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2006 Infiniti M35
When we reviewed the 2006 Infiniti M35x in August, we found it a very capable sport sedan. With an all-wheel-drive system derived from Nissan's still-unavailable-in-the-U.S. Skyline GT-R, the M35x impressed with its all-weather performance, but we wished it had a few more bells and whistles.
We got our wish recently when a 2006 Infiniti M35 in Diamond Graphite (a color that looked like silver to us) arrived, this time in a rear-wheel-drive guise but including the Technology Package that the M35x had lacked. As one might expect, it upped the tech ante considerably with such features as lane-departure warning, intelligent cruise control, GPS navigation, and satellite radio for the top-flight Bose sound system.
When thus optioned--and with other tech offerings, such as a voice-recognition system that actually works, adaptive and self-leveling front headlights, and keyless operation--the 2006 Infiniti M35 is well rounded in the gizmo department. This trend extends to the chassis as well, where a series of electronic aids keep the car on the road and following its intended path.
Our car's MSRP was just north of $40,000, with the options packages and à la carte splash guards ($120) and trunk mat ($80) bringing the final tally to $48,400. The 2006 Infiniti M35 has stiff competition in the midsize luxury-cum-sport-sedan market but acquits itself well and represents better value than some of its flashier rivals.
The driver's first clue to the breadth of technoconveniences in the 2006 Infiniti M35 comes even before entering the vehicle. With the intelligent key in pocket, you can press an unobtrusive button on the exterior handle, unlocking the door. Press it twice to unlock all the doors, as with the regular fob. There's one on the passenger-side front-door handle too, so opening from either side is possible. Once you're seated, the impression is of understated elegance and ease of use. The four main gauges are proper analog types, with small digital displays in the speedo and tach faces. Our car's dark-leather and rosewood palette was very pleasing to the eye and added to the overall aura of sophistication. The key fob can remain pocketed or be inserted into a special slot to the left of the wheel. With one foot on the brake, a push of the starter button fires the engine as the seats, wheel, and mirrors return to the positions associated with the fob in use.
The 2006 Infiniti M35's seating, especially in front, maintains the technoluxury feel with full power adjustment, including lumbar, for the driver. The front seats are also heated and cooled through their perforated leather, and as part of the Bose Studio Surround 5.1 audio upgrade, they have small shoulder speakers. The 14-speaker system works well, with plenty of power and rich sound from both studio and burned discs. It plays discs in most CD and DVD formats, including WMA, still something of a rarity in factory systems. A technology Bose calls Centerpoint lets the system simulate fuller surround sound from regular stereo CDs. Six dedicated buttons change the discs, and two knobs control volume and tuning in time-tested fashion.
The premium Bose audio system includes shoulder speakers mounted in the seats.
Infiniti continues to make the most effective standard rearview monitors we've come across. Using the crisp 7-inch LCD, the view out back is overlaid with fixed, color-coded grid lines to help with judging distances. A feature that wasn't present on the rearview monitor of the 2005 Infiniti QX56 we tested previously was the curving of these grid lines along with steering input to give an idea where the car is pointing. As previously found in the M35x, we found this feature quite helpful.
The 2006 Infiniti M35's navigation system is indeed a welcome addition, and while part of a pricey package ($4,200), the equipment group also includes enough other technology to warrant the expense: the upgraded Bose six-CD audio system already described, intelligent cruise control, lane-departure warning, XM Satellite Radio, and input jacks for audio/video. Our car didn't have the optional rear-seat entertainment system, but we found the navigation system easy to control, as with the other Infiniti products we've tried.
The standard Infiniti interface works very well for controlling the car's functions.
The large, block-printed buttons and the knobby rim of the main click wheel aren't completely in keeping with the style of the rest of the 2006 Infiniti M35's cabin, but function correctly trumps form here, and the controls are easy to use. Most menus allow for either twisting the wheel or using one of four directional buttons for scrolling, and the overall experience is better for having lots of big, dedicated buttons, including all the climate controls. On the purely analog side, Infiniti's familiar chrome-ringed oval clock is a nice touch and is actually visible in the M35, as opposed to its placement at knee level in the QX56.
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 gear-selection mode for the automatic transmission in the M35 is one of the best we've tried.
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.
The lane-departure warning system can easily be turned off, but the volume can't be turned up.
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.