- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

Young, affluent car buyers, take note. The entry-level, luxury-car segment is suddenly brimming with new and newly revised models.

The latest entrant, debuting now in showrooms, is Infiniti's G35 midsize sedan that's getting lots of attention as the first model on the market to use Nissan's new rear-wheel-drive platform.

Nissan, which owns Infiniti, also will use this platform for the upcoming Nissan 350 Z car you know, the famed Z car that has been on numerous magazine covers as well as Nissan's re-engineered Quest minivan due in a couple years.

If the G35 is any indication, this high-performance platform developed by the former head of Nissan's Le Mans racing work is solid and capable.

It certainly made for an impressive, comfortable ride in the G35 test car.

In fact, I had to double-check the price tag to be sure I wasn't riding in something more expensive.

For the record, the G35 price starts at $27,100 including manufacturer's suggested retail price and destination charge for a cloth-interior model. Most G35s, though, are likely to have leather, and they start at $29,495.

Don't look for a floaty ride here. The G35, an early 2003 model, keeps well-connected to the road and conveys that experience to the driver at all times. It's not done in a sharp or stiff way, but there's a good sense of moderately firm, stable contact with the road.

Slalom maneuvers in the test car were pleasing as this rather sizable four-door car managed its body motions with ease and kept its balance. In an emergency lane change, the G35 felt eminently composed.

The standard suspension is a four-wheel, independent, multilink design.

Tires were 17-inch and transmitted road noise inside. But that, and some wind noise from the rather large windshield-wiper arms, were about all that intruded.

Weight distribution in this car is 52 percent in front and 48 percent at the rear, due in part by the positioning of the V-6 engine's center of gravity just slightly aft of the center of the front wheels.

This engine, with 3.5 liters displacement and dual-overhead cams, comes from the same VQ family used in other Nissan products.

Here, it generates 260 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque at 4,800 rpm and is amazingly responsive.

I'm not just talking about getting this 3,300-pound car moving. The G35 engine, mated to a five-speed, electronically controlled automatic transmission, readily used engine braking to help slow the car when I let up on the accelerator pedal. There was none of that unnerving coasting here.

Power came on strongly when I slammed down hard on the gas pedal, but it wasn't raw, uncontrolled power, and shift points were mostly muted.

Note that the G35's standard V-6 offers more horsepower and torque than the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 300 and Cadillac CTS sedans all with six-cylinder engines.

The G35, longer in overall length than those competitors also is roomier in some ways.

Rear headroom of 40 inches surpasses the 36.9 inches in the CTS, for example, and the G35's rear legroom of 36.2 inches is more than the 33 inches in the C-Class sedan.

The G35's 14.8-cubic-foot trunk is bigger than those of the competitors, too, though some of the space is under the rear parcel shelf, so items must be able to fit there.

A box holding a 17-inch computer monitor with all its packing did not fit and had to be stored in the G35's back seat.

If that sounds improbable, let me explain that the G35 back-seat doors are large, and they do open to a nearly 90-degree angle. This helps make it easy to get yourself and big boxes inside the car.

Be sure to test the car's manually reclining rear seats. A lever can recline the seatback a bit in the two outer seats. Bravo.

Front-seat riders will be pleased to see that those pesky power-seat adjustment buttons are right next to the center console and readily visible. No fumbling around with a hand jammed between the door and seat.

I also appreciate the G35 ignition keyhole visible on the dashboard, not out of sight on the steering column.

Too bad, though, that the same can't be said of the outside mirror-adjustment knob. It is obscured by the steering wheel rim to the left side of the driver.

And I wish Infiniti would reposition the dead pedal in this car. The only way I could use it was if I pushed myself up on top of the steering wheel.

Styling is modern in a sophisticated, not overly trendy, way. But every now and then, I'd catch a glimpse of the front of the G35 from a certain angle and find the headlight area reminded me of the CTS.

A six-speed manual transmission will be offered on the car later in the model year. A G35 sport coupe is planned, too.


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