If I worked for Infiniti, I’d spend a lot of my day pissed off. Infiniti G35 equals The Japanese BMW? Man that must rankle. Not as much as G35 equals The Poor Man’s BMW, but more than enough to aggravate auto execs all the way from Yokohama to Boulogne-Billancourt. In fact, I bet there’s a bunch of Infiniti engineers who’ve compared their handiwork to Munich’s motorized meisterstuck and can’t decide whether to commit seppuku or hunt down Bimmer’s boffins and make them eat sushi, if you know what I mean. OK, that’s a bit overly-dramatic, but what the Hell’s a Japanese sports sedan got to do to get a little respect around here?
Admittedly, the original G35 sedan (2003-2006) was continually (and properly) slated for its lackluster looks, lack of refinement and lackey’s interior. On the exterior front (and side and back), the G35’s “all new” sheetmetal suddenly seems a lot less bland and a lot more “understated”– thanks to the latest 3-Series’ flame-broiled exterior. From its dual after-burner taillights to the L-shaped headlights, the Infiniti G35 has stayed true to its own unique design vocabulary. The roofline’s down a bit, the stance is a bit wider (the old “wheels pushed out to the corners” routine), the side gets a crease and the strips of metal that form the trademark grill twist a few inches backwards from the edges, to enhance the similarity with the traditional Japanese Katana blade. Hai!
The changes to the G35’s cabin are far more important and obvious (i.e. discernible). For one thing, Infiniti’s interior decorators have finally banished the hard plastic econo-box buttons blighting the old model. The new G Sport sports the sort of quality rubber you’d expect at an upmarket S&M party, or inside a $35k sports sedan. The aluminum trim has the texture of hand-rolled Japanese Wahsi paper (supposedly). And the despicable orange-on-black gauges– which made it virtually impossible to see the tachometer’s redline– have been replaced by Lexian electroluminescent white and violet “fine-vision” gauges. The fit and finish could use a bit more fit and a tad more finish, but we're more or less there.
Provided you get jiggy with the option sheet, the Infiniti G is still a gadget freak’s delight; including an intelligent key (it leaps out of your hand and hides if you’re drunk), intelligent cruise control, a rear-view backup monitor (that tells you where and when you’ll hit things), voice activated navigation with real-time traffic updates (that tells you where and when but not how to get off), a Bose “Studio-on-Wheels” sound system (as opposed to…) and a touch-screen display. On NAV-enabled cars, you also get a 9.6gb hard drive, so you can copy and paste up to 2000 songs from pirated CDs.
Once underway, the G35 is the Muhammad Ali of sports sedans. In the sting like a bee category, Nissan tweaked the beJesus out of the heavyweight sedan’s 3.5-liter VQ V6, giving it better breathing and extra wallop (306hp @ 6800rpm). The company calls the resulting non-flat thrust curve “swell”– which is a bit like calling a The Greatest’s left jab “dangerous.” Plant you foot and the beefier VQ yowls in the time-honored, product sharing tradition. According to our friends at Edmunds, the G35 storms to sixty in 5.6 seconds. Hooked-up to a paddle shifting five-speed smooth and quick enough to make Bimmer's SMG system seem even more ludicrous than it is, the G35’s torque-tastic powerplant (268 ft-lbs. @ 5300rpm) has an answer for every situation: power. Right answer.
In the float like a butterfly department, the G’s got the footwork– to a point. Even with its fatter tires and stiffer suspension, the G35 Sport maintains a reasonably compliant ride. The bigger Brembo brakes may lack initial bite, but they’re plenty damn effective. The power assisted rack and pinion (now with an optional four-wheel steering system) is much sharper than before; turn-in and transitions approach Porsche-levels of prowess, if not feel. If the road is glassine, the G35’s appetite for lateral G’s astounds. If the bitumen’s broken, well, the G35 is still a little ragged at the limit, capable of bumping and jumping off your chosen line at an “inappropriate” moment. It’s a challenge only the truly committed/insane driver will face, but there it is.
If you compare apples to apples, the faster (though faster depreciating) G35 Sport is a more elegant and exciting steer than a similarly-priced 3-Series. Unfortunately, that’s not how most pistonheads see things. The cast their eyes upon the ultimate ultimate flickable sports sedan driving machine– the new twin-turbo BMW 335i– and cede victory to the Germans. On one hand, that’s not fair. In the real world, enthusiasts have only so much money and want it to go as far– and fast– as possible. On the other hand, image demands that at least some version of their chosen ride is top dog, period. Until that day arrives for Infiniti’s dogged G35, until it finds that final measure of poise at 9 or 10/10ths, it will continue to be, in many eyes, the “alternative” option. That sucks.