Last month I pondered a column about affordable used cars for people who love to drive. At the top of my list was the first-generation Infiniti G35, which was discontinued late last year. Memory of that original G35 quickly disappeared when I drove the replacement, Infiniti's reworked, re-energized 2007 G35. Though a faithful derivative of the original G35, the '07 is brassier, sleeker and faster, with more personality than any Japanese luxury car in its class.
Like its more expensive brothers, Infiniti's M35 and M45, the G35 doesn't seem to pay homage to anything from Europe. The designers went their own way and came up with a delightful car. That's not to say Infiniti wouldn't love to see the G35 compared favorably to BMW's 3-Series, one of its most direct competitors and the recognized compact/midsize sport sedan performance champ. To my eye, they are matched in everyday driving, with the Infiniti gaining the price advantage.
As for cachet, that's in the eye of the beholder. And quality? Long-term reliability is a question, but the doors close solidly, the switchgear clicks precisely, and the frame seems carved from a bank vault. I don't think buyer's remorse will be a problem. My test model, a four-passenger G35 Sport with 5-speed automatic, leather seating, voice-operated navigation system, Bose 10-speaker stereo with Sirius satellite radio, and Bluetooth phone interface, was priced just under $40,000. Sport trim (an appealing $1,650 option) included 18-inch wheels and tires, limited slip differential and bigger brakes.
The price leader is the plain G35 at $32,150, with the G35 Journey and G35 all-wheel drive and G35 Sport as steps up. Transmission choices are the automatic or 6-speed manual. The G35 coupe is not close to the same car I am describing here; it is soon to be replaced by the substantially new G37 coupe. Like others, Infiniti offers a hard drive (9.5 gigabytes) as part of the stereo so owners can rip music or import it from a compact flash card for replay in the car. These systems seem pointless with iPods and other MP3 players so inexpensive — I'd prefer to plug and play. What could be more convenient?
Notable is the G35's excellent touch-screen navigation system, which can be switched into bird's-eye mode for a refreshing, colorful 45-degree view of upcoming roads. User access is complicated but easier than many, though I'm puzzled why Infiniti tilted the keypad up and away from the driver.
Powered by the latest version of Infiniti's 3.5-liter V-6, the G35 drives as bright and lively as it looks. Horsepower is 306 with quick throttle response and a pleasingly gruff engine note. Mileage on premium fuel is estimated at 19 city, 26 highway, numbers achievable only with restrained use of the accelerator. Good luck. The only hiccup in the driving is road noise from the 18-inch tires. Steering and braking are extremely precise, quite European in fact, and the rear-wheel drive platform has a neutral, predictable and easily managed feeling. The G35 is an easy car to drive fast, and the firm suspension is well isolated from the passenger compartment.
The new G35's performance is remarkable for the price, but not much effort seemed to go into improving fuel mileage or emissions. When the next generation is due, and the rules have changed, the G35 could be a truly electrifying ride.
In his 25 years of writing a column for the Austin American-Statesman, Pete Szilagyi has driven more than 1,200 new cars and trucks. You may reach him at [email protected].
to Pete . . .
Target audience: Tech-smart
career climbers in their 20s to 40s
Highs: Performance, looks, comfort, coolness
Lows: Premium gas required
Bottom line: Touched by an angel, an edgy angel
EPA rating for greenhouse gas emissions (10 is best, 2 worst): 5
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power/torque: 306 horsepower/268 foot-pounds
Length: 187 inches
Curb weight: 3,497 pounds
Cargo volume: 13.5 cubic fee
Brakes: Ventilated front and rear ventilated discs, antilock.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: standard.
EPA fuel economy: 19 miles per gallon city, 26 MPG highway
By Pete Szilagyi
SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Infiniti G35: Sports sedan has been reworked, re-energized