After reading your recent review of Infiniti’s new G35 and driving the I35, I feel like the Keanu Reeves character in that tearjerker where he gets totally involved with Charlize Theron before finding out she’s going terminal on him.
Infiniti’s I35 is a fine sedan, but as you noted, it’s hard seeing a future for it in the lineup from the “new” Infiniti. We know Infiniti’s consolidated Maxima and Altima platforms for construction at the Smyrna, Tenn., plant, that the I35 is based on the Maxima yet is still being built in Japan, and that the company is “committed” to keeping the I35 in the lineup through the 2003 calendar year. Whether an Infiniti extension of the “Altimax” platform is worth maintaining is a discussion best left to bean counters, but personally, I can’t see it.
Nissan/Infiniti seems destined to reclaim the edginess that first defined it through offering an all rear-wheel-drive lineup, and why shouldn’t it? With advances in traction control and ABS, rear-wheel-drive vehicles no longer have any real inherent dynamic evils, are better balanced than front-wheel-drive offerings and have that nice, enthusiast “feel.” The time when every new offering from Japan had front-wheel- drive only has obviously passed—and you know how much I hate torque steer.
Still, there’s a lot to like about the I35. It was redone for 2002, with the big news being a bored-out version (to 3.5 liters) of Nissan’s world-class VQ V-6 that boosts horsepower 12 percent (to 255) and torque 13 percent (to 246 lb-ft). And the Consumer Reports guys have named it their best “upscale” (whatever THAT is) sedan, which no doubt will help boost sales of what has always been Infiniti’s best seller. It’s like a good Irish wake—throw his best suit on the stiff, have everybody over to party hearty, recollect how fine a gent he was and proclaim how natural he looks, and then close the lid for the last time.
2002 INFINITI I35
It’s a good thing the engine lives on in the G35, in slightly updated form. As you well know, you can run it hard all day, reveling in its lovely song and athletic responsiveness.
The tranny is still a four-speed slushbox, as opposed to the five-speed in the G. It’s more responsive and robust this year; gun the throttle and there’s no delay in snapping through the range. The shift gate is snaky and difficult to manage, though.
The ride is firm, yet comfortable—a neat trick, given the throwback solid rear axle.
The restyling, particularly with the new grille, brings the I into the family identity established with the Q45. Everything’s been cleaned up, but the whole effect still lacks the distinctiveness one may want in a premium brand.
Interior room is plentiful and styling is clean, but overall quality is slightly disappointing. Plastics are sub-par, and the wood trim, faux. The 200-watt Bose audio system is one of the best I’ve heard. The leather seats looked great and were reasonably comfortable, given the lack of lumbar adjustment. The gauges—crisp and clear—resemble the Q45’s, and the ubiquitous analog clock remains front and center. The clock’s night illumination level, however, was hysterically low—the dial was completely unreadable, save for a faint glow at the edge. Speaking of dim bulbs, why should dash-mounted audio and wheel-mounted cruise controls have no lights at all?
This is a murderous segment to run anything that’s less than an up-to-the-minute sedan. The I35 faces the Lexus ES300, Acura’s marvelous TL offerings, perhaps the classy Audi A6 if you want to raise the price ceiling, and the relatively prestigious if unloved Jaguar X-Type, if you like all-wheel drive and don’t mind a tighter cabin. And then there’s the in-house competition: the G35, the Altima, the Maxima.
Still, when it’s my turn to go, I’d like to think I’ve had as good a run as the I35.
Hope all is well.
2002 Infiniti I35
Base price: $28,750
Engine: 3.5-liter COHC 24-valve V-6
Drivetrain: Four-speed electronically controlled automatic, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height (inches): 193.7 x 70.2 x 56.7
Wheelbase: 108.9 inches
Curb weight: 3342 lb
EPA City/Hwy: 19/26 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags; side-impact airbags, front safety belt pretensioners, active front seat head restraints, steel side-door guard beams, energy-absorbing steering column, emergency inside trunk release
Major standard equipment: Cruise control, air conditioning, power windows, tilt steering wheel, Bose AM/FM/cassette/six-disc CD audio system, eight-way power driver’s seat, four-way power passenger’s seat, leather seating surfaces, HID xenon headlights, fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/55/R17 H-rated tires, four-wheel disc brakes,
Warranty: Four years/60,000 miles
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