The Infiniti dealership I go to for service is nice enough to provide loners with any service other than fast ones (e.g. oil change). When my 2004 Infiniti G35 Sedan was almost 5 years old and had quite a few warranty-related issues and recalls and currently required services like coolant change and brake service, I got to drive Infiniti loners quite a lot.
Over the ownership period of my G35, I drove G35s of different model years and equipment levels as well as the FX35. Currently, I am driving the new 2008 Infiniti G35. I drove a 2007 model before and was impressed with changes and improvements over the previous generations, but not quite enough to make a switch. The 2008 model is very similar to the 2007 one, but with a couple of improvements.
I will go over the car's features and performance as well as the improvements over the last year's model/models and the ownership/maintenance experience with 2004 model, which is relevant to both 2004 and 2007 models (you will see why). I would like to mention here that although I like the 2008 G35 and the current incentives make its price very low, there will be new Infiniti G37 sedan hitting dealerships somewhere around September. It will include bigger engine from the current G37 coupe and, most likely, 7-speed automatic transmission as well as self-healing paint. I am anxious to drive that model.
The 2008 Infiniti G35 Sedan is a rear-wheel drive car with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, which produces 306 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque (with either a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission). The power in the model I got (Journey) is routed through the 5-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. Also available are an AWD version (G35x) as well as a rear wheel drive model with a 6-speed manual transmission (G35S).
The new 3.5-liter V6 engine is improved over the VQ35DE of the 2003-2006 models, including the rev-up version of thereof, which was installed on 6-speed 2005-2006 models and featured more power through the use of variable exhaust timing in addition to the standard variable intake timing. Some rev-up engines sadly developed appetite for motor oil (excessive oil consumption problems), although this is not entirely relevant to the discussion of the 2008 G35.
The new engine, VQ35HR, is more rigid, features better cooling, longer connecting rods for less friction/lateral forces, iridium-tipped spark plugs, dual intakes with individual throttles and air filter elements as well as dual exhaust with equal-length headers. The 306 hp (SAE) is achieved even disregarding the ram air effect that, according to Infiniti, adds extra 3 hp at 60 mph.
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 bi-xenon headlights. 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 helping to prevent whiplash). It got great crash-test ratings in both front and side impacts.
You can get more information elsewhere, but I just have to say that I believe that the G35 is a great bargain: the interior space of a BMW 528 with more power for the price of the stripped BMW 328. Of course, there are other variables involved, even aside from the BMW's legendary handling and free maintenance. And then there is the new twin-turbo 335i with over 300 hp and lots of torque. But then, the BMWs are also legendary for their use of super-expensive (to replace) run-flat tires and not-so-stellar reliability.
Regardless, the car I am currently driving is the 2008 Infiniti G35 Sedan Journey. Journey models include Dual-Zone Automatic Temperature Control. All G35 models include tons of features, including Power Windows, locks, Intelligent Key with keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, etc.
The review was originally written in mid-2008, Although usually the G35 costs slightly over $30K in real-world prices for the very well-equipped base G35, you can currently get one for less than $29K. This is most likely due to housing/economy-induced car sales declines, gas prices and the fact that the new 2009 models are just around the corner.
The Journey adds dual-zone climate control and replaces the CD player with a 6-CD changer for less than $500. G35x has four-wheel drive and the G35S comes with 6-speed manual. Instead of the last year’s G35S Auto you now have to order G35 Journey with Sport Package (auto has magnesium paddle shifters and will have G35’s sport seats, bigger wheels and tires and front spoiler). Sadly, you still cannot get sport seats, etc. combined with wood interior and/or Journey’s front spoiler (I like it better than G35S’s).
Fully-loaded G35 with premium package, navigation, rear-view camera and 4-wheel steering can still be bought for well under $40K (street price currently; no taxes or fees included in numbers herein).
Improvements Over the 2007 Model
There are a handful of improvements over the 2007 G35: available iPod integration, driver soundstage feature of the Bose Studio On Wheels and minor refinements.
