Infinti’s G Series started with the very first G20. Launched in 1990, the G20 was Infiniti’s effort at tapping into the entry luxury market dominated by the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz 190/C-Class. As a rebadged Nissan Primera, the G20 marketed itself as a sport sedan with the tagline, “Born in Japan. Educated in Europe. Now available in America”. Despite receiving critical acclaim for its sporting pretensions and overall competence, the G20 failed to make a dent in the entry luxury market. Infiniti temporarily discontinued the G20 after 1996. After a two year hiatus, Infiniti revived the G20 as a second generation model. This G20 also failed to garner the attention of luxury car buyers, and it was discontinued. In 2003, Infiniti’s owner, Nissan, was fustrated, and prompted Infiniti to get serious in making luxury cars. The G35 debuted in 2003, and it was based off Nissan’s FM platform which underpinned the Nissan Z sports car and the Infiniti FX SUV. The FM stood for front midship which meant that the engine was pushed all the way back as much as possible for better weight distribution. As a rebadged Nissan Skyline, the G35 was Infiniti’s first serious attempt at stealing buyers away from the perennial favorite, the BMW 3-Series.
In contrast to the G20’s staid exterior, the G35 looks contemporary. The bug eye headlights and a tasteful chrome grille round off the nicely designed front. The only reservation I have with the front is the awkward bumper design. The plain side profile features classic rear wheel drive proportions: long hood and a short rear deck. I wish the door handles were body colored instead of chrome. As for the rear, the taillights caught my attention. They have a distinctive Japanese flavor to them, and the spoiler sets off the simplistic rear well. The interior has a businesslike and techy vibe to it, and the bright colored panels and orange lighting help offset an otherwise dark interior.
Being on the same platform as the Nissan Z ensures that the G35 possesses sports car like traits in its handling. On curvy roads, it remains composed over dips and mid-corner bumps, while restrained body lean and excellent tire grip means it is able to carry a lot of speed in the corners. I value feedback from the steering, because it makes it easier to pilot a car, and thankfully, the G35’s steering is very communicative. The steering’s ideal weighting makes it feel like you are actually steering something substantial. The steering is both laser-like precise and accurate, and it is a very balanced machine. It truly is a fun to drive car. The ride quality may seem harsh for some people, but the way I see it, the car is communicating the bumps to the driver which makes you feel even more connected to the car.
The official horsepower rating for both the Infiniti G35 coupe and sedan is 280 horsepower, but cars equipped with the six speed manual transmission receive a boost to 298 horsepower. The 3.5 liter V6 is part of Nissan/Infiniti’s VQ engine family. The VQ series are well known for their strong and willing engines optimized for Nissan’s sports cars and Infiniti’s luxury cars. This proves true in the G35. Acceleration is effortless, and as you get past 2,000 rpm, there is a colossal never ending surge in power all the way to its redline. The six speed manual transmission aids the six cylinder’s performance. It helps you get the best out of the engine, and it never feels like a hassle to shift thanks to slick shifts. However, the clutch travel is long, and the shifter vibrates like a coffee blender. It may sound harsh, but it is true, and car magazines have noticed this as well. Considering its emphasis on performance, the G35’s fuel economy ratings of 20 combined/17 City/24 Highway mpg (with the manual transmission) is respectable.
Refinement is one of the few areas the G35 falters in. The engine is very buzzy, especially past 2,000 rpm. It lets out a nice growl when pressed though. The tires slap on poor surfaces, and increase road noise in the cabin. Wind noise is relativity hushed.
The interior features nice fit and finish, but ultimately it does not feel luxurious. It does feel a step up from Nissans, but the cabin does not feel as special as a BMW or an Audi. The navigation screen elevates downward out of view into the center stack when not in use, a nice touch. The navigation is easy to navigate, and the climate controls are a breeze. The displays for the dual temperate is recessed far back which might be difficult to see. The seats offer excellent comfort, and the bolstering shields you in hard cornering. Another detail that I liked was how the gauges tilt with the steering wheel as you use the telescoping/tilt feature which aids your ability to find a good driving position. The cabin can feel snug though, and headroom is a bit limiting, especially with the sunroof. The back seat is roomy enough with decent legroom, but three adults will feel cramped. The trunk is a reasonable size.
Infiniti was going through a renaissance when this car was launched, and this car reflects that. The G35 feels like a true sports sedan. This car rivals the BMW 3 Series in driving dynamics more than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class or an Audi A4 does. An impressive feat considering that BMW has had over 30 years of practice and Infiniti only about 15 years. Sure, it is rough around the edges, but it more than makes up for it with its blend of handling and performance. For me, I prefer a car to sacrifice some refinement and ride comfort if it handles excellently. The only way I can cope with these compromises is if the car is worth driving. And the Infiniti is indeed worth driving. Even though I would still take a first generation Infiniti G20 over this just because it is less flashy and supposedly more fun to drive, the Infiniti G35 would be high on my list if I prioritized an all around competent contender with an edge in driving performance.