2003 INFINITI G35 Coupe Review

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Bob Hall Bob Hall Editor
October 6, 2002
Related Articles:
2003 Infiniti M45 by Bob Hall (9/16/2002)
2003 Infiniti G35 by Marty Padgett (3/18/2002)
Did you know there’s a luxury coupe segment? Can you name the cars that live there? Did you know their sales volume has expanded 50 percent since 1999? (We know these things are important to you because you read TCC.) The folks at Infiniti, being wise in such industry matters and needing “to re-establish the Infiniti brand here in the U.S.,” decided this segment would be a good place to play.

Thus came to pass the G35 Sport Coupe, first introduced March 28 at the New York Auto Show and on sale at all 158 Infiniti dealers in early November. But during an all-too-short late August day, Infiniti gave us the chance to drive both it and the M45 sedan around the San Francisco Bay Area. Two cars and a whole bunch of information on each “in just one day” made attention to detail paramount. So when the Infiniti folks talked, we listened.

“The G35 Coupe is an entirely new model that shares no sheetmetal with the G35 sedan,” said Sonny Osawa, chief product specialist. “We didn’t just lop two doors off (of the sedan); we needed another high-performance GT car,” noted Thomas Crahan, manager of product planning. “We don’t think anyone else is doing a car so committed to this genre.” Among these less committed, Infiniti cited BMW (325/330Ci), Acura (CL), Volvo (C70) and Mercedes-Benz (CLK).

Balancing pressures

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Infiniti’s commitment was helped considerably by Nissan’s racing inspired FM (Front Mid-ship) platform that also carries the G35 sedan and Nissan’s no-nonsense sports car, the 350Z. The FM package places the engine behind the front axle, large wheels and tires at the far corners, and is rear-wheel drive, a major tenet of Infiniti’s “re-establishment.”

2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe

2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe

Enlarge Photo
Those rear wheels have the good fortune to be connected to Nissan’s world class 3.5-liter aluminum V-6 that’s also found in Infiniti’s I35 and G35 sedans, and Nissan’s 350Z. In the G35 Coupe, the dual-overhead cam, 24-valve unit produces a robust 280 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, 20 horses and 10 lb-ft more than the version found in its sedan sibling. (Only the Z’s 287 hp and 274 lb-ft top it.) “The coupe’s exhaust has half the back pressure of the sedan,” Crahan told TCC, “that was the start of the domino to get from 260 to 280. Once that was done, we could change the variable valve timing to the intake to reduce the pumping loss, balancing the pressures on both sides of the engine and providing better breathing throughout.”

2003 INFINITI G35 Coupe

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The slightly hotter motor’s just the beginning of the differences between G35 Coupe and Sedan. Besides sharing no sedan sheetmetal, “it’s shorter, lower and wider, even the mirrors and door handles are different,” Osawa informed. Although sharing the sedan’s 112.2-inch wheelbase, the coupe is four inches shorter in length and 3.1 inches in height, but is 2.6 inches wider. In fact its 71.5-inch width is the same as the Z’s, and not by accident, for it shares the Z’s wider rear suspension arms (part of the multi-link setup), not the sedan’s lesser shock and coil design. The coupe’s suspension tuning, like its exhaust note, is done with performance in mind. All three cars have multiple links up front and all suspension pieces make extensive use of aluminum to reduce unsprung weight.

Models on the runway

Three G35 Coupe versions are offered: “Coupe 5A/T” has cloth seats and a five-speed automatic transmission; “Coupe 5A/T w/Leather” upholsters those seats in “ultra-soft leather, manufactured exclusively for Infiniti G35” while “Coupe 6M/T” keeps the leather and replaces the automatic with the Z’s outstanding six-speed manual gearbox.

2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe

2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe

Enlarge Photo
Although we prefer the six-speed, those opting for the automatic can experience many of the same sensations thanks to some nifty attention paid to its torque converter. Once in your selected gear and above certain rpm, it locks, not shifting up or down. Accomplished via software programming, it sounds simple, but the effect is amazing. You feel as if you’re actually driving a manual, both from sound and sensation. Other than BMW’s exquisite SMG (a $2,400 option), this Infiniti system -- which has no fancy name or acronym -- is as good as it gets for clutch-less shifting.

2003 INFINITI G35 Coupe

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Like the rest of Infiniti’s ever-expanding lineup, the technical sophistication and safety quotient of the G35 coupe is impressive, especially the brakes. They’re four-wheel, power-assisted, vented discs (11.65- by 0.94-inches front and 11.5- by 0.63-inch rear) with a four-channel/four-sensor anti-lock system that incorporates traction control. Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution also are built in, along with VDC, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Infiniti’s own stability program. Brake responsiveness saved us from a Sonoma County back road incident, so we’re true believers. Larger Brembo brakes are standard on the six-speed manual, along with 18-inch, seven-spoke aluminum wheels wearing 225/45 front and 245/45 rear tires.

Those tires and wheels are part of a $600 Performance Tire and Wheels Package available on the Coupe 5A/T w/Leather. Six-spoke, 17-inch aluminum wheels with 50-series rubber are standard on it and the Coupe 5A/T. A number of other packages can quickly raise the $29,645 base price, starting with the $2,250 Premium Package that adds dual climate control with rear vents, a Bose premium 225-watt, eight-speaker audio system, a sunroof and more. It’s required if you also want the DVD-based navigation system with its 6.5-inch LCD retractable monitor ($2,000). Requiring the Performance Tire & Wheels Package, the $550 Aero Package consists of a rear spoiler and dual rear underside air diffusers. It lowers the normal .29 coefficient of drag to .28 and produces zero lift.

Shapely relations

Pretty impressive stuff overall, which shouldn’t exactly surprise anyone. Just look at the coupe’s Z-inspired shape. Sure, it has “the G35 family resemblance” up front, but you’re not going to think “Infiniti” looking at the G35 Coupe, you’re thinking Z-car. And given the driving dynamics, you could be excused for still thinking it once behind the wheel. It’s a seriously fun-to-drive car with very little to apologize for. A true performance addict can opt for the 350Z Track Model. The rest of us surely would be happy with any version of the G35 Coupe.

“This isn’t a 350Z 2-plus-2,” Crahan told us; “it’s designed to do different things for the brand. The Z is a very intensive sports car; this (G35 Coupe owner) is a more sophisticated customer. The concept for the G35 Coupe was based around research that told us that all the coupes out there are derivatives of sedans. There wasn’t any real commitment to real GT cars. We think we have the best solution, a real GT concept, not a two-door sedan.”

2003 Infiniti G35 Coupe
Base price: $29,645
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V-6, 280 hp/270 lb-ft
Drivetrain: Five-speed automatic with manual shift mode or six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height (inches): 182.2 x 71.5 x 54.8
Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Curb weight: 3416 lb (5-A/T); 3442 lb (5-A/T with Leather); 3435 lb (6-M/T)
EPA City/Hwy:19/26 mpg (5-A/T); 20/26 (6-M/T)
Safety equipment: Driver & passenger front airbags; side airbags and side curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution; vehicle dynamic control with integral traction control
Major standard equipment: Cruise control; air conditioning; 120-watt CD/cassette audio system; six-CD in-dash changer; power windows, seats, door locks and mirrors; analog clock; cruise control; air conditioning; 17-inch alloy wheels and V-rated tires
Warranty: Four years/60,000 miles

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2003 INFINITI G35 Coupe 2-Door Coupe Automatic w/Leather

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