If the BMW 3-series is the Goliath of entry-luxury sport sedans--and who would argue that it is not?--then the latest Infiniti G35 is the closest thing to a David that BMW's competitors have yet produced. Many stones have been slung at the giant Philistine's forehead, but Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Cadillac, and Lexus have barely managed to so much as slow its footsteps. We're not here to tell you that the new G35 is going to smite the BMW beast, but the Japanese sport sedan is at least going to give it a massive headache.
That's because the G35 is the first BMW competitor that doesn't feel like it's targeted at the last-generation 3-series. Instead, it is neck-and-neck with the current (quite brilliant) 3-series, a truth that emerged during our spirited drive of a G35 Sport in southeast Ohio. With 306 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque from the latest version of Nissan/Infiniti's 3.5-liter DOHC V-6, the G35 had more than enough power to gobble up long, high-speed sections of Morgan County's picturesque Routes 284 and 78 with ease.
But anybody can shove a powerful engine under a car hood. What really impressed us was the G35's chassis composure. "The G35 is extraordinarily well balanced," remarked L.A. bureau chief Michael Jordan, "with swift, predictable responses and always-there sure-footedness." "It has surprising reserves of grip," added assistant editor Sam Smith, "fade-free brakes, and nicely weighted steering." And we found that the optional six-speed manual transmission is easier to use than the BMW's, with short, precise throws and crisply efficient clutch action.
If, overall, the G35 is not as sublimely refined as the 3-series--its V-6 hits a coarse note at very high revs, and the car suffers a few minor NVH issues--the Infiniti is every bit as good to drive hard as the BMW. That, alone, is an achievement in this ultracompetitive segment. And the Infiniti is a performance bargain, with the G35 Sport six-speed starting at only $32,950.
With its worldwide marketplace momentum and history behind it (see "The Balance Point," page 64), the 3-series Goliath is hardly going to suffer the same fate as did the biblical Goliath. But with the new G35 on the battlefield, the big guy ought to lay in a good supply of aspirin.