2008 Infiniti G35x review

Toss the term “sport sedan” around, and invariably the first car to be mentioned will be the BMW 3 series. For years, it has found itself in the crosshairs of almost every manufacturer who, in one way or another, had tried to dethrone the king. Many have tried, no one has succeeded. Usually there’s a problem or two: the competitor may come packing front wheel drive, they may not offer a manual gearbox, power may be inadequate, and on and on and on.

But in 2003, Infiniti brought a proper competitor to the fight – the G35. It was RWD, had a manual gearbox, and offered sport and premium versions just like its German rival. Reviews were fantastic, sales took off, and this model saved Infiniti from extinction. In 2007, the 2nd generation of this car was released. It was more powerful and improved on some of the weak areas of the first generation car. Can this car earn the championship title for sport sedan?

Looking at it, Infiniti has done a great job with exterior styling. They’ve struck a nice balance between sporty and luxurious. It has a strong, hunkered down look about it – perfect for a sport sedan. Inside the sporty theme continues with a thick steering wheel and well-bolstered seats. It’s easy to find a comfortable position. Notably too the gauge pod will adjust up and down with the steering wheel, pretty much ensuring a full view at all times. Speaking of the gauges, the tach shows a redline set at an enthusiastic 7500 RPM. Space is ample all the way around, at least for the size car that it is. There are traces of cheapness in the materials, especially on the center console. The one I drove had a five speed automatic with manual gear selection.

The center of the dash is a confusing array of buttons and a control knob. Controlling anything on the screen requires a fully stretched arm and seems to be more of a distraction than anything.

Driving on the road reveals a taut suspension that definitely screams sport sedan. It’s not uncomfortable, but you certainly couldn’t call it plush. Lane changes are performed quickly and confidently. You feel like you are in control at all times. The engine is powerful. One demerit though is its roughness. From the inside it sounds like a second cousin to a tractor engine. It has none of the smoothness of the inline 6 of the 3 Series. At the same time, it doesn’t have a pleasing sound when flogging it, almost making you ask yourself “What’s the point?” The closer it gets to the high redline the more it feels like you are simply abusing it.

But the ultimate problem with it as an enthusiast machine is the transmission. It has five speeds where most of its competitors pack six these days. It will also blip the throttle on manual downshifts, pretending to execute a heel-and-toe downshift for you. Actually, it does a pretty good job. Not as good as a BMW, but better than the setup in the Pontiac G8. However, start hotfooting it, and the transmission get harsh. VERY harsh. Harsh to the point of slamming into the next gear on upshifts. It is not a confident feeling, and makes the G35 feel like a cheaper car than it actually is. In fact I wonder how long it would last without issues if consistently driven in an enthusiastic manner.

Infiniti tries to sell the G35 as a cheaper alternative to the 3 Series that still belts out similar performance. It is cheaper, and you can certainly tell. Ultimately, it has a good chassis and suspension let down by a mediocre drivetrain. It drives spiritedly, but you can’t tell if it’s trying to be a performance car with luxury aspirations, or a luxury car with performance aspirations. It seems to me like it’s trying to be both, and ends up only doing a mediocre job at either. While the spec sheet looks good, the powertrain is a letdown when driving it. Also, the Infiniti badge promises luxury, but leaves too much obvious cheapness in the cabin to make it feel like a premium car. The same faults about the interior can be leveled at the BMW as well, but it drives just so good that you promptly forget about its other shortcomings. Here, the shortcomings remain obvious, and while it’s a good effort, it’s not good enough to seriously challenge the 3 Series for the title. If you're in the market for a sport sedan, spend the extra dough and get the right one. Hint: it's not sold at Infiniti dealers.

Photos property of Infiniti

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