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  • 2012 Infiniti M35h

    Hybrid sedan for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Infiniti M35h

    Although hybrid vehicles are by no means a new idea, engineers continue to develop new performance matrices using the combined attributes of gas engines and electric motors. Unlike the first generation of hybrid sedans, fuel economy improvements in newer models sometimes take a back seat to power. This isn’t to say that the hybrid cars don’t outperform their gasoline-powered counterparts in terms of gas mileage; rather that they may well out-accelerate those cars as well.

    Infiniti’s new M35h sedan is a case in point. Because electric motors develop maximum torque at extremely low speeds, the gasoline-electric M produces neck-snapping acceleration off the line, worthy of a top fuel car. The fact that it also averages 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway as compared to the gasoline-powered M’s 26 is an added bonus.

    The closest hybrid technology to the M35h is probably Porsche’s, as seen in the Cayenne Hybrid. In both cases, the vehicle can operate at extremely high speeds on pure electric power. In the case of the M35h, top speed in electric mode is 62 miles-per-hour, with a range of 1.2 miles before the gas engine cuts in.

    Base price on the M35h is $53,700, not including an $895 destination charge. The test car comes with a premium package which adds semi aniline leather seats, a Bose 5.1 surround-sound audio system, wood accents, a suede headliner and power rear sunshade ($3800). A technology package includes Infiniti’s hard drive navigation system with XM real time traffic and weather updates, climate controlled front seats and a heated steering wheel ($3350). A trunk mat and first aid kit cost $200, while an 18-inch wheel package adds $650. Illuminated kick plates priced at $360 bring the total cost as tested to $62,955. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Infiniti G37 Sedan 6MT

    Versatile sport sedan for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Infiniti G37 Sedan

    I have a soft place in my heart for Infiniti’s G sport sedans. The G37’s emotive styling and powerful, sure-footed performance meets the visceral needs of driving enthusiasts.

    At the same time, a versatile interior, spacious trunk and tech-savvy features including Bluetooth, XM real-time traffic alerts, keyless start and navigation make the sedan a practical choice for commuters in large urban areas.

    Power for the G37 comes from a 328 horsepower V-6 engine, mated to a close ratio six-speed manual transmission. Both the block and heads are aluminum, to keep weight off the chassis. The sedan’s hood is also aluminum, for the same reason.

    By locating the engine behind the front axle, engineers achieved a near-perfect front-to-rear weight balance: 53/47 in the sport model tested. Because of the engine’s high compression ratio, the G37 requires 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline.

    The sport is the only grade which comes with a manual gearbox in lieu of an automatic transmission. Base price is $39,450, not including the $875 destination charge. High friction brake pads on the test car add $370, bringing the MSRP to $40,695. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Infiniti M37

    Premium sport sedan for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Infiniti M

    To say that Infiniti’s flagship sedan is a nice piece of machinery is akin to admitting that the Pope is Catholic. Twenty seconds behind the wheel is all it takes to discover how evolved Infiniti’s front midship platform has become.

    The 2011 model comes with two available engines: a 330-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6, or 420-horsepower 5.6-liter V-8. Both versions feature a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. Magnesium paddle shifters that come with the sport package enable the driver to snap between gears with lightning speed.

    Base price for the rear-wheel drive V-6 grade is $46,250, not including an $865 destination charge. The sport package upgrades standard 18-inch alloy wheels 20-inch rims with summer performance tires. It also adds a sport-tuned suspension, bigger brakes and 4-wheel active steer: a system which makes steering effort speed-sensitive ($3650).

    A premium package replaces the standard audio with a Bose surround-sound system, adds voice activated navigation with XM traffic and weather updates, heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel ($3350). Other options on the test car include high friction brake pads ($370), trunk nets, mats, and a first aid kit ($195), plus illuminated kick plates ($350), bringing the MSRP to $55,030. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Infiniti G37 Sedan Journey

    Sport sedan for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    Infiniti G37 Sedan

    Infiniti G37 Sedan

    The G37S melds the stylish exterior of the G coupe with four-door practicality. Its performance and handling is pure sports car.

    In the early days of open-wheel racing, race cars had two seats: one for the driver, and a second for the riding mechanic. The G37S strikes me as a race car with seating for three riding mechanics.

    Power comes from a 3.7-liter V-6 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission. The driver can shift manually using the shift lever or formula-style paddles on the steering wheel.

    Large vented disc brakes stop the car on a dime, while standard 17-inch alloy wheels provide a wide, stable footprint at speed. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Infiniti FX35 AWD

    Crossover vehicle melds form and function

    By Nina Russin

    Infiniti FX

    Infiniti FX

    The FX is Infiniti’s five-passenger crossover vehicle, with available all-wheel drive for four-season performance. Last year, the automaker introduced the second-generation FX, replacing the model introduced in 2003. The 2010 models come with a choice of V-6 or V-8 engines, and rear or all-wheel drive.

    Engineers refined the 3.5-liter block in the new model, and introduced an all-new 5-liter V-8. The smaller engine produces 303 horsepower, coming close to the power of the 4.5-liter eight cylinder on the original car. A seven-speed automatic transmission minimizes shift shock, while enhancing fuel economy.

