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Thread: 2009 Infiniti M35

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2009 Infiniti M35

    Six-cylinder powered luxury-sport sedans are getting to be some of the toughest competition for V-8 powered luxury sport sedans - especially "in-house," between otherwise similar siblings, like the Infiniti M35 and M45.

    Consider: The '09 M35 has 303 hp - only 22 hp less than the V-8 powered M45. This is the major difference between the two versions of Infiniti's M sedan - other than the MSRP. That difference is much more significant: The V-8 equipped M45 starts at $52,150 ($54,650 with all-wheel-drive). The V-6 equipped M35 begins at $45,800 ($47,950 with all-wheel-drive).

    That's roughly a $7k price difference for the additional two cylinders ... and 22 hp.

    As Ronald Reagan used to say, wellllllll.

    WHAT IT IS

    The M35 is a mid-sized, 4-5 person luxury-sport sedan. It's available in rear drive ($45,800) and all-wheel-drive ($47,950) versions and competes against similar models from BMW (5-series), Lexus (GS) and Acura (RL).

    WHAT'S GOOD

    Smooth, powerful, high-performance V-6 engine; paying around seven grand less than Infiniti is asking for the otherwise similar and only slightly more powerful V-8 equipped M45. Superb seven-speed automatic transmission with rev-matching downshifts. Costs several thousand less than a BMW 535i with slightly less power (300 hp, even). Much more sporting than the FWD-based (and AWD-only) Acura RL.

    WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD

    Battlestar Galactica dash layout with overly busy, overcomplicated controls. Pushy Lane Departure Warning System. Tiny trunk pass-through (seats don't fold). Costs several thousand more than a Lexus GS350 with exactly the same power (303 hp).

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    Standard in the M35 is a 303 hp 3.5 liter V-6, an engine that makes 3 hp more than the 300 hp twin-turbo 3 liter six used in BMW's 535i and the 3.7 liter V-6 in the Acura RL - and exactly the same power as the 303 hp 3.5 liter V-6 used in the Lexus GS350.

    Two transmissions are teamed with the muscular V-6, depending on whether you choose RWD or AWD. Rear-drive models get a new seven-speed automatic, while AWD versions use a five-speed.

    The M35's 0-60 time is about 5.9 seconds, about half a second behind the V-8 powered M45 and a tenth or three behind the BMW 535i six-speed and Lexus GS350.

    Gas mileage is 17 city/25 highway for RWD versions vs. 16 city/22 highway for AWD models.

    RIDE & HANDLING/DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

    The M35 offers handling precision, steering response and grip in a high-speed corner that's tighter feeling than the Lexus GS and close enough to the "benchmark" BMW 5 to be enjoyable for the enthusiast driver. The ride leans toward the stiff, however - especially with the optional sport package that includes 19 inch wheels and high-performance tires.

    Though you can't get a manual transmission in the M35, the new seven speed automatic (in RWD versions) is about as close as you can get to one without actually having a clutch beside the brake pedal.

    Working with the engine's computer controller, downshifts and engine RPMs are matched together to deliver super-fast gear changes with little to no RPM drop in between each shift. The transmission also keeps pace with your driving habits - becoming sharper and more aggressive the faster/harder you go. It backs off when you do, too.

    While you can hold/change gears manually via electronic controls, the Sport setting is so well-calibrated this is hardly necessary - other than just for fun.

    As for scoot: 303 horsepower is a lot of horsepower. 0-60 in under 6 seconds is PDQ.

    Whether we're talking other six-cylinder powered competitors like the BMW 535i, Lexus GS350 and Acura RL or the V-8 powered M45, the differences in pedal to the floor acceleration are within a scale of half a second or so.

    None of these cars will ever be accused of lacking gumption. Any of them will outrun just about any big-engined muscle car from the 1960s, effortlessly blow past the Blue Hairs doing 56 mph in the left lane and easily do twice the maximum legal speed limit in just about any state except for Texas.

    How much power do you need, really? That, as the saying goes, is the question. And secondarily, how much more are you willing to spend to get it?

    STYLING & UTILITY

    The exterior of the M35 is elegant and sleek; the interior's also elegant, sleek - and very well-appointed, with many fine detail touches.

    For example, the instrument cluster's gauges. Each gauge needle is tracked by a red blip that follows the tip of the needle as it sweeps across the gauge - giving the driver an easy to read and precise readout of current speed, engine RPM and so on. The leather is extra creamy, the wood trim beautifully finished and fitted. The chrome and aluminum crosshatch accents nicely done.

    This is a $45k car that looks and feels every bit as nice as some $70k cars.

    But the bewildering bevy of buttons (many of them Chiclet-sized and in awkward to reach places) detracts from the luxury experience which, in my opinion, should first and foremost be about ease of use.

    For example, the Lane Departure Warning system's "off" button is located low and out of sight to the left of the steering wheel, down near the parking brake. There's a central computer mouse-like input with a wheel and buttons that you have to fiddle with to adjust the GPS.

    On the other hand, there are simple, functional rotary knobs for the twin seat heaters and the audio system's volume and station tuning functions - as well as straightforward "on" and "off" (or "up" and "down") switches on the center console for the transmission settings and rear privacy shade.

    This mish-mash of interfaces and complexity for its own sake (or so it seems) is probably the M35's weakest point. It's trying too hard to show off its technology - and sometimes, its numerous systems and functions are more difficult to operate than they ought to be.

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    Though the price of Japanese luxury cars has crept up considerably over the past few years, you'll still pay less for more at the Infiniti store than you would at a BMW (or Benz) dealer. Both the Lexus GS and the Acura RL are less expensive, but if you are looking for a bit more of an edge in the "sport" department, the M comes closest to the BMW in every way except price.

    The M is a beautifully put-together car, with flawless paint, 5 Star Hotel interior and more gadgets (including available active rear steering and power reclining and heated rear sport buckets) than just about anything else available in its class.

    As a large, heavy car the M35 is inherently safer than 90 percent of the cars on the road - enhanced by standard front seat side impact and full-row curtain air bags, anti-whiplash headrests, high-capacity brakes with ABS and Brake Assist, as well as traction and stability control. The optional AWD system is another safety plus for those who regularly drive in wintry weather, where RWD cars are often iffy.

    One of the most avante garde of the M35's safety systems is the optional Lane Departure Warning System, which not only beeps at you if you inadvertently begin to wander over the double yellow into the opposing lane - but also automatically nudges the car back into its lane by lightly applying brake pressure to the appropriate wheel(s) through the ABS system. It is a really trick system - with a camera/sensor that "sees" the yellow line as you drive.

    The only negative is you'll want to turn it off sometimes - as when you're driving in urban areas where you have to drive over yellow (and white) painted lines and the beeping can get annoying. Then you'll have to grope around for the switch - which is in an inconvenient place and hard to reach.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    The M35 offers almost everything the V-8 powered M45 does for seven thousand bucks less. That's not chump change in today's economy. And with 303 hp under your right foot, you may never miss that V-8 at all.
    Last edited by Eric; 04-10-2009 at 09:12 AM.

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