DEL MAR, Calif. — About two or three corners into driving the G35, you get the feeling that Infiniti dealers are in for trouble.
Not because of the G35’s road manners or styling, which are nearly flawless. And certainly not for pricing: at $27,100, the base G35 so undercuts the German and Japanese competition while overdelivering on performance, it’s difficult to imagine the zealot that won’t be pleased.
The dealers are in trouble because cars like the G35 inspire fervid enthusiasts — you know, people who carry on entire relationships on message boards and read the details in spec boxes. And while it might surprise some of you, not everyone wants to spend his Sunday on a two-hour test drive with a car nut and his or her newfound obsession.
They’re probably already talking about whether Infiniti was trying to ape the BMW 5-Series at two-thirds the price or simply drop an Altima-esque shape over Group C suspension bits. The answer is that Infiniti has done a little of both — and has probably brought a world of gearheads upon themselves for it.
Leading the wave
The G35 isn’t the replacement for the I35 mid-size front-driver based on the current Maxima — that is, unless you read between the lines. Infiniti is two cars into a renaissance and the new product wave is moving in a different direction: “We need to re-establish the Infiniti brand here in the U.S.,” says Mark McNabb, vice president and general manager, Infiniti Division, and the reinvention of the brand will “put an emphasis on rear-drive vehicles.” With the addition of another unspecified rear-drive mid-sizer to the stable (you can see pictures here on March 29, live from the New York Auto Show), and with the gut-check pricing of the G35, the I35 looks every bit like a has-been.