The phrase “modern classic” can sometimes get thrown around too readily. But there’s no question that the Infiniti G35 deserves the moniker. Combining a powerful V6 engine and sports car handling with the comfortable ride of a cruiser, the G35 was (and still is) the dream machine for an entire generation of gear heads.
Sharing much of its DNA with the Nissan Skylines of the day, the G35 first arrived in 2002. Both sedan and coupe versions were available, and it was the coupes that captured the hearts and minds of American automotive enthusiasts. The G35 coupe was based on some of Nissan’s most famous sports cars and remained in production until 2008.
Infiniti has had a storied history as Nissan’s luxury arm based in North America. Immediately upon its release, the G35 was an instant hit with critics and customers alike. The G35 took home the honor of both North American Car of the Year and Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 2003.
In this article, we’ll delve into the development and history of the Infiniti G35 to figure out why the model became so popular with car enthusiasts throughout the United States.
Development & History
While Infiniti is a mainstay of the Western automotive market, it has its roots in the East. Japanese manufacturer Nissan saw an opportunity in the late 1980s to expand into the United States. While Nissan’s domestic models were marketed as reasonably priced and practical cars, the company knew they’d need a different approach overseas.
In the early 2000s, Infiniti adopted a more luxurious image and targeted competitors such as Audi and BMW. These brands were famous for creating powerful, comfortable sedans that still had the performance worthy of a sports car. In the face of financial problems, the company unveiled the G35 in 2002, and the model all but saved Infiniti.
Based on the newest Nissan Skyline model on the Japanese market, the Infiniti G35 was sold as both a sedan and a coupe. Both models had 3.5-liter V6 engines that produced plenty of power. But the way that Infiniti seated the engines under the bonnet quickly became one of the secrets of the G35’s instant success.
Within the engine bay, the V6 powerplant was positioned as close to the back of the bay as possible, right behind the front axle. This allowed for the best possible weight distribution, with 52% of the car’s weight at the front and 48% at the rear. Thanks to Infiniti’s ingenuity, the G35 gained fantastic handling for a larger sedan. This combination of power and finesse allowed the model to tackle its American and German rivals head-on.
The G35’s chassis should also take some credit for its popularity. Infiniti used the same front-engine, rear-wheel-drive platform that Nissan used in its own modern classics – the 350z and 370z roadsters. This legacy of proven performance translated straight onto the road, and over the G35’s six-year production run, Infiniti sold approximately 435,000 vehicles in North America.
Despite facelifts in 2005 and 2006 and a fourth-generation model from 2007 to 2008, the G35’s popularity endured right until the end of its lifespan. Even today, Infiniti’s “Japanese BMW” remains popular with automotive enthusiasts and modifiers on the custom car scene. It’s no surprise that the legendary G35 is considered a future classic.
Throughout its production run, the Infiniti G35 was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine. This was Nissan’s iconic VQ35DE engine that had been previously used on the 350z. In the G35, this engine could produce 260 horsepower for sedan models and 280 horsepower for coupe variants. Even standard G35’s could conceivably go from 0 to 60 in just over five seconds.
First-generation G35 coupes could also enjoy 270 ft-lbs of torque, giving the G35 great performance figures right from the off. But despite the impressive numbers, the VQ35DE engines fitted in G35 models could still achieve a maximum economy figure of more than 22 miles-per-gallon. Whether an owner used their G35 as a highway cruiser or a sports sedan, the iconic car could easily meet demand.
Infiniti updated the engine performance slightly in 2005 and 2006. G35 owners with five-speed automatic gearboxes had access to 280 horsepower and 270 ft-lbs of torque, while six-speed manual sedans and coupes could achieve 300 horsepower and 260 ft-lbs of torque. The intakes and exhaust manifolds of coupe models were bolstered even further thanks to variable valve timing.
Part of the reason why the Infiniti G35 drew rave reviews for its performance and handling was the engine format. With the engine mounted as far back in the engine bay as possible, the G35 ended up with almost perfect weight distribution. This excellent design allowed the G35 to handle well and put its power down efficiently while still being extremely comfortable.
Something else drew legions of fans to the G35 – the tuning potential of its V6 engine. Modders and street racers had known about the prospects of the 3.5-liter VQ35DE engine since the release of the Nissan 350z – a car made famous by franchises such as Fast and Furious and Need For Speed. The custom car scene welcomed the Infiniti G35 with feverish intensity, guaranteeing the model’s popularity and status as a favorite of automotive enthusiasts.
When the fourth and final generation of the G35 appeared in 2007 and 2008, the engine received more tweaks. The engine size was increased to a 3.7-liter VQ37VHR powerplant that offered 330 horsepower. The G35 ceased production after 2008.
To take on automotive powerhouses like BMW, sheer power wouldn’t be enough for the G35. Thankfully, the iconic Japanese muscle car (and it is a muscle car) handled like a dream. This uncanny ability came from its near-perfect weight distribution and the fact that the whole car was designed around one of Nissan’s most iconic platforms.
The G35’s underpinnings utilized Nissan’s FM design – a foundation already had a track record of success. The FM platform was used in both the 350z and 370z, two of Nissan’s most famous sports cars of all time. The design was responsible for the G35’s ideal engine placement, allowing for 52% of the car’s weight at the front and 48% at the rear. Because of this, the Infiniti G35 had handling that was as good as, if not better than, its main rivals in the luxury sedan market.
The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive setup available on manual G35 coupes proved especially popular, wowing drivers across the country. The handling capabilities of the G35 also made it attractive to drivers on the customization and street racing scene.
As if that wasn’t enough, G35’s also seemed to be the perfect blank canvas for professional drift racers. On both the American and European drift racing circuit, Infiniti G35’s were used to great effect by Team Falken, winning numerous competitions.
Other factors contributed to the great chassis performance of the G35. In 2005 and 2006, larger brake discs and new calipers were introduced. In the same run, manual G35 coupes benefited from sport-inspired suspension systems for even better handling. This even extended to the addition of a limited-slip differential.
Further improvements came in the G35’s final production years with the 2007 and 2008 fourth-generation models. An updated version of the famous FM platform became the new basis for the G35. Changes included a 40% increase in the stiffness of the chassis. More sports features were added as optional extras, including improved suspension and shock absorbers and beefier front brakes.
When the G35 ceased production in 2008, its reputation for excellent handling and a brilliant chassis was well entrenched and is still a key factor in the car’s enduring popularity.
Impact On Sport Sedans
Infiniti designed the G35 as a more accessible, but still luxurious, sports sedan after seeing the market get dominated by expensive German offerings. They knocked it out of the park, and the G35 proved popular almost immediately.
With a combination of a potent engine under the hood and a well-designed chassis, the G35 looks very much like a Japanese muscle car. It was this accessible performance that endeared the G35 to the automotive industry, and the model managed to replicate the qualities that made both early and modern muscle cars so iconic.
The Infiniti G35 build on a legacy that had been started by other Nissan models such as the 350z, 370z, and the legendary Skyline. The G35 even shared its basic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive platform with the 350z. The ingenious part of this platform was the location of the engine, which squatted right behind the front axle for almost perfect weight balance. This allowed the G35 to become such a good foundation for drift racers, further adding to its popularity.
These incredible qualities are the reason that the Infiniti G35 is still sought after today. For a new generation of gear heads, the G35 arrived at the perfect time to become their dream car. Even now, surviving models are still popular with those original fans.
The custom car scene also helped catapult the G35 to automotive fame. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine can be easily tuned up for extreme performance, and an entire industry of aftermarket parts dedicated to the G35 still thrives today. The G35 combined the allure of a Japanese import with the pure ferocity of a traditional muscle car, creating a winning combination.
After taking all these details into account, it’s no surprise that the legendary Infiniti G35 is lauded as a modern and future classic.