    The new FX has a longer wheelbase and wider track than the car it replaces, providing a more stable footprint. Buyers can upgrade from the standard 18-inch wheels to 20 or 21-inch rims. The FX comes standard with V-rated all-season tires.

    Infiniti’s crossover features a front midship platform similar to the M and G passenger cars: a more rigid chassis enhances steering feedback. The all-wheel drive model has a 53/47 front-to-rear weight balance, offering rear-wheel drive handling characteristics on dry roads.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless entry and start, leather upholstery, power front seats, 60/40 split folding rear seats, a Bose audio system with satellite radio and Bluetooth interface, four 12-volt power outlets, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel column with redundant steering wheel controls, and a power sliding glass moonroof.

    This week, I spent time in the FX35 all-wheel drive model. A wet spring in Arizona presented an unusual opportunity to test the FX in rain, snow, and on some very muddy unimproved roads around Sedona.

    Base price on the test car is $43,850, not including an $865 destination charge. Two premium option packages and navigation bring the MSRP to $52,920. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2010 Infiniti QX56 4WD

    Full-sized luxury SUV with off-road capability

    By Nina Russin

    Infiniti QX56

    Infiniti QX56

    The QX56 is the big kahuna of sport-utility vehicles. Stepping inside the expansive passenger cabin, I am humbled by its scale.

    Just how big is it? The QX56 measures seventeen and a quarter feet end-to-end. The wheelbase is 123 inches. Curb weight is just over three tons. The QX56 can tow up to 9000 pounds: over twice our ALV minimum towing standard.

    Power comes from a 320-horsepower V8 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. The QX accelerates surprisingly well for a vehicle of its size. The down side is poor fuel economy. On the test drive I averaged 13.7 miles-per-gallon: slightly lower than the EPA estimate. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Infiniti EX 35 AWD Journey

    Mid-sized crossover with race-inspired performance

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Infiniti EX35

    2009 Infiniti EX35

    The EX35 is similar to Infiniti’s FX crossover, but with more compact proportions. The EX exterior appears to combine elements from a station wagon and sport-utility vehicle. But looks can be deceiving. Ride and handling are akin to a sports coupe, thanks to Infiniti’s front midship platform and exceptional aerodynamics.

    The EX is available in two grades, with rear or all-wheel drive. The test car is the upscale EX35 Journey with all-wheel drive. Base price is $37,400, not including the $865 destination charge. Three option packages, upgraded wheels, roof rails and illuminated kick plates bring the price as tested to $45,285.

    Power comes from a 297-horsepower V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. Infiniti’s all-wheel drive system uses an active center clutch to distribute torque between the front and back, or side-to-side, depending on which wheels have the best traction. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Infiniti G37x Coupe AWD

    Infiniti upgrades the G with a seven-speed automatic and available all-wheel drive

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe

    2009 Infiniti G37 Coupe

    Last year, Infiniti introduced a new G sport coupe, with a more powerful engine and enhanced steering technology. The 2009 G37 comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission that replaces last year’s six-speed box. The new transmission yields better fuel economy, and has downshift rev matching for enhanced performance. Available all-wheel drive improves the coupe’s performance on wet roads.

    This week, I drove the 2009 all-wheel drive model in and around Phoenix, Arizona. While I wasn’t able to evaluate the G37’s wet weather performance, I tested Infiniti’s active steer and electronic torque distribution systems on some two-lane roads outside of town.

    As with its predecessor, the G is a front mid-ship platform, optimizing its front-to-rear weight balance. The coupe sits lower and has a wider track than the model it replaced, for better high-speed handling and improved steering response. Standard 18-inch alloy wheels give the G a generous footprint. All models come with four-wheel vented disc brakes and standard four-channel antilock braking. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 Infiniti M35x AWD

    Mid-sized sport sedan with innovative safety technology

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Infiniti M35

    2009 Infiniti M35

    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. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2009 G37 Sedan AWD

    All-wheel drive gives Infiniti’s sport sedan four-season performance

    By Nina Russin

    2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan

    2009 Infiniti G37 Sedan

    After living with the G37 sedan for the past week, I’ve decided that it shouldn’t be driven below eighty miles-per-hour. This isn’t to say that Infiniti’s sport sedan lacks handling finesse at lower speeds: rather, that eighty is the point at which the car’s inner beauty and beast emerge.

    I’ve driven very few cars that stay glued to the pavement the way this one does. All-wheel drive makes the car weatherproof. But unlike some all-wheel drive systems, Infiniti’s active torque management doesn’t interfere with the sedan’s rear-wheel bias on dry roads.

    Infinitis are their own animals, in part because of the front mid-ship layout which locates the engine behind the front axle. The automaker’s production models bear the fruit of extensive F-1 racing experience, with aerodynamic enhancements above and below the chassis.

    Buyers who define sports car by the amount of growl out the exhaust, or the humpity, humpity, humpity a radical cam produces car at idle, won’t find the G37 very interesting. It isn’t a “race it on Sunday, run whiskey in it Sunday night,” kind of car.

    But enthusiasts looking for a sport sedan as close to high-revving, open-wheel race cars as possible will feel right at home in the G37. It’s not exactly a wolf in sheep’s clothing; more like a tightly-wound snake with a very long reach. Read the rest of this entry »