2011 Infiniti M37
Premium sport sedan for driving enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 »
2008 Infiniti QX56 4×4
Infiniti’s full-size sport-utility vehicle comes with all the comforts of home, and a few extras.
By Nina Russin
Depending on one’s perspective, the QX56 is either the world’s biggest sport-utility vehicle, or the first full-portable luxury spa. Inside, seven passengers enjoy standard leather and wood grain trim, satellite radio, three zones of temperature control, a premium sound system, navigation display, rear backup camera and a power sunroof. The driver can program the power driver’s seat, steering wheel and side mirrors into memory, and adjust the pedals with a button on the instrument panel.
Heated front seats, steering wheel, and side mirrors are standard equipment. Passengers can download their music libraries into the 9.3 gigabyte hard drive, or plug their MP3 players into the flash slot. The audio system is Bluetooth compatible. An overhead storage console holds the garage opener and sunglasses; map pockets hold paperwork. There are four, twelve-volt power points and fourteen cupholders.
Exterior styling is distinctly upscale: a large chrome grille with standard bi-xenon headlamps, standard fog lamps and 20-inch chrome wheels. Standard running boards ease access and egress. Designers even chromed the standard roof rack and crossbars.
Underneath its veneer, the four-wheel drive QX is all business, with a chassis tough enough for rock-strewn trails. A part-time transfer case provides extremely low gears for navigating uneven terrain. Heavy-duty Dana front and rear axles are standard as are skid plates.
Ground clearance on the four-wheel drive model is 9.1-inches, with approach and departure angles of 26.2 and 22.7 degrees respectively. In other words, the QX can clear rocks and roots in the road and go up and down steep hills without bottoming out or smashing a bumper.
The four-wheel drive model tows up to 8,900 pounds when properly equipped. Body-on-frame construction makes the chassis extremely durable, and an automatic air suspension maintains uniform ground clearance and departure angle, compensating for the weight of the trailer.
North to red rock country
I tested the QX on the uphill grade between Phoenix and Sedona. The I-17 freeway climbs from an altitude of 1,500 feet to 5,000 in just over 100 miles. While the standard V8 engine has no shortage of horsepower, it’s also hauling a lot of weight. Curb weight is 6,000 pounds on the four-wheel drive model. Would the QX56 have enough power to pass other vehicles at speed, and how would the high curb weight impact the truck’s gas mileage?
The good news is that the engine and five-speed automatic transmission performed seamlessly. The 5.6-liter block produces up to 393 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 r.p.m., allowing the QX56 to accelerate hard off the line. The engine reaches ninety percent of peak torque below 2,500 r.p.m.: average highway cruising speeds. Not only was I able to weave through thick traffic with ease, I could pass vehicles on steep inclines without flooring the throttle. The drivetrain produces a buttery ride akin to much smaller vehicles.
The bad news is that the QX56 has an insatiable appetite for gasoline. Twenty bucks worth is a drop in its bottomless fuel tank. Average fuel economy for city and highway driving is about 14 miles-per-gallon.
Car-like ride and handling
The QX56 uses Nissan’s F-Alpha truck platform, which it shares with the full-sized Titan pickup and Armada sport-utility vehicle. The advantage of body-on-frame construction is durability. The rigid frame makes the vehicle flex less when it is hauling a heavy load of traversing extremely uneven terrain. The challenge to engineers is to make the work-truck platform ride and handle like a luxury car.
They did this by adapting many luxury car features, such as a double wishbone independent suspension, and rack-and-pinion speed-sensitive steering. Turning radius is about 41 feet, which isn’t bad for a vehicle that’s almost 17-1/2 feet long.
The rear camera backup system is invaluable. Guidance lines superimposed over the wide-angle image show the driver how much room is on either side of the vehicle. There is also an audible warning for objects to the rear. I was able to back into tight spaces at the motel in Sedona, giving myself a clear shot out.
The gate shift is easy to use. I tested the low gears on a steep decline from the Sedona airport down to the main road. It kept the speed at a manageable 25 miles-per hour without having to engage the brakes.
Large vented discs front and rear give the QX plenty of braking power. Pedal feel is even and linear. The truck can stop quickly when it has to: standard antilock brakes maintain directional control on wet or uneven roads.
Large stabilizer bars on both axles keep the truck flat in the corners. I’m not saying that the QX is a car to dynamite through the corkscrews at Laguna Seca (although the corner workers might find it entertaining). But it can certainly hold its own on winding canyon roads, such as the stretch of highway 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff.
