Infiniti's midsize sport sedan comes in M35 and M45 versions, denoting the 3.5-liter V-6 and 4.5-liter V-8 engines, respectively, that power them. Where previously all-wheel drive was offered only with the V-6 in the M35x, for 2008 there is an M45x with AWD.
Another notable enhancement is that the optional Lane Departure Warning system — which previously sounded an alert when the car began to wander out of its lane — is now Lane Departure Prevention: It strategically applies individual antilock brakes to steer the car as necessary to keep it in its lane. The system uses a camera to recognize lane markings, and it calculates the vehicle's speed and its distance from them. Yes, it can be switched off.
An extensive list of other changes for 2008 includes exterior and interior styling and new — or newly standard — features.
The new model year brings substantial styling changes including the grille, headlights, taillights, front and rear bumpers, rear fenders and chrome accents. The Sport Package has more-unique bumpers, side sills, wheels and headlight color to better distinguish it from the other option packages. Six of the eight paint colors are new this year, along with new wheel designs. All-wheel-drive models ride on 18-inch wheels. The Sport edition gets 19-inch rims. Aside from the badging, there are no exterior differences between the M35 and M45.
Infiniti promotes the M's "low, aggressive hoodline [that] flows into the anchored shoulders." The body has short overhangs and a long, 114.2-inch wheelbase. Lightweight body components include aluminum-alloy inner and outer door panels, hood and deck-lid panels. A rear spoiler is available.
The M sedan seats five in a well-appointed interior that for 2008 features revised wood or aluminum trim. A Stone interior color, white gauge lighting and white-and-violet cabin lighting also are new. Heated and cooled front seats are standard on the M35 as well as the M45. Heated power reclining rear seats, a rarity in this car class, are optional.
Standard equipment includes leather-appointed seats, an Intelligent Key with push-button start, voice recognition, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, an in-dash six-CD changer with MP3 playback capability and XM Satellite Radio (subscription sold separately), a 10-way power driver's seat and a Vehicle Information System with a 7-inch LCD screen.
Options include Intelligent Cruise Control, a 14-speaker Bose Studio Surround system that plays 5.1-channel DVD audio discs, and a backseat video entertainment system with an 8-inch roof-mounted screen. Also new is the Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System, which adds a touch-screen where before there was only knob-based control. Real-time traffic information comes with the XM subscription option. The hard drive refers to the 9.3GB Music Box drive that stores digital music.
Under the Hood
The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 275 horsepower and 268 pounds-feet of torque. The M45's 4.5-liter V-8 develops 325 hp and 336 pounds-feet of torque. Both drive the rear or all four wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission equipped with a selectable manual shift mode. Optional only on rear-wheel drive models is Infiniti's Rear Active Steer system, which attempts to improve handling by changing the geometry of the rear suspension according to steering input and the car's speed.
The M sedan has been rated Good (the highest) in frontal and side-impact crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Standard safety equipment includes front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags to protect front and rear occupants. All-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and a tire pressure monitoring system are also included. Brake-operated precrash front seat belts, which tighten under emergency braking in anticipation of a crash or an evasive maneuver, are optional. Combined with the optional navigation system screen, RearView Monitor shows the view behind the car when the transmission is in Reverse, and wheel-trajectory view uses onscreen lines to show the path that the car will take. For 2008, adaptive xenon headlights that shine in the direction of a turn are standard on all but the M35x, where they're optional.
For most drivers, the M35's V-6 will provide more than enough power, sprinting from zero to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds. You can step up to an M45, whose V-8 shaves another second off the 0-to-60-mph time. The automatic should keep most drivers happy. It responds quickly and kicks down appropriately, with little of the lag that plagues too many automatics. The manual mode also impresses.
The M sedan exhibits all the handling chops of the successful, smaller G35, if not more. Between the quiet cabin and the effortless roadholding, you have to keep an eye on the speedometer to have any sense of speed. The power steering boost errs a bit on the side of luxury rather than sport, but the ratio is quick, the wheel is responsive and steering feedback is above average, especially with the Sport trim level's 19-inch wheels and low-profile tires. The Sport has a taut suspension; the ride isn't bad on smooth surfaces, but you'll feel its firmness.
The Sport trim level's summer performance tires make for better grip in warm weather, but they are not to be used in winter. Opt for all-season tires or buy a separate set of higher-profile all-season or winter tires on smaller, cheaper wheels.
The seats promise firm support and ample cushioning. The side bolsters aren't overly intrusive, but the ones in the Sport model are more confining than those in the regular one. Outboard backseat occupants get plenty of legroom, headroom and foot room, but the center spot is high and hard, with no headroom to speak of and a large floor hump. By the numbers, the seat's dimensions are mostly greater than those of the Acura RL and BMW 5 Series. Unfortunately, the M has only a ski pass-thru, not a full folding backseat.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Kelsey Mays||Cars.com National||May 14, 2008|
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||August 21, 2007|
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