2009 Infiniti M35x AWDPosted on June 2nd, 2009
Mid-sized sport sedan with innovative safety technology
By Nina Russin
Last year, Infiniti’s M sport sedans got a brand new look, with a restyled front grille and air intake, new rear fenders, taillights and deck lid. This year, the big news is under the hood: the V-6 engine gains 28 horsepower, and a two mile-per-gallon improvement in fuel economy thanks to electronic throttle control.
Buyers who want more power can opt for the 325-horsepower V-8, that remains virtually unchanged from before. While the bigger engine has 22 more horsepower than the V-6, it also adds 121 pounds to the sedan’s curb weight, reducing the M’s highway fuel economy by five miles-per-gallon.
Having just driven the M35x, my guess is that power is more than enough to make performance buffs happy. When a driver in an eight-cylinder European sport sedan tried to pass me on the entrance ramp, he was sorely disappointed.
In addition to being fast, Infiniti’s sport sedan features cutting-edge safety technology, including adaptive headlamps, lane departure warning and intelligent cruise control. The lane departure warning system uses a camera behind the windshield to detect lane markings ahead of the car.
If the driver starts to veer out of his lane without signaling, the system illuminates a warning lamp on the dash. If he doesn’t correct, an audible alarm sounds, and the vehicle stability control system uses braking to gently move the car back into the lane. While warning signals on systems like this can be distracting, I found the dash lamp easy to see, without taking my eyes off the road.
All-wheel drive adjusts torque distribution according to road conditions
The M sedan is available with either rear or all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive car is normally biased towards the rear, to enhance handling on dry roads. When the front wheels start to slip, the on-board computer transfers up to fifty percent of the engine’s power to the front wheels. An optional sport package adds a rear active steering feature that automatically moves the lower links on the rear suspension to adjust for steering input and speed.
While some electronic throttle systems make the driver feel disconnected from the car, the drive-by-wire on the M35 works extremely well. Even during hard acceleration, there is a linear feel as opposed to a sudden jump in speed.
The five-speed manual transmission includes manual gear selection with the automaker’s downshift rev matching feature. When the driver downshifts, the on-board computer blips the throttle to eliminate shift shock. The result is smoother delivery of power through the corners and on steep hills.
A new drive sport mode automatically keeps the car in a lower gear to maximize engine power. A snow mode keeps the car in a higher gear, so the wheels don’t slip when accelerating from a stop on wet roads.
Speed-sensitive power steering provides ample assist for maneuvering through parking lots, while producing a very positive on-center response at speed. The turning radius- just over 36 feet- is quite good for a car with a 114-inch wheelbase.
The wheels feel glued to the road during quick lane changes. I was sorry that I didn’t have the chance to drive the car on wet roads, to get a better feel for the all-wheel drive system. Standard 18-inch wheels with V-rated all-season radials produce a sizeable footprint, and maintain traction over a wide temperature range.
All grades come with four-wheel vented disc brakes and four-channel antilock braking. Preview braking pre-pressurizes the brakes to make the pads engage faster during an emergency stop. The feature operates via the same radar as the intelligent cruise control, and is only available with the advanced technology package ($2,800).
Designers added small triangular windows in the back of the car to minimize blind spots created by its large rear pillars. I still found the rear window rather narrow. Aside from that, visibility around the car is quite good.
Both first and second-row passengers have an exceptional amount of head and legroom in the luxury sedan. A power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view, as well as a safe distance from the front airbag.
The steering wheel has redundant volume controls, as well as Bluetooth interface, and buttons for the intelligent cruise control. A separate button turns the lane departure warning system on and off.
A mouse-type control on the center stack operates the navigation and other system functions. Those who prefer it can use redundant buttons on the center stack. I found all of the controls easy to reach and intuitive to operate.
The navigation screen is easy to read, with a zoom in-and-out function. The system, which comes as part of an option package that also adds an audio upgrade, includes XM NavTraffic: real-time traffic updates from the satellite radio provider. An iPod interface allows the driver to control playlists through the audio system.
A rear-view camera displays wide angle images to the back of the car to make backing in and out of parking spaces easier. It’s a great safety feature for parents who have small children who might not be visible to the back of the car.
Both rows of passengers get 12-volt power points to recharge electronic devices on the go, as well as overhead reading lamps. Dual-zone temperature controls and heated and cooled seats keep front passengers comfortable in temperature extremes. Two-position memory allows multiple drivers to share the car.
A large floor tunnel makes the center rear position useless except for securing a child seat. Vents in back of the center console circulate air throughout the cabin.
The sedan has a deep, spacious trunk which can easily hold luggage, golf bags and groceries. Cyclists who need a large, configurable cargo bay would be better served with one of Infiniti’s sport-utility vehicles.
All grades come with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, vehicle stability and traction control. The M35x is on display at Infiniti dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A sport sedan with exceptional handling, and the versatility of all-wheel drive. The six-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission with downhill rev matching is notable for its smooth power delivery and lack of shift shock. Available adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and preview braking add an extra measure of safety.
Dislikes: Large floor tunnel renders the center rear seating position useless, except for securing a child seat. Thick C-pillars create blind spots in the car’s rear corners.
Base price: $47,950
As tested: $54,915
Horsepower: 303 Hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 262 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 16/22 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include an $815 delivery charge.
Leave a reply