Microsoft, move over.
The new M35 -- or just "M" as they say for the M35 and its larger sibling, the M45 -- is so techie, it could be its own exhibit at the Smithsonian, or an exhibit booth at the 2050 World's Fair. (If they still have those things, that is.)
Want to be cutting edge? Want to take the tech boom by storm? See the M. It begins with the push of a button (to start the vehicle, instead of inserting a key into the ignition), and continues with things such as a Lane Departure Warning system that uses a small camera on the back of the rearview mirror that "beeps" if the driver is drifting too far into the next lane.
There is Bluetooth wireless connectivity (no more holding phones while you dial). There are climate-controlled front seats (no more roasting in summer). And there is something called Intelligent Cruise Control, which means if you aren't smart enough to brake while the cruise is set, the M will do it for you.
Ride to the moon, anyone? OK. So how's the car? In a word: Awesome. It is elegant. It is aggressive. It is fun. And it is full of technology.
Newly redesigned for 2006, the M joins the lineup of luxury Nissan vehicles that are quickly becoming real contenders in the race to everyone's wallet.
With sticky 19-inch tires and a meaty 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 (or 335-horsepower, 4.5-liter V-8 in the M45), there is nothing but pure driving enjoyment here.
The first thing I noticed was the interior, a near-horizontal dash control panel that Infiniti calls "the Human Machine Interface."
Huh? I'd call it very different.
With rotary controls placed at a near-45-degree angle, it almost serves as a ledge on the center console. And it's something to get used to. Around the cabin, things are geared toward sporty luxury. Aluminum accents abound. Storage compartments have been thoughtfully placed. Nothing is out of the ordinary.
But, on the negative side, things get a little cramped for five, especially on long trips, and the back seat does not fold down.
The handling is tight, the suspension firm and the ride stiff.
As for the trim levels, five different ones are available in the M, including all-wheel-drive versions and a sport edition.
The base M35 arrives at $39,900, and things quickly advance from there. And here's why: None of the technology is cheap. The cruise control and lane departure system are part of a $4,200 Technology package that includes a DVD navigation system.
So technology does have a price. But did I mention the power reclining, heated rear seats, a rear sunshade and rear climate controls?
Moon launch anyone?
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2006 Infiniti M35
Vehicle type: Rear-wheel-drive, front-engine, four-door, five-passenger sedan
Key competition: Audi A6, Chrysler 300C, Chevrolet Impala SS, Volkswagen Passat
Base engine: 280 horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6
Transmission: Five-speed automatic with manual mode
Standard safety equipment: Anti-lock brakes; head air bag; stability control; side air bag; traction control
MPG rating: 18 city/25 highway (automatic)
Warranty: Basic warranty is four years/60,000 miles.
Base price: $39,900
Price as tested (including destination and delivery): $45,300
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Rating: (Based on 4 as the highest possible score) *** Power is plentiful, the exterior and interior are unique. There are enough techie things to keep you busy. Back-seat room is a little tight, and the rear seat does not fold to allow extra cargo to pass through.
High Gear: Power is plentiful, the exterior and interior are unique. There are enough techie things to keep you busy.
Low Gear: Back-seat room is a little tight, and the rear seat does not fold to allow extra cargo to pass through.
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Jason Stein's column appears Sundays in Business. Each review is based on a test of a vehicle supplied directly by the manufacturer. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com