Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2004 Infiniti G35 - Fast, Nice Looking, Inexpensive, but not Perfect

2004 Infiniti G35 Reviewed by Dmiko on .

I wanted to get the Infiniti G35 Sedan (Luxury Leather) to replace my Mitsubishi Galant for a while, but was waiting for the 2004 model. You see, I try not to buy the new model cars the first year they are released. 

The wait paid off in several areas. Firstly, the 2004 model (I am talking about the Luxury Leather Auto) has heated seats and outside mirrors and tire pressure monitoring as standard equipment (unlike the 2003 model) and also features an updated 6-disc CD changer with faster operation. Also, the car has a power passenger seat now as standard equipment. 

Secondly, the price went up only $450. And I was able to get the car for only $500 over invoice price, which would be impossible a year earlier. I got my car in September, at which time the CarsDirect.com listed the 2003 model at the same price I got my 2004 model for. 


I have to mention that getting the car without sunroof, premium package, Bose sound system and the like is very difficult. I was barely able to locate one G35 with no sunroof and other options in Southern California using Infiniti’s web site when I was ready to buy. Even that car had a trunk mat and mud guards. 

I am not a big fan of sunroofs. I don't like them, don't feel like paying $900 for one and like extra headroom space the lack of sunroof entails. And I didn't want the Bose sound system either, because it has artificially high levels of upper bass and mid-treble (and it lacks lower bass and upper treble), producing unnatural sound for another $900 or so. 

I wouldn't mind paying for navigation system, but to get it, you have to get the Premium Package for $2200 (including, useless for me, reclining rear seats) and sunroof. 

More Info 

The G35 Sedan is a rear-wheel drive car with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, which produces 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque (the coupe produces 280 hp and looks better, but it is smaller and more expensive). The power in the model I got (Auto) is routed through the 5-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. 

The car features 52/48 weight distribution front to rear and has aluminum suspension components. The standard-issue G35 has zero-lift front aerodynamics and feels very stable at high speeds. It also features LED stoplights, which illuminate faster and last longer than conventional lights. 

The front features HID xenon headlights (low beam) and I was a little surprised to find that the windshield washer jets are not located on the hood and provide clean hood look. 

The brakes have electronic force distribution, ABS, vehicle dynamic control and brake assist. The G35 has front, side and head-curtain airbags as well as active head restraints (they move forward in rear-end collisions preventing whiplash). 

You can get more information elsewhere, but I just have to say that I believe I got a great bargain: the interior space of a BMW 530 with more power for the price of the stripped BMW 325. Of course, there are other variables involved, even aside from the BMW’s legendary handling and BMW free maintenance. But I am happy with the deal I got. 


This review was last updated 09/2014. I currently have 74,000 miles on the car and can see the good, the bad and the ugly of it. 

Not Good 

First, the standard-issue audio system should have been better (and the Bose is even worse). Both the Bose-equipped cars and non-Bose cars use the same head unit made by Clarion. I am unsure if it is to blame or the antenna, but the reception could have been better. It is worse than my Galant's (even though both use the in-rear-window antenna), and definitely worse than the mast antenna on Volvo S40. 

The speakers lacked depth and imaging when the car was new, but the situation improved somewhat with the break-in. They are still no match for the Athena speakers I have at home, and even speakers in the Volvo S40 (Philips). 

The standard audio system has 4 6.5-inch woofers in doors and 2 tweeters in front doors. The Bose system adds and amplifier and a couple of 6x9 speakers on the rear parcel shelf. The Bose system is a complete waste of money as it sounds even worse than the standard system. 

Both Bose and non-Bose systems have over-emphasized upper bass and treble and severely lack midrange and lower bass. Contrary to popular belief and the common sense, you have to adjust bass to about -3 dB and treble to about -4/-5 dB for sound to get semi-decent. Only then the midrange can be heard. Still, the bass is lacking and the bass to midrange area is muffled. 

