As part of our car's Premium package, it came with a Bose audio system. The audio quality was very good, although it didn't completely blow us away. We heard fantastic clarity in the high end, but the mid range was a little muddled. The bass was reasonably strong, but we like a subwoofer that can kick us in the back when we want it. One particularly cool thing about this stereo is that its CD player uses a 24-bit digital audio converter, much better than the 16-bit DACs found in most stereos.
The DAC is put to good use, as 9.3GB of space on the navigation system's hard drive is available for music storage. Put a CD into the slot, and you have the option to rip it, with a Gracenote database providing track information. Infiniti calls this portion of the hard drive the Music Box. We ripped a few CDs to it, which was easy, but weren't too impressed with the interface when we tried to search for our music. We couldn't get it to show us a list of the albums, artists, or genres we had on the drive. Instead, we had to turn the dial on the multicontroller to go through each song list and down to the next album. This part of the system could be much better.
We found a similar interface with the CompactFlash playback. CompactFlash cards fit into a slot in the stack. You can load them with music, but the screen will just show a list of folders, rather than an MP3 player-type interface that would let you choose artists and albums. We actually did get that type of interface with the iPod integration. We plugged an iPod into a port in the console, and all of our music was viewable on the LCD, categorized by artist, genre, and album.
Along with these more exotic options, we also had a six-disc changer that plays MP3 CDs, and XM satellite radio. The interface for MP3 CDs was similar to that used for CompactFlash cards, just showing all the folders on the disc. Navigating through the XM satellite radio channels was relatively easy, as one set of buttons lets you move through each category of music.
Bluetooth cell phone integration was also included with our test car, rounding out a really complete tech package. This system works well with voice command, and we easily paired up an iPhone to the system. One drawback we noticed is that it doesn't automatically load your phone book into the car. Instead, you can manually voice tag entries, or dial by voice or through the on-screen keypad.
As another nice tech feature on the G35, the rear-view camera uses a full set of graphic overlays to let you know where the car will go and how close you are to objects behind the car. When you turn the wheels, the directional overlay curves to show where the car will go when you reverse.
Under the hood
The Infiniti G35's smooth and sedate styling masks the real performance character of this car. We took it on winding mountain roads with plenty of turns more suitable to a short wheelbase sports car, yet it proved responsive and precise. As we gunned it into each turn, we noticed minimal understeer as the nose pointed right where we wanted it. We could easily get a little slide out of the rear, which the car's traction control smoothly corrected.
Infiniti's popular 3.5-liter V-6 forms the heart of the G35. This engine, which produces 306 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 268 ft-lbs of torque at 4,800 rpm, makes a nice growl as it propels the car forward. We never wanted for acceleration with the G35, but we would have liked better mileage. Fuel economy is not terrible with the G35, but we would like to go above 20 mpg as an average. The EPA rates the G35 at 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, but we averaged 19.5 mpg during our time with the car, even with plenty of freeway miles. On a brighter note, the G35 gets a ULEV II rating for emissions, a step above California's minimal LEV II rating.
Our car mated the 3.5-liter V-6 to a five-speed automatic transmission. We would like to see a six-speed in this application, which might improve the average and highway mileage. But in other respects we were very impressed. The transmission has a normal Drive mode and a Sport mode. In Sport mode, we noticed the transmission aggressively downshift based on our braking. For example, when we attacked turns, the car downshifted when we hit the brakes before the turn, giving us plenty of power as we gunned it through, and held the lower gear for an adequate amount of time as we picked up speed in the following straightaway.
The transmission also has a manual gear selection mode, which lets you shift with the stick or with column-mounted paddle shifters. First off, kudos to Infiniti for mounting the paddles on the column, as the paddle position doesn't change when you turn the wheel. But, as with most automatics, manually selecting gears doesn't work quite as fast as we would like.
Generally, we liked driving the G35. It feels like a good-size sedan, but with a lot of power on tap. The car is very easy to control, with responsive steering that tracks very well.
Our 2008 Infiniti G35 Journey came in with a base price of $32,050, a very reasonable amount for a car of this quality. Of course, all of the cool tech options bring the price up. Our car came with three packages, Premium ($2,500), Sport ($1,650), and Navigation ($2,150). Along with its $715 destination charge, our total racked up to $39,065. And we really can't recommend dropping any of these packages, as they all bring important features into this car. For example, the least techie option, the Sport package, adds an indispensable limited slip differential and the really cool paddle shifters.
Beyond a few quirks, oversights, and flaws, the 2008 Infiniti G35 proved an excellent tech car. Its cabin tech score is very high, only brought down by our problems with the music interface and our desire for better traffic integration. Likewise, its performance score is very good, but brought down by the mediocre mileage. There is also a lot of competition amongst tech-laden sedans in this price range. With a judicious choice of options, you can get a Cadillac CTS for the same price, which offers somewhat better cabin electronics. For a little less money you can also get the Mercedes-Benz C300, but its performance isn't quite as good.