Improvements Over the 2003-2006 Models
Comparing with the previous generation, I noticed improvements immediately. The exterior looks much more sporty and stylish and more modern. The interior features significantly better materials and easier-to-use controls, including the screen. The buttons and controls seem to have better feel.
The gauges and displays don't seem to suffer from backlight as much as they do in my 2004 model. The strange orange backlight is gone and is replaced by more conventional red/blue/white illumination scheme. The steering wheel has better leather cover with seams that no longer under your fingers.
The seats have better shape and seemingly slightly better leather. The armrests on doors and center are soft and leather (or leatherette) covered. This is unlike my 2004 G35, which has plastic that tries (but not nearly hard enough) to look like leather.
I like the intelligent key feature. You do not have to remove the key from your pocket, just push the button to unlock the car and push the button in the dash to start the engine.
The car seems to be quieter in the engine noise at low revs and the noise under full throttle is more refined.
The car I am currently driving has Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires as opposed to my car's Bridgestone Turanza EL42 (which I gladly replaced with much better Yokohama YK520 before they wore out, so terrible they were). The steering feels more precise but there seems to be more tire noise.
The interior uses real aluminum trim and, unlike 2003-2006 models I have driven, this particular car has no rattles. I prefer wood interiors, but this particular aluminum trim uses interesting texture inspired by washi paper. I like it better than the pattern on the BMW X3s I have driven a while ago.
The brakes are a little disappointing. They are squishy, whereas I enjoyed 2003-2004-style grabby brake pads more. The brakes have been redesigned for 2005 to deal with excessive wear and I have not liked them since, not in this 2008 model either. Maybe the ones on the G35S are better.
I have read a lot of complaints about 2003 and 2004 models brakes that would wear out rather quickly, sometimes supposedly by 10,000 miles. My 2004 model wore them out in 15K (and I don't tailgate, even in heavy traffic and use lower gears going downhill in the mountains), but Infiniti recognized the problem and offered free brake service for 2003 and 2004 models up to 3 years or 36,000 miles.
To avoid these issues, the newer models have longer-lasting pad with less initial bite. I dislike them. And they still squeal occasionally, especially in cold weather. The 2008 model is no exception. It is practical to have longer-lasting brakes and they do work very well when the force is applied. But if you want better-feeling brakes, try the sport package.
I like to do some of the maintenance myself. The older models were a PITA in this respect: engine lid used a prop rod, the oil dipstick has more bends and twists than a politician’s answer to a direct question, the air filter replacement required removal of the air intake pipe.
The new G35 is much better. The hood uses gas-filled struts, the dipstick is in front and easy to use, the dual air filters are replaceable in 2 minutes. And the engine cover no longer looks like a Batman's chest plate.
The new engine pulls very well. The old VQ35DE would seem to run out of breath as it approached the redline, probably due to the restrictive single intake and exhaust. The WOT sound was a, quite mechanical, angry growl. It is a bit unrefined but I still like it.
The new one does not run out of breath and keeps pulling in linear fashion up to redline, all while making awesome sounds - refined yet powerful.
The car is roomy inside and I find the seat very 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 together with the instrument cluster. The Premium Package gives you the power tilting/telescoping and the wheel automatically moves up when the door is open to ease getting out.
The car has a dual automatic climate control, which is easy to use. The audio control buttons on the steering wheel make it easy to control the CD playback or radio without even looking. 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.
The Intelligent Key itself looks like an egg-shaped remote control. It has buttons to lock/unlock doors, lock the trunk or sound panic alarm.
You can lock/unlock the car or unlock the trunk by pushing buttons on the remote. Alternatively, you can unlock the trunk by pushing a button on the rear of the car, while having the IK in your pocket. In the same manner you can lock/unlock the front doors by pushing a small black button on the outside door handle (the car will beep).
