As an indication of just how close to flawless the Infiniti G35 is, reader John Hydon wrote to complain about the location of the stitching on his steering wheel.
“The stitching on the leather â€” just where you put your thumbs over the wheel spokes â€” it’s just not comfortable,” Hydon remarked in an email. Then, realizing how trivial his gripe was, added: “Is this a good car or what?”
A lot of G35 owners apparently agree, peppering the Internet with breathless testimonials about their cars.
The G35 was really the first automobile from Nissan’s fledgling luxury-car division that made drivers sit up and take notice. For all its bluster, Infiniti’s “rocks-and-trees” launch back in 1989 did little to prime sales of its rebadged Nissan sedans.
The G35, on the other hand, simply rocked.
It replaced the unlamented G20, a European-market Nissan Primera with a four-banger that served as the brand’s entry-level vehicle. By specifying a six-cylinder G35, Infiniti telegraphed that it was getting serious about its cars.
The rear-drive G35 was an all-new model line that included a four-door sedan, introduced in March 2002, and a jaw-dropping coupe that came in the fall.
Both rode on Nissan’s FM (“front midship”) platform, shared with the 350Z sports car and otherworldly FX45 crossover utility. The platform was designed to cradle a V6 or V8 mounted longitudinally behind the front axle to improve balance.
Shifting the engine rearward, combined with an extraordinarily long wheelbase, enhanced handling and high-speed stability. It was a trick learned from BMW, although the Bavarians stuck with their inline six-cylinder architecture while Infiniti embraced the V-configuration.
The lone engine choice was an all-aluminum DOHC 3.5-litre V6 with variable timing on the intake cams, good for 260 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s 35 additional horses than in the vaunted BMW 330i, in case anyone’s keeping score.
A five-speed automatic transmission with a manumatic shifter was standard; an optional six-speed manual arrived with the coupe and a year later in the sedan.
Rather than use off-the-shelf struts, engineers specified a multilink suspension at all four corners, employing alloy links and an aluminum rear crossmember to save weight (the hood was aluminum, too).
All G35s came with a host of electronic assists, including Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) stability control four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution.
The comely coupe featured 20 more horses compared to the sedan, thanks to different exhaust plumbing. Essentially a four-seat version of the 350Z, it was the replacement for the legendary Nissan Skyline GTR in other markets, without the inline six and turbochargers.
The long wheelbase yielded lots of cabin space, considerably more than that of its class mates like the 3 Series and Audi A4. Three adults could sit reasonably happily in the back of the sedan, but not the coupe.
“Every single adult who’s ever sat back there has left greasy hair prints on the back glass,” blogged a coupe owner.
Dashboard layout was good, but the materials were not quite up to Lexus standards. Owners complained the aluminum-look plastic scratched too easily. Some disliked the amber backlighting and the analogue clock was difficult to read at night.
The G35 benefited from a number of tweaks in subsequent years. The all-wheel drive G35x sedan joined the lineup in 2004.
Models received minor styling changes for 2005 along with some interior upgrades, swapping some Fisher-Price plastic for real aluminum and wood.
Also in 2005, automatic sedans finally made as much power as the coupes: 280 hp and 270 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupes and sedans equipped with a six-speed stick got even more muscle (298 hp) but lost 10 lb.-ft. of thrust.
ON THE ROAD
The G35 prevailed in a sports-sedan Car and Driver comparison in March 2004, besting even a BMW 325i (it should have been a 330i, but it was too pricy) â€” the first time a Japanese sedan out-drove a BMW in the magazine’s history.
The Nissan VQ-series engine was exceptionally strong, pushing the G35 to 96 km/h in just 6.3 seconds (add 0.5 of a second for the automatic). The 280 hp coupe could do it in 5.4 seconds â€” ideal for the chronically impatient.
More impressively, the sedan could generate 0.90 g of grip on a circular skidpad â€” and that’s on relatively skinny P215/55-series tires.
But despite the high adhesion, the G35 could not quite duplicate the poise of a 3 Series. When pressed to the limit, the rear end stepped out unexpectedly, unnerving the driver. Fortunately, the VDC stability control can reduce tail-wagging to a minimum. Most drivers may want to keep it engaged, especially in wet weather.
The ride was a little firm â€” a Bimmer is more supple â€” but braking was excellent, requiring just 50 metres to stop from a speed of 112 km/h (some models have a Brembo brake package).
WHAT OWNERS REPORTED
When it arrived in North America, the G35 was marketed as high-powered BMW-baiter that undercut the Bavarian models by thousands of dollars.
“Would I pick it over the BMW?” asks a blogger. “I did, and not just for the price.”
Bear in mind drivetrain refinement isn’t quite world-beating, and there’s some evidence of Nissan bean-counting in the cabin, especially in the early cars.
But most owners are deliriously happy just the same. Unlike the expensive European brands, Infiniti isn’t tarnished by a lot of build-quality issues.
The few complaints we uncovered had to do with frequent (and expensive) brake service, easily chipped paint and errant rattles in the doors and trunk.
A second-hand G35 is a good introduction to the sports-sedan club that requires few sacrifices.
The line forms over here.
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