2007 Infiniti G35 Journey

Beyond Infinity.

Background
This midsize sports sedan was acquired as a rental vehicle with ~7,200 miles on the odometer at the time of pick up. It stayed with us for 48hrs. We drove approximately ~1,100 miles. The test route included the aerodynamic drag versus highway gas mileage experiment on the flat but often gusty I-5 from San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles, enduring the developing country like freeway jungle in Southern California where engine and transmission responses test to their limit to squeeze in and out of this traffic mess, and also provided prove to the car’s maneuverability in the tight confines of download L.A. parking garages. The main trip was with 2 average size adults, and joined with two extra passengers in mid-trip to evaluate the leathers on the backseat. The averaged fuel consumption was 21.5 mpg.

Introduction
Nissan introduced the all new design Skyline (Chassis Code:V35) a.k.a. Infiniti G35 for the North America market in 2002 as a 2003 model, replacing the struggling G20 (P11) for the entry level sports luxury sedan market. The P11 has nothing in common with the V35, and they actually belong to two different gene pools in the Nissan’s at that moment still diverse family tree. The P11 is a FF with multi-link beam rear suspension chassis and powered by an underpowered 2 litre four cylinder engine, where the V35 is rear-wheel-drive with sophisticated suspension setup and powered by an all new 3.5 litre V6 engine (VQ35DE) with maximum output of 260hp originally; 280hp on the 2005 – 06 models. The V35 was a new revolutionary design featuring and sharing the extended version of the “Front Midship” modular platform with the 350Z sports coupe, and later, the Infiniti FX crossover SUV. The centre of gravity of the engine is situated behind the front wheel axle in the FM platform. With outstanding performance and value, the V35 was an instant hit in this market segment, where its main competitor is the industry benchmark – BMW 3 Series, which was when Lexus IS350 was still unheard of, and the GS was and still is the driver’s car wannabe. The V35 has been rewarded numerously by Motor Trend as “Car of the Year” in 2003, Car and Driver’s10Best” for 2003 & 2004, and was also nominated for the North American Car of the Year in 2003. The V35 is so good that, we have a 2006 in our fleet. However, even though the V35 was another fabulous exciting product from Nissan but it was not perfect, especially when the late comer Lexus IS arrives to filch some of the V35’s glory in 2005. To fortify its glory, Nissan completely redesigned the car and launched the 2nd generation Infiniti G35 (V36) in late 2006 for the 2007 model year.

The 2007 G35 features 5 distinctively different models: G35, Journey, G35x AWD, G35 Sport & G35 Sport 6MT. Our tester is the Journey model, like all G35 it equipped with the VQ35HR engine, and is manufactured at Tochigi Japan, alongside with the 350Z. This 4th generation VQ-series 24-valve 3.5-liter DOHC V6 all-aluminum engine pumps out 306hp@6,800rpm and 268Ib-ft of torque@4,800rpm benefiting from Nissan’s CVTCS (Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System) on the intake and exhaust cams. Engine is longitudinally mounted, driving the rear wheels via a 5-speed electronic automatic transmission with manual mode. Traction is provided by a set of P225/55R17 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires. The chassis is supported by independent double wishbone in front, and independent multi-link in the rear with stabilizer bars fore and aft. Stopping power is generated by 4 wheel vented discs brakes with ABS, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution.

Impression
Knowing that we have been assigned to a car and a brand that we have been in love for decades, there was the rush of joy and excitement like you are on your first date. It is one of those feelings that you might only experience so occasionally in life. We are a follower on the new G’s development, and basically read and examined all the technical aspects of the car. With the well-informed knowledge about her, we can hardly wait to push her buttons – the keyless crystal blue push-start button. This anticipation is making meters seem like miles on our way to meet our Ivory White, one of the eight attractive colors that one will never get tired of looking at, and really bring out the subtle styling contrasts between her and her older sister yet retaining the crisp characters of the V35. Exterior dimensions remained relatively close to the V35 even though it appears to look smaller. On spec sheet, the V36 is only 0.1″ longer, 0.5″ lower, and 1″ wider dimensions may seem insignificant, however, the wider track width, and lower height translate to better overall handling. While without packing on excessive pounds despite the 40% stiffer chassis, and needed electronic gadgets for this cyber era.

