By Jim Bray
Infiniti's new M series is a spectacular vehicle. It's attractive, fast, loaded
with luxury and technology, and a real blast to drive.
For what more could anyone ask?
I fell under its spell within minutes of having picked up my tester, even
though I figured I'd be disappointed because it was the "lower" model
of the M series and therefore saddled with a V6 instead of the 4.5 litre V8.
I figured it would be like its competitor, the Lexus GS 300 AWD which was a
wonderful car though it left me pining for more "fun to drive".
As it turned out, however, Infiniti's V6 M35x blew me away. It left me with
the impression that the V8 M45 (which has the V8 shared by big brother Q45
and the FX45 SUV) would be a case of gilding the lily. I bet it's a blast,
But before I go any farther, some full disclosure: I am an Infiniti owner.
I have a 1991 Q45 that I love despite its age and previous owners' neglect.
It guzzles gas, though, and is bigger than I usually like in a car, but it's
wonderful anyway - fast and, for a big car, with very nice handling.
Needless to say, I was dying to see how the new M would stack up against my
And now I have. Can I swap them straight across?
The new M is a handsome set of wheels. It doesn't look like a rolling brick
and that alone is a huge improvement. It bears a family resemblance to its
little brother the G35, though more muscular, and that's not a bad thing.
The four door sedan seats four in supreme comfort and five in comfort, and
it boasts so much high tech stuff crammed into it you might think it would
be intimidating - but it isn't. Infiniti has done a marvelous job of making
this state-of-the-art sedan as user friendly as possible, with easy-to-fathom
controls and interfaces that are so well thought out it only takes a few seconds
to get up to speed. And though you shouldn't, you could even tweak its cursor
control interface when you're up to speed on the road. It's that intuitive.
Like the G, the M is based on parent company Nissan's FM (front mid-ship)
platform that first came to market as the 350Z sports car and which offers
excellent balance. This gene splicing of sporty and luxury DNA makes for a
very satisfying ride, whether you want to be stroked or you're interested in
carving up some curves.
The M35x also shares its 3.5 liter V6 with the G and Z. It's rated at 280
stallions @ 6200 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque @ 4800 rpm. It seems like more
than that, though, when you spur it onward. The M also emits a delightful sound
through its quad tail pipes, a serious growl that sounds a lot like a sweet
V8 even though it ain't.
The M features the best automatic transmission I've tried to date. It's an
electronically controlled 5-speed tranny with a manual shift mode that offers
Downshift Rev Matching. You can wind this baby up to its peak power easily
and the M seems more than happy about it. Pull out to pass and drop it a gear
or two and it leaps forward with glee. This is no slushbox. It was enough to
convince me to live with an automatic, in this particular car anyway.
The M35x also adds electronically controlled all-wheel drive to the mix, with
a snow setting I didn't get to try. If it works as well as the one in the Lexus
GS 300 AWD, however, it's just dandy.
The M35x's suspension up front is independent double-wishbone with coil springs
over shock absorbers. The independent tush is kept tight with coil springs
over shock absorbers. There are stabilizer bars front and rear as well. Steering
is engine-speed-sensing variable-assist power rack-and-pinion and it carves
up the road like a surgeon wielding a scalpel.
Stopping the M are 12.6 x 1.1-inch ventilated discs up front and 12.1 x 0.6-inch
ventilated discs in back. The wheels they stop are 18 inchers, wearing a set
To add even more to the mix, there's Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), which
can apply the brake to individual wheels and/or check back the engine to help
you maintain your heading and keep control.
I took this baby out onto my favourite twisty secondary highway and it took
about three days for the smile to fade from my face. Despite its two ton mass
(the M, not my face), the car is fast and agile - extremely competent, and
it feels great to drive wherever you happen to be, save perhaps for off road.
The cabin exudes quality, in its materials and fit and finish. Rosewood inhabits
the console, dashboard, and doors and though it's very handsome, there's just
too much of it. It's very classy, though.
instruments sport a nifty high-tech look, and are very easy to read. A colour
LCD screen sits atop the high-mounted panel that holds the audio/video/HVAC/navigation
(and other) controls; it acts as a screen for the navigation system as well
as for navigating the car's electronic menu system of adjustments. Adjustments
are accomplished by a cursor control-like knob/button thingy that is surprisingly
well thought out and easy to master.
