2010 Infiniti M35 (USA)

It was in 1988 when both Toyota and Nissan each launched a new brand, believing that despite the considerable costs involved, this was the only way in which they could grow their market presence into sectors which would likely continue to elude them whilst they were perceived as purveyors of little more than automotive white goods, livened up by the occasional sports car. Both reckoned that this was a long journey, but now, over 20 years later, it is clear not only that both have succeeded, but that from very similar beginnings, their paths have diverged. Lexus went down the luxury route which has now morphed into their much discussed Hybrid strategy. Infiniti, however, has concentrated on a mixture of sports and luxury in a strategy which could be seen as trying to outdo BMW, but in reality, has allowed them to create their own market niche. The Infiniti range in the US contains a mixture of SUVs (the gargantuan QX, the stylish FX and the more moderate EX), and a couple of sedan-based ranges. In recent times, the smaller of these models, the G series has captured much publicity with its truly excellent G37 sedan, the equally impressive G37 Coupe and the recent addition of a G37 convertible. The larger car, badged M, has always felt a bit like it was somehow in the shade, even though it has been on the market for some years. Mr Hertz has a large number of these on fleet, as part of their “Prestige Collection”, and so, having been impressed by the FX35 and the G37, I finally managed to secure an M35 to see if it lives up to the high standards of its stable mates.
 