A simple action of opening the front door with the “pull outward” instead of the popularly used “pull upward” door handles revealed that changes in the V36 are significant and numerous even it might not be apparent initially and visually. A hint of confidence for Nissan not to rely mainly on dramatic exterior styling changes to capture more attention. Perhaps, the historic success of the V35 is already done all the marketing to win the hearts of potential buyers in this segment. Therefore, Nissan focus’ its attention to nit picking, refining and updating the V35’s rough edges. “Beyond performance. Beyond Refinement. Design. Beyond Machine” is the theme on Infiniti website of the V36, which we agreed wholeheartedly.

Being a driver’s oriented sports sedan, the driver seat and cockpit has to be invitingly exciting, and the V36 has this attribute from the moment you found yourself in the driver seat, placing your left hand to the inner door handle to hear the solid “whump” sound as you close the door and enclose yourself to the awaiting cockpit. From the moment you press the push-start button to energize the crystal blue “Fine Vision Electroluminescent Instrumentation” gauge cluster to pressing the button again to awake the HR beast under the hood. This ordinary process of driving has just redefined itself in this extraordinary V36. This VQ engine under the aluminum hood has been on the Ward’s 10Best Engines list every year since its introduction in the mid 1990s.

Gone is the quite obvious exhaust rumble of the V35, came is the more appropriate subtle yet seductive exhaust note from the true dual exhaust with tubular equal length exhaust manifolds. Lightly blip the responsive drive-by-wire throttle, the engine react instantly willingness and frictionlessly with the uniquely authoritative intake sound from the dual ram air intake system. This new intake and exhaust system has allowed 18% restriction reduction compare to V35.

Discussion of this newly developed VQ35HR (HR stands for High Revolution from its 7,600rpm redline, and also High Response from the ultra quick response in throttle input) will be like writing a book – see future article of this VQ35HR engine; the changes are extensive besides the intake and exhaust changes as mentioned. This engine has been reworked to address and emphasis: performance, fuel efficiency and environment friendliness (emission output) while enhancing the already established VQ characteristics. However, performance contradicts with emission output and fuel economy. So, how can performance be environmentally friendly, and being fuel efficient? Don’t we need more fuel to make more power? Nissan engineers were able to make these contradictions to work in harmony by reducing internal friction; increasing connecting rod length, and using asymmetric piston skirt to minimized piston to cylinder wall friction, use of ultra-low friction DLC (Diamond-like Carbon) technology, and even as little as making changes to the oil pump. The principle is when friction decreases, emission will decrease while increase in fuel efficiency and performance. In short, the engine is ultra responsive at any given rpm. Right in your face acceleration from idle to the 7,600rpm redline (rev limiter kicks in at ~7,800rpm) with strong surge of torque to overwhelm you when tachometer needle pass 4,500rpm. It is also noticeably smoother in both sound and vibration thanks to the reinforced upper and lower oil pans, rocker covers and stiffer ladder frame in the engine block. If the previous VQ35DE is god, this VQ35HR has to be god’s god.

All the changes to the engine are not a hype or marketing scam. On the road, this VQ engine has beyond sufficient power to propel the V36’s ~3508Ibs curb weight with authority and infinite excitement especially when the engine allows the intake and exhaust CVTC to work independently – hydraulic controlled solenoid on intake cams, and electromagnetic on exhaust side. This high degree of flexibility in valve timings and the ram air intake system offers a turbo engine like expansive, long-lasting acceleration without the lag commonly find in force-induced engines. This uniqueness is a first in a NA (Naturally Aspirated) engine. Consumer Report tested the 0-60mph and 1/4 mile time in an identically equipped G35 at 5.4sec and 14.0sec respectively. These are some jaw dropping figures. In comparison to the HR, the previous VQ35DE feels underpowered particularly at higher RPM.

