When it arrived last year, the G35 sedan was critically hailed as the one Japanese sport sedan that could actually break the long-held German reign over the mid-priced performance-enthusiast segment. The G35 stunned us with its brilliant handling, its perfect balance and its flawlessly smooth V6. We instantly fell in love with the direct steering response, the tenacious grip and near neutral cornering. The love affair carried over throughout the summer and into the falland then came winter. Even with the best traction control, a rear-wheel drive sedan can still be a handful to control when the roads are covered in ice and snow.
For 2004, Infiniti has rectified this traction dilemma by giving the G35x sedan its own extra set of powered wheels, borrowing from the FX SUV, the state-of-the-art ATTESA ET-S all-wheel-drive system. The ATTESA system is superior to most on-demand systems for a number of reasons, the first being its electronically-controlled clutch plate. Instead of using a traditional oil-pressure system to activate the all-wheel-drive system's clutch, the electro-magnetic clutch is set in motion by signals from each of the four wheel-mounted sensors. The time saved by this process allows for a quicker distribution of torque. The ATTESA system also has the ability to vary the degree at which the torque split occurs. For example, depending on road conditions, the torque split between front and rear wheels can be as high as 50/50 or as little as 0/100. So long as road conditions remain good, the AWD G35 runs all of its power to the rear wheels, and only brings the front wheels online when the system detects they are needed.
Unlike more traditional all-wheel-drive systems, the ATTESA does not have to undergo wheel spin before engaging the driver; the system monitors a number of variables including the car's speed, throttle position and wheel rotation. Should you be carving out a wide-radius curve and the rear wheels reach their limit for torque, the system will automatically divert the remainder to the front wheels before the rears breaks loose. The system works invisibly, though you can tell when it's come on line as the G35 begins to carve out turns in a fashion its rear-drive brother never could.
Power for the G35 continues to come from Infiniti's 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, an engine that seems as though it were designed to run forever without complaint. With the 3.5, the throttle response is immediate, serving up a dose of torque that is quickly translated into rapid forward motion. The one regret we have is that, unfortunately, the lovely six-speed manual available on the base sedan is not included in the package, but you do get a nice consolation prize in the form of Infiniti's five-speed automatic with manual shift control. Though we prefer the real thing, the Infiniti manumatic can be fun to play with and is fairly responsive to inputs.
Outside of the extra running gear, the G35x is identical to a fully-loaded G35 sedan. Infiniti will only offer the G35x as a "one-size-fits-all" model with the only options being a power moonroof and Bose or XM audio systems. Even so, the price tag for the G35x starts at just $31,900 and stays well below the $35K mark with all the bells and whistles added. Try getting that with a loaded 330xi or A4 3.0!
Inside, the handsome G35 interior continues to please most, though we still see some room for improvement of the secondary plastic bits that adorn the dash, doors and center console. Interior room is one of the G35x's greatest assets, especially for those in the rear. Anyone who has owned an A4 or 3-Series car will quickly come to appreciate the added legroom afforded by the Infiniti's longer wheelbase. Interior comfort is supreme, with excellent seats and every creature comfort just a push-button away. Among the more notable features are the one-touch up/down windows for both driver and passenger, the redundant steering-wheel mounted audio controls, the adjustable gauge cluster that moves up and down with the tilt wheel and a center information display that shows interior and exterior temperature as well as which way your heading. Also on the list is a Bose audio system with separate subwoofer, XM or Sirius satellite radio and a really neat DVD based navigation system whose screen rises up from the center dashboard.