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  • 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 »

  • 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

    2008 Infiniti QX56

    2008 Infiniti QX56

    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.

    Cargo friendly

    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.

    Quick facts:

    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
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road: Yes
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Fuel economy: 12/17 m.p.g. city/highway 
    Comments: Base price does not include a $815 destination charge.