What's New for 2008
Fully redesigned last year, the Infiniti G35 sedan heads into 2008 without any significant changes. Last year's G35 coupe has been discontinued and replaced with the all-new G37 coupe, which is reviewed separately.
For most luxury automakers, creating a car to successfully take on BMW's 3 Series is a seemingly impossible task. Need proof? The critically acclaimed 3 outsells its rivals by a factor of at least two to one. But thanks to its solid qualifications in performance, design and luxury, the 2008 Infiniti G35 is one of the few entry-level luxury sport sedans that can match the 3 in almost all areas.
This year's G35 is coming off a full redesign just last year. The redesign was aimed at improving the first-generation G35, a car that didn't need much improving to begin with. Key improvements over the previous car included a revised and more powerful 3.5-liter V6, an updated and stiffer version of the car's "FM" platform architecture, sharper handling, a mild but complete styling makeover and welcome improvements to interior materials quality. A few new features debuted as well, such as active four-wheel steering, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera and a rev-matching feature for the automatic transmission's manual shift mode.
We've been able to test the latest generation extensively and have come away very impressed. The car's performance capabilities are certainly its strongest points. The standard 306-horsepower engine provides plenty of thrust, and it's backed by stable handling dynamics and great brakes. Nor does this performance focus come at the expense of comfort. The G's interior is sharply styled, decently roomy for this class of car and can be equipped with an optional hard-drive-based navigation system that can also store music files.
There are some minor issues with the 2008 Infiniti G35. The weighting of the steering, for instance, can feel artificial at times, and manual transmission-equipped cars have a tricky clutch engagement. But overall, the G35 is one of our favorite luxury sport sedans, especially when price is factored in -- even fully equipped, the G35 can cost thousands less than the competition. This isn't to say that you shouldn't consider the BMW or other luminaries like the Audi A4, Lexus IS 350 and Cadillac CTS. All are excellent choices. But if we'd have to name one car capable of rattling the 3 Series, the G35 would be our pick.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Infiniti G35 entry-level sport luxury sedan comes in four trim levels: base, G35 Journey, G35 Sport 6MT and G35x. Base models come standard with 17-inch alloy wheels; xenon headlights; keyless ignition; automatic climate control; leather upholstery; power front seats and six-speaker audio with a CD/MP3 player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The Journey trim builds on this equipment with automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded passenger seat and a six-CD changer. The G35x is equipped similar to the Journey, but adds standard heated front seats and mirrors. Sport models are similar to the Journey as well, but have a sport-tuned suspension, larger brakes, 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential and sport seats.
Infiniti offers a variety of options for the upper three trims. A Premium Package adds a sunroof, power steering column, driver-position memory, Bluetooth, heated seats and mirrors (for non-G35x models), a Bose premium audio system and a dedicated iPod interface. One can also get a rearview camera and a hard drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and digital music storage capability. (The six-CD changer moves from the dash to the trunk.) When equipped with the above features, a Technology Package becomes available, which includes adaptive cruise control and adaptive headlights. A four-wheel-steering feature is offered for the Journey and Sport only. You can also get much of the Sport's specialized standard equipment as part of an optional sport package on the Journey and G35x.
Powertrains and Performance
The G35's 3.5-liter V6 makes 306 hp and 268 pound-feet of torque. The G35x has all-wheel drive; all others are rear-drive. Most models will have a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control and downshift rev-matching. A six-speed manual transmission is exclusive to the Sport 6MT. All versions are blindingly fast -- an automatic-equipped G35 we tested ran to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and dispatched the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds.
Antilock disc brakes with brake assist, front-seat side airbags, full-length curtain airbags, anti-whiplash front head restraints, traction control and stability control are standard on all G35s. Models with the optional Technology Package get front seatbelts that can better prepare for front occupant safety if a collision is anticipated.
Interior Design and Special Features
The G35 offers user-friendly controls, excellent build quality and handsome design -- the latter highlighted by such items as the car's leather-accented magnesium transmission paddle shifters and the "Japanese Washi-paper finish" aluminum trim (or optional wood trim) that provides a refreshingly unique take on cabin decoration. A fairly long wheelbase of 112.2 inches makes for a spacious cabin for passengers whether they're up front or in back. On manual-transmission cars, we've found that the design of the cupholders and interior storage is lacking in terms of functionality.
Refinement is often the goal for luxury sport sedans. This holds true for the 2008 Infiniti G35, but a few aspects can often feel like they belong to a muscle car. The 3.5-liter V6 provides plenty of grunt, for instance, and outright grip is remarkable, with well-controlled body motions. More so than just about any other car in this class, the G35 feels best when driven hard.
This isn't to say the G errs too heavily on the side of sport. The suspension is compliant over most pavement surfaces, allowing the car to be ready for just about any driving occasion: daily commute, 800-mile road trip or blasting through that remote mountain road. We're not particularly fond of the steering, however, as it fails to weight up properly in corners and provides limited feedback. The six-speed manual transmission is also disappointing, as its clutch pedal is heavy and tricky to engage. The five-speed automatic is just fine, however, thanks to its quick-shifting paddles mounted on the steering column and rev-matched downshifts.