"At the very least, it's a car that ought to be on your "test drive" list if you're looking for a four-door sports sedan."
Good: styling, power, reliability
Bad: controls, headroom

 

There's a huge amount of buzz about the Infiniti G35. The magazines are all saying it's the closest thing to a BMW 3 Series that's ever come along.

We're not sure it's quite that good. But it is a very nice car with pretty striking, fast-back-like good looks. It's also got Japanese reliability and the very good customer service that Infiniti dealers are known for. At the very least, it's a car that ought to be on your "test drive" list if you're looking for a four-door sports sedan.


The G35 has got a great, powerful 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder engine that Nissan is putting in everything these days. In fact, we bought a Nissan thermos for our coffee the other day, and it came with the 3.5-liter V6. It's an excellent engine: very powerful, very smooth and has proved reliable over time. With this engine -- the only one available in the G35 -- the car is quick off the mark and in passing situations. It's got more than enough power; power to spare, in fact, and more horsepower than the BMW 330, if you care. You pay for the flat cornering in the G35 with a slightly stiff ride. But it does handle exceptionally well, staying very flat in the corners.


On the inside, the G35 is set up like a luxury sedan. There was some disagreement about the impression given by the interior. Tom (the senior brother) found it rather "American car-like," and "old-fartish," in some ways, citing the seat and steering wheel that moved out of the way when the key was removed. He said it felt a bit like a Chrysler product from the inside. Dougie (the handsome, intelligent, young producer) disagreed. He found it a bit too brushed aluminum, but overall, not out of character with the sports-sedan genre. De Gustibus and all that.

One very nice and interesting touch: adjust the steering wheel and the entire instrument pod moves up and down with it, so it's always visible through the top opening of the steering wheel. We think it's a neat idea.

 

The G35 has all the accoutrements one would expect: an excellent Bose sound system, automatic down and up windows, and steering wheel controls for the radio and cruise control. The other controls are where you expect them to be, with the possible exception of the seat controls, which are to the right of the seat. There's nothing wrong with that location, but it did take some getting used to, that's all. We didn't hit the controls accidentally, and, once located, they are easy to use.

The storage between the seats is also used as an armrest, so if you want to get to something you've stored, you have to give up your arm space for a moment. That's slightly inconvenient, but it does keep the interior clean and smooth looking. The cup holders are available without giving up the armrest. Trunk size is fine, and back seat leg room is surprisingly decent.

 

Infiniti did its best to locate the navigation system where it would be easiest for the driver to see it -- at the very top of the center console. Unfortunately, it still forces you to take your eyes off the road, so don't blame us when you're on the right road, but driving into a bread truck. The navigation system was also complicated to use, as these things go.

A word of caution: There is not a whole lot of headroom in the G35. If you're tall, you should definitely perform a thorough head-check before buying a G35 -- especially if you want the sunroof, which eats up an additional inch or two up top.


Unfortunately, in the ergonomics competition with BMW, this Infiniti loses. The controls are poorly arrayed. There's a large, brushed aluminum center console in the G35, and it contains many of the non-driving controls. It's a sleek looking thing, all very clean looking. Unfortunately, what makes it look clean also makes it less functional. All of the buttons look the same. They're all the same brushed aluminum and all about the same size. That means you really have to take your eyes off the road and stare for a while to figure out how to get your seat heater off "scald." It's style over function. The BMW 3 Series, on the other hand, has less pretty but nice, simple controls for the most part.

And then there's the navigation screen, with its own set of controls. They also look and feel the same, giving you more reasons to take your eyes off the road. Taken together, these concerns were immediate drawbacks to a car that otherwise made a good impression.


Styling is a high point for the G35. It looks great, in our humble opinion. It's got very cool, vertically aligned headlights, kind of like what Cadillac does, but nicer. And it's got a very racy, sloped rear end, closer looking to a fast-back/hatchback than a sedan. It's a good-looking car.


Like all other Infinities, we would expect the G35 to be exceptionally reliable. The engine in this car, a 3.5-liter V6, has been modified and upgraded, but it's basically more than a decade old and has proven itself.

The G35 is relatively straightforward to service, too, so you won't have to schlep to dealer once the warranty expires.


The G35 is reasonably priced, with a Cars.com target price of $28,046. If you're looking at the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS300 -- cars that are fun and sporty to drive while still able to carry three other people, the G35 should be on your shopping list. It's not quite as comfortable and silky as the BMW, it doesn't have the all-wheel-drive option of the Audi or the BMW, it's not as edgy and young as the Lexus, but it has a lot going for it. It has excellent reliability, a good price, superb handling, tons of power, and great looks. And unlike the BMW, people won't assume you're a petty fogging lawyer when you drive up.

We don't think it's knocked the 3 Series off its perch as the best all-around small sports sedan. But the G35 is a damn good car. Heck. We wouldn't throw it out of the garage if someone put it there.


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