A while back we had a G35 S 6MT in the Autoblog Garage. That car was delivered in a delightful snowstorm with high-performance tires showing some wear, so it was quite difficult to get a good bead on the car's true capabilities. How ironic, then, that we should get a second chance with the G35 S. This time, it was delivered in gorgeous spring weather wearing a set of ooey gooey Blizzak LM22s. You can't win.
While the snowshoes hindered capabilities slightly, they were far more accomodating than a snowstorm when it came to wringing out the G35S. Our previous impressions of the car still stand, but we did gather useful dry-road experience, as well. The VQHR's 306 horsepower was a heady brew, and the bark from the exhaust had a ripply crescendo that encouraged redline shifting with the 5-speed automatic's manual mode. This car is seriously eager. The burble is sometimes wearying on highway jaunts, or when you just want to slip away unnoticed; but as car guys, it's tough to deny the allure of a bitchin' exhaust note.
All the rorty tones in the world don't mean squat if the car sucks dynamically. The G35S does not suck. The steering feels a little overboosted at times, but it delivers useful communiques about what's going on at the contact patch. Even with snow tires, limits peg the needle for mere mortals. This ain't no somnambulant commuter, the G35S gives the driver the impression that it can be pitched into any situation at any speed and come out the other end in a hero stance. The stability control is there as your electronic safety net, and it allows a bit of tail wiggle before stepping in, so you can play Tazio Nuvolari. Even with the stability control switched off, the G35 is a great dance partner. The handling is balanced and the back end breaks away predictably. A frisky turn one morning while tromping on the gas netted us a lurid slide (of course we had the stability control off). The back end flicked out like we'd hit a patch of ice, and irresponsible adolescent memories came flooding back. Bringing the G35 back into line was nothing more than a bit of countersteer and less idiotic throttle inputs.
The G35 S is a rewarding car to hustle. The steering isn't exactly telepathic, and it's a bit quick off center, but you quickly adapt and discover you can place the G35 S accurately on the proper line. With a well-sorted RWD chassis, throttle inputs have the expected effect on cornering attitude, as well. Let off the throttle, and the line tightens, call up more go, and the car takes a nice set and cranks the speedo around for a high exit speed. We had a lot of fun practicing "slow in, fast out" on our favorite highway ramps. Speed is a trifle for the G35 S, the muscular V6 is super-punchy, and velocities under 90 often feel like a crawl. The snow tires put the kibosh on getting an accurate impression of high-speed demeanor, as they'd prefer to run and hide as 100 mph comes up on the dial. Besides, what the hell are you doing going that fast?
The drawback of the G35S is that it's almost too enthusiastic about hustling. In mundane driving, the car's exuberant calibration can become tiresome. The ride tends toward stiff, and that's with squeezy Blizzaks providing a more comfortable ride than proper performance tires. While the handling prowess allows it to keep up with Bavarian rivals, it doesn't have the creamy balance of handling chops and ride comfort that you'll find in a BMW. The propensity to drag race wears on you after a while, too. It's fun at first, but there were times where we just wanted the torque to do the work, and got a 2-gear downshift instead. The paddle controls for the automatic were attentive, though, and we learned to pre-emptively tap the upshift paddle to keep the transmission in top gear before we dipped into the throttle. While not terribly useful for anything other than a plaything, the sweet-sounding downshifts you can call up by using the paddles are entertaining, and the VQ has one of our favorite singing voices.
While the G35's knees are stiffer than a Bimmer's, the interior is right on target. The materials are first rate, as are the seats. The heavy bolstering is secure and comfortable, and the extendable bottom cushion makes hours at the helm quite comfortable. The materials are high quality and the graining on the dash and door panels is quite handsome, if you geek out over textures. The businesslike atmosphere isn't stuffy like some of the all-black coalbins we've experienced in European cars. The gauges, especially, bring a bit of levity to the proceedings with a sexy blue and red color palette and the way they glow is gorgeous.
The G35 S and upcoming G37 are credible entries, and they're a natural cross-shopping alternative to the usual suspects. We found the automatic-equipped model a little exciteable, but the 6MT would be just about perfect, if you can stand the ride quality. The materials, fit and finish, and capabilities are extremely competitive, and the styling is always the emotional wild card with any vehicle purchase. The G35 looks great from some angles and a bit large and blobby from others. There are interesting surface details to catch the light and delight your gaze, though. Our time with the G35 S was entertaining, and it's the only test car we've had so far that garnered an excited thumbs up from a teenager on his skateboard. What more could you want, than to be "the guy" driving "that car" he's going to lust after for the next decade?