After years of stutter starts with a variety of models, Infiniti seems finally to have carved itself a successful niche in the rarefied world of premium automotive products.
The upscale brand of Japanese manufacturer Nissan began its resurgence in 2002 with its sports-oriented G35 entry-level sports/luxury sedan, followed by its futuristic looking FX35 and FX45 sport-utility vehicles.
The third successful step is the 2006 M sedans, which have received high praise since their introduction nearly a year ago. Thats not too surprising, since they are built on an extended version of the platform used on the successful G35.
With these mid-size cars, the sports/luxury balance tilts substantially to the sports side, making the lusty, V-8-powered M45 and the spirited, V-6 powered M35 enthusiast-oriented alternatives to the primary competition - Mercedes-Benz E Class, Lexus GS, Acura RL, Audi A6, Cadillac STS and even certain variations of the BMW 5 series.
There are four rear-wheel-drive variations in the M lineup. The most stiffly suspended 335-horsepower M45 Sport and 280-horsepower M35 Sport will appeal to those who put a premium on the driving experience. The M45 and M35 will be favored by those who need to consider passenger comfort as well as corner-carving capability.
The fifth model subject of these articles - is the all-wheel-drive M35X, which many buyers may find to be the most satisfying of all.
It has the same handsome body and roomy five-passenger interior as the other models, it comes with the same premium features, it can go where the others dare not venture and, surprise of surprises, it may even be the most agile on dry surfaces.
But lets go through this car one step at a time.
The 3.5-liter V-6 engine features double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It is the same one, incidentally that is found in a variety of Nissan and Infiniti products.
The power is directed to the wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual override. The combination is enough to catapult the two-ton sedan from a stop to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. The EPA calculated that, driven sensibly, the M35X will deliver 17 miles per gallon of regular gasoline around town and 24 on the highway. I managed only 15 to 23 and I wasnt trying to set any speed records.
A unique feature of the transmissions manual mode is that it will automatically blip the throttle during downshifts to match engine speed to that of the transmission. The result is a smoother transition and a greater sense of fun and control for the driver.
The all-independent suspension features double wishbones, a stabilizer bar and coil springs at the front wheels and a multi-link setup with stabilizer bar and coil springs at the rear.
Brakes are power-assisted, vented antilock discs at all four wheel. The electronic wizards contribute brake-force distribution, to make sure stopping forces are properly applied at all wheels, and brake assist, which assures maximum stopping power when a driver hits the brakes hard.
The power rack-and-pinion steering is speed sensitive to give the driver a better feel of the road at highway speeds.
Put all those ingredients together and youve got a taut, responsive sedan that will put a smile on the drivers face when he gets a chance to do some back-road barnstorming and allow the passengers a relaxed ride under normal driving conditions.
The bonus in the M35X is what Infiniti engineers refer to as ATTESA E-TS - Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split. The rest of us can simply call it all-wheel drive.
The important thing is that it allows the M35 to perform pretty much the same as a rear-wheel-drive car under most dry-weather conditions, and then automatically switches to four-wheel-drive when the road turns slippery.
I couldnt begin to explain how it works, but I can explain what it does.
From a stop to 10 mph, power is apportioned 75 percent to the rear wheels and 25 percent up front for maximum traction. At this point, the power flow is directed 100 percent to the rear wheels unless or until rear-wheel slippage is detected. Then, with the assistance of traction control, up to 50 percent of the power will be transferred to the front wheels.
For the record, the AWD system is the same one previously introduced on Infinitis G35x entry-level sports/luxury sedan and its FX sport utility vehicles.
Will it really satisfy the enthusiast who lives in a four-season climate? You might be surprised.
The professionals at Road and Track magazine recently timed a rear-wheel-drive G35 against the G35X on a closed course and found that the all-wheel-drive car posted the best times in both dry and wet conditions. There is no reason to believe that results with the M35X would differ.
Discount all-wheel drive and the M35X is the twin of its rear-wheel-drive counterpart.
For the base price of $42,400 it comes standard with a whole host of luxury features leather seats, rosewood trim, climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth wireless technology, six-speaker sound system with six-CD player and MP3 and WAM capability, power drivers and front passengers seats, and a keyless entry system than allows a driver to lock, unlock, start and stop the car without taking the key fob out of purse or pocket.
Standard safety features include the stability control, traction control, a full complement of airbags, front seat head restraints and child-seat anchors.
The price escalates with packages that contained these major options:
Journey Package ($2,750): Bose eight-speaker sound system, rear-view monitor that displays what is behind the car on a dashboard screen, xenon headlights which automatically adapt to road conditions, climate controlled front seats, seatbelts which automatically tighten before an impending crash.
Technology Package ($4,200): Surround sound added to the Bose system, navigation system, cruise control which automatically brakes and accelerates in accordance with traffic flow, lane departure system which beeps a warning whenever the M35 moves edges into another lane, satellite radio setup.
Mobile Entertainment System ($1,500): DVD player with eight-inch monitor, remote control and two headsets for rear-seat passengers.
When all the calculations were complete, the bottom line came to $51,660, which puts the M35X pretty much on a par with the competition.
Looks great, drives well, goes anywhere. Perhaps the M in M35X should stand for multitasker.
Standard Equipment (partial list)
275 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 Engine
5 speed shiftable automatic transmission
Center limited slip differential
245/45R18 V all-season tires on alloy wheels
4 wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS
Dual front side-mounted airbags
Front and rear curtain air bags
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Power glass sunroof
Heated 10 way power front seats
Memory driver's seat
Remote power door locks
Dual zone automatic climate control with air filtration system
Universal remote garage door opener
Tilt and telescopic steering column
AM/FM in-dash 6 CD player with CD MP3 Playback stereo with 6 speakers
Major Available Options (Partial List, depends on model, some options are only available as part of a package, see your Infiniti dealer for details)
Premium package, includes: Infiniti Mobile Entertainment system, Infiniti DVD navigation system with Birdview, rearview monitor, Bose 2-channel premium audio sound system with AM/FM and MP3/WMA playback capability, Bose Studio Surround sound system with digital 5.1 channel decoding, 14 speakers, Audio Pilot Noise Compensation, Intelligent Cruise Control with preview braking, Lane Departure Warning, Choice of XM satellite radio or Sirius satellite radio, DVD-audio/DVD-video player mounted in center console with audio/video inputs on rear of center console, 8" power retractable rear screen, 2 wireless headphones and remote control, rear heated and power reclining seats, rear seat HVAC and audio controls and power rear sunshade
Technology Package, includes: Infiniti DVD navigation system with Birdview, rearview monitor, Bose 2-channel premium audio sound system with AM/FM and MP3/WMA playback capability and 8 speakers.
Advanced Technology Package w/XM includes: Bose Studio Surround sound system with digital 5.1 channel decoding, 14 speakers, Audio Pilot Noise Compensation, AM/FM and 6-disc in-dash CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, Intelligent Cruise Control with preview braking, Lane Departure Warning, XM satellite radio and DVD-audio/DVD-video player mounted in center console with audio/video inputs on rear of center console.
Aerodynamic body kit
Mobile entertainment system
18" chrome wheels
Rear deck spoiler
XM satellite radio
Sirius satellite radio
For more information on the Infiniti G35X, visit infiniti.com
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