Competition in the sport sedan market is tough. BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Lexus, and Acura, are actively vying for these discerning customers. Enthusiasts searching for a powerful rear-drive sports sedan with a manual transmission have a shorter list of choices: BMW, Infiniti, or Cadillac. Now it gets more interesting. Consider the twin turbo 300-bhp BMW 335i, 306-bhp Infiniti G35 Sport 6MT, or the 255-bhp Cadillac CTS. All three contenders have the requisite 6-speed manual transmissions matched to 6-cylinder engines. What sets the G35 apart is its power and value. Although 2007 model pricing had not been set as of this writing, based on 2006 pricing, we expect the G35 to remain significantly less expensive than a comparably equipped BMW 335i. As for the CTS, although its pricing is competitive, the G35 moves ahead with a significant horsepower advantage.
To the casual observer, the 2007 G35 appears little changed. Infiniti kept the exterior styling updates subtle and modest. The most notable difference is the headlight arrangement, which changes to a horizontal layout with bi-xenon HID lamps. Dimensional revisions to the G35 FM platform were minimal. The wheelbase stays the same at 112.2", while other exterior dimensions remain nearly identical: the 2007 model is 0.5" lower (57.2"), 0.5" longer (187.0"), and 0.8" wider (69.8"). G35 Sport models get bigger brakes, standard 18-inch alloy wheels, and a viscous limited-slip rear differential. ABS, EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), BA (Brake Assist), and VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) are standard on all models. Choose the G35 Sport 6MT if you want the short-throw 6-speed manual; all other models get a 5-speed automatic with Downshift Rev Matching. For enhanced handling, Four-wheel Active Steer (4WAS) is available on the G35 Sport. This sedan is packed with the latest technology designed to appeal to driving enthusiasts.
Get behind the wheel, and the upgraded interior materials are immediately obvious. No more metal-flake hard plastics in the cabin. Textures are softer, the plastics fine-grained, and the "washi" (rice paper) patterned aluminum trim is vaguely soothing. Traditionalists can opt for real African rosewood veneer if they wish (not available on the G35 Sport). Leather seats are standard on all G35 models, in a choice of graphite, stone or wheat; although Sport models only get stone or graphite. Our tested vehicle was upholstered in sober graphite leather. Both driver and front passenger benefit from the bolstered sport seats that keep the occupants cinched down. G35 Sport models also get aluminum pedals and unique steering wheel trim. Infiniti clearly paid close attention to the interior details that embody a premium sedan.
With the standard keyless entry, just press the "Start" button on the steering column, and the 3.5L V-6 comes to life with a mellow burble. Mash the throttle, and the burble becomes a hard-edged thrum that is distinctively aggressive. Click the short throw shifter into first gear, let out the somewhat abrupt clutch, and the G35 jumps forward. The close-ratio 6-speed manual has a distinctively notchy feel that requires a firm hand, although shift feel is positive. While the transmission won't tolerate fast shifts, it's hard to miss a gear either. The 6-speed rewards a practiced touch from its driver. Or if that sounds like too much work, opt for the 5-speed automatic.
Nissan's VQ35 engine has won numerous awards for its refinement and power output. The latest version of this powerplant has been extensively redesigned for increased power (306-bhp @ 6,600 RPM), and has the redline elevated to 7,500 RPM. In short, this V-6 is now a screamer.
Unlike the 2006 G35, where manual transmission equipped models had higher power output, all 2007 models share the same engine tuning. The torque peak of 268 lb.-ft. occurs at a high 5,200 RPM, so low speed flexibility is compromised for midrange and high-RPM response. With the 6-speed manual, revving to the 7,500 RPM redline is pure joy. You want to run through the gears just to hear the V-6 through the oval-tipped dual exhausts.
G35 Sport models get standard 18-inch alloy wheels with 225/50R18 (front) and 245/45R18 (rear) W-rated performance tires. Stiffer spring and damper settings compared to the previous G35 leave no doubt about its sporting intent. Hit a pothole and the suspension "thunks" audibly, although the impact is cushioned through clever tuning. Most bumps are heard more than felt through the body. The firm suspension settings ensure a flat cornering attitude, with handling precision that rivals the Nissan 350Z. An exceptionally quick steering ratio (16.4:1 or 13.5:1 with 4WAS) contributes to its nimble manners. Road textures pass unhindered to the driver via the fat hand-stitched leather steering wheel. A downside of the responsive steering is kickback. Drive over rippled roads, and the wheel dances in your hands. The G35 demands your full attention at all times.
With its upgraded brakes: 13.0"/13.0" diameter F/R vented rotors, the G35 Sport has superb pedal feel. No sponginess detracts from fast, sure stops; although the brakes are slightly grabby at low speeds. Optional Preview Braking, combined with Intelligent Cruise Control can pressurize the brake system to reduce reaction time if sensors detect the G35 approaching another vehicle too quickly. To get Preview Braking, you have to select both the Technology and Navigation packages.
Infiniti shrewdly enhanced the G35 with just the right updates to appeal to the enthusiast who might consider the BMW 335i. Although the Lexus IS350 offers identical power, it lacks a manual transmission, or the numerous handling-oriented features that separate the G35 from pretenders. So the choice really comes down to the 335i vs. the G35. If your wallet can make the stretch, then consider the BMW; but if you're looking for the best sport sedan value in the USA, the G35 Sport 6MT is your car.