Vehicle Overview
Roughly slotted in the middle of Infiniti’s four-model sedan lineup, the luxury-performance I35 gets only a few modifications for the 2004 model year. A sunroof, a powered rear sunshade and side sills become standard this year.

Evolved from the Nissan Maxima, this midsize front-wheel-drive sedan was last redesigned for 2000. After the 2001 model year, a larger V-6 engine was installed, which prompted a model designation change from I30 to I35.

Previously the most popular Infiniti model, it’s been eclipsed by the G35 sport sedan that debuted in 2003. Topping the Infiniti line is the plush Q45, and a full-size M45 sedan is also available.

Exterior
Apart from the roof, no other body panels are shared between the I35 and Maxima. The I35’s hood creases are prominent, and a Q45-style titanium-colored grille sits between xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights.

Mounted on a 108.3-inch wheelbase, the I35 is 193.7 inches long overall, 70.2 inches wide and 57 inches tall. Alloy wheels hold 17-inch tires. An optional Sport Package includes Vehicle Dynamic Control, a sport-tuned suspension, special eight-spoke alloy wheels and side sill spoilers. A full-size spare tire is optional.

Interior
Five people fit inside the four-door I35. The 60/40-split rear seatback folds for additional cargo space. A 200-watt seven-speaker Bose sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer is standard. The radio operates using Radio Data System (RDS) technology and includes a cassette player and steering-wheel audio controls. The driver changes gears using a serpentine-style shift gate. Heated front and rear seats are available.

The seats are upholstered with Sojourner leather and flank a wood-accented console. A classically styled analog clock sits in the center of the dashboard. Nissan’s Bird View navigation system is optional. Trunk capacity is 14.9 cubic feet.

Under the Hood
The 24-valve, 3.5-liter dual-overhead-cam V-6 engine produces 255 horsepower and mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission. An electronically controlled throttle is used.

Safety
Side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. Active head restraints for the front occupants move up and forward in a rear-end collision to reduce the chance of whiplash injuries. Traction control and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist are standard. Vehicle Dynamic Control is offered as part of the Sport Package.

Driving Impressions
Solid execution and satisfying behavior translate to overall excellence in a well-made sedan that’s far more substance than flashiness. The I35 is smooth in operation in nearly every respect, and it delivers down-to-business luxury with a pleasant and functional interior.

Even when it is pushed hard, the engine is extra quiet in a well-controlled prompt-responding powertrain. Passing power is super, with nearly instantaneous downshifts that deliver refined yet vigorous acceleration. Above-average handling falls short of sporty, but the I35 steers easily and accurately with a fine feel. The sedan doesn’t ignore bumps, but its suspension takes the edge off most of them.

Front-seat space is good but not exceptional, but rear headroom and legroom are tight for average-sized adults. Despite fairly short bottoms, the seats are inviting, comfortable and supportive. Brightly lit, easy-to-read gauges enhance driving pleasure.

 
Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com;
Posted on 9/26/03