The Bose system (I drove Bose-equipped G35s as loaners) boosts upper bass, which makes the sound unnatural. The speakers on the rear shelf are added and they are called "super woofers" - they boost upper bass and lower midrange but do not produce any "real" bass. As is the lower bass, the upper midrange is also lacking. The Bose system is, scientifically speaking, pure crap and a waste of money. Unless you like lots of overboosted upper bass. 

Next, the dashboard and the Infiniti signature analog clock reflect into my eyes through the windshield at night, even with the backlight dialed way down. It is not a terrible flaw, but it is just ridiculous how they missed it. 

When the sun is behind me, it makes the compass and climate control display as well as the stereo display all but invisible. You can only see the electrodes on the displays, but not digits and signs. 

Also, although I have no problem with the way the power seat controls work (4 separate rocker switches), their location is not smart (inboard seat cushions). I would fear using front cup holders for the fear of spilling drinks on them and rendering them unusable. 

And did I mention that I hate foot parking brakes? The G35 auto has one. And the car gets about 19 MPG so far. But I am willing to pay for the performance and I get about 24 MPG if I do a lot of freeway driving. 

Speaker Swap 

Update: I replaced the speakers in my G35 with component JBL P650c in front and JBL P652 two-way coaxial speakers in rear doors and the improvement is amazing. Even with stock head unit, the sound is just great, much better than the stock paper-cone Panasonic speakers with no low-pass filters or crossovers. And, needless to say, much better than Bose system for fraction of the price. 


The car is roomy inside and I find the seat comfortable, due in part to the adjustable lumbar support. There is plenty of leg room up front and in the back seat. The wheel tilts with the instrument cluster - a feature I don't mind but don't care much about (it would be better if they made the secondary displays better visible in the sun instead). 

The car has an automatic climate control, which is easy to use, but does not allow you to have full control in manual mode as far as the combination of the air distribution direction goes. 

It works well in auto mode, however, aside from its propensity to engage at the maximum fan speed when you start the car on a hot day, creating hair-raising winds inside the cabin. 

The display in the middle of the dash has an electronic compass, climate control display and the outside temperature gauge. 

Make sure you set the proper "zone" for the compass to show the correct reading. The proper zone for Southern California is "3", whereas the car I drove was somehow set to zone "8" and the compass reading was a bit incorrect. 

Below it, there is a signature Infiniti analog clock. There is a cigarette lighter and 2 power outlets (one of which is in the armrest compartment). 

Some car magazines complained about the climate control buttons that are located in a way that makes them difficult to use. I have no problem using them, aside from the fact that you have to look at them while adjusting the temperature or the direction of the air. 

And the audio control buttons on the steering wheel make it easy to control the CD playback or radio without even looking. 

The aforementioned display for the compass and climate control lets you see the contacts/patterns for the letters/pictograms when the sun light hits the car from the rear. 

I got the Graphite (black) interior with titanium accents. I like it - it is not up to VW/Audi or BMW levels of finish, but it is clean and functional. The sun visors feel a little cheap though. They have the weight and surface of a thick eraser-rubbed cardboard. But they are also functional, having sun visor extensions and illuminated vanity mirrors. 

The steering wheel is convenient and has buttons for cruise control as well as for audio control functions. The back seat does not fold, but has a pass-through with an arm rest for the back passengers, which doubles as the cup holders and a first aid compartment. 

The pedals are well-spaced. The interior has several storage compartments: center armrest compartment, 2 little glove boxes (one taken by DVD-based navigation system if so equipped), the compartment in the center top of the dash (taken by the LCD screen for navigation system if so equipped). 

The sunglass storage compartment on the headliner is too small to hold my sunglasses (I tried two different styles), but will work fine for more compact sunglass styles. 


The standard 17-inch aluminum wheels come with an anti-theft bolts and are fitted with 215mm V-rated Bridgestone Turanza EL42 tires (the sports package equipped cars get W-rated tires of the same size). 

I already mentioned the windshield washers located on the wiper arms. The outside power heated mirrors can be folded. 

