Infiniti is Forever
by Scott Corlett
If Infiniti were a human instead of the luxury arm of a Japanese auto company, it’d barely be old enough to qualify for a driver’s license. As with some children who show great potential but lack proper guidance, there were times during Infiniti’s spotty juvenile years when one wondered whether the brand would see its next model year, not to mention its sweet sixteen. But with three certifiable winners—the G35, FX crossover, and M—now in its stable, Infiniti’s future finally stretches out to the horizon.
In the middle of January, a 2007 Infiniti M35 Sport Sedan arrived in our driveway. This was good timing as San Francisco was enjoying mild temperatures and a break in the rain, while much of the rest of the country shivered through its first stretch of true winter weather. This climatic good fortune was all the excuse that we needed to take the hot M35 over the Golden Gate Bridge and give her a good run on the hills north of the city.
Infiniti’s executives, apparently flush after the engineering success of the G35, have targeted the midsize M sedan at the German competition. After we’d crossed the orange span and exited onto a twisty road that leads to Point Bonita, we realized why the folks at Infiniti aren’t afraid of taking on the Teutons: because they don’t need to be. While not quite a BMW 5-series—but hey, what is?—the M compares well to the Mercedes-Benz E-class, the Audi A6, and the Lexus GS, and it puts Acura’s RL and Caddy’s STS to bed.
Like most of its luxury rivals, the M is available with all-wheel drive and a choice of six-cylinder (M35) or eight-cylinder (M45) power. Both plants are mated to a smooth-shifting, five-speed manumatic transmission. Sport-tuned suspension is available with both engines, while AWD is an option only with the six-cylinder. As we charged along the tortuous ribbon of blacktop, with sheer drop-offs to the left and steep green hills to the right, our M35’s 275-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 was the bomb. Never did it leave us wanting for another two, gas-guzzling cylinders, even on precipitous grades.
If a 5-series or A6 are also on your shopping list, you’ll definitely want to go with the Sport package. When we came around a roller-coaster turn and there was nothing but a spit of gravel separating us from a two-hundred-feet fall to heavy Pacific surf, we were glad to have the Sport pack’s Rear Active Steer system. To allow for higher speeds through tight corners, this feature monitors vehicle speed and steering angle, and then mechanically alters the rear suspension geometry. This nifty trick is one of the many feats of engineering that elevate the M’s handling dynamics from luxury-vehicle good to performance-sedan hot.
We stopped the M35 next to one of the WWII-era cement batteries that dot the coast around the entrance to the Golden Gate Strait. There was a blustery wind coming off the water, so we stayed in the car. Not that we needed much prodding to do so, the interior of an Infiniti M sedan is a lovely and safe place to be, with aluminum or matte rosewood trim; ten-way, climate-controlled sports seats covered in supple leather; an optional, 14-speaker Bose “Studio Surround” sound system; an available DVD entertainment system; an optional backend cam and navigation system; and the usual arsenal of standard safety features, plus Infiniti’s optional lane-departure warning device.
Besides the chill, there was another reason to remain inside the M35: outside, there wasn’t all that much to see vehicle-wise. The M sedan is handsome in a generic kind of way, like a well-groomed, average-looking guy whom you see across a bar and think hmm, he’ll do. In fact, at first glance, the M sedan looks a bit like a dressed-up Nissan Altima or Maxima. With the success of the dramatic FX crossover, you’d think that the executives at Infiniti would have learned that it’s better to set the trend than to rub shoulders in the crowd. Oh well, infinity is a long time, they’ll figure it out.
M35x AWD $44,550
M35 Sport $44,250
M45 Sport $50,550
Infiniti is a gay-friendly company.
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