I have discovered the small annoyance here. If the car is locked and you push this button on the passenger side first, the passenger door unlocks (but not the driver's door). If you then push the button on the driver's side, instead of unlocking it, all locks will become locked.
The standard 17-inch aluminum wheels look nice and are fitted with 225mm V-rated Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires (the sports package equipped cars get W-rated tires in 225mm front, 245mm rears on 18-inch wheels).
The outside power heated mirrors can be folded (manually). I love the new exterior styling, but it makes rearward visibility from the driver's seat somewhat worse than before.
The trunk is relatively roomy and has a cargo net. The opening is quite large and the trunk lid has gas-filled 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.
My 2004 G35 handles really well, but the tires (Bridgestone Turanza EL42) were disappointing and it doesn't handle as a BMW 3 series I drove in BMW performance driving school.
The 2008 model with Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires seems to handle better (maybe due to the tires and better steering) but I keep the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) on, even though there is an off switch because the car still can lift-throttle-oversteers.
The new G35 does feel solid and more planted than the older models. It also (in non-sport trim) has reasonably compliant suspension. And it corners and brakes quite flat. But it still feels a bit heavy and the brakes require too much effort, which inspires no confidence.
As described above, the brakes are now less sensitive (comparing to the 2003-2004 models) and easier to modulate and are supposed to last longer.
The 5-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and does not hesitate to downshift. The shifts seem to be even smoother on 2008 model than on 2005, perhaps the engine now matches the revs better/faster. The G35's transmission works well enough in the full auto mode. Plus, the car is available with the 6-speed manual transmission.
The manual shifting is available as well. You choose the gear, not the range of gears. The car even shifts to 1st gear once you come to a stop. The shifting is pretty fast and the car matches revs almost instantaneously - a feature that was handy in the mountains.
Another benefit of the updated transmission is the car provides more engine braking and it, together with the better engine, improves fuel economy. I averaged 25 MPG in mixed city/freeway driving whereas in my 2004 G35 I can never get over 24 MPG, even in all-freeway driving. The instant-MPG readout in the instrument cluster probably helps here too.
Unlike BMW, Mercedes, Volvo or Audi, which provide you with free scheduled maintenance for 3-4 years, you have to pay for your maintenance with Infiniti. BMW and Mercedes cars have flexible service system which tells you when to change the oil (10K-15K 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.
The manual explicitly states that Infiniti recommends mineral-based oils. Based on experience with my 2004 models, the maintenance costs at the dealership are pretty high. Although I can pay $21 for oil changes at my dealership since I bought car here (regular price is $50), I paid $130 for 7.5K mile service, which included only oil change, tire rotation and a couple of inspections. This is not counting the annual (or 15K miles, whichever comes first) in-cabin air filter replacement that dealerships normally want about $100 for.
Worse, I was quoted almost $500 for 15K maintenance, which included an oil change, tire rotation and some inspections. After I asked to have service elements itemized, the service advisor agreed to perform the 15K service for $170. Still a rip-off, but at least I got a loner car.
Do It Yourself (a.k.a. DIY)
I do some maintenance items myself. Replacing the in-cabin microfilter normally costs $80-120, but you can do it yourself for about $30 (price of the filter). You have to remove the glove box, but it is doable.
Some items require less maintenance than in other cars. The new iridium-tipped spark plugs need replacement every 105K. The engine uses long-lasting timing chain rather than timing belt, which would need replacement every 60-100 K.
The engine air filters are now easy to replace. One gripe I have is - why can't Infiniti develop a system similar to Honda's Maintenance Minder? Even GM has oil life monitors that tell you when to change oil based on how you drive. I have to stick with the conservative 3,750-mile interval instead (I like to employ Wide Open Throttle technique sometimes). This is probably the shortest oil change interval of all manufacturers, which is not good for me or the planet.