I must admit that I didn't really like the car's exterior when it was released, but now I like it a lot, even the rear styling. 


The trunk is roomy and has a cargo net. The opening is quite large and the trunk lid has gas-charged struts. The trunk can be opened from the cabin or by pressing a button on the remote. The trunk lid has a handle on the inside to close the lid without having to touch the outside (possibly dirty) surface, as well as the glowing-in-the-dark release handle. 


The main reason I got this car (aside from the price) is its acceleration, braking and handling. 

During the test drive before I bought my car, I could accelerate at full throttle entering a 90-degree turn and the VDC (vehicle dynamic control) kept the car on course by braking individual wheels and restricting engine power. 

I don't do stuff like that with my own car - brake pads and rotors are not cheap, but it is good to know that if some situation arises when I need this functionality, it will be there. I am intending to keep the VDC on, even though there is an "off" switch - the car power-oversteers with the VDC off. 

In fact, 2 months after I got the car, I discovered it oversteers even with the VDC on, although briefly. I was making a very late left turn (the left-turn arrow was about to turn red) in my usual fashion - late braking and acceleration out of the turn. During the acceleration (after the "apex"), the tail started sliding wide (even with steering counter-correction) until I and VDC put it back in place - I scary moment, which indicates that the car is not as balanced as, say, BMW 3-series (I went to the performance driving class, where the 330i never exhibited this kind of behavior). 

It is not as I don't expect to be able to cause oversteer if I really try. But the abruptness of thereof and difficulty to control it what makes me think twice about disengaging VDC, especially in semi-slippery conditions. I tried to power-oversteer in the rain once (when no other cars were present) and the oversteer was very abrupt. Despite counter-steering and throttle modulation, it was VDC that saved the day at the time when I was already rotated about 45 degrees. Bottom line - it is fun, but keep VDC on in the slippery conditions. 

Maybe it needs wider and grippier tires, because the 215 mm all-season Turanza EL42 is no match for wider Michelin Pilot Sport (I am comparing it to more nimble, albeit smaller, BMW 330). In fact I got better tires later (see below) and the handling/braking improved dramatically, so did the noise and ride.

The car is has rear-wheel drive, which was a requirement for me. Sure, you can get the Infiniti I35 (with the same, but slightly detuned engine and 4-speed automatic) with more standard equipment and standard Bose sound system and wood trim for thousands less. But it, being a front-driver, torque-steers, is slow exiting turns while spinning its front wheels and brakes worse because of the front-biased weight distribution. Plus, its structure is not as solid as the G35's. 

The G35 does feel solid. It also (in my non-sport trim) has reasonably compliant suspension. And it corners and brakes quite flat. 


Some car magazines complained about overly sensitive brake pedal. I don't find it to be overly sensitive, unlike the Porsche Cayenne I drove recently. The brakes are easy to modulate and they provide impressive stopping power. 

I have heard form other owners about the brake pads and rotors lasting, in some cases, only 15K miles. Infiniti responded in November 2003 by offering free brake service (pads and rotors) for 3 years/36,000 miles. Which was good, because my brake pads (both front and rear) were replaced at 15K service having only 25% left. 

The pads that were used for replacement seem to be different from the ones originally installed and lasted almost 30K. So they last almost twice longer, but the pedal became more "squishy" and the brakes were generally less "grabby" at the beginning of the pedal travel. The pedal travel is longer, it is less sensitive and inspires less confidence. In stop/go traffic, it is also a little more fatiguing than the old brake pads. 

I replaced these pads with Hawk HPS Front Brake Pads HB268F.665 and Hawk HPS Rear Brake Pads HB370F.559 (review of Hawk HPS Rear Brake Pads HB370F.559 is here)  (09/2008, 43K on the car). I heard they last longer, provide decent pedal feel and generate less dust. The pedal feel is somewhere in between the initial dusty, fast-wearing but grabby OEM brakes and the longer-lasting, but more "squishy" Infiniti replacements. The Hawk HPS produce much less dust and should last much longer than OEM. And the dust they produce is lighter in color and therefore less visible on the wheels. 