Keyless ignition is standard equipment. It works just like a conventional ignition, except that the driver doesn’t have to put a key in the ignition slot to unlock and turn it.
Optional intelligent cruise control on the test car is a handy feature for commuters. The system uses laser sensors to determine the distance between the QX and the car in front of it, and maintains a preset following distance. The driver engages the system by pushing a button on the steering wheel. Separate controls set the speed and following distance.
The hardest thing about using intelligent cruise control is learning to trust it. While it will not brake the vehicle to a complete stop, it works well in urban highway traffic, where speeds may vary between thirty and seventy miles per hour.
Inside the truck, there’s a conspicuous lack of road and wind noise. The 12-speaker Bose audio system surrounds passengers with sound. Its long wheelbase and 79-inch height translate to exceptional head and legroom for second and third-row passengers. The test truck has the optional mobile entertainment system: an eight-inch power flip-down display, with wireless remote and two wireless headphones.
The navigational system operates via a mouse in the instrument panel. The three-dimensional map images are remarkably easy to read. The XM NavTraffic system displays color-coded images on the navigation screen so drivers can avoid congested areas. Redundant steering wheel audio controls allow the driver to make volume or channel changes without reaching for the touch screen.
As someone who routinely loads large boxes into vehicles, I can’t say enough good things about power liftgates. The one on the QX has a single control that opens and closes the door: simple is good. Two buttons in the cargo area fold the rear seats flat or raise them. There isn’t a lot of room with the third row seats in place, but folding them creates a cargo area big enough to hold a bicycle with the front wheel removed.
Folding the second-row seat flats is relatively easy. A strap on the outside of the seat cushion releases it to flip forward, and a lever on the seatback folds it flat.
Despite its height, the roof rack is fairly easy to reach, thanks to the standard running boards There are two rubberized steps in the rear as well, although the roof rack is too far forward for a smaller person to hand on to.
Standard safety and security features on the QX56 include antilock braking , vehicle dynamic control, side and side curtain airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Base price on the QX56 is $55,250. Estimated annual fuel cost is $3,052. The QX56 is not for the feint of wallet. But it is a luxurious ride. The QX56 is currently on display at Infiniti dealerships nationwide.
Likes: Exceptional performance for a full-sized sport-utility vehicles. Visibility around the truck is excellent, and the standard rear backup camera makes parking a breeze. The 5.6-liter V8 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission give the QX56 the power and performance of a passenger car.
Dislikes: Poor fuel economy.
Base price: $55,250
Price as tested: $58,810
Horsepower: 320Hp @ 5200 r.p.m.
Torque: 393 lbs.-ft. @ 3400 r.p.m.
0 to 60: N/A
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 12/17 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $815 destination charge.
2007 Infiniti G35 Coupe
Tuned for performance
By Nina Russin
A steering wheel can make or break a car. Before power steering was invented, steering wheels were the diameter of beach balls: extra girth gave the driver more torque to move the steering gear. Now, steering wheels are a lot smaller, but most aren’t small enough. When I find a steering wheel small enough to fit my frame, I see the whole car in a more favorable light.
The Infiniti G35 coupe has a right-sized steering wheel. When I get into the driver’s seat, I feel as if the designer had me in mind. If the G35 was a racecar, I’d need to add a five-point harness, but I wouldn’t have to change the seat or the steering wheel, because they’re perfect out of the box.
The G35 is so driver-oriented, that the other three seating spaces are almost extraneous. In fact, the back seats have very little leg or head-room, due to the aerodynamic lines of the roof. The steering wheel has redundant volume and phone controls, so the driver can keep his eyes on the road. Controls on the instrument panel are easy to reach from both front positions. Key climate and audio controls have separate knobs, so the driver can access them without using the more complicated mouse that also controls the navigation system.
This leaves the passenger with very little to do, outside of looking at the cool 3-D graphics on the navigation screen. The driver will be having too much fun driving to focus on a conversation. The exhaust note is so nice that the Bose sound system is almost an afterthought. This isn’t to say that the Bose system isn’t worthy of an audiophile: it is. But unless that person is playing something as cool as the digitally remastered “Birth of the Cool,” by Miles Davis, what comes out of the speakers won’t be as cool as the sound coming from the tailpipes.
Why racecars make road cars better.
