A G35S what?
Infiniti. This halo brand is to Nissan what Lexus is to Toyota – a premium range to take on the might of the upper-crust European competition. Europe will get the Infiniti range in 2008 – a range featuring coupés, saloons and SUVs – but the line-up is yet to be confirmed, as is the UK on-sale date. If the G35 saloon does come to the UK – as it surely must – it will create quite a stir. Slightly bigger than a 3-series, the G35 should be priced in line with the significantly less powerful BMW 325i – around £26k. On paper, then, the car looks tempting, and a recent test drive in California proved the G35 is more than just a big mouth…
So how does it drive?
Brilliantly. Mechanicals from the 350Z underpin the G35, so you get an endlessly torquey 3.5-litre V6 with an uprated 306bhp, rear-wheel drive and a six-speed gearbox. Like the 350Z, the gearbox and clutch can feel clunky and obstinate at low speeds, but a late-night blast up a twisting San Francisco mountain road was as rewarding as anything a 3-series can deliver. Understeer simply wasn’t on the radar. Instead, the G35 rewards keen drivers with neutral, reassuring handling leading to well-balanced oversteer for those determined to have the viscous limited slip diff earn its keep. The brakes, meanwhile, are strong without being too keen to bite.
And what about the ride and steering?
Again, they’re brilliant. Even America’s rutted, pothole-ridden freeways couldn’t upset the G35. Yes, the chassis is driver focused, but that doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality, the G35’s damping being fantastically well judged and far superior to a 3-series on run-flat tyres. Likewise, the steering is fantastic. There’s consistent, well-weighted feel right from the straight ahead, the gearing is spot-on and the steering wheel is pleasing to hold, being slim and wrapped in leather. Don’t expect these two elements, then, to be anything like the heavy-handed 350Z.
Can it match the Germans for refinement?
A 3-series is honed from better stuff, but the two cars aren’t as far apart as the sticker price might suggest. The controls are clean, uncluttered and seem pared down to the bare minimum. They also feel well weighted: ‘not too stiff, not too light. Not too springy, not too sticky’ says the Infiniti website, and we have to agree. The G35S comes with leather as standard. It’s high-grade stuff and the seats are incredibly comfortable, the driver’s chair being 12-way adjustable. Dash plastics are of a decently high standard – though clearly derived from 350Z DNA – but their quality does deteriorate on the rather brittle-feeling centre console and the door panels’ lower sections. Road noise is well suppressed, the doors shut with a tight and reassuring ‘whump’ and brushed aluminium adds an air of quality. To nit pick, the analogue clock jars somewhat and, with a six-footer up front, rear legroom is compromised by the back of the driver’s seat extending too close to the floor.
Any must-have options?
The G35S is generously specced as standard but the Premium Package is essential. Priced $2350 in the US, you get a host of extras including heated seats, sunroof and lumbar support. The clincher, though, is the Bose stereo system. It is simply awesome. The sound is crisp, punchy and remains distortion-free even at high volumes. Fans of the iPod will also be relieved to hear that all G35s come with an auxiliary audio input. The navigation package ($2100) will no doubt also prove popular – though it was absent from our test car – and is only available in tandem with the Premium Package option. Other than that, we’d be tempted by the $1100 Technology Package, largely because of the adaptive front lights which help the bi-xenon headlights see round corners. Even if you tick every box, you’ll only be faced with a refreshingly small bill of around $9000.
How many G35 models are there?
Five. There’s the basic G35, which can’t be specced with any of the options listed on the previous page; the G35 Journey; G35x AWD (a four-wheel drive version); the automatic G35S; and, the car we tested, the G35S 6MT. While we expect the saloon to make it to the UK, we’d be surprised to get the full model range, especially the G35x AWD. For a detailed look at the line up, visit infiniti.com.
Pitching into 3-series territory is never easy, but Infiniti has made a confident, well-judged attempt and the G35 is a genuine contender. Not only does it offer performance and dynamics to keep any keen driver happy, it’s also refined, well put together and looks the part. Only the obstinate transmission lets the package down, the clutch and gearbox feeling agricultural at low speeds. While the benchmark BMW will continue to be the only choice for many, the G35’s outstanding value for money and excellent driver appeal will find it many fans in the UK. Bring it on.