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Infiniti G35 - Infinite Let Down

The Story
So, my brother called me one day to say he was ready to get rid of the Corolla I had sold him when I bought my Passat. He was looking at either an Acura TL (Tim and I love this car), or the Infiniti G35x. We live in the Northeast, so rear wheel drive can be a liability. I said those were great cars to look at, and we agreed to go look at a couple of dealers I had some connections at. Tim wrote a great piece on the Acura, so I won't rehash it, but you simply cannot go wrong with this car. It's amazing. The G35 is a great car design-wise and dynamically. An excellent engine, gorgeous (yet controversial) exterior styling, great driving dynamics and overall build quality (in the exterior and mechanics, not in the interior) are hallmarks of this former Car of The Year and perennial Car and Driver 10 Best winner. I'd heard plenty of complaints on the interior material quality and the look of the interior. I'd seen pictures, and looked into the car a few times, and never thought it was so terrible.

Judge A Book By Its Horribly Written Content, Not Its Pretty Cover
Well, as we got into the G35 tester that pulled up, I was literally appalled. My brother's 1995 Corolla honestly has a nicer looking interior than this car. Not only that, but there were scratches in the finish of the plastics already (the demo had only 2k miles on it), and the plate surrounding the shift gate was broken, and wiggling around. Now, you might think these are due to the fact that demos get beaten up. Possibly, but look around for articles reviewing other Nissan products. Specifically, the Altima is sited in several head to head comparisons for this same shift gate surround plate breaking free. This is a Nissan problem, and it happens very quickly. That's not acceptable.

So we drove it, and my brother was impressed with the engine, the AWD, and the handling. No doubt, the car was engineered to really attack the BMW 3-series, and it does a fine job in that role.

The problem is, as soon as we got in the car, we had decided against it. The interior is literally that horrible. I think darker colors would look better, but it's basically a conglomeration of many different parts, all with very poor quality feel to them. The plastics are hard and dry, and seams abound. One thing about seams is that they are points where you get rattles or rubbing sounds, and where parts can separate. Chrysler has been learning this the hard way, and has reduced the total number of parts in the dash significantly over the years. It seems as if Infiniti, at least on this car (their others are not like this) moved backward and tried to use as many parts as possible.

I was literally disgusted.

So, as if that wasn't enough, the price became an issue. See, you can get into a G35x for as little as $31,900. And, Infiniti is running great financing deals right now (as low as 1.9% for 3 years and 2.9% for 5 years as of 8/4/04). But, if you want to add a navigation unit, you must get their premium package. This includes the Bose stereo (which may be worth it), reclining rear seats and some other niceties. That runs $3,600. After that, you can buy the navigation system for about $1,500. By the time you are done with every option you have to add to get a nav, you're now up to about $38k. That's a lot of dough for a car that you will be utterly disappointed with as far as the interior is concerned. And, keep in mind, you can get a BMW 325xi for less. It's smaller (marginally), but worlds nicer inside (and possibly out). You can also get an Audi A4 or Mercedes C class. If you're willing to trade AWD for FWD, you can move to the significantly more opulent Acura TL for about $4k less! That's what my brother opted to do.

A Positive Nuance?
Well, one thing I would give the G35 was the way the gauge cluster moves with the steering wheel as you adjust for height. That keeps the gauges visible in any position. This is a problem for me on my Passat, and was for me on my Corolla and Stanza before that, so I know the value of this. Being 6' 2", it's actually a problem on almost any car I drive with adjustable steering wheel height. The other thing I like is Infiniti's classy, trademark analog clock in the dash (visible to front and rear passengers). My brother hated it, so it's obviously up for debate, but I really think it's nice. Too bad the rest of the interior looks so cheap because the clock ends up looking out of place.

The Final Review
A disappointment is the only way to review this car in the end. I went into the day really loving the G35 for how well it drives, and how great I think it looks. It's done wonders for Infiniti's fortunes. However, I could never in good conscious recommend it to anyone, nor would I ever buy it myself. If you don't need AWD, you can get it for a bit less, but I would still never take it over the Acura TL. Too bad, too, because it's such a nice car. My brother was really let down. He went into the day planning on getting the G35, but didn't even want to bother negotiating after driving it. He knew he would regret choosing to live with that car. Interestingly enough, there are no pictures of the entire dash on Infiniti's website. There are pictures of the entire cabin, but the dash isn't that clear in this picture. The other interior shots are a close up of the dual-zone climate control readout, and of the moving gauge cluster. You think Infiniti knows something here?

Well, the answer is, yes. For 2005, they've improved the materials and cleaned up the layout a bit. The clock doesn't stand out as much, but the overall shapes (especially the vents, which really cut the look up) is the same. They are keeping the area where the vents are that is some sort of dimpled plastic (see yellow area in G35 Interior picture to the left), and looks very tacked on and out of place. Too many cut lines, too many different pieces, too upsetting. What a shame.


Plastic Paradise?

Managing Editor

I've held a certain view on Nissan's current crop of new products. That is, they're all exquisite examples of what happens when cost cutting goes too far. The new for 2002 Altima was extremely disappointing inside, in terms of materials and fit and finish. The G35 was no different, unfortunately. Who knows what Nissan was thinking, trying to pass the same interior build quality and materials used in the Altima for a luxury sedan such as the G35. To me, it just didn't make sense. Many people say that Nissan put the developmental money into the drive train and dynamic capacities of the car. Well, that's pretty obvious, since the car is an excellent handler and sports some pretty impressive performance figures. However, how can you feel good about a luxury sedan that can handle with the best of them, yet can't even begin to measure up in the interior design department? In the G35's price range, competition is fierce, with notable competitors like the Acura 3.2TL, Audi A4, and BMW 3-Series hunting for market share. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but at least all of the aforementioned luxury sedans give you a decent interior that doesn't try to impress you with aluminum-colored plastic. A well built, luxurious interior is almost an expected feature when you're spending this much, which surprises me that the G35 has lasted this long on it's performance credentials alone. Or has it? As Bryan has stated, the G35 is undergoing an interior re-freshening that will hopefully endow the car with a proper interior to match the performance bar this car has set. From what I saw of the concurrent 2005 Altima re-freshening, it looks like Nissan has finally realized that a flashy exterior and above-average performance will only get you so far in this industry before your consumers realize where the cost-cutting was done.