- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

Here’s a bold statement: There may not be a better midsize sport sedan than the Infiniti G35 — not even the BMW 3 Series. Lightweight with a torky V-6 and rear-wheel drive, the G35 is tough to beat. Add Infiniti’s all-wheel-drive system and you’ve got go-in-any-weather capability and a confidence-building sure-footedness. Now toss in leather seating for added luxury, and the result is the new-for-2004 AWD G35 Leather.

No better example of Infiniti’s rediscovered performance mission exists than the G35. Whether in two- or four-door configuration, the G35 goes about the business of delivering heart-racing performance in a highly stylized package with nearly bulletproof quality. In most cases this is achieved for less than $30,000. At $32,000, the AWD G35 Leather pushes beyond that $30,000 mark, yet remains a solid value in the face of its competitors.

The “35” in G35 stands for the veteran 3.5-liter V-6 cooking under the hood. This is the same V-6 found in the Nissan 350Z, as well as several other Nissan and Infiniti models. Producing 260 horsepower, it also delivers 260 foot-pounds of asphalt-ripping torque. In the AWD G, power is funneled to all four wheels through a driver-shiftable five-speed automatic transmission. In regular automatic mode, the shifts are smooth and subtle. Slip the gear selector into manual shift mode where the driver chooses the shift points, though, and up-shifting can become much more dramatic and fun.

Fuel economy isn’t out of line for a sport sedan. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the G35 burns regular gasoline to the tune of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the open highway.

Transparent in its performance, the G35’s AWD system requires no input from the driver. Infiniti calls it Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split. That’s a mouthful and using Infiniti’s shorthand for it, ATTESA E-TS, doesn’t do much to simplify things. With the exception of accelerating from a standstill, in all normal driving conditions this AWD system sends all the power to the rear wheels. During acceleration off the line, 25 percent of power is shifted to the front wheels until forward momentum is achieved. Once under way, the system constantly monitors conditions and is able to transfer as much as 50 percent of engine power to the front wheels as needed on slippery surfaces or when negotiating curves.

Surprisingly well-balanced, the G35 uses Nissan’s Front Midship (FM) platform. It pushes the engine rearward to a position behind the front wheels. This better distributes the load, resulting in added stability and more predictable handling. Most components of the G35’s multilink independent suspension are aluminum, which helps hold down the G35 AWD’s curb weight to a svelte 3,677 pounds. Sticky 17-inch tires wrap around alloy wheels, rounding out the handling package.

Typical of sedans in its segment, the G35 has a full array of air bags. In addition to the standard two-stage dual front air bags, it has front-seat side-impact air bags and front-rear seat head curtain air bags. The front seats have seat belt pretensioners and active head restraints, too. Also among the safety features common to all G35s are four-wheel disc brakes with antilock, as well as brake-force distribution and brake assist.

The G35 Leather’s cabin strikes a remarkable compromise between sporty and luxurious with the accent on sporty. With “Leather” in the model name, it should come as no surprise that leather covers the seating surfaces as well as door panels. Well-contoured, the front seats provide plenty of support. The driver’s seat is actually a bit different than the right-hand seat, providing some extra support for attacking the twisties. The door openings are sufficiently wide to provide easy access. Inside, an abundance of shoulder, hip and headroom greets occupants. Featuring a rather long wheelbase (112.2 inches) for this class, the G35 sedan also has plenty of legroom both fore and aft.

Driver and front-seat passenger are separated by the center stack and console. Infiniti’s signature analog clock sits high on the dashboard just below an LED screen providing information on the ventilation system. For a sedan in which every other aspect seems so carefully thought-out, it is odd that the ventilation system controls are located above the more often used audio controls in the center stack. The overall cockpit appearance can be summed up as stylish and uncluttered.

Infiniti has eliminated much of the thinking from buying a G35 sedan. Four basic models are offered: Sedan, Sedan Leather, Sedan 6MT (six-speed manual transmission) and Sedan Leather AWD. All include the same standard features such as heated power outboard mirrors, automatic air conditioning, power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry and six-speaker audio system with six-disc CD changer. Several options are also available such as a power sunroof, DVD navigation system and Bose audio upgrade. Many of these options can be added as a group with the Premium Option Package ($3,200).

If your idea of a sport sedan is one with 350Z DNA and Infiniti’s attention to quality, the AWD G35 Leather is right on target.

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