Even Lexus does not ask you to change oil as often, let alone Volvo or Audi even with their turbocharged engines. If Infiniti positions itself as a luxury vehicle manufacturer, do they not consider the time of their target client segment valuable? Using a good synthetic oil would not only allow them extent the oil change interval, but would also improve the cold engine startup wear somewhat. I just don't understand why they don't do this.
The manual recommends Premium 91-octane, but permits operation on Regular 87 if you have to. But I am sure you don't. Buying a 30K+ car with over 300 hp only to try to save a few bucks at a price of performance is just silly. Plus you might not save much money, if any. Using lower-octane gas reduces performance and fuel economy.
The fuel tank holds 20 gallons. I averaged 25 mpg in mixed city/highway driving, which is much better than the 22-23 MPG I average in my 2004 G35 in the same kind of driving.
The car was crash-tested and got the best (GOOD) rating in the frontal and side crash tests. The previous generation of G35 had the lowest driver fatality rate among sedans, the same as BMW 7-series and second only to Chevy Astro minivan. The G35 had 11 fatalities for each 1 million vehicle-miles, same as the BMW 7-series. For comparison, Volvo S40 was somewhere in 40-60 range, Honda Accord and VW Passat in 30-40, similar to Volvo S60, BMW 3 and 5 and Mercedes C and E.
There is nothing terrible with the new G35, it is just not as much improvement as I expected. The new handsome look inside and out is appreciable at a first sight, but it is still no Lexus or Acura.
The leather is no match for Lexus or Acura hides. The dash uses plastic that looks better than the old G35, but still no match for the above two. The engine start/stop button on Lexus models looks much better.
The trip computer buttons were sticking as I was using them. The tire roar seems to be worse than in the previous generation, but this should mostly depend on the tire model and on how worn the tires are.
The steering is definitely better in both feel and precision, but steering assist changes very drastically with speed and it gets a little scary if you turn while slowing down dramatically and also because of the way the steering wheel obtains a life of its own when you enter roads with different grip under left and right sides of the car.
The value content, which has always been the G35's strong characteristic is higher than ever. The other players from Acura, Lexus, BWM, Audi or Mercedes are pricier. And new BMW and Mercedes models do not inspire me from the interior or exterior design perspective.
But there are things that seem to have been missed. Why do I still have to change oil every 3,750 miles? Why does my mother's Honda Accord have a flexible oil life (and overall maintenance) monitor while being 50% of the price of the G35? Why do I have to pay extra for Premium package to get the ability to open all 4 windows remotely, whereas the cheapest base 2007 Honda Accord VP (that's Value Package, folks), purchased for $16.4K provided this feature?
Could Infiniti spend a few extra bucks on better materials and wheel arch insulation? Why still 5-speed auto, whereas most others use 6-7 speeds? Why introduce VVEL on a G37 coupe and not on the G35?
These are rhetorical questions, of course. And some of them will hopefully be answered with the 2009 G37 7-speed auto.
When I remind myself about how much power the 2008 G35 has, how little it costs, its features, its controls' ease of use, its engine sound, ease of maintenance, its beautiful exterior and much improved interior, I stop thinking about negatives.
The 2008 G35 is an evolutionary step and a good one. A significant improvement on the previous generation with some flaws left over. Let's hope Infiniti eliminates most of them by the time I part with my 2004 G35. Otherwise it might be a used Porsche in my future.
The 2009 model has the VVEL-equipped 328hp 3.7-liter V6 (the same as in 2008 G37 coupe), 7-speed auto, self-healing paint, slightly improved interior, new [ugly] wheel design for the Sport package and more refinements. I wish it had cooled seats and significantly improved fuel economy. But the 7-speed transmission and VVEL help with the MPG and acceleration.
Pros: Price, features, excellent engine, acceleration, handling, looks, seats, safety
Cons: Rear seats do not fold, tire noise, no vented seats, maintenance intervals
The improved 2008 G35 is a good car and I highly recommend it for the price. Just make sure you are OK with less than stellar fuel economy and check the car for rattles before buying. If you can pay a little more though, go for the 2009 G37.