As I’ve documented before, working in the automobile industry gives me the opportunity to drive a wide spectrum of different cars on a regular basis. When it comes to vehicles more than a couple of years old, it’s often just for a mile up the street to the wholesale lot where cars await their journey to auction. Yet every once in a while, for better or worse, I’m tasked with meeting my client with their new car and driving back in their trade. That was such the case with this 2006 Infiniti G35x sedan.
Due to arranging for the installation of white bonnet stripes on her like-new 7,000-mile certified pre-owned 2015 Countryman, my client did not take delivery of her MINI the day she did the paperwork, so I offered to bring the car to her when it was complete.
It’s something I generally don’t mind accommodating, especially if the particular client was pleasant and reasonable to work with. So on a recent Thursday evening, I headed to the northwest Boston neighborhood of Brighton with my customer’s new car, all registered, inspected, and striped.
Given the late time of day and the fact that the gate at the dealer (where my own car was securely behind) is locked precisely at closing time of 8PM, I knew I wouldn’t make it back in time, so I got approval to take the trade-in home overnight and bring it back the following morning.
Thankfully, her trade-in wasn’t a terrible car. Though well broken in with 136,000 miles, body rust, tire pressure, and service engine soon lights on, the experience of driving this final-year first-generation Infiniti G35x gave me a bit of excitement.
After all, this was the car that brought Infiniti back into temporary relevance, as a BMW competitor, following years of milquetoast “gussied up” Nissan offerings. The G35 brought a powerful glimmer of hope and finally a foreseeable purpose for the premium Japanese brand, and it might as well have been “to infinity and beyond”. Unfortunately, recent years have seen excitement and captivation subside at Infiniti, but in the early-to-mid ’00s, things were really looking up.
In any event, I’ve always been intrigued by this car, despite my dislike of its front-end styling, specifically the headlights. I’ve never had the chance to drive a first-generation Infiniti G series before, so this was a little treat, despite the car’s age and declining health. In total, I put about 100 miles on the Infiniti, which I affectionately named Tiffani with an “I” not a “Y”, giving me a decent amount of time to get an overall feel for the car. First, let’s start with the good.
In terms of handling, I found this G35x one of the best-handling Japanese cars I’ve ever personally driven. Boasting an overall heavy, almost Germanic feel, the Infiniti exhibited no noticeable body roll or chassis flex even when pushing it. Despite debuting 15 years ago, the chassis felt remarkably solid and confident in every circumstance.
With its 280-horsepower 3.5L V6, near-perfect 52/48 weight distribution, and all-wheel drive system that under normal conditions sends 100-percent of the power to the rear wheels, the G35x is both quick and a solid handler. Power kicks in at about 4,000 RPM, requiring a high amount of force on the gas pedal, but proceeds to trust you forward with great force and robust exhaust notes. I would’ve preferred the sexier, better-proportioned G35 coupe, but just like buying a used car, you can’t spec one out as you would with a new one — what’s available is what you have to choose from.
Steering on the G35, unlike the lifeless “Direct Adaptive Steer” steer-by-wire setup used by the current Q50, uses a more traditional rack-and-pinion setup with hydraulic assist, thus requiring some appreciated arm muscle with every turn. The only drawback of this is that every road bump and vibration is transmitted through the steering wheel.
In terms of luxury and comfort, the G35x delivers with flying colors, boasting a cabin of high-quality fit-and-finish, soft and supportive leather-covered thrones, and nearly every technology you could’ve wanted in 2006. Electronic tilt-and-telescoping steering column, attractive matte-finish genuine rosewood veneer, fantastic sounding premium Bose stereo, Bluetooth, and keyless ignition were among its many luxuries.
The weird, inboard-mounted power seat controls, however, were rather odd and took some getting used to, feeling more at home in a Saab. I also was not fond of the unusually high front seat belt buckle, which caused the lap band to cut across mid-chest and not at my natural waist. It felt weird, so I actually wrapped that portion of the seatbelt around the back of the seat, just using the shoulder portion.
I never sat in the back seat, but the rear looked relatively comfortable, if not a bit short on legroom. The steep recline of the rear seatbacks also stuck out as a bit too extreme, though it could be the angle of this picture making it seem stronger. Oh well, the less back seat drivers adding unnecessary weight (roughly every 10 extra pounds results in a loss of one horsepower), the better!
The main drawbacks to my G35x driving experience were related to this specific high-mileage example’s maintenance issues and wear. Typical maintenance items such as brakes and tires were in need of replacement. The engine was certainly in need of at least an oil change and tune-up, with rough idling giving way to further roughness at highway speeds. In fact, most times as soon as I hit 50 mph, an excessive rattling and vibration was immediately transmitted through the steering wheel.
Overall, the 2006 Infiniti G35x is an appealing daily driver to own. It offers a superb balance of performance, comfort, and refinement in a “just-right” size with a healthy dose of distinctive character and spirit, the latter of which is something most Japanese cars sold in North America lack altogether. Finding a lower-mileage, better-condition example will certainly bring driving joy to anyone on a budget. With average retail prices for good or better condition examples in the $5,000-7,000 range, a 2006 Infiniti G35x is certainly an affordable choice for a fun-to-drive, luxurious car.
Photographed: Maquan Pond in Hanson, Massachusetts – July 2017