Most of the stereo and dual zone HVAC functions are controlled by buttons
mounted around the control dial thingy, and a toggle mounted on the steering
wheel lets you perform many of the dial's functions without moving your hands
off the wheel. I wish Infiniti had tilted the instrument panel's buttons/panel
a little more downward toward the rear, so shorter people like me could read
the labels more easily. But the buttons are big, well grouped and well labeled,
so this is a minor criticism.
The M also features keyless locking and push-button starting, whereby you
can leave the key fob in your pocket and virtually ignore it. This also works
for the car's fuel filler door, which will let you pop it open if you have
the fob but won't if you don't.
The power adjustable, heated and cooled leather seats are wonderfully soft
and supportive, even when you're flying through curves. The sunroof is of a
good size, opens and closes with one push of the button - and is one of the
quietest at highway speeds that I've experienced.
And of course you get Infiniti's trademark analogue clock, which adds another
classy touch to the interior.
The 5.1 channel audio system is first rate. Speakers are all over the place,
including in the seatbacks. There's a 6 disc stereo CD changer in the dash
and it sounds excellent, with bountiful power. In the center console there's
a DVD player that can play video discs for the people in the rear seat to watch
on a retractable, ceiling mounted LCD screen (which is pretty good, too, for
a car video system). Better still, it also plays DVD-Audio and dts discs, which
ups the audio quality ante. It doesn't play SACD discs, but not much does.
The M also features Bluetooth wireless connectivity, which I got to try with
a cell phone I was reviewing at the time. This is a slick system! There's a
one time setup routine in which you tell the car and the phone to find each
other, and from that point on you can leave your Bluetooth equipped cell phone
in your pocket and use the car as a big, fast, comfy phone booth.
You can store numbers in the car's memory, key them to a voice command such
as "home" and, when you say "dial home," the stereo mutes,
the M phones home just like E.T. and your dear loved ones' voices come at you
through the stereo speakers.
The audio quality of the phone call could improve, though. It's a tad muddy,
though since this was my first experience with Bluetooth I couldn't be sure
if it was the young technology itself, the car or the phone that was at fault.
But it's a marvelous feature and it works well enough for now.
The navigation system works very well, too, although strangely enough it uses
more than one female voice to talk to you - the street names are spoken by
a different virtual gal than the one whose voice tells you how to reach them.
The M also features an interesting virtual nanny. A lane departure warning
system beeps if the car crosses lane marking lines without the turn signal
actuated. This is a double edged sword. It works well, but sometimes I like
to cut a corner a little deeper than the road painters deem, er, proper and
this would set off the alarm.
Fortunately, you can shut it off.
Then there's the cruise control. It uses laser sensors and a digital rangefinder
to find vehicles ahead of you and maintain your distance behind them, which
is adjustable from "safe following" to "let's see if we can
freak 'em out". It's an amazing system! Out on the highway, I set it when
there was no traffic ahead of me and by the time my breakneck pace brought
me into contact with other vehicles, the M applied the brakes and kept me safely
behind the damn slow pokes, even going so far as maintaining the following
distance down a steep hill - with no braking required at all on my part. The
M took care of everything but the steering.
Between the cruise control and the lane change squawker you could just about
fall asleep at the wheel and still get where you're going!
Other wonderful little touches abound, including reclining heated rear seats
and a power-operated rear window sun shade. The sunshade got stuck part way
up once during my test, but I jiggled it free with my hand and it worked flawlessly
The headlights do an amazing job of throwing candle power ahead of you - and
they turn to illuminate your path when you corner. It is a lovely touch and
And one mustn't forget all the other safety-related stuff they've stuffed
into the M. It includes driver and passenger dual stage front, side, and curtain
airbags, rear side curtain airbags and front active head restraints.
The M35 starts at $54,800 Canadian (approx. $40,400 US), which seems like
a steal considering what you're getting. My fully tricked out M35x all wheel
drive tester lists for about $65,800 Cdn/$42,600 US. If you really want to
go for the gusto, the loaded M45 sells for about $71,800 Cdn/$50,000 US.
I loved this car and were I to have the disposable income, I would have bought
it on the spot after my weeklong test drive was finished.
I can only imagine how much fun the M45 must be!