Once we finally got connected, audio quality for the hands-free system is speakerphone quality, although from the other end of the line the output is muddier than on other systems we've tried.
Our car was equipped with the Advanced Technology package, which upgrades the M35's standard six-speaker system to a far more mellifluous Bose surround-sound system with 14 speakers--including two built into the shoulder sections of the front seats. The upgraded system features digital 5.1 decoding, which makes for a bright audio output, and while a setting enables users to turn off the surround sound, we can't think of any good reason for doing so, as this only results in substituting the immersive audio for a flatter sound. From the rear seats, the sound is terrific, and for those who splash out an extra $1,500 on the rear-seat entertainment system with the 8-inch ceiling-mounted display, the theater experience is impressive.
The standard M35 Sport comes with Nissan's tried-and-trusted 3.5-liter V-6, which drives the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and downshift rev matching. The M35 Sport's 275-horspeower V-6 endows it with brisk pick-up from standing, and more than adequate power for hauling tail on the open road. For those who want more than more than adequate, a 4.5-liter V-8 serves up 325 horsepower, putting the M35 in the ring with the 2007 Lexus GS 450h and the 2007 BMW 550i.
On the freeway, the M35's automatic transmission occasionally hunts for gears, meaning that a depression of the gas pedal results in a half-second delay, followed by a spike in rpm and gusty acceleration.
For more sober freeway driving, we enjoyed experimenting with the M35's intelligent cruise control (ICC) system, which is activated by pushing a button the steering wheel-mounted cruise control button followed by the Set function on the toggle switch located above. Another button enables drivers to select one of three proximity settings, depending on how closely they wish to follow the car ahead of them on the freeway. In practice, we found the intelligent cruise control in the M35 to be more responsive than that in the Lexus GS 450h, although, for those used to having direct control over gas and brake inputs, the acceleration can seem painfully slow. Also, the ICC felt spasmodic at times--sometimes braking for no apparent reason. Another quirk of the Infiniti system is that the ICC does not deactivate when the driver applies acceleration. This can lead to a situation in which you can drive the car closer to the car in front than the ICC radar permits, but when you let off the gas pedal, the system realizes that it is too close and applies abrupt engine braking (and presumably lights up the M35's LED brake lights).
Thanks to the M35's real-time fuel-economy gauge, we were able to compare fuel consumption for driving with and without the ICC activated. The results were instructive: at 75mph with the ICC activated, fuel economy rarely dipped below 20mpg; when we were in direct control of the gas pedal, we found that the mileage fluctuated a lot more and that, on average, the fuel economy was far worse. Overall, our observed mileage over 200 miles of highway-skewed driving came out at 18.3mpg, far nearer to the EPA's city rating (18mpg) than to its freeway estimate (25mpg).
Independent front- and multilink rear sport-tuned suspension provides a firm ride with plenty of road-surface feedback, while the M35's 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in W-rated rubber keep the car hanging on in sharp cornering. Speed-sensitive power assist comes as standard on the M35 Sport, as does Infiniti's vehicle dynamic control and traction control systems.
Building on the 2006 Infiniti M35's Good safety rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for side and front offset collision tests, the 2007 model has a battalion of airbags and crash-mitigation features, including: frontal and supplemental side-impact airbags for the driver and the front passenger; curtain side-impact supplemental airbags; and front- and rear-seat active head restraints. Digital safety systems include a backup camera with virtual steering guidance lines, and a lane-departure warning that relies on a small camera mounted above the rearview mirror to monitor lane markings and sound a chime if the car drifts too close to one.
We managed to make the system chime by drifting out of our lane, but as we noticed last year, the warning signal is not very loud, and would struggle to wake us up if we had drifted off to sleep at the wheel. The vast majority of drivers who will be awake when in control of the M35 can rest assured, however, that the car has plenty of active and passive safety protecting them.
Our 2007 M35 Sport came armed to the teeth with options. In addition to the $2,950 Technology Package (navigation system, eight-speaker Bose stereo system, and rear-view monitor), we got the $2,500 Advanced Technology Package (six more speakers and a 5.1 channel surround-sound upgrade to the stereo, intelligent cruise control with lane-departure warning, and XM satellite radio), and the $1,500 Mobile Entertainment System with its 8-inch display, a remote control, and wireless headphones. Our tester was also decked out with a $1,590 Aerodynamic Body Kit, which gave it front and rear lower fascias, side sills and a rear deck-lid spoiler; and the rosewood trim interior for another $600. Added to the car's base price of $44,250 and including a $650 destination charge, our tester came in at $54,040.
At that price, the M35 needs to be able to run with the likes of the Audi S4, the BMW 530, and the Mercedes-Benz E350. Someone tell the Germans that they no longer have the sport-sedan autobahn to themselves.