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The INFINITI G35 offers the sporty handling of a rear-wheel-drive car and boasts one of the best V6 engines available today. The G35 comes in sedan and coupe variants. Either way, it's clear the G35 is intended for serious driving enthusiasts, with rear-wheel drive, a sports suspension, an available six-speed manual gearbox, and nearly 300 horsepower.
Yet these are practical cars, as well. The G35 sedan offers more interior space than other near-luxury sedans. Its daring design, with stacked headlamps, catamaran fenders, and short overhangs, gives it a unique look we find appealing. The G35 costs less than a comparable BMW or Mercedes, but it gives up nothing in handling and performance. INFINITI substantially improved the G35 for 2005, with richer interior materials, more horsepower, bigger brakes, and a more refined ride.
The G35 coupe is more than just a two-door version of the sedan. It's a fastback GT with a visual character all its own. Mechanically, the G35 coupe is essentially a longer-wheelbase, more luxurious version of the Nissan 350Z. But the G35 coupe has a separate trunk instead of a hatchback like the Z, and it has a rear seat that can transport smaller members of the family. In short, it's more practical than the Z. For 2006, the G35 coupe gets some minor styling revisions.
New for 2006 is optional Rear Active Steer for the G35 coupe, which quickens the steering ratio and uses a computer and electric motor to continuously adjust rear suspension geometry. Several option packages have been upgraded for 2006: Premium packages now include a Bluetooth hands-free phone system. Projector-beam bi-xenon headlights are now standard on the coupe. Automatic coupes with the Sport Suspension Package now wear the same aero package as manual-transmission versions.
All-wheel drive is available for the G35x.
The INFINITI G35 is a true sports machine. Like all of the world's greatest sports sedans, the G35 uses rear-wheel drive. Rear-wheel drive generally delivers sportier handling than front-wheel drive.
The 3.5-liter V6 is rated at 298 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque when ordered with the six-speed manual transmission or 280 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque when ordered with the five-speed automatic.
The G35 feels stable at high speeds and around fast sweepers. The driver feels well connected to the road. On winding roads, the G35 rewards the driver with quick, precise steering that offers good feedback. Drive it harder and it responds beautifully. It never surprises the driver with errant behavior, yet its chassis can be rotated or steered with the throttle through corners.
The available sports suspension includes special shocks and springs and P225/45WR18 summer tires. The G35 rides nicely with this setup, comfortable but firm. There's a bit of wind noise at 70 mph.
The G35 doesn't offer the razor-sharp response of a BMW, and the rear end bobs a bit in fast, sweeping turns, especially when the pavement is bumpy, but the INFINITI is clearly one of the best sports sedans in the class, offering better handling than any of the front-drive cars. The G35's long wheelbase, low center of gravity, aerodynamic downforce, and lightweight suspension are all designed to keep its tires on the road where they can generate maximum grip.
For its part, the G35 coupe is supremely stable and offers great handling. It's precise, like a BMW, and firm, but has a nice ride. It feels like a high-performance sports car, not a sports-luxury car like the Lexus SC 430. It jiggles on highway undulations, for example. Overall, it's a great balance. You feel connected to the road in the G35. It can be driven precisely at high speeds. It's very stable, perhaps more so than the Z.
We haven't tried the available Rear Active Steer system, but INFINITI claims it improves handling by adjusting the rear suspension geometry according to steering input and vehicle speed. The system's electronic control unit calculates the desired vehicle dynamics from a series of inputs, including vehicle speed and steering angle, and directs an actuator motor to move both rear suspension lower links. With the Rear Active Steer option, you also get a slightly faster steering ratio (15.1:1 vs. 15.9:1), and the variable-assist servo tracks vehicle speed instead of engine speed.
The G35x all-wheel-drive sedan employs a system INFINITI calls ATTESA E-TS, for Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split. That alphabetic mouthful means that a computer controls an active center differential for smoother starts, better fuel economy, and better traction and maneuverability in snow. Most of the time, the system sends 100 percent of the driving torque to the rear wheels, so the G35x handles like a rear-wheel-drive sedan. (Many all-wheel-drive sedans are based on a front-drive system that biases more torque to the front.) Nissan's system will divert up to 50 percent of the power to the front wheels if it senses that the rear wheels are slipping. A Snow mode, selected by a button on the console, locks torque distribution at 50/50 front/rear, and reduces the sensitivity of the drive-by-wire throttle. This is the same all-wheel-drive system used in the INFINITI FX luxury crossover SUVs.
The G35's V6 produces a unique and sporty sound. There's lots of low-rpm torque, which makes the G35 feel responsive around town. Stand on the gas and it delivers brilliant acceleration performance.
Shifting the manual gearbox is direct and precise, though it requires some deliberate attention. It doesn't feel as light as an Acura gearbox, and the clutch pedal is relatively firm, which makes it more challenging to drive smoothly.
The five-speed automatic transmission is super-smooth in normal
The INFINITI G35 sedan is one of the quickest, best handling cars in its class. It's a compelling choice for drivers who want the performance and handling of a true sports sedan for thousands less than the European benchmark cars. The G35 is also comfortable and practical, with a roomy back seat, a big trunk, and the trappings of a luxury car. The G35x adds the stability of all-wheel drive, making it an alternative to the Audi A4 quattro. The INFINITI G35 coupe is a true sports car. It's more luxurious, roomier and more practical than the Nissan 350Z, with a rear seat and more usable storage space.
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough is based in California.