If you’re interested in a reliable, luxurious, budget-priced sport sedan, the 2003-2006 Infiniti G35 and 2004-2008 Acura TL are probably on your shopping list. Both models offer sleek styling, ample engine power, notorious durability and a lot of features and equipment. But you might be wondering which one is better and which one you should buy. To help you find out, we’ve created a comparison of both cars that takes a close look at several key categories. But first, let’s check out the basics.
2003-2006 Infiniti G35: The Basics
The G35 debuted in spring 2002 as a 2003 model with much fanfare that included a coveted Motor Trend Car of the Year award. It featured a standard V6 engine, sleek styling, rear-wheel drive and an available coupe variant. All-wheel drive became optional in 2004, while the G35 was face-lifted for the 2005 model year to add updated styling and increased engine power.
2004-2008 Acura TL: The Basics
The third-generation Acura TL debuted a year after the G35, touting more power than its predecessor, modernized styling and a lot more equipment. Although the TL and G35 were similar on paper, the models had two major differences. Most notably, the TL wasn’t available as a coupe and it was only offered front-wheel drive. For 2007, the TL was face-lifted with slightly revised exterior styling and a few new features.
Given the strong reputation that Acura and Infiniti have for dependability, it should come as no surprise that Consumer Reports ranked both the TL and the G35 above average for reliability. Customers also gave the vehicles high rankings, with the TL earning a 9.4 out of 10 in reviews on Kelley Blue Book, while the G35 earned 9.2 out of 10.
One item to note: While the G35’s engine uses a timing chain, which is designed to last the life of the engine, the TL uses a timing belt, which needs to be replaced every 100,000 miles or so. If you’re buying a used TL with around 100,000 miles (or above that figure), you’ll want to verify that the timing belt has been replaced. If it hasn’t, a timing belt replacement can be a costly service, with prices often topping $500. For that reason alone, we think the G35 has a slight edge in reliability — although both of these models are among the most dependable in their class.
The G35 sedan used a 3.5-liter V6 engine that made 260 horsepower in 2003 and 2004, and 280 horses in 2005 and 2006. Regardless of model year, the G35 returned 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with its standard 6-speed manual, or 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with its optional 5-speed automatic.
Meanwhile, the TL used a 3.2-liter V6 that was originally rated at 270 hp, then later revised to 258 horses. That engine returned 20 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with its standard 6-speed manual, or 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with its optional 5-speed automatic. Drivers looking for more power could upgrade to the TL Type-S (beginning in 2007), which offered a 286-hp 3.5-liter V6 and returned 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with the standard stick shift, or 17 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with the optional automatic.
The result: The TL earned better gas mileage than the G35, but only slightly. However, the G35 offered stronger performance than its Acura rival, save for the Acura’s sporty Type-S variant.
In crash testing carried out by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the TL earned a perfect 5-star rating for frontal-crash tests, a mixed 4- and 5-star rating for side-impact tests (4 for the driver, 5 for the passenger) and a 4-star rollover rating. Unusually, the G35 was never tested by the NHTSA.
As for safety features, both the TL and the G35 were on the cutting edge for their time. Both models came standard with front-side airbags, stability control, side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes. While you couldn’t get modern features like lane-departure warning or even a backup camera in their models, these cars are fairly well-equipped compared to rivals, with neither one especially standing out over the other.
Both the G35 and the TL offered an impressive array of standard features, especially compared to rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi, who offered sparse base models and added all the desirable features to the options list.
For instance, the vast majority of G35 models touted leather upholstery, a power sunroof, a 6-disc CD changer, dual power front seats, heated front seats and automatic climate control. Options included dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlights and a navigation system. The TL’s list of standard features was almost identical, though TL models received Bluetooth and satellite radio before the G35. Still, our take is that you won’t find many equipment differences between these two cars, as both offer just about anything you’ll expect on a vehicle this age.
There are currently around 930 different 2003-2006 G35 sedans listed on Autotrader with an average price of around $7,900, while there are about 1,700 different 2004-2008 TL models on Autotrader with an average price of around $10,100.
To us, the price difference alone makes the G35 a better value. While the TL may offer a more modern interior and exterior design, it’s hard to justify a price difference of more than $2,000 over the G35, especially considering all the similarities between the G35 and the TL. Icing on the cake is the fact that the G35 comes in enthusiast-friendly rear-wheel drive (or all-weather-friendly all-wheel drive) and also offers a coupe model.
Both the 2004-2008 Acura TL and the 2003-2006 Infiniti G35 are excellent luxury-oriented sport sedans, but if it were up to us to decide, we’d go with the Infiniti. Not only does it offer more power and better performance than the TL — along with rear- or all-wheel drive and an available coupe version — the G35 is cheaper to buy used. With that said, you can’t go wrong with either of these models, as they offer excellent equipment, strong performance, impressive reliability and reasonable pricing.