2006 Infiniti M35x
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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Though they’re brand new this year, the 2006 Infiniti M35 (V6) and M45 (V8) sedans haven’t really made a big splash in the mid-size luxury sedan market which is currently populated by such well-established competitors as the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Audi A6; as well as the Jaguar S-Type, Lexus GS, and Acura RL.

The reason — and I’m speculating now — is that the M35 is not a strikingly good-looking car and isn’t revolutionary or ground-breaking in any way — which it would have to be to stand out in this crowd.

Well, there is one thing that stands out: the M is considerably less expensive than its major rivals. The base M35 sedan is more than $8,000 cheaper than a Lexus GS 300, and more than $18,000 less than a Mercedes-Benz E 350! Sure, value-for-money is usually not the primary motivation for buying a luxury car, but the substantial price difference does make the M an awfully attractive buy in this class.

Though the Infiniti M isn’t a particularly distinctive car — it looks kind of chunky to me – the quality of the materials and finish, inside and out, is exceptionally good. During the week that I had the car, everyone who rode in the car commented on how luxurious it looked and felt.

What’s new

Infiniti trivia buffs will remember that there was an Infiniti M45 model sold here in 2003 for one year only — a version of the Japanese market Gloria — but the new M sedan is completely different. The 2006 Infiniti M35 and M45 are based on Nissan’s ‘FM’ platform used by the G35 near-luxury sedan and FX35/FX45 sport utility vehicles, however, the M’s platform has been stretched by 150 mm, and is wider. To keep weight down, the hood, trunklid and floor panels are all made of aluminum.

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x
Click image to enlarge

M35s use Nissan’s ubiquitous 280 horsepower 3.5-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 also used in the Nissan 350Z, Altima, Maxima, G35, and FX35. The M45 has the 335 horsepower DOHC 32-valve 4.5 litre V8 also used in the Q45 and FX45. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode is the only transmission offered on both models. All Ms have a fully independent suspension: front double wishbones and rear multi-links.

The M35x all-wheel drive model, this week’s test car, has Nissan’s ATTESA E-TS AWD system (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split) which is designed to provide the traction and stability of AWD with the handling and ‘feel’ of a rear-wheel drive car. For example, during steady cruising, most of the power is directed to the rear wheels, but when starting from a standstill, the torque is apportioned 50/50 front/rear to help prevent rear wheelspin.

According to Infiniti’s Canadian Web site, 2006 Infiniti M35s start at $56,100 and the M35x is $59,600. However, the price sheet on my 2006 M35x test car had a base price of $58,300. With $7,500 in options plus $1,322 Freight and $100 A/C tax, the as-tested price came to $67,222.


Interior impressions


2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x
Click image to enlarge

A keyless door and ignition system allows you to unlock the door and start the car without using a key. Simply put the key fob in your pocket and press a button on the door handle to unlock it. Inside, press the illuminated Start button to start the engine. The reverse is true for stopping the engine and locking the door(s).

Once you’re in the driver’s seat, you can’t help but be impressed by the real Brazilian Rosewood trim on the dash and centre console. The Rosewood trim doesn’t have that glossy lacquer finish common to most wood trim — its matte finish offers protection from scratches, yet the finish doesn’t hide the warmth of the real wood.

Another positive first impression is the high quality leather seats with embossed Infiniti logos in the seatbacks and tweeters built into the top of seat backs. The seats are heated and cooled, and the comfortable driver’s seat is 10-way power adjustable and the front passenger seat is 6-way power adjustable. As well, the steering wheel is electrically adjustable for tilting and telescoping. My seats were a distinctive burnt orange colour which I didn’t like at first – but they grew on me as the week went by.

2006 Infiniti M35x
Click image to enlarge

Front and centre on the dash is a huge dial surrounded by large, illuminated buttons, just below the large colour screen. The big dial is for scrolling around the screen to adjust audio, climate control, information, and navigation system functions. This takes a while to learn, and it’s best not to learn it while driving for obvious reasons. Fortunately, all the important functions for the heater can be operated by buttons in plain site on the control panel. However, I never got comfortable with the almost-horizontal position of these controls.

A classy oval clock and audio/CD controls are located below the main panel. My car had the optional Bose 5.1 Surround Sound audio system with 308 watts of power and 14 speakers! Needless to say, this is a stereo that makes you want to take longer drives so you can enjoy the clarity and quality of the music.

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x
Click image to enlarge

The big, bright colour screen has a dim mode for night-time use, and the navigation screen offers a ‘birds-eye’ view of the area you’re in with a red arrow indicating where your car is located. The map includes parks, landmarks, street names, and points of interest.