It was in 1988 when both Toyota and Nissan each launched a new brand, believing that despite the considerable costs involved, this was the only way in which they could grow their market presence into sectors which would likely continue to elude them whilst they were perceived as purveyors of little more than automotive white goods, livened up by the occasional sports car. Both reckoned that this was a long journey, but now, over 20 years later, it is clear not only that both have succeeded, but that from very similar beginnings, their paths have diverged. Lexus went down the luxury route which has now morphed into their much discussed Hybrid strategy. Infiniti, however, has concentrated on a mixture of sports and luxury in a strategy which could be seen as trying to outdo BMW, but in reality, has allowed them to create their own market niche. The Infiniti range in the US contains a mixture of SUVs (the gargantuan QX, the stylish FX and the more moderate EX), and a couple of sedan-based ranges. In recent times, the smaller of these models, the G series has captured much publicity with its truly excellent G37 sedan, the equally impressive G37 Coupe and the recent addition of a G37 convertible. The larger car, badged M, has always felt a bit like it was somehow in the shade, even though it has been on the market for some years. Mr Hertz has a large number of these on fleet, as part of their “Prestige Collection”, and so, having been impressed by the FX35 and the G37, I finally managed to secure an M35 to see if it lives up to the high standards of its stable mates.
Visually, there is no doubt that this is an Infiniti. At first glance, it looks quite similar to the G sedan, not just in overall shape, but even in many of its details, from the distinctive headlights, to the slightly fastback roof line and rather short tail. Even the light clusters look similar though as with all the details, stare at it for a little longer and it is quite evident that this is very different from its smaller brother. To my eyes, it is a neat design, and one that is perhaps rather less controversial than that of its prestige rivals, the German trio of 5 series, E Class and A6, as well as the Jaguar XF. Indeed, it is against the supremely high standards set by all four of those cars that the M has to be judged. I have not driven all the Inifiniti’s rivals (yet), so cannot answer the comparative question with any certainty, but my test of the M35 did allow me to answer the question in absolute terms as to whether this is a “good car” or not.
You can buy the M with a choice of two engines:  M45, with a 4.5 litre V8 engine, which develops 325 bhp, or as the M35. My test car was the latter. As standard, the M is a rear wheel drive sedan, but you can get all wheel drive, in which case the model name gains a lower case “x”, making an M35x. The M35 comes with a 6 cylinder 3.5 litre engine, developing a healthy 303 bhp. I’ve experienced it before in the Nissan 350Z and in a couple of iterations of the Infiniti FX35, as well as its updated persona in the G37. For the M35, the noise levels have been toned down a bit, with that wonderful sounding roar that you get on start up banished in the name of the Gods of Refinement. It is also quieter in use, too. So quiet, in fact, that it is barely audible, until you stamp on the throttle. The rev counter is marked up to 9000 rpm, with a red line at 7000, but you really won’t need anything like that level of attack to make decent progress. Flex the throttle just a little, and the M35 surges forward, gaining speed at an impressive rate. There are seven forward gears in the automatic box, apparently, but you will struggle to hear that the ratios have changed, with just a slight drop in revs at cruising speed between the upper three gears. There are no column mounted controls as an alternative to the stubby and very precise console mounted shifter, but by pushing the lever to the left from “D”, you can have sport mode and you can the flick the lever back and forth to change the gears yourself manually. Regardless of how you select the gear, there is no doubting the fact that this engine is deeply impressive, and that’s before I mention the fuel economy.
At the end of a long day of a mix of freeway driving, and some canyon roads, I managed to put just 14.7 US gallons into the 20 gallon tank, having driven the M35 for 368 miles. That works out at 24.5 mpg (US), which is a very creditable 29.2 Imperial mpg. It is not just the engine, though, that makes the M35 such a nice car to drive. This is a sports sedan that handles well, too. My test car was the standard rear wheel drive, and in this guise, it was a fun car to take up into the canyons above Los Angeles, cornering with aplomb and a precision that belies the size of this large sedan. There is a touch more body roll than you find in the G37, but otherwise it shares many of the same characteristics of its smaller relative, and does feel nimble. The steering is perfectly weighted and precise, too. The M35 rides quite well, though on the admittedly rather challenging road surfaces of Los Angeles, it did transmit some of the ridges and potholes into the cabin, and there is some “bump thump” from the car. Other than that, the M35 rides well, and it makes the car a comfortable cruiser, with low levels of noise. No issues with the brakes which are firm and progressive. There is a foot operated parking brake pedal, which I did not use. All  round visibility is not bad, and one benefit of the short tail of the car is that I could probably have emerged from the hotel car park with a few less back and forths than I actually did, as I am used to having rather more car behind the rear window line than is the case with this one.   
It’s not just the driving dynamics of the M35 that impress. Open the door, and get inside, and the favourable impressions continue. There is no doubt of the brand of car you are sitting in, as not only does the Inifiniti logo feature on the seat back rests, but the trademark ovoid shaped clock is there on the dash. In any case, anyone who has experienced one of the other cars in the range will spot a very similar overall design. The test car featured dark satin finished wood inlays in the dash, which look far better than the highly polished risible efforts which you encounter in so many cars these days, victim of their misguided manufacturer (and consumers) believing that this endows some ambience of class. The design in here is neat, and it is impeccably finished and put together. The main instruments, in a hooded oval cluster have a blue ring around their outer circumference which only becomes apparent as the ambient light fails, much as I saw in the G37 I tested last year. I like it. The dials themselves are clear and easy to read, and there is a small mark on the outer edge of the speedo and rev counter so you can see exactly what speed you are doing, rather than having to interpolate between the markings.
The centre of the dash contains a display screen and then what at first glance appears to be a rather bewildering array of buttons. Study them for just a minute or two, and it all appears rather more logical. There are a whole series of controls for the climate control system, which allow driver and passenger to set the system to exactly how they want it. Under this is a rotary knob for some of the stereo controls, with some additional buttons on either side to change the display on the screen from radio information to trip computer data, or maintenance data. Underneath this row are the stereo controls for volume, station seeking and the like. In reality, it is all pretty intuitive. In case it is not, there are some buttons on the left spoke of the steering wheel for stereo functions, as well as the cruise control switches on the right spokes. As with all Infinitis, there is a holder for the “key” down low on the left side of the dash, but as long as the key is in the car, you can simply put your foot on the brake, press the start button to the right of the steering wheel, and the engine will fire. Unusually, I found (by accident)  that you could not only stop the engine with the transmission not in park, but you can also withdraw the key. A warning buzzer does sound, though, as this is clearly not a good idea! Just one feature came across as cheap: the “clack” sound made when the doors locked as soon as you gained a few miles per hour.
One of the few limitations of the M35’s smaller brother, the G37, is that it is not overly roomy inside the car or the boot. No such problems with the M35. There is ample space in the rear of the car for three passengers. There is a drop down central armrest, which has a hollowed out section as a cubby area and cup holder space, though an additional drop down flap can cover this and make a solid armrest. The boot is larger than in the G37, but it is somewhat short of the cavernous offerings you find in the German trio of competitors. The opening space is not huge, either, with quite a narrow area between the light clusters and quite a short lid, so getting my newly acquired rollerbag-style suitcase in was a little more contorted than it was in my Audi. There is a ski flap which pokes through the rear central armrest area. Inside the cabin, oddments space is adequate, with a central armrest between the seats, a moderate glovebox and door bins. There is a very small area for coins and tickets alongside the twin console cupholders.
Equipment is not something of short supply in this car. The interior is trimmed in leather and it is of a beautiful soft feel much like that in my own car. The front seats are heated. When I first picked the car up, I noticed some wind noise from the glass sun roof, and indeed closer examination suggested that the roof did not fit very well, thus causing the problem. However, on opening and closing the tilt/slide roof – and discovering that the operation comprises a series of discrete steps, rather than being continuous – I managed to shut it in exactly the right position, and the problem was solved.   One other neat feature is that when reverse is selected, the driver’s door mirror tilts down to give a better kerb-side view of where are you going. There is a two setting memory feature for the driver’s seat, but even without using this, there is another useful feature. Take the key out, and the seat withdraws a little and the column goes up, to give you more space to get out. Put the key back in, press it in, and both return to their previous setting. The steering column is electrically adjustable, as are the very comfortable seats, as you might expect. I had to consult the Manual to find out what “AFS” was, as I saw the switch to turn this on and off alongside the Traction Control button. It turns out that it is an adaptive headlamp direction control, meaning that the lights turn with the steering once the car is in motion. The test car did not have the optional Sat Nav system in it, relying instead on Hertz’ latest generation “Never Lost”, which with its improved graphics and touch screen operation is a massive improvement on the previous system.  In case this is not sufficient, there are various options to add yet more luxury, with a lane departure warning system, heated reclining rear seats, and an upgraded stereo system. There is also a Sports package for the rear wheel drive cars with firmer suspension, rear active steer and bucket seats.      
I handed the M35 back with more than a few regrets. Principal among these was the knowledge that the next car on this trip is likely to be far more prosaic, and thus, no matter how good it turns out to be, will feel something of a disappointment after the excellence of the M35. Be in no doubt, this is an excellent car. With no significant weaknesses, and strengths in terms of quality, equipment, sufficient room, and that gem of an engine, the M35 deserves very serious consideration by anyone who wants a sports sedan in this class. It might not be quite as good to drive as the smaller G37, but if you need that bit more space, then this is an excellent alternative to Little Brother. Despite the recent, and rather low key, launch of Infiniti in Europe, we will not see this particular model. What we will see is the next generation M, a  car which has just gone on sale in the US as a 2011 model with the 3.7 and 5.6 litre engines. Assuming it is the advance on the outgoing model that everyone expects, this is going to be a very impressive machine indeed.
2010-04-04 00:00:00

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Home Forums 2010 Infiniti M35 (USA)

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    Colin
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    It was in 1988 when both Toyota and Nissan each launched a new brand, believing that despite the considerable costs involved, this was the only way in
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