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If you're looking for a reliable, good-looking entry-level luxury sedan with room for five, the I35 should be on your test-drive list.
Powerful yet refined drivetrain, roomy and comfortable cabin, big trunk, full load of amenities.
No manual transmission available, some inexpensive-looking interior bits, ho-hum handling.
The I35 is an evolution of the second-generation I30 entry-level luxury sedan. It features a more powerful engine, updated exterior styling, standard 17-inch wheels, an upgraded braking system, stability control and more luxurious interior appointments.
Nissan and Infiniti have been rather busy this year debuting new and updated models. The Infiniti I35, an evolution of the I30 entry level luxury sedan, is one of those new models.
Central to the I35 upgrade is a 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V6 engine that makes an impressive 255 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque. The increase in power compared to I30 (the I30 had 227 hp) is due to larger engine displacement. The new engine also features variable valve timing, a silent timing chain and an electronically controlled throttle. With 255 horses under the hood, the I35 is nearly equal to the Acura TL Type-S in terms of power. Alas, in the Infiniti only a four-speed automatic transmission is available, transferring power to the front wheels.
The I35 shares its body structure with the Nissan Maxima. As such, the Infiniti is one of the few cars in this class with a beam rear axle; the rest have independent rear suspensions. It may be a very sophisticated beam rear axle, but it is still at an inherent disadvantage in that the I35 can't absorb mid-corner bumps as well as the other cars. The car does provide a smooth yet controlled ride, a bonus for long highway cruises. It also features improved braking compared to the I30 thanks to larger disc brakes and the addition of Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist to the standard antilock brakes.
One of the I35 strengths is its surprisingly roomy back seat, as well as its comfortable seating for five adults. The eight-way power-adjustable driver seat includes lumbar support, two-position memory and an automatic entry/exit system. The trunk is one of the largest in this segment, holding a maximum of 14.9 cubic feet of stuff.
The I30 was previously available in two different trim levels, but the I35 comes in just "Luxury" trim. Conveniently, the Infiniti offers plenty of kit to remind you that, yes, indeedy, this is a luxury car. It has a classy analogue clock gracing the dash, revised Sojourner leather-appointed seats, an express-open sunroof, automatic climate control and a 200-watt Bose audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer. Infiniti has also added simulated wood trim to the center console and to the leather-wrapped steering wheel this year.
In terms of optional features, one of the more impressive ones is a navigation system that pops out of the top of the dash to make you feel like you're in a James Bond flick. Infiniti nav systems have what they call a Birdview perspective, which gives a realistic simulation of looking at the landscape from a height. Other options include a power sunroof and rear sunshade, a cold weather package with heated front and rear seats, and a sport package. The sport package effectively replaces the I30 Touring trim, and it includes a sport-tuned suspension, wider 17-inch tires and stability control, a new feature for this year.
With its classy looks, smooth and powerful V6 and long list of standard and available features, the I35 delivers a luxury sedan experience that doesn't entail typical luxury sedan payments. Other front-drive cars like the Acura TL Type-S and the new Lexus ES 300 also deserve your attention, but there's no reason why you shouldn't consider the I35 in your selection process.
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