As of 05/2013 with 27K miles on the brakes, the front pads still had 8mm and rears 8mm left. This means, they should last over 80K overall in front and more than that in the rear. This compares very favorably with the original OEM pads that lasted only 15K and their OEM replacements that needed replacement at 28K. The Hawk HPS pads don't squeak at all. The only thing I wish for is better initial bite .

At 43K, the front rotors were below spec for replacement (less than 22mm left from 24 when new). They developed a ridge on the outede edge and the front brakes were pretty squeaky at slight braking, especially in colder weather. I replaced the front rotors with OEM ones.

The rear rotors are barely worn at all with no ridge. I simply replaced the pads with Hawk HPS in the rear, even though the existing pads had some life left in them. Seems the fronts take care of most braking (which is not surprising).


The 5-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and does not hesitate to downshift, however its manu-matic functionality is limited (on my car). It does work well if you want to downshift, but you cannot make it upshift if you want. Floor the throttle and it will downshift anyway, even if you don't want it. 

Basically, it is not even manual control of the gear itself, but the manual selection of the allowed range of the transmission operation. Slide the lever to the right while driving on the street at about 40 mph and the digit 4 illuminates on the display. It doesn't mean the car is in 4th gear, but that the transmission is allowed to shift as it pleases within 1-4 gear range. 

Move the lever down and release it and the 3 illuminates. Now the transmission is limited to only 3 gears. Works well for driving in the mountains or to slow the car down driving downhill without using brakes for extended periods of time. But my Mitsubishi Galant has the same functionality sans fancy way to engage it and without bragging about it. 

On the other hand, the G35's transmission works well enough in the full auto mode. Plus, the car is available with the 6-speed manual transmission. I would probably have gotten it if I haven't had to deal with crappy LA traffic. 

I have driven a late 2004 G35 with Premium Package and the manual shifting worked differently there (as well as on the Infiniti FX35 I drove recently). You choose the gear, not the range of gears. The car even shifts to 1st gear once you come to a stop. Although it is better than the implementation my car has, the shifting was still slower than you can accomplish with a manual transmission and you cannot downshift or upshift twice quickly. 


Unlike BMW, Mercedes, Volvo or Audi, which provide you with free scheduled maintenance for 3-4 years, you have to pay for your with Infiniti. BMW and Mercedes cars have flexible service system which tells you when to change the oil (on average 10,000 miles). 

The G35 has 3 service schedules, with driving in ideal conditions requiring oil changes every 7,500 miles. Two other schedules - preferred (for people who are paranoid or have OCD) and severe (for all others) - require oil changes every 3,750 miles. 

I am sticking with regular service schedule but going to change the oil every 3,750 miles. The manual explicitly states that Infiniti recommends mineral-based oils. I followed this recommendation up to 48K miles, even though I like synthetic Castrol and Mobil 1 oil. But now I switched to Shell Rotella T Syn 5W40.

The reason is I mostly drive in city traffic, short trips of 6 miles. Not only this kind of driving bad for the oil, the VQ35DE engine is also known as being unkind to any oil. Various used oil analysis results suggest that the oil shears pretty badly in this engine, probably due to its valvetrain design with no rollers on cams. Engines of this design usually like oils with ZDDP and this one is no exception, according to UOA results posted online.

According to them, the engine reacts very favorably to Pennzoil Platinum 5w30, Quaker State Q-Horsepower 5w30, German Castrol Syntec 0w30, Mobil 1 0w40 and Shell Rotella T Syn 5w40. I bought the latter after seeing UOA of it used in a VQ35DE engine for a year in short-distance driving for over 6,100 miles with plenty of life still left in the oil. This is in contrast to some oils that get to the end of their useful life in this engine in as little as 3,500 miles.

