ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The Blue Ridge Parkway, serpentine asphalt curling across the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, slithers around peaks like Potato Knob and Craggy Dome while shooting through tight spots like the Rainbow Gap in a road theme of curves, curves, curves.
On this twisty trail we're pumping the pedals and wielding a short shifter stick on a spirited new sports sedan from Infiniti, brand for luxury and performance cars spinning off Nissan of Japan. Badged as the G35 Sport 6MT, our tester on the Blue Ridge curve course rides on a stiff rear-wheel-drive (RWD) platform rigged with a taut suspension and strong torque developed through a revamped V6 engine out of Nissan's swift 350Z sports car.
Sensuous new body styling and a refined cockpit mark the G35 of 2007, which trims out in five versions laced with the seemingly incongruent combination of elegant cabin appointments and sport-tuned mechanical hardware. But that's the way Infiniti always works the G-car, planting an aggressive personality in the practical format of a four-door and five-seat sedan.
The original G35 sedan rolled out in 2002 as a 2003 model cast strictly in RWD format but subsequently spawning a racy two-door coupe variation which used the same name. By 2004, Infiniti borrowed a smart electronic all-wheel-drive (AWD) device from its FX45 sport-utility wagon and adapted it to work on the RWD platform of the G35 sedan for snow-country markets.
That mechanism carried an obtuse moniker of "advanced total traction engineering system for all electronic torque split." It sounded better when crimped to the long acronym of ATTESA E-TS, and the G-car packing this equipment was dubbed G35x with that letter 'x' signifying the AWD traction. Flick forward on the calendar to 2007 and the G35 emerges in a second-generation treatment (think of it as G35 2.0) with options for either RWD or AWD traction.
Compared to G35 1.0, the G35 2.0 measures identical in wheelbase. However, the overall structure of the 2.0 edition runs about half an inch longer and almost an inch wider in the beam yet the roofline drops by a half-inch.
The sleek skin -- windswept lines with muscular shoulders and flat flanks chiseled from painted sheetmetal and sparkling chrome -- conveys an aggressive image of strength and power and speed, and the car's stylists in Japan confess that inspiration for those sharp horizontal slats in the wide-mouthed front grille came from the keen-edged swords of samurai warriors.
Humpy blisters over the front fenders are separated by a broad hood that slinks down from the raked windshield to a low prow. The double-hull design lends a visual breadth but also contributes to the G-car's low score for aerodynamics.
Front corners are pegged in L-shaped compound headlight clusters with bi-xenon high intensity discharge (HID) lamps as stock, plus the optional adaptive front lighting system (AFS) where swivel lamps - linked to the angle of the steering wheel -- rotate during turning maneuvers to keep a light shining on the car's forward path.
On the platform the front wheels set way forward and the engine is positioned so that its center of gravity falls behind the front axles. This placement results in a weight distribution biased slightly in favor of front wheels.
Yet the front wheels are slightly heavier by design of the suspension geometry to pre-load them with more weight when the car turns into a curve. Add acceleration coming out of that curve and the result translates into optimum weight balance which enables the aggressive driver to carve one corner after another in the G35 with keen confidence -- which is the way we work it on the snaky Blue Ridge trail in a balancing act of fine-tuning the limits of tire adhesion.
The suspension is totally independent with lightweight aluminum components. Up front is a double wishbone and the back is a multi-link arrangement with stabilizer bars fore and aft. Steering, through a quick-to-respond rack and pinion mechanism, feels firm despite the assist from a vehicle-speed-sensitive power boost.
A vented disc brake stands at every wheel and all tie by computerized links to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) with brake assist (BA) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).
Further, all G-cars carry Infiniti's vehicle dynamic control (VDC) device that automatically checks lateral skidding on slippery pavement. Motivation for the 2007 G35 stems from an upgraded edition of Nissan's VQ-series dual-cam V6 mounted longitudinally and tied to an electronically-controlled drive-by-wire throttle.
The plant displaces 3.5 liters and features a ladder-frame construction of the aluminum-alloy block with new features like variable exhaust cam timing, a higher rev limit (7500 rpm) and taller compression ratio (10.6:1). These modifications produce more muscle, of course, as the VQ35 V6 generates 306 hp at 6800 rpm with torque rising to 268 lb-ft at 4800 rpm.
Hang on for a wild ride because a G35 romps -- it hits 60 mph in fractions over five seconds and, as our trials reveal, it's downright addictive to drive. G35 supports two transmissions, a five-speed electronic automatic with manual shift mode (via paddle shifters on the steering wheel for the Sport model), or a six-speed close-ratio manual stick planted on the center console.
The four are labeled as a leather-lined base edition G35, the G35 Journey with automatic climate controls and upgraded luxury equipment, G35x with AWD, and sport-tuned G35 Sport AT (the "AT" denotes the auto shifter). The sole manual-shift model is labeled G35 Sport 6MT.
Sport editions also wear aero-style fascia and sills, as wheels increase from the 17-inch standard to 18s. G35's cabin, with form-fitting seats and lots of electronic gizmos, is an artful design trimming in leather with textured aluminum-alloy accents. Bold analog gauges cluster in a hooded panel in front of the steering wheel. The electronic IP features vivid Fine Vision gauges with white-and-violet illumination.
Options on the 2007 G35 include a Bose high-fidelity audio system coupled to a 9.5-gigabyte hard drive, packages of premium equipment, a sunroof, satellite radio service and a touchscreen navigation system. Infiniti structures the price chart for a new G35 sedan upward from the entry MSRP of $31,450.