The cars we loved.
When you’re out front everybody’s trying to get a piece of you. That’s been the case in the highly competitive lower end of the premium sport compact market. The dominant machine, usually BMW’s 3 Series once clearly lead the market. Today its dominance is not so clear-cut, some say its lost its edge altogether. The process of unseating the 3 Series started long ago, with a new this or that vs BMW. At about the same time Neo was creating havoc in the Matrix, a true challenger came along that threatened the order of the 3. The war against BMW would never be the same.
Infiniti, like nearly every other premium brand had some form of 3 Series competitor all along. For the Nissan luxury brand, it was the front wheel drive J30. Not the most dashing or sport inspiring of automobiles, it sold modestly well but was not mistaken for a performance car. So when the time came to replace it, Infiniti got serious about building a real BMW alternative.
The G35 sedan fired the first shot with 3 Series equaling performance in many respects while matching the German’s feature for feature in the value department. The second and more convincing blow would come with the introduction of the coupe in 2002. Built on Nissans FM platform, the G35 coupe shares much of its DNA with Nissan’s Z car, right down to the 3.0 liter V6.
In keeping with its luxury sport equation, the G35 coupe would have a stretched wheel base for a more comfortable ride and roomy interior. The look was typically Japanese in that it was simple and sleek. Like the BMW, Infiniti had figured out how to make a nearly timeless design, but with a sporting slant.
The interior clearly illustrated Infiniti’s contrasted approach vs BMW and Mercedes with less luxury and more sport. While wood grain accents can be found in BMWs with a sport package, the G35 was all business, or the business of sport. Most cars would feature interiors accented with tasteful aluminum trim. Oddly amongst the sport themed gauges and knobs sat an analog clock, looking as if it would be more at home in a Q45 from the 90s.
While the interior may not have been a convincing stab at luxury, much of what made the G35 coupe such a contender was its platform. The FM architecture (Front Midship) was Nissan’s way for describing the process of moving the engine to the back of the engine bay to improve the car’s dynamics. With a 52/48 weight ratio, the rear wheel drive G35 Coupe nearly matched the BMW spec wise.
While the G35 matched the more expensive E46 BMW 330ic in many respects, it was not as powerful but just as quick to 60 mph. One of BMW’s strengths was that it was offered with multiple engine sizes. The entry versions (325 and later 328) were less powerful than the G35 and could cost about the same without too many options. All trim versions of the G35 were sold with the same engine.
Early G35 scored behind cars like the BMW 330 in breaking tests. The coupes had smaller brakes that were troublesome due to premature wear. It was so bad that a class action lawsuit filed in California prompted larger brakes in future models.
The few faults of the Coupe did not hamper the public’s overall enthusiasm for it. Automotive journalist loved it just as much with nominations for best car and 10 best lists regularly featuring the coupe and sedan. Despite being a premium car, the G35 coupe became a tuner favorite, especially as they rolled off leases into the secondhand market.
While the G35 was never marketed as cheaper alternative to the 3 Series, it often went out the door for less because they were typically well equipped to start. A BMW 328 could climb steeply due to how options were packaged. Like the 3 Series, G35 resale values were strong, due to the solid reputation Nissan had established for the 350Z and Infiniti. The G35 coupe had become as much an alternative the to 3 Series as it was to the Nissan’s own 350Z.
In refining its mission, the G35 got a mild facelift for the 2004/05 model years. One of the last concessions to the past was gone as the cassette player was exchanged for a MP3/WMA compatible CD player (or 6 disc changer). Larger brakes, and wheel options along with more advertised power rounded out the changes. Although the increased hp rating was seen by some as a marketing ploy, the 282 hp rating did little to boost the G35’s overall performance numbers significantly. By this time, the G35 had firmly established itself as a plan B to the 3 Series, Audi TT and just about any other premium coupe. As the model progressed, BMW would gradually lose its clear dominance of the category with Infiniti and others following closely on its heels.