To transfer the glory of the beast under the hood, the equipped transmission has been performing its job seamlessly, efficiently and often neglected due to it works in great harmony with the engine. Its gear ratios were perfectly spaced and the quick engagement allows for seamless flow of power transfer from engine to the rear wheels as if there were no drivetrain friction losses. To work with the outstanding hardware, the software has been tuned to suit with high performance driving style where the transmission would hold the gear under heavy acceleration during spirited driving even when your right foot has completely backed off the throttle to avoid upsetting the balance of the car and allow for instant and precision throttle input from the driver. Like the V35, this transmission retained the Downshift Rev Matching, Driver-Select (DS) manual mode and ASC (Adaptive Shift Control) where it senses driving style and adjusts automatic shifting accordingly using inputs from the G-force sensor. Despite the lack of 6-speed AT that its competitor commonly uses, this 5-speed unit is beyond adequate to fulfill its duty even when driving the car at 9/10. Perhaps, the more isn’t always better. Some of the newer 6-speed AT that we have experience with, tends to hunt around at times getting itself confused with all the gearing.

The braking performance is beyond 4-door sedan standard; however G35 has never meant to be a boring common sedan. The massive 12.6″ front and 12.1″ rear ventilated brake rotors offers great communicative pedal feel with apparent initial bite and progressive braking power showing Nissan didn’t skim on cost and tuning effort – a very positive attribute for a sedan, and it definitely reinforced the uniqueness and sportyness of the G35. As the result, the stopping distance is ultra short, capable of generating mind numbing and vision blurring deceleration G-force as if your brains are pushing your eyeballs out of the eye socket. Braking performance in street/spirited driving seemed comparable to our ’07 Subaru Impreza WRX STI without producing a lot of unwanted brake dust or being too rough and noisy during operation. Brake fade is non-existent even with our attempts to overheat them. With the standard equipped EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), BA (Brake Assist) and 4-wheel anti-lock Brake System (ABS), braking in the G35 offers extreme confident. For those think, bigger the better, the sports edition G35 equips with 13″ rotors front and rear with dual piston front calipers – these are some track ready setups.

With the engine and braking performance being above-and-beyond, the handling aspect of the V36 is capable of allocating the use of these performances to their max.

Suspension design, tuning and setup are something that cannot be describe by words, nonetheless without the help of advance electronic controlled struts/shocks, such as magnetic fluid shocks, or airbag suspensions. The suspension setup on Nissan products reveals Nissan’s capability in manufacturing a performance product. The standard suspension rides supportively with great communicative road feel and yet not too stiff or overwhelm by rough pavement and loses its composure. A sporty suspension without the usual bouncy penalty is an engineering marvel. Body roll is minimal and nicely controlled. Road feel thru the front aluminum single balljoint (used to be dual balljoint in V35) double-wishbone multi-link suspension is true and accurate, gone is the occasion playful kickback from the V35’s rather stiff steering. Cornering limit is ultra high, so high that we often forgot this is a sedan despite it equipped only with all-season, and plain looking tires. We can hardly imagine what the G35S can do with the wider 18″ rims, wrapped by summer high performance tires, stiffer suspension, viscous limited slip differential and optional Four-Wheel Active Steer. On the road, our tester can easily out handle 99% of cars and capable of hanging out with high performance cars like Evo, and STI. On paper, it generates 0.87 lateral G-force. Attacking freeway on/off ramps has never been so fun. Near the limit, the G exhibits predictable and throttle controllable mild understeer. Traction and vehicle dynamic control kicks in seamlessly; however, we are disappointed that they can not be turned off 100% by pressing the VDC button, and that depleted some of the “donut”, and “burn out” fun.

Similar to the marvelous suspension design, the supreme aerodynamic of the G35 has been something to proud of especially at the G35’s price tag. On paper, the exterior styling achieved Cd (Coefficient of Drag) = 0.29, while Nissan was able to dial in zero lift at front and rear(when equipped with optional rear spoiler). That just defeated the most fundamental principle of aerodynamics, typically the lower the drag the more lift a car experiences, while more downforce equates to more drag. On the road, this ultra sufficient aerodynamic exterior design allows the G to cut thru gusty head/cross winds with ease and has very minimal effect on the car even beyond freeway speed. Making prolonged 80+mph driving without the increased fuel consumption penality.

