BMW 330Ci and Infiniti G35 Coupe

Ian Dawson
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Wanted: Resurgent Japanese automaker seeks LTR w/good-looking, aggressive coupe to help reinvigorate moribund luxury-car division. ISO taut skin, firm chassis, accommodating interior, serious muscle under the hood. Manual transmission and rear-wheel drive essential; Brembo brakes a +. Must cost less than European competitors and be ready for hard-driving fun. Submit complete specs and performance profile to Nissan North America, Gardena, California. Application deadline: November 2002.

Cancel the classified, Carlos; a winner has emerged. The 2003 G35 Sport Coupe is ready to move into the Infiniti garage. Following the tread marks of its sibling, the G35 sedan, which hit the streets last March, the two-door G35 ought to catch the attention of buyers who not long ago had relegated Infiniti to the lease-of-the-month club on their way to the BMW dealership. So impressed were we by the G35 sedan, in fact, that we decided to measure the new G35 two-door against the BMW 330Ci coupe, a car that has not exactly had to resort to the personals to find suitors. Anyone familiar with the pages of this or any other automotive enthusiasts' magazine knows that the 3-series is the gold standard of entry-luxury sport coupes and sedans. That we would even bother comparing the new G35 with the 330Ci is an indication of our respect for, and expectations of, Infiniti's newest model.

It's no coincidence that the G35 coupe looks similar to the new Nissan 350Z. The two G35 models, the 350Z, and the upcoming Infiniti FX crossover are all based on Nissan's FM--front mid-ship--platform and powered by the same 3.5-liter V-6 (the FX will also be offered with a 4.5-liter V-8). The G35 coupe is a foot longer and three inches taller than the 350Z, and its wheelbase is eight inches longer, which allows for two rear seats. Its sheetmetal is similar to the Z-car's yet makes up perhaps a more pleasing whole. The G35 coupe has wider front and rear tracks than the sedan and shares no body panels with it, but under the skin, the two G35 models and the 350Z do share transmission, brakes, suspension architecture, and other componentry, including the Z-car's optional six-speed manual, which is being introduced in the sedan soon. The coupe's suspension is tuned more aggressively than the sedan's. In the G35 sedan, the V-6 makes 260 horsepower, while the coupe gets 280 thanks to a less restrictive exhaust system. (The 350Z makes 287 horsepower.) The coupe's V-6 also has different valve timing from the sedan's, and it requires premium fuel.

"The main difference between the G35 coupe and the Nissan 350Z," says Kazutoshi Mizuno, chief vehicle engineer for the FM platform, "is balance. The driver is closer to the front wheels in the Z, which is all sports car, whereas the G35, a GT sports coupe, is like a carbon-frame tennis racket, with perfect balance. The 350Z is more like a metal racket--very strong."

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Unlike the 3-series, which is available with a lesser 2.5-liter six or the 225-horsepower, 3.0-liter in our test car, the G35's 3.5-liter V-6 is standard in all three models: base, with cloth seats, five-speed manu-matic, and six-spoke, seventeen-inch alloys; Coupe Sport, with leather and eighteen-inch, seven-spoke wheels and performance tires; and another Coupe Sport model with a six-speed manual and Brembo brakes, which we tested. At 3460 pounds, the Infiniti is 100 pounds heavier than the BMW but has a better power-to-weight ratio given its extra 55 horses. The 330Ci has only five forward gears in its manual transmission, not that we've ever pined for a sixth. Both cars have standard brake assist, stability and traction control, and side air bags; the G35 also has standard side curtain air bags. You'll find aluminum-intensive, four-wheel independent suspensions under both cars, with the BMW favoring struts up front, the Infiniti control arms. And, of course, both cars send their power to the rear wheels, which is probably the main reason you're reading this article.

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