When the burden of supplying readers with scintillating industry coverage becomes too much, one of the Ward's staff balms is our long-term test program, undertaken in conjunction with the annual Ward's Ten Best Engines Award. After a too-long day, it's always a comfort to drive away in a vehicle powered by one of the year's best engines.

Long-term test vehicles are our way of evaluating one or two of our Ten Best winning engines during an accelerated-wear acid-test in which Ward's staffers typically accrue around 40,000 miles (64,000 km) of hard-driving in a single year. We believe the long-term evaluations help to weed out any potential problems that might not be seen during our Ten Best Engines competition.

Although the “VQ” 3.5L DOHC V-6 in Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s Infiniti division's G35 sedan isn't a totally new engine, the G35 itself is all-new. So the opportunity to long-term test the superb VQ V-6 in Infiniti's watershed rear-drive midsize sedan was too rich to ignore.

More than 8,000 miles (12,900 km) rolled under the G35's tires in the first two months of testing. As expected, every driver dives deep into his or her superlative pool to lavish praise on the VQ V-6.

“Love the engine,” already is the recurring accolade in the G35 logbook. “Magnificent cruiser,” wrote one editor, “feels like the engine could run 110 to 120 mph all day.” The only caveat: Some of our more-attuned drivers agree that the VQ's displacement bump to 3.5L from its original 3L may have ever so slightly compromised the supernatural refinement that comes from the high degree of friction- and mass-reduction inherent in the VQ design.

Nonetheless, we believe the VQ, backed by a 5-speed automatic — the only transmission available until a 6-speed manual is offered this fall — is one of the most invigorating sport-sedan engines currently available at any price. It snarls appropriately when the electronically controlled throttle is mashed and the variable-length intake manifold and infinitely variable valve timing open everything to the max. The VQ snaps the G35 to 70 mph (113 km/h) quicker than an Enron exec cashes his bonus check. And the thrust generated by the VQ in the 80 mph to 110 mph (129 to 177 km/h) range is eye-opening.

Yet hushed high-speed cruising isn't outside the VQ's repertoire, either. And the 24.4 mpg (9.6L/100 km) we've so far recorded is wholly acceptable, as well.

Meanwhile, the G35 looks more handsome every day — its clean lines and unassuming but curvaceous front end continue to elicit comments from “civilians,” as Gs are only now becoming a more common sight on the road. We'll offer more insight about the G35 itself in future reports.

SPECIFICATIONS

2003 Infiniti G35
Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Engine: 3.5L (4,398 cc) 60-deg. DOHC V-6; aluminum block/aluminum heads
Power: 260 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 260 lb.-ft. (353 Nm) @ 4,850 rpm
Compression ratio: 10.3:1
Specific output: 74 hp/L
Date delivered: 4-11-02
Total miles/miles covered in this report: 8,665/7,825
Overall fuel economy: 24.4 mpg (9.6L/100 km)
Total maintenance cost: $45.25
Non-scheduled maintenance cost (total): $0