The first Japanese automaker to challenge Europe’s luxury brands was Lexus, but it was the Infiniti G35, introduced in 2003 and riding on a new platform with a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, that really tackled performance machines from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
In true enthusiast fashion, power goes to the rear wheels, while a six-speed manual transmission was offered in both sedan and coupe (reviewed separately) form. But the heart and soul of the G35 – the element that so thrills drivers and terrifies the competition – is its 3.5-liter engine borrowed from the Nissan 350Z sports car. This engine redefines what a V6 sedan can be, combining power, impressive fuel economy and a virtually flawless service record.
Why you want it
Finding a used sport sedan in good condition can be daunting. These cars are generally driven hard and their complex designs usually mean expensive repairs. Not so with the G35. Its Nissan roots and 350Z-inspired mechanicals serve it well, with a relatively low cost to maintain and excellent long-term reliability.
But people don’t buy the G35 because it will last. They buy it because they love to drive. In its most aggressive trim, the G35 feels like a four-door Z-car. It hustles through turns like a running back, accelerates with the gusto of a V8 and can stop in a heartbeat.
Inside, occupants are pampered with all the luxury trimmings expected of a premium mid-size sedan, but at a price close to a loaded Honda Accord or Chrysler 300. The G35 can even carry four adults comfortably, with more front seat head and legroom than the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 sedans. There’s also an all-wheel-drive version for snowbelt dwellers.
Notable features and options
Even the most basic model has the works. Standard equipment includes a 260-horsepower V6 engine (this jumps to 280 in 2005), a five-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, power mirrors, cloth seating, automatic climate control, and a 120-watt audio system with six speakers and an in-dash six-disc CD changer. The G35 Leather adds leather seating (naturally), a 10-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls for the audio and cruise, HID headlamps, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Sport has a six-speed manual transmission (6MT), sport suspension and performance tires. All models feature anti-lock disc brakes, front side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, and electronic traction and stability control. Popular options include a 200-watt seven-speaker Bose audio system, a power glass moonroof, DVD navigation, heated front seats and a four-way power passenger seat.
2004: The all-wheel-drive G35x joins the lineup, while heated side mirrors and 17-inch wheels become standard on the base model. The 6MT gets a tire-pressure monitoring system and a limited-slip rear differential.
2005: Mild interior and exterior freshening; horsepower is bumped up to 280 for automatic cars and 298 in cars with the six-speed manual. A limited-slip differential and 18-inch wheels are added to the Sport Tuned Suspension package. The Premium Package gains a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a reclining rear seat.
2006: New options include Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and satellite radio.
Engines and performance
The G35’s 3.5-liter V6 pumps out 260 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. In 2005, that rises to 280 hp and 270 lb-ft with the automatic, and to nearly 300 hp with the manual transmission. The car is quick off the line and pulls enthusiastically right up to the tachometer’s red zone.
The five-speed automatic transmission does a good job of finding and holding the right gear, but it’s the six-speed manual that makes this car such blast. Drop the transmission into second, toss the G35 into a curve, nail the gas and it’s one heck of a thrill ride. The car loves to carve up corners, with almost no desire to understeer. When the back end does step out, the electronic stability control (VSC) can save the day.
When it’s not tearing up mountain roads, the G35 doubles as a comfortable, quiet luxury sedan. Where other sport-tuned chariots deliver a harsh, unforgiving ride, the G35 seems to glide over rough surfaces and makes quick work of minor potholes. From its perfectly balanced chassis to its excellent brakes, the G35 is one of the most user-friendly sport sedans. And the icing on the cake is that the G35 earns an EPA-adjusted fuel mileage estimate of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway with the manual transmission and 16 city/ 23 highway for the automatic.
Recalls, safety ratings and warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the 2003 to 2006 Infiniti G35 sedan.
2003: Possible defective fuel hose that can crack and leak fuel; possible poorly fitting fuel line at the fuel pump that could come loose and leak fuel: possible malfunctioning brake light switch: improperly soldered cam sensor circuit board that could result in an inability to start the engine.
2004: Possible defective fuel hose that can crack and leak fuel.
2005 to 2006: Possible defective airbag sensor in the front passenger seat that could result in the airbag’s failure to deploy.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. A dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety-wise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2003 to 2006 Infiniti G35 sedan its highest rating of Good in the offset crash test and Acceptable in the side impact test. The NHTSA did not test either the G35 sedan or coupe for the entire 2003 to 2006 model run.
The 2003 to 2006 G35 Sedan has a four-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and six-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty. Infiniti also offers extended warranties that must be purchased when the car is new, but are fully transferable, so be sure to check if a potential buy has such a warranty. By purchasing through Infiniti’s Certified Pre-Owned program, the basic warranty period is extended to 72 months/100,000 miles from the vehicle’s in-service date. An additional year of coverage can also be bought through the CPO program.
Word on the web
We’ve checked many consumer and enthusiast websites to get the owners’ take. Consumer Reports gives the 2003 to 2006 G35 Sedan high marks in most categories, with only a few negative scores for brake issues and, on the 2006 car, paint problems. Enthusiast sites such as G35driver.com and 6MT.net are generally peppered with high praise for performance, quality and overall reliability.
However, there were a number of complaints relating to excessive oil consumption. Though not uncommon with performance engines, oil consumption should not exceed one quart every 3,000 miles. In most cases, the issue revealed itself early on. Infiniti has acknowledged that some engines were problematic and advised dealers to perform an oil consumption test. If the car failed, Infiniti paid to have a new engine installed at no charge to the customer. Chances are most of these cases have been resolved, but have the car checked thoroughly by a qualified Infiniti mechanic before buying, just to be on the safe side.
Auto Trader recommendations
A well-stocked 6MT Leather could be a great buy. The G35 is a primarily a performance sedan and the six-speed manual and sport suspension really make the most of the marvelous platform and torque-happy engine. If it has to be an automatic, stick with the higher-end models. The leather upholstery is befitting of this car’s stature and many Leather trims are loaded with such goodies as heated seats, the Bose audio system and onboard navigation.
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