The maintenance costs at the dealership are pretty high. Although I payed $13 for oil changes at my dealership since I bought the car there (regular price was $40), I paid $130 for 7.5K mile service, which includes only oil change, tire rotation and a couple of inspections. And the 15K service cost $185 and only after some haggling as they wanted to charge me more than $300 for nothing more than the glorified oil change and tire rotation. 

This is not counting the annual (or 15K miles, whichever comes first) in-cabin air filter replacement that dealerships normally want about $100 for. I do it myself, but it takes close to an hour and the filter was about $35. I later found that I can buy this filter for only $12 at DriveWire.com . Now I buy Fram filters with charcoal and baking soda on Amazon for $13.

My brake pads were replaced and rotors machined all around at 15K service (free) because the brake pads supposedly had only 25% left. I am trying not to think how much I will have to pay once the free brake replacement period expires. At least the new pads that Infiniti provided lasts longer than the originals (see above).

The transmission service is not listed in the service booklet at all, unless you qualify for severe service or frequent mountain driving. I did the first transmission fluid replacement at 74K miles nonetheless. The old fluid was Nissan Matic-J and the new was synthetic Nissan Matic-S.

Do It Yourself 

I do/intend to do some maintenance items myself. Replacing the in-cabin microfilter normally costs $80-100, but you can do it yourself for about $15-25 (price of the filter particulate/activated carbon). You have to remove the lower glove box, but it is doable. 

I did it myself first time after about 18 months of owning the car and the filter was quite dirty. It took me a little less than an hour as the design of the glovebox requires you to remove the entire lower section with the glove box cover as well as the side kick panel. 

Some items require less maintenance than in other cars. The platinum-tipped spark plugs are supposed to last 105,000 miles. The engine uses timing chain rather than timing belt, that would need replacement every 60-100 K. So no need to replace it at all. Fuel filter also does not need replacement and there is no mention of brake fluid changes. 

Unfortunately, some items are a bit more difficult than they should have been. To check the oil, you have to remove and reinsert the dipstick, which has more bends and twists than the mountain drive to my hiking location of choice. 

There is no tube to re-insert it into, just a hole in the engine block with a little "guide", which is useless at best. The hole itself is all but invisible, even in the daylight and requires a use of a flashlight, as it is surrounded by the intake pipe and the black engine cover. I have never seen the worse-designed dipstick. 

The air filter on most cars can be replaced without tools in about 2 minutes. On this car, you have to use tools and it will take about 30-50 minutes. You have to dsconnect the MAF (mass-airflow) sensor cable, remove the front air intake scoop and disconnect the hose that conveys the air from the airbox into the air intake. At least you don't have to do it often. And the air filter is cheap: $8-11.

The battery in this car has plugs in each cell you should remove to check the electrolyte level at least once a year and refill with distilled water as needed. I found that I needed to put quite a lot of distilled water every 8 months or so to keep the electrolyte level at the "full" mark. The battery lasted 5.5 years in the SoCal heat and died after I left the car sitting for 2.5 weeks. After returning from vacation, I couldn't start the car and the lights were dim. 5.5 years is not at all bad in the hot weather of Southern California. The OEM battery in my 2000 Mitsubishi Galant lasted 2.5 years and the one in our 2006 Honda Accord lasted only 4 years. That taught me to preemptively replace batteries, as I did in our 2007 Honda Accord after 3.5 years. I replaced The G's battery with the one from Costco for only about $70 (with 100-month prorated warranty).

Squeaks and Rattles 

There were two distinct noise areas in my car. There was a squeak coming from the front ashtray area (in front of the shifter) and there was a rattle coming from the rear parcel shelf area. I took the car to my dealership several times and asked to have these taken care of. Several times they were taken care of on paper (foam pads installed in both areas, supposedly), but both were still present. 

I have since taken the car to another dealership and they seemed to have fixed the astray squeak by replacing the ashtray, but couldn't reproduce the slight rattle in the back. Then I drove with my girlfriend in the back seat - she heard the rattle and was able to pinpoint the location by pressing on the rear pillar trim (C-pillar plastic trim) on the driver's side. 

