2006 Infiniti M35x
2006 Infiniti M35x. Click image to enlarge

by Paul Williams

Scottsdale, Arizona – After rainfall that sent Phoenix residents scurrying for provisions, an unusually green Arizona desert provided Infiniti with a scenic backdrop to introduce its new “M” sedan. Located between the hot-selling G35 sports sedan and flagship Q45 in the Infiniti line-up, the new-for-2006 rear-wheel drive Infiniti M is the latest competitor for your performance/luxury sedan dollars.

The Infiniti M, which starts at $54,800, is designed to “solidify the position of the Infiniti brand in the marketplace,” says Infiniti Canada product planning
director, Ian Forsyth, by showcasing Infiniti’s technology, design and performance. The implication is that here’s an Infiniti to effectively counter such models as the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Lexus GS 330 and Cadillac STS, among others.

The Infiniti M arrives with a V6 or V8 engine in M35 and M45 versions, each with available packages to enhance the already generously-equipped cars. The new model replaces the powerful but slow-selling M45 based on the Japan-only Nissan Gloria. It lasted only for the 2003 model year in Canada.

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x
2006 Infiniti M35x. Click image to enlarge

The starting point for the new car is Nissan/Infiniti’s FM platform, also used by Infiniti as the basis for the G35 Sedan and Coupe, and the FX 35 and FX 45 crossovers. For the “M”, this platform has been stretched by 15-centimetres, significantly increasing length, wheelbase and interior volume in comparison with the G35 and FX models. The M suspension is an independent double-wishbone design in front and multi-link independent system in the rear.

Extensive use of aluminum (hood, decklid, inner and outer floor panels) produces a car that still feels agile on the road, even though it’s also significantly larger than the G35. More than 60% of platform components are new or have been enhanced for application in the “M.”

The $54,800 M35’s 3.5-litre, 280-horsepower/270 lb.-ft. torque V6 engine is the powerplant for a range of Nissan and Infiniti products, from the Nissan 350Z sports car and Maxima sedan, to the Infiniti G35 sports sedan and FX 35 crossover. Its smooth, powerful characteristics have won this engine many awards.

The M35 is also available with all-wheel drive, designated as the $58,300 M35x. The ATTESA E-TS AWD system divides torque 50:50 front-to-rear when starting, then continuously varies the torque split from 50:50 up to 0:100 front-to-rear when driving along. The system is designed to provide the traction of an all-wheel drive vehicle when required, and the balance and handling of a rear-wheel drive vehicle in ideal driving conditions.

The $64,400 M45 is powered by the 335-horsepower/340 lb.-ft. torque V8 engine found in the Q45 sedan and the Infiniti FX45 crossover. An exceedingly smooth powerplant, this aluminum alloy engine features four titanium valves per cylinder and variable valve timing. The M45 is not available with all-wheel drive, but an available Sport package is offered.

The $71,800 M45 Sport uses the same V8 engine but is equipped with a firmer suspension and 19″ alloy wheels (18″ wheels are standard on the non-sport model). It is also equipped with rear Rear Active Steer that can turn the rear wheels up to one-degree in or out depending on speed to improve cornering stability.

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x

2006 Infiniti M35x
2006 Infiniti M35x. Click image to enlarge

Both M35 and M45 feature a five-speed, driver-adaptive, automatic transmission with manual override. In manual mode, the transmission is programmed to “blip the throttle” in order to match engine and transmission speeds when downshifting.

Standard equipment on the M35 and M45 includes leather seats and trim, power sliding glass sunroof, voice recognition, “Bluetooth” wireless technology, back-up monitor, xenon headlamps with Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), Intelligent Key with push-button ignition, Bose audio system, 10.5-cm vehicle information display, climate controlled front seats, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), pre-crash seat belts and Advanced Air Bag System (AABS).

The Rosewood trim is genuine, as is the aluminum trim in the M45 Sport. Power reclining rear seats are available, along with a lane departure warning system (an alarm sounds if you wander into the lane beside you). Also available is a superb Studio Surround Sound Bose DVD audio system with digital 5.1-channel decoding and 14 speakers including two personal speakers mounted in the shoulders of each front seat. This system offers such an exceptional listening experience that it will be the subject of a future article.

Except for the standard wheels and the decklid badge, the M35 and M45 are indistinguishable in appearance. The look of both models immediately recalls the G35, only larger.

2006 Infiniti M35x
2006 Infiniti M35x. Click image to enlarge

From the front and rear, the car is immediately recognizable as an Infiniti. The profile is less distinctive. The big wheels, quad-tip exhaust, long hood and short deck provide obvious visual cues that this is a luxury car with performance aspirations. The sporty pedals in the M45 Sport are an interesting and unexpected touch.

In fact, both “M” models continually surprise with their fine rendering of small components throughout the car. For example, the stitching on the seats, the aluminum gearshift base, the furniture-like wood surfaces and the carefully constructed knobs and buttons are among many interior and exterior components that receive an uncommonly high level of attention. The overall impression is one of quality, refinement and performance potential.

2006 Infiniti M35x
2006 Infiniti M35x. Click image to enlarge

The unique layout of the dashboard controls (inspired by a piano keyboard) is easy to use but those nicely crafted buttons are numerous. Add these to the controls accessed through the multi-menu information display and you could happily wile away the minutes exploring the many configurations and personal preferences available. Infiniti says the car is designed to be “engaging” and this dashboard would certainly provide for that.. Fortunately, the major controls (climate, audio, odometer) are also supplied as conventional buttons and rotary knobs, designed by a thoughtful Infiniti for quick and simple adjustment.

Seating is superb, with excellent support and adustability. The heating/cooling system in each front seat works well. The power adjustable steering wheel is
likewise easy to position. It, too, carries an array of switches to access your onboard controls.

On the road, the M35 provides a quiet and very stable ride. Visibility all-round is excellent and the cabin feels spacious, providing excellent shoulder and legroom for front and rear passengers. The V6-engine doesn’t have to work very hard to move this car along smartly; acceleration is brisk and passing is accomplished without drama.

The M45 drives similarly to the M35, although the bigger engine does impart a somewhat lustier character. The M45 doesn’t weigh much more than the M35 (1,791 vs 1,738 kilograms) so the additional 55-horsepower and 70 lb.-ft. torque have an immediately noticeable effect when you step on the gas. The V8’s prodigious torque launches this car from a standing start with authority, but it’s also extremely quick in passing manoeuvres. In the M45 it’s very easy to regularly and unintentionally hit 160 km/h from 90 km/h in this car, such is its rapid response to the throttle.

But far from being hot rods, the Infiniti M35 and M45 are models of refinement. There is no fuss, twitchiness or body-builder muscularity with these cars. They present a much more athletic, lean image.

The new Infiniti M will be available for display and test drives beginning in early February at Infiniti dealers throughout Canada. Expected buyers are male, around 50 years of age, with an income over $75,000 per year, married with post-secondary education. Buyers are likely to already own another vehicle, probably an SUV. Infiniti expects to sell a modest 800 “M” sedans in its first model year.

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