Moving away from the slick exterior, the interior material, fit-and-finish, and workmanship are a major improvement over the V35. The handstitched leather steering wheel is a joy to hold, it is non sticky where some leather tends to become sticky from natural sweats of the palms. All of the switchgears offers solid and high quality feel. There are no interior rattle; a major improvement over the rattle prone V35. Front seats provided excellent lateral support, so supportive that a full circle full throttle donut will not throw you around uncomfortably. Seats provide good comfort for long trip – without a numb or achy backside. The center console design is very modern yet practical and self-explanatory including the “Infiniti Controller”. The IC is a 7-inch touch screen display or via button and dial that allows access to adjustment to audio, climate control, vehicle status and more, it is kinda like the BMW i-Drive system but IC doesn’t require the brains of a Ph.D to activate. When equipped, the IC also serves as the display for navigation with real-time traffic information and backup camera when the shifter is in the reverse position.

The stock 6-speakers sound system sounds impressive. Bass are deep, clear and distortion free. Pitch, tone and different notes are all well defined. Overall music is lively, and in motion. Making us wonder about what the optional 10-speakers Bose design “Studio on Wheels” can do. High quality sound can only be found in a passenger compartment that is properly isolated from unwanted noises. The cabin of this G is ultra quiet at cruise speed. Engine and exhaust note intrusions are well educated and sound exhilarating at appropriate times. Wind noise is negligible and communicative where the obviously hearable wind noise is from gusty winds that advise the direction of the gust. Road noise is minimal as well. The equipped tires are ultra quiet on butter pavement surface, but a little louder, but never annoying on even washboard concrete surface.

The V36 really addressed all the shortcomings of the V35, and became more refine and avoid “not my cup of tea” attributes like louder exhaust and the coarser engine vibrations, with the always welcoming power increase, and reduction in fuel consumption. From bumper-to-bumper, the V36 is an engineering marvel. The advancement from design to workmanship, from material selection to packaging with tons of technological amenities, this V36 is beyond its price tag. If you don’t believe in evolution, God created human, then the Nissan engineers must be greater than the so-called God to create this V36.

Overall Impression
Scoring System:

Performance & Acceleration: 9.75
Comment: Plenty of ease to access power available at the will of your right foot.

Drivetrain: 9.75
Comment: Beyond Infinity.

Handling & Cornering: 9.75
Comment: Beyond Infinity.

Brake Feel: 9.75
Comment: Confident feel with short braking distance to support the claim. What more to ask for?

Ride Characteristic: 9.75
Comment: Firm, sports car ride with no noticeable body lean in corners and it has the proper composure if your Camry-driven mother-in-law rides along.

Interior Comfort: 9
Comment: Seats with sufficient support for long journey and efficient/intelligent automatic climate control.

Workmanship: 9
Comment: Major improvement over V35’s perfect fit-and-finish, absolutely rattle free. But not yet on the same par as Lexus or BMW.

Functionality: 9
Comment: Don’t be blindfolded by its performance. It is still a 4-door sedan.

Technology: 10
Comment: Has more then you’ll ever need in an automobile with the optional packages.

Afterthoughts:
Beyond performance.Beyond Refinement.Design. Beyond Machine” could be a metaphor showing Nissan’s confidence on the V36’s design is Beyond the league of the “Ultimate Driving Machine”. It is getting closer-and-closer to the industrial benchmark – The BMW 3 Series. The endless optional package such as Intelligent Cruise Control with Preview Braking, Adaptive Front Lighting System, Nissan’s family jewel ATTESA E-TS (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split all-wheel drive system and Four-Wheel Active Steer is one of its kinds in this segment. With all the attractive equipment and styling, this new G didn’t gain in size but it exactly gotten slightly smaller, defeating the industrial’s norm on every new generation of the model comes with size increment. Bigger ain’t always better. With MSRP ranging at ~$33,000 to ~$38,000 is one heck of a deal for this new G35. To put things in perspective, you are actually getting a car that has the equivalent performance as a R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R, period. END