All-wheel-drive stability and speed
December 28, 2005
I’ve had some uncommon experiences over the last year and a half of automobile reviews – a gig I’d hoped to land since I was a kid reading “Road and Track” magazine in the 1980s- but the most unusual was a summer spent with more than one test vehicle parked in the lot at a time, allowing some interesting compare-and-contrast opportunities.It was during the same period that we drove the acclaimed but overly computerized Lexus GS430 that we also had a chance to check out the very attractive and versatile Infiniti M35x, the all-wheel drive version of Infiniti’s sporty, sophisticated 280-horsepower luxury variation on the Nissan Maxima.Despite some aesthetic similarities between the vehicles (and a shared desire to usurp their European counterparts), the M35x was a distinctive, pretty and punchy beast that rides high and comfortably, offers oodles of cool features and held the road with poise and power.Long, relatively wide and featuring big doors for comfortable entries and exits, a layman could mistake the Lexus and the Infiniti from the back or the side view. An elongated body line, small rear passenger windows, beautiful wheels and a tapered roof ending in a squared-off trunk lid did create some initial feelings of automotive synchronicity.The M35x sports gigantic brake clusters and a massive unibody bumper, plus a quad set of exhaust ports. Up front, it’s the typical Infiniti curviness, with the stippled, bubbled chrome grille, mesh detail below the bumper and fog lamps and equally enormous halogen headlamps. The smoothed-out, rounded and generally flat hood adds to a sleek, smooth body line with nice finishing touches and body-colored side mirrors.It’s easy to access the M35x with the keyless remote system – get up close and press a small rubber button inside the door handle to open the doors. The vehicle also features a start/stop ignition button; press on the brake pedal and hit the start button to bring the vehicle to life.
The interior is stylish and resplendent in wood grain, black plastic and just a tad of chrome as an offset; the wraparound rosewood highlights on the doors, dash, center stack and shift gate give the M35x an almost old-style cruise boat feel.Wheel and seat electrically move to your favorite position when you get inside, with a small and comfortable steering wheel covered in ventilated leather and featuring pushbutton controls for sound, phone and cruise speed. Full leather seating and leather armrests and door inserts also surround you in comfort, although like many of the Infiniti vehicles we’ve tested, those seats can be a bit stiff at first.Orange-lit gauges set deep in chrome-lined holes offer brilliant views of motoring details; a large information screen in the middle of the dash and literally dozens of buttons (a bit too many, perhaps) allow you to access the radio, CD, phone and information/status settings such as fuel economy and outside temperature. A large and somewhat ungainly control knob with eight-button input is also probably more suited for a navigation system-equipped vehicle; again, I found it to be a bit of overkill.The audio system was simply wonderful (with a slot for the six-CD changer just above the leather-topped shift knob); some straight-forward manual stereo controls are also complemented by an attractive analog clock on the center console.As an added technological touch, the M35x features a full Bluetooth setup, allowing hands-free access for your compatible cell phone … another nice touch.In the back, seating is rather comfortable although the floor does feature a rather tall hump over the transmission, so the fifth passenger will have a bit of a squeeze. A pass-through gate accommodates skis and other longer objects that won’t fit in the trunk.
Driving the M35x was a pleasant, perky experience. The vehicle’s 3.5 liter V6 comes through with loads and loads of power and was impressive both climbing hills and on the flats. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode is there just case you want to get involved in your shift-making decisions.The all-wheel-drive system helped lend a feeling of stickiness while cruising dry roads earlier this year but would no doubt be an admirable asset on snow- and ice-covered surfaces. The slightly tall feel to the M35x did add a curious feel to the ride and we noticed just a bit of ungainly bumpiness on the corners and rough stretches of pavement, although things were for the most part smooth and elegant. Cruising speeds also produced mileage figures in the 20-22 mpg range, which seemed entirely reasonable. 2006 Infiniti M35x AWDBest features
Lots and lots of powerElegant styling inside and outExtra security from AWD systemWorst featuresBusy controls on center stackStiff seating
Price as tested: $43,010Includes: 3.5 liter 24-valve V6 engine, five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, intelligent AWD system, traction control and dynamic control systems, halogen headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, Infiniti video controller, voice recognition, leather seating surfaces, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker audio system with in-dash six-CD changerStated mileage: 17 mpg city, 24 highway