Racecar technology has always been core to Infiniti’s mission. Engineers spend lots of time working on things that most people don’t see: under-car aerodynamics is one example. But this “invisible” technology is what makes the G35 different than other luxury coupes. Making the car more aerodynamic under as well as above the chassis improves fuel economy, and gives the car better ride and handling. Driving through a cloverleaf is a visceral experience.
There’s more steering effort on the G35 than most passenger cars, but not enough to be distracting. The tight steering is most noticeable at low speeds. On-center feel is excellent. Engineers developed a system called rear active steer that varies the suspension geometry according to driver input. The more aggressive the driver is, the stiffer the rear suspension becomes, so the driver can maintain control. Cruising at moderate speeds the suspension is more compliant, similar to a luxury sedan.
The suspension itself is heavy on aluminum to minimize unsprung weight. The difference between light suspension components and heavy ones is similar to training shoes versus racing flats: both get the job done, but the flats work much better at speed. Like the flats, the car rides on low-profile rubber. The sport-tuned suspension package on the test car includes a 19-inch wheel upgrade (17-inch wheels are standard). Ripple-control shock absorbers compensate for the hard ride of the low-profile tires.
The G35 is a rear-wheel drive platform and it shows. Front-to-rear weight balance is near perfect.
Engineers positioned the engine behind the front axle, so the majority of the chassis weight is right near the driver. That’s ideal for performance, as is the low center of gravity. The aero package adds a rear spoiler and diffusers, to optimize down-force. None of this is noticeable while commuting through rush-hour traffic, but it does make a difference on a two-lane rural road, when the driver can really open up the engine.
The five-speed automatic transmission is well matched to the car’s standard V6 engine. There is no noticeable shift shock when the driver is traveling at moderate speeds. At wide-open throttle, the transmission responds accordingly for good linear acceleration. The driver can also opt to use manual gear selection on the shift column.
Visibility around the car is excellent. The rather large rear pillars don’t seem to obstruct the driver’s side or rear vision.
Keyless start is standard for G35 coupes with the automatic five-speed transmission. Since the manual transmission cars come with conventional ignition systems, the driver still needs to crank the switch on the steering column. I still don’t see the value in this feature, but I suppose it’s one of those add-ons that luxury automakers consider necessary in order to make their vehicles competitive.
Small but functional passenger cabin
Inside, the G35 works well for two passengers. Even small adults will feel cramped in the rear seats. The optional sunroof makes the most of the limited space by flooding it with ambient light. Both rows of seating have center consoles with storage areas and cupholders. The doors also have bottle holders molded into the map pockets. The front center console has a generous-sized bin behind the cupholders, with a 12-volt outlet, change holder, and a small, removable tray the right size for a cell phone or PDA. The glovebox is small, primarily because the DVD player for the navigation disk is directly above it.
The navigation map is cool to look at but not particularly easy to read because of the 3-D imaging. The screen that pops up above the center stack is easy to see without obstructing the driver’s view of the road. I can’t see paying $1800 for the option since aftermarket devices that mount on the dash do as good a job at the fraction of the price.
The premium package adds the upgraded audio system, sunroof, dual zone temperature controls, auto-dimming rear mirror, and Bluetooth-compatible hands-free phone. It’s probably worth considering for drivers who have long commutes. The aero package ($550) and sport-tuned suspension option ($1600) are worthy investments for driving enthusiasts who might occasionally take their G35 to the track.
Limited cargo space
The trunk is deep but fairly narrow and shallow. A pass-through allows the driver to fold the rear seats flat and load in longer items. It’s possible to load a road bike into the car, but not especially easy. The G35 is best suited for people who don’t carry a lot of luggage or gear on a regular basis.
Standard first-aid kit
Standard safety features on the G35 include front, side and side-curtain airbags, antilock brakes, vehicle dynamics and traction control, a first aid kit, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Base price for the G35 is just over $33,000. It’s a lot of car for the money, and a good candidate for shoppers seeking a more practical alternative to traditional sports cars. The G35 is available for test drives at Infiniti dealerships nationwide.
Likes: Exceptional ride and handling, with a suspension worthy of cars that are significantly more expensive. The G35’s race-inspired chassis will not disappoint serious driving enthusiasts.
Dislikes: Minimal storage space in the passenger cabin, especially for four passengers. Trunk space is also limited.
Base price: $33,450
Price as tested: $41,330
Horsepower: 280 Hp @ 6200 r.p.m.
Torque: 270 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 r.p.m.
0 to 60: N/A
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/25 m.p.g. city/highway
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 18/25 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include $650 destination charge.