High on style, low on price

This figure brings you a leather interior studded with refinements such as steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, temperature and compass display, illuminated vanity mirrors, and other niceties. The driver's seat features deep side bolsters to help stabilize the torso through turns and a center bolster designed to position your legs for optimum pedal use. The front passenger seat is fashioned slightly differently with a flatter bottom cushion. Tilt the leather-wrapped steering wheel and the instrument cluster moves with it for better viewing. All in all, the G35 has the high-quality feel of a car in the $50,000 range.

Base price for our test vehicle is $28,950 with amenities and a $545 destination charge accounting for the rest of the sticker. Additional options included wood interior trim, xenon headlights, a power sunroof, autodimming mirrors, a big audio system, power seats in front, and even reclining rear seatbacks. Its 100 ft3 of interior room includes more than a decent amount of leg and head room in back, something that many sedans this size lack. (The trade-off is a smallish trunk area, though there is a pass-through in the back seat for long items.)

Officially, the G35 is classified as a near-luxury model. It has a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 260 hp at 6,000 rpm. This gives it plenty of zip from stoplights and ample passing power. Its 0-to-60 time is about 6.2 sec. Nevertheless, it gets respectable gas mileage. It is rated at 26 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg for city driving.

The big V6 mates with a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic that includes a manual shift mode for more precise shifting. Though the G35 is rear-wheel drive, slippery conditions shouldn't bother it much. That's because it comes with vehicle dynamic control that senses loss of traction and brakes each wheel individually to compensate. This is augmented by an electronic brake-force distribution system that adjusts the amount of braking applied front and rear to reduce front-end dive and contribute to more even brake wear. Also standard is a traction-control system that senses rear wheel spin and automatically reduces engine output for a better foothold.

We didn't get a chance to test any of these features on icy roads, which was probably good: The car normally carries performance tires on its 17-in. wheels. These give great traction on above-freezing pavement but are notoriously dicey in cold, snowy weather, stability system or not. We'd recommend potential buyers invest in snow tires if a winter climate is a possibility.

The G35 is based on the same platform as the Nissan Z. There is relatively little body overhang past the front wheels which tends to accentuate its sporty look. We got a lot of admiring glances wherever we took the car. The only caveat in its styling is a backend that looks a little squarish and heavy to some.

Ride-wise, the car gives a feel of being connected to the road while still evening out bumps. There is also a sport-tuned suspension option that offers an even firmer ride. In front, springs are coil-over-shock absorbers and combine with some antidive geometry to keep the ride flat in corners. In the rear, shock absorbers sit separate from coil springs and combine with forged-aluminum multilinks.

Rumor has it there will be an all-wheel-drive option for the G35 next year. But buyers evidently like the current version just fine. The car sold briskly in the first few months of this year despite the down market. After a week behind the wheel of this fun-to-drive sports sedan, we can see why.

- Lee Teschler