The navigation-system functionality of the 2006 Infiniti M35 sometimes let down its well-designed controls, however. A relatively well-known, if pretty remote, town off Highway 1 south of San Francisco wasn't mapped beyond the main two-lane highway, and other populated areas' surface roads didn't appear at all. More frustratingly, a popular hotel in a larger town was among a list of known nearby destinations, but the system apparently forgot where it was and instead directed us vaguely to the center of town, about 2 miles from the hotel. Because navigation systems rely on one of two companies for their mapping data, these map glitches are most likely common to other navigation systems as well. The system did score points with its bird's-eye view option and a split-screen mode that keeps a small map visible alongside a larger selection screen for making route changes while under way.
Also somewhat disappointing was the degree of Bluetooth integration. Our usual test phone, a Motorola V551, synced with the 2006 Infiniti M35 readily enough, but no address book information was read. This was perhaps forgivable, as the M35 offers a very useful voice-recognition setup that controls not only a Bluetooth phone but also the climate, audio, and navigation systems.The 2006 Infiniti M35 offers various underhood technologies to augment its impressive interior electronics. The 3.5-liter V-6 generates 280 horsepower at 6,200rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 4,800rpm through the use of continuously variable valve timing. The power always seems adequate, although the prospect of the V-8 version's extra 55 horsepower is tantalizing.
The 2006 Infiniti M35's transmission helps greatly in the impression of sportiness, shifting quickly and smoothly as an automatic and offering better control in its gear-selection mode than most other versions we've tried. Along a series of twisting bends on the ridge overlooking Silicon Valley, flipping back and forth between second and third gears allowed for minimal use of the brakes, as well as satisfying throttle modulation while following a vintage Porsche for a few miles.
The handling is generally very good, with the refined if slightly remote feel we've come to expect from Infiniti and its Japanese compatriots. Some low-speed understeer can be uncovered, but chassis electronics ensure that the 2006 Infiniti M35 never gets too out of shape. Vehicle dynamic control and the traction-control system work to correct wheelspin during acceleration and deviation from the intended path while cornering. As with most such features, they will go unnoticed in everyday driving on dry roads.
All told, the 2006 Infiniti M35 never feels slow or unsettled, but it remains, somewhat intangibly, a less-inspiring drive than cars such as the BMW 5 Series and the Audi A6. This feeling comes down to the steering mostly, as the speed-sensitive system in the M35 lacks the precision and the feedback found in those cars.
EPA fuel ratings are par for the course in this segment, at 18mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway.Rounding out the tech trifecta, the 2006 Infiniti M35 has some safety features found in few other current production cars. First and foremost is its lane-departure warning system, which uses a small camera mounted above the rearview mirror to monitor lane markings and sound a chime if the car drifts too close to one. It's a nice bit of technology, working as intended both night and day (and only at speeds above 45mph), but we wonder if its effectiveness as a true warning may have been neutered by liability questions, as the chime is barely audible at highway speeds with music playing. It can be turned off easily but not made louder, and as such, it's more a novelty than the antidrowsiness safety measure it could be.
Intelligent cruise control on the 2006 Infiniti M35 is a more useful option. A series of lasers is used to determine the distance to the next car, and the system then maintains a user-specified cushion to it. This same technology is used in conjunction with the standard brake-force distribution and brake-assist features to recognize stopped or rapidly slowing vehicles ahead and to prepressurize the brakes in anticipation of an emergency application.
A simpler yet no less-useful safety feature is the 2006 Infiniti M35's adaptive headlight system, which turns the Xenon front lamps to look into corners, based on steering input and vehicle speed. The headlights are also self-leveling, so they stay pointed accurately regardless of vehicle load.
The aforementioned voice-operated controls allow the driver to stay focused on the road, as do a host of steering wheel-mounted controls. Included are buttons for activating voice control, controlling the audio volume and source, using Bluetooth, and so on. One complaint we had was with the top steering-wheel switch on each side serving as levers rather than buttons. With a CD playing, nudging one of these while moving one's hands across the wheel is too easy and skips (or repeats) the CD track. Simple buttons, as used for the rest of the steering-wheel controls, would be more effective.
Infiniti's standard warranty protection is good for four years/60,000 miles, with power train coverage extending to six years/70,000 miles. Corrosion protection runs to seven years with unlimited mileage, 24-hour roadside assistance is offered with all new Infinitis, and dealers offer loaner cars when available.