for long drives or for spirited motoring on winding roads.
The Bose Studio On Wheels delivers a sound that's richer, fuller, more intricate and crisper than any system we can recall in cars costing thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars more than the G35. Although we're not prepared to go as far as Infiniti and compare it with a custom-configured, high-tech, in-home system, we stepped directly from a G35 sedan into a $100,000-plus European sports coupe with that marque's top-level sound system and could not distinguish a significant difference between the two. The G35's system's digital processing and eight-channel equalizer no doubt play a huge part, but our ears told us that almost as important is the Bose-designed speaker array. Infiniti claims, for instance, that the G35 is the first in the industry with a three-way, 10-inch subwoofer in each front door; the remaining eight speakers are traditionally located, with another 10-inch woofer in the rear parcel shelf, a 6.5-inch, full-range speaker in each rear door, three mid-range speakers across the front of the cabin, and a one-inch tweeter in each A-pillar.
Interior roominess is competitive for the class. Wide rear door openings leave room aplenty for legs, knees and feet when getting in and out.
Trunk space is competitive for the class.
Cubby storage includes a respectable glove box. The front center console provides as many as three cup holders, one inside the covered storage bin, and a can holder is molded into the hard-plastic map pocket in each door. Two cup holders pop out of the front of the fold-down, rear seat center armrest; a unique compartment masked by a Velcro-type flap on the right side is the surprise. The back side of each front seatback has a magazine pouch.
The Infiniti G35 delivers responsive performance. Stand on the gas and it pulls right up to its maximum rpm. It willingly and heartily revs to levels normally associated with smaller, less complex engines.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated City/Highway 17/24 mpg for the G35 automatic, 17/25 mpg with the manual, and 17/23 mpg for the G35x. The 2008 Lexus IS 350 betters the G35 by 1 mpg.
The manual and automatic transmissions ably handle the engine's power and power curve. The automatic does its job rather casually at part throttle. Holding the right foot unwaveringly hard to the floor produced sharper, more solid shifts at the engine's redline. The automatic changes gears the quickest and, interestingly, the smoothest with either the shift lever or the column-mounted paddles and under full throttle; it's like a power shift but without the clutch. Credit this to the engine's electronics, which feather the throttle through the instantaneous shift. The same electronics deliver smooth downshifts, too, whether in full auto mode or manual override, by blipping the throttle to match engine rpm to transmission speed in the lower gear; think double clutching a pure manual gearbox. The all-wheel-drive G35x has a snow mode that also electronically tempers throttle response.
The six-speed manual shift pattern was tight and gear selection was precise, requiring little effort. Clutch operation is heavier than we would expect even on a sports sedan. This makes for sometimes rocky clutch engagement, especially at low speeds and light throttle.
Ride and handling are consistent across the line.
The notable and commendable exception of this is the Sport models with four-wheel steer. Besides actively adjusting the rear wheel toe by up to a degree depending on vehicle speed and steering angle, the four-wheel steering brings with it a sportier shock and spring setup and road speed-sensitive, variable ratio power steering. For hustling down winding roads, this suspension and 4WS is the preferred combination, and it's not all that far out of its element cruising the Interstate. It's solid and taut and manages the G35's mass very well without exacting a price in stiffness. It's firm, yes, and will transmit pavement heaves more dramatically into the passenger compartment. But over anything less than chunking blacktop or weathered concrete, it gives up very little against the standard suspension, which leans a bit more toward supple. Not that the base suspension is floaty by any means, far from it, actually. But as demonstrated over several fairly hot laps on a racetrack, it's not as planted and controlled as the 4WS Sport.
On freeways, the G35 cruises comfortably and quietly. Gone is the irritating drone that often plagued rear seat passengers in earlier G35 sedans. There's little wind noise even at extra-legal speeds. There's more road noise from the optional tire packages than from the standard treads, but the added grip and, frankly, sharper looking 18-inch wheels are worth it.
The Infiniti G35 is Nissan's entry in the highly competitive sports sedan class. And it's definitely competitive, with its slick styling, comfortable interior, and power and handling on par with any of its peers. For people wanting a sports sedan that's as accommodating of its passengers as it is rewarding for its driver, the new G35 is hard to beat.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Lenox, Massachusetts.
Infiniti G35 ($31,600); G35x ($34,100).
Options As Tested
Sport Package AT ($1,650) includes larger brakes, viscous limited-slip rear differential, 18-inch aluminum wheels with W-rated summer performance tires, magnesium paddle shifters mounted on steering column, front sport seats with thigh extension and driver's power torso and thigh support, unique sport steering wheel stitching, aluminum pedals, unique front fascia and side sills, auto-on/off headlights, 8-way power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air conditioning vents, 6-CD changer; Premium Package ($2,500) includes power tilt-and-slide glass sunroof, heated front seats, upgraded memory system, power heated outside mirrors, power tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, power driver's seat lumbar, 10-speaker Bose Studio on Wheels system with Burr Brown Digital Audio Converters and iPod interface, Bluetooth phone system, anti-glare rearview mirror with HomeLink; Technology Package ($1,100) includes Intelligent Cruise Control, preview braking, adaptive front lighting, adaptive seat belts; Navigation Package ($2,150) includes GPS navigation plus rearview monitor and voice recognition for HVAC and audio; Four Wheel Active Steer Package ($1,500).
Infiniti G35 ($31,600).
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