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2009 Infiniti M 35 Review

2009 Infiniti M35 (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Infiniti M35

MORE: Infiniti Specs, Reviews and Comparisons - Infiniti Buyers Guide

2009 Infiniti M 35 Review
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

The Infiniti M35 slots into the market as a mid-size, luxury, rear-wheel drive, performance sedan, though it looks and feels close to full-size. The closest comparisons would be the BMW 5-Series or Lexus GS350. Cadillac CTS is close to the same layout, size and performance for about 10-grand less and Mercedes E-Class is close as well for about 10-grand more. While it’s not as high-performance a car as the M5 or CTS-V, it’s plenty fast and sporty with enough luxury content to satisfy most discriminating buyers. And, our loaded test car has an amazing amount of technology.

Like most of the Asian luxury sedans, styling is rather conservative. We can see a family resemblance with some Nissan products, but Infiniti has developed its own look. This one is rather unembellished from the side with smooth contours showing no visual breaks to speak of. Front and rear views are quite attractive, but without much drama. I’m especially fond of the profile looking over the hood from inside. That view almost has a retro-look with fenders visually separated from the hood.

Our initial experience in the M35 was a jaunt to Chicago, an easy, 3-hour freeway drive. The delivery of the car was later than we expected so we just loaded up and took off as soon as the delivery guys left. We spent the first 50 miles figuring out all the controls, features and functions. The center stack with navigation screen and multi-function control knob are far from the simplest but very nicely appointed.

It didn’t take long to master most of the controls. I managed to change the orientation of the map to show north at the top without frustration – not the case with many systems I’ve used. The screen kept going blank at first with a message about pushing the day/night control, until I finally found the day/night lighting control in an obvious spot that I continued to overlook. As my mother used to say, if it was a snake it would have bit me.

Power tilt and telescopic steering wheel is standard as are just about all the creature comforts you would expect – heated, cooled power seats that adjust in nearly every direction and remember different drivers’ preferences, intelligent key, power window with express up and down at every window, and probably another dozen features we never found.

The sun was on my side of the car most of the trip so my pretty blonde and I had to master the dual-zone climate controls right off the bat. We managed just fine, though we couldn’t have the AC on one side without the other. She really likes fresh, non-AC air, and I like it more brisk.

The car makes a few too many decisions for me. I prefer a more intimate relationship with the car. For example, the cruise control is adaptive – Infiniti calls it Intelligent Cruise Control – with three settings for distance. The sensor reads the distance from the vehicle in front and automatically backs off the speed to keep a specified distance. The default distance is way too long for a reasonable person at freeway speeds and the shortest distance is still a tad long for me. Each time we stop for gas or a break it resets to the default rather than remembering where I left it. I could not find a way to defeat the system while still using the cruise control. And, anytime the wipers are swiping the cruise control cancels itself. If the wipers are on intermittent you can still use cruise, but if even the rain-sensing wipers step it up to full swipe again, the cruise goes off.

Otherwise it’s a wonderful car. Appointments, materials and design are certainly luxurious. The optional dark African rosewood trim bordered by a strip of leather across the dash integrate well with high-zoot theme. The small analog clock adds a touch of elegance as does the generous, luxurious seating front and rear.

The smooth power I’m feeling under my foot comes from the versatile 3.5-liter DOHC, 4-valve, V6 that powers a variety of Nissan, Hyundai and other Asian products. This version generates 303 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. Variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust provide breathing efficiency. This slick engine is mated to a smooth, electronically-controlled, 7-speed automatic transmission with sport mode. Downshift rev matching adds to the sporty feel. Of course, rear-wheel drive rounds out this enthusiast’s sedan.

The EPA estimates fuel economy to be 17-mpg in the city and 25 on the highway using premium fuel. We managed a tad over 21-mpg on our Chicago trip according to the car’s info system. I think those are quite accurate.

The driving dynamics are excellent on smooth roads and on those of our Midwest roads suffering from severe winter kill. Independent suspension all around is a double wishbone arrangement in front with stabilizer bar and a multilink rear design. The suspension geometry and tuning are nothing unusual or particularly innovative but certainly competent in every way. The design is well balanced between comfort and sportiness. Vehicle speed sensitive power steering gives enough feedback to satisfy this sports car lover.

Base price for this lovely, fast, sport-luxury car is $45,800, very close to its BMW competitor. With a fistful of extras specified in three major packages our test car stickers out at $55,015.

The Advanced Technology Package costs $2,800 and includes Bose audio system with 14 speakers, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, intelligent cruise control and preview breaking. The audio system is nice but I’m not sure I’d order the rest. The cruise control is described above and may be too much for some drivers. The lane can be disconcerting as well. It actually resists the steering as you move over a lane marking without using your turn signal. It feels like a serious ridge in the pavement. The warning system is just a modest beep that we can barely hear. I can see great value in that system when you’re driving while tired or sleepy.

The $1,650 Sport Package includes rear active steer, sport tuned suspension, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels with sticky W-rated summer tires, sport-bolstered front seats, and special sporty elements of trim.

Finally, the $3,350 Technology Package includes a first-rate navigation system with 8-inch touch screen, XM NavTraffic, Real Time Traffic Information, Bose Premium audio, 9.3G Music Box hard drive (replaces 6-CD changer), slot for MP3 and WMA playback, rear view camera, iPod interface and Infiniti voice recognition.

With all that technology this is really a lot of car for the money. It certainly should be on the shopping list of anyone who is browsing around in this part of the market.

MORE: Infiniti Specs, Reviews and Comparisons - Infiniti Buyers Guide

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved