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Infiniti...and beyond

First look at the Infiniti M35

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We just got back from a spin in the 2007 Infiniti M35, and we have to admit that on first impressions, we like it. After playing around with the M35's 8-inch rear-seat entertainment system, programming the in-dash GPS navigation unit, and goading the 275-horsepower V-6 in short bursts of urban driving exuberance, we were faced with the final car tech challenge: operating the voice-recognition interface. Regular readers of CNET Car Tech will know that we are hard to please when it comes to in-car voice-command interfaces. (For detailed examples, feel free to check out our reviews of the 2007 Toyota Camry, the 2006 Range Rover Sport, the 2007 Lexus GS 450h, the 2006 Lexus IS 350, the 2007 Yukon Denali, and the 2006 BMW 550i, for starters.) In fact, until today, Honda (and its upscale subsidiary, Acura) had been the only manufacturer to float our boat when it came to orally bossing a car around. But it looks like Infiniti has now closed the gap.

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Having pushed the Talk button on the M35's steering wheel, we were presented with a menu of possible voice inputs on the in-dash LCD screen. This might not sound all that revolutionary, but it is the first example of this straightforward approach that we have seen, and it beats the hell out of trying to guess the correct format for voice entry. Our usual attempts to communicate with a car's built-in voice-recognition system usually go something like this:

Us: "Navigation"
Car: "Sorry?"
Us: "Enter destination"
Car: "Sorry?"
Us: "Input destination"
Car: "Sorry?"
Us: "You useless piece of crap"
Car: "Now showing split-screen map"

With the Infiniti system, not only were we able to make the car understand that we wanted to use the navigation function, we could also input the city, the street name, and the exact address we were trying to get to. Not once did it misinterpret or fail to understand our commands. We look forward to many more meaningful conversations with the M35 over the next week as we research our full review, coming to CNET Car Tech next week.