When launched, the Infiniti Q45 was infinitely more desirable than Lexus's stuffy LS400. Unfortunately, Lexus had already eclipsed Mercedes as the brand recent Black Sea immigrants asked for by name, and BMWs remained the must-have nouveau riche accessory. Although today's M45 is best-in-class, BMW 5-Series' still runs the schoolyard. Meanwhile, Infiniti (and everybody else) is striving to wrest control of the all-important, profit-laden next class down. So how does Infiniti's AWD 3-Series fighter stack-up?
When images of the second-gen G35 started leaking onto these here internets, I was taken aback by the hood's flowing cut line. Simply perfect. The rest of the car appeared to be a subtle evolution of the old one. Two years later, I still love the hood line. Everything else is tired. Parked next to the current gen Altima, the Nissan is a much more attractive package. The four-door G is just too mousy and restrained. And the taillights are still too damn big. That said, the seven-spoke, 18" aluminum wheels on our tester are impressive.
Inside, it's an entirely different picture. The Infinitis of yore offered cheap Nissan parts binnage, with navigation screens that looked like convenience store cash machines. No more. In fact, the nav screen is the single most gorgeous part of a decidedly swanky interior. Specifically: the sweeping, organic layout of the fun-to-fondle buttons below the screen.
Gizmos abound: Microfiltering HVAC, rear seat-heater ducts, dual antennas and XM radio. The rest of innards are posh, well thought out and supremely comfortable. Even the (useless) faux-flappy-paddles feel fantastic. Off the hill Audi; there's a new haptic king of the hill (with a prince of an XF also fighting for succession).
If one was forced to stereotype Nissan, one might quote the Ferrari dictum: sell them an engine and throw the rest in for free. Since 1994, the VQ family of V6s has been giving customers throughout the model range (Pathfinder, QX, FX, Altima, Murano, Quest, Z, etc.) more power than the competitors at a (usually) lower price, with plenty of torque.
For all-weather entry-level luxury duty, Nissan mates the 3704 lbs. G35x AWD to the 3.5-liter VQ35HR. The HR part of the alphabet soup stands for "High Revolution"– as in a 7500 rpm redline. The spinning metal pumps-out 306 horses at 6,800 rpm and 268 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. Should you opt for an all wheel-drive (AWD) G, you opt out of the six-speed manual transmission. Although the G35x' cog-swapper is "only" a five-speed, its seamlessness moots any objection. For both around town and highway duty, the G35x has an entirely useful drivetrain.
Yes but… As you'd expect, the G35x' all wheel-drive mechanicals means it weighs more than the standard four-door. Therefore, it takes 5.9 seconds to hit 60 mph; the rear wheel drive makes the same sprint in 5.6 seconds. I can already hear the keyboard clacks of people writing in that some magazines have clocked a G35 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and the G35x AWD in 5.5. And we'll counter that some magazines employ a 1-foot rolling start to consistently record the lowest (and therefore most attention grabbing) numbers.
But my point stands. The AWD G is slower than the regular G.
Not only is the G35x slower on radar, but, worse, it feels more sluggish to the driver. Again, losing a little (though noticeable) straight line thrust in under six-second world is no biggie. After all, you can make the time back in the corners, right? Uh, no.
I've long considered the FM platform to be one of the marvels of the modern automotive landscape. Forget about the Gs and Zs, you ever driven an FX? There's no way a sedan on stilts should be so nimble and so much fun. Yet it is. Sadly, the good times end with the G35x. The steering feels artificially heavy yet distant at all speeds. The car wants to do anything but turn in. Look, I love AWD performance cars. But the engineers need to have AWD in mind from the start. If not, it's like adding on a basement once a house's foundation has been poured– an expensive afterthought.
While not bad in any glaring way, the G35x AWD left me wanting. Especially after spending time in both the Subaru STI and BMW xDrive35i, two 300+ hp AWD cars designed from the outset to butcher the corners and bloody the straights. With those two machines there aren't slimmer, cheaper, equally powerful variants to remind me of money poorly spent.
I'll grant that if you need to blast across South Dakota during a blizzard, the G35x would be a hell of a comfortable way to go. But for all other applications, stick with the original. Or, yeah you guessed it, a 335i.