I told the service personnel at the dealership about this discovery and they fixed the rattle! 

Even Worse 

In October 2004, my windshield cracked. Entirely by itself, without any "help" and against my will. It happend overnight as the car was sitting in the parking lot. There was no extreme temperature change. The crack developed from the upper edge of the driver's side of the windshield and was about 12 inches in length when I found it in the morning. Since then, it grew about 3 inches (on a sunny day). 

The service department of the dealership found no sign of impact and replaced it under warranty as a "stress crack". I sure hope this won't happen again. 

Also, in the beginning of 2005 the driver-side speaker (tweeter) would stop working periodically. I never listen to music loud... Went to the dealership twice and had the tweeter replaced, but that did not help. After that, I had the stereo/head unit replaced twice.

The car had more issues in the first 18 months than my previous one (Mitsubishi Galant) had in 5 years. But then the issues stopped and the last few years were relatively trouble-free (knocking on wood). 

At least the service department gives me a nice loaner car and is otherwise helpful. Due to all these problems I am became very familiar with FX35 and different 2005-2007 G35s (loaner cars). 

Wheel Bearing Issues

I originally noticed the noise at about 47K miles. The noise was repetitive and sounded like rubbing/groaning at every rotation of the wheels. The car was still uner powertrain warranty then, but when I brought it to the dealership, I was told it was tire noise. At 67K the noise got unbearable and I replaced the tires but the noise didn't go away. I took it in again and this time it was diagnozed as a bad wheel bearing. Cost to replace: $777. 

When I mentioned that I complained about this issue first when I still had my powertrain warranty, I was told (by both the dealer and the Infiniti Consumer Affairs) that the rear wheel bearing was not covered by the powertrain warranty. Only after I showed the warranty booklet to the service advisor and the line that specifically lists wheel bearings as covered under the powertrain warranty did he agree to call Infiniti and see if they would do anything. In the end, they picked up the tab for labor and I paid $280 for parts.

I never had to replace wheel bearings in any other cars, including a Volvo with 185K miles when sold.


The manual recommends Premium 91-octane, but permits operation on Regular 87. I was using the Premium but switched to regular with no apparent side effects aside from an occasional nock/pinging. The nocking got me slightly worried and I switched back to Premium gas, then to midrange (Plus or whatever it is called). The fuel tank holds 20 gallons. I get between 20 and 21.5 MPG in about 50/50 city/highway driving, 22-23 MPG in 20/80 city/highway driving. And lately, in 90% freeway driving I got 24 mpg. With 74K miles on the odometer I have been getting 25-26 mpg in 100% freeway driving.

Tire Upgrade 

Replacing mediocre Bridgestone Turanza EL42 tires with Yokohama YK520 reduced noise and vibration and increased grip. Both improvements are significant and very welcome. In addition, after 45 K miles, they still had some tread left (5/32"). Still, I replaced they with the newer version of the tire: Yokohama YK580 Tire and then the Michelin Primacy MXV4. The MXV4 made the ride excellent and quiet while improving MPG by about 10% with good traction. I get 26 MPG with these Michelins.

Marvel Mystery Oil

I used Marvel Mystery Oil (MMO) in the gas of this car for several thousand miles and got stellar smog test results thereafter. But I got a timing chain rattle after about 6K miles on synthetic oil, which should have lasted me 8K or so. I now use MMO in this car only periodically.

Pros: Excellent power, handling, braking, looks, price, features, interior fit, seats
Cons: Windshield reflections, MPG, squeaks and rattles, poor speakers, Bose are even worse, windshield cracked

Bottom Line 

After 74 thousand miles and 11 years, I am still happy with my G35. It is inexpensive even comparing to the smaller and slower BMW 330, Audi A4 3.0, Mercedes C320 and Lexus IS300. It handles well and has good warranty. It proved reliable and durable. Even the small aforementioned annoyances it has (stereo, windshield reflections, etc.) would not stop me from buying it again and recommending to others.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5.

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