The screen can also be used for displaying and adjusting heater functions like fan speed; adjusting radio treble, bass, and fader; and getting information including temperature, altitude, and current latitude and longitude.

My M35x was equipped with two option packages: an Entertainment Package ($2,200) which included a rear drop-down screen, DVD player, wireless headphones and remote control. My car also had the Premium Package ($5,300) which included the Bose stereo system, Navigation system, heated, reclining rear seats, power rear sunshade, and rear controls for the stereo and heater. It also included laser-guided intelligent cruise control and a lane departure warning system, which I’ll get into in a moment.

Standard equipment on the M35x includes those heated and cooled leather seats, Rosewood trim, ‘Intelligent Key’ with pushbutton ignition, Bluetooth wireless connectivity for your cell phone, six-CD/MP3 Bose stereo, vehicle information system with seven-inch screen, xenon headlamps with adaptive front lighting, and power sunroof.

2006 Infiniti M35x
Click image to enlarge

As well, dual stage front airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags are all standard.

A rear ski pass-through behind the rear centre armrest is standard, but like many luxury cars, the M35x doesn’t have a folding rear seatback.


Driving impressions

Some might wonder if the 3.5-litre V6 engine is powerful enough for a car that is larger and heavier than the G35. Should you move up to the V8-powered M45? Not in my opinion. The M35x moves very quickly in most situations, and I never found it lacking in power.

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x
Click image to enlarge

Occasionally, I found the five-speed automatic transmission would hesitate when the gas pedal was floored, but otherwise it’s a very smooth, competent transmission. And it offers the choice of shifting manually which can be useful if you need to hold the engine in gear to prepare for passing or when engine-braking on a steep downhill section.

The M35x’s AWD system makes this car much easier to drive in bad weather conditions, whether it’s gravel, rain, snow, ice. The constant repositioning of torque to the appropriate wheels helps prevent wheel slip and loss of control. Plus the M35x has standard traction control and stability control, so it’s almost impossible to ‘spin out’ or lose directional control. I found the Goodyear Eagle RS-A 245/45R18-inch all-season tires offered good grip on the wet winter roads around Vancouver, but of course, snow tires are recommended in most of the rest of the country.

Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard too, and braking performance is excellent. The steering feel is not too heavy when parking, and stable on the freeway, but it’s not that communicative.

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x
Click image to enlarge

In fact, the M35x is not a driver’s car like the BMW 530xi. It’s very comfortable, quick and capable, but not really sporty — except for the sound of that 3.5-litre V6 coming from the quad tailpipes.

My test car had the optional Lane Departure Warning system which emits audible beeps if you drift into the next lane inadvertently without signalling. It won’t warn you when you deliberately steer into the next lane without signalling — it seems to know the difference. However, I found that driving at night in wet weather confused the camera/sensor located in the rearview mirror, and the warning chimes would go off even when I was well within my lane. Fortunately, there is an ‘off’ button.

My car also had laser cruise control which can be set to maintain a constant distance behind the vehicle in front and slow down automatically if the distance decreases to a certain amount. I found this system is only useful on the freeway when it’s not too busy. A crowded freeway is best handled with your right foot on the brake.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is quite good — I liked the extra rear side windows when lane-changing, but like most sedans, the rear deck is quite high to see where you’re going when backing up.

Interior room is generous with plenty of legroom and adequate headroom for rear passengers.


Verdict

A high-quality, well-equipped luxury sedan with the safety of an advanced all-wheel drive system, the Infiniti M35x is a good value for the money in its class, but some people may not like its unusual dash control design or its so-so exterior styling.


Technical Data: 2006 Infiniti M35x

Base price M35 $56,100
Base price M35x $58,300
Options $7,500 (Premium package $5,300: Navigation system, intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning system, power rear sunshade, power reclining rear seats, rear audio/HVAC controls, heated rear seats. Entertainment Package $2,200: DVD entertainment system, Bose 5.1 308 watt premium audio system)
Freight $1,322
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $67,222 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger mid-size sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 3.5-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 280 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 270 @ 4800 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Tires P245/45R18 Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season
Curb weight 1816 kg (4004 lbs)
Towing capacity
Wheelbase 2900 mm (114.2 in.)
Length 4900 mm (192.9 in.)
Width 1798 mm (70.8 in.)
Height 1524 mm (60.0 in.)
Ground clearance
Cargo capacity 422 litres (14.9 cu. ft
Fuel consumption City: 13.3 L/100 km (21 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 9.0 L/100 km (31 mpg Imperial)
Fuel type Premium required
Warranty 4 yrs/100,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 6 yrs/110,000 km
Assembly location Tochiji City, Japan

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