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New Car Review: 2003 Infiniti G35 Sedan

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    Meet the next generation at Infiniti. The 2003 G35 sedan is only 
the beginning of a line of innovatively-styled and engineered 
vehicles to come from the Japanese luxury manufacturer. Expect 
more in the near future. Infiniti's vision of itself is being honed, and 
it bodes well for the future.

    Other than the letter ``G'' in its name and four wheels, the G35 
has little in common with the smaller, older G20. The G35 is aimed 
directly at the heart of the European compact performance-luxury 
class. Munich und Stuttgart, look out. Like its chief competitors, 
the G35 has a front-engine, rear-wheel drive chassis layout with a 
sophisticated fully-independent suspension. It's not just any old 
front-engine, rear-drive platform, though. The G35 is built on the 
same chassis architecture as the latest iteration of the legendary 
Nissan Skyline and the soon-to-come 350Z. 

    That platform is called ``FM'' for the ``front midship'' engine 
placement. Development involved many of the people who worked 
on Nissan's Le Mans and Group C endurance racing programs, and 
it shows. The lightweight, 260-horsepower V6's center of gravity is 
behind the front axle line, for optimum weight distribution. Careful 
attention to aerodynamics, including the underside, reduces lift at 
speed, for stability. An extremely rigid unibody structure and 
extensive use of aluminum suspension components aid handling and 
comfort at all speeds. The wheels are at the corners, for a longer 
wheelbase and wider track, benefiting handling, and increased 
interior space. 

    Without options, the G35 is well-equipped for its class; many 
different option packages allow it to be tailored to the owner's 
tastes. I've spent the last week in one with almost all of the 
trimmings, lacking only the sport suspension and aero packages and 
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the DVD navigation system. It is a consummate sports-luxury sedan, combining performance, handling, comfort, and style in a way that puts it at the head of its class. APPEARANCE: The G35' sleek styling is distinctive from all angles, and is nearly identical to that of the newest Nissan Skyline. With its low nose, high fenders, and semi-fastback roofline, it looks more like a sports coupe than a sedan. The low, wide grille is flanked by headlamps placed behind rounded fairings; a long, straight bulge in the low aluminum hood furthers the classic sports car look. The roofline is sedan formal only in comparison to the upcoming G35 coupe. The sharply-truncated tail balances the rounded shapes of the rest of the car, and features unique wraparound LED taillights. Aerodynamics played an important part in the body design, not for looks but for function. Careful design of the underside and management of internal airflow result in low aerodynamic drag and minimal lift at speed - zero with the optional sport aero package. Placing the wheels near the corners of the car results in low overhangs, for easy clearance of road hazards despite the low stance. COMFORT: The long wheelbase and wide track of the FM platform mean that the G35 has more room than expected in cars of its class. In design, the interior has all of the expected contemporary
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luxury cues, but is as original as the exterior and shows the same great attention to detail. Even with dark ``graphite'' upholstery, as my test car had, a cream headliner lightens the interior, as does the optional bird's-eye maple trim package. The main instrument pod tilts with the steering wheel, for better instrument visibility. The front bucket seats combine comfort and support; the power adjustments are inboard, for easier operation. As part of the ``Premium Package,'' the outboard rear seat backs are individually adjustable for angle. It is one of the roomiest rear seats in the class. Many storage spaces of varied size are found throughout, and trunk space is very good, even with a full-size spare tire under the trunk floor. SAFETY: The G35 is designed to protect occupants in a collision with strong construction, front and rear crumple zones, front and front side airbags, and front and rear side curtain airbags. ROADABILITY: Lesson from endurance racing: comfort adds performance. The ``flat ride concept'' developed during the Nissan endurance racing program is that less body motion means less driver and passenger fatigue. A rigid chassis structure with ideal weight balance, lightweight independent suspension, and perfect matching of spring, shock, and stabilizer bar rates results in a comfortably firm but compliant ride and first-class handling with little roll or pitch - and that's with the standard suspension. A slightly firmer sport tuning is also available. In either trim, the G35 is very capable on the road, and holds its own against any car in its class. PERFORMANCE: The 3.5-liter V6 under the G35's hood is a member of the award-winning Nissan/Infiniti VQ engine series familiar in the Nissan Maxima and Infiniti I30 and I35. It features a rigid aluminum alloy block and heads, low-friction construction, continuously-variable valve timing, and a electronically-controlled ``drive by wire'' throttle control. Power is delivered to the rear wheels via a five-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission with manual shift mode. It develops 260 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm, with plenty of power available at any engine speed. It shifts smoothly and quickly automatically, and just as well in manual mode for a sportier experience. It is smooth and vibration free, with a classic six- cylinder sound. Acceleration is no problem - sixty comes up in just over six seconds. CONCLUSIONS: The Infiniti G35 is a luxury sedan designed by race car engineers, and it shows - very positively. SPECIFICATIONS 2003 Infiniti G35 Sedan Base Price $ 28,950 (leather model) Price As Tested $ 33,395 Engine Type aluminum alloy dual overhead cam 24-valve V6 with continuous variable valve timing Engine Size 3.5 liters / x cu. in. Horsepower 260 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 260 @ 4800 rpm Transmission 5-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 112.2 in. / 186.5 in. Curb Weight 3,369 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 13.0 Fuel Capacity 20 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline Tires P215/55 VR17 Goodyear Eagle RS-A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear multi-link independent / multi-link independent Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 26 / 21 0 to 60 mph 6.1 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.27 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Premium Package - includes: Bose(tm) 200-watt audio system, dual climate control with rear vents, driver's seat memory, 4-way adjustable front passenger seat, reclining rear seats, auto on/off headlights, Homelink (tm), auto-dimming rearview mirror, all windows one-touch up/down $ 2,200 Sunroof $ 1,000 Winter Package with full-size spare tire $ 450 Wood Package - genuine bird's-eye maple trim $ 250 Destination charge $ 545