2009 INFINITI M35 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
March 31, 2009

The 2009 Infiniti M Series represents a compromise between sport and luxury—but a pleasant one that many shoppers should contemplate.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the Infiniti M35 and M45 in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com also researched available road tests on the new Infiniti M to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.

Infiniti’s M sedans are big, spacious vehicles, with more of a focus on technology and sporty driving response than on outright comfort. The M’s exterior design doesn’t especially stand out, although there’s no denying that it’s a longer (yet less aggressively styled) sibling of the G37 sport sedan. Inside, the M35 and M45 feel much more luxurious than their smaller siblings, with plush appointments and a more conservative appearance.

The Infiniti M35 and M45 models are virtually identical in appearance, except for their different engines. The Infiniti M45 continues with last year's 325-horsepower 4.5-liter aluminum-alloy DOHC V-8 and five-speed automatic transmission, while the M35 houses the new VQ35HR 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The new V-6 has 303 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque; fuel economy is rated at 17 mpg city, 25 highway—a 1- and 2-mpg decrease in fuel consumption from last year.

The new seven-speed automatic is available on rear-wheel-drive M35 models, while the all-wheel-drive 2009 Infiniti M35x receives a five-speed automatic transmission. Both transmissions feature a manual shift mode, Downshift Rev Matching, and Drive Sport (DS) mode.

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Though the M35 and M45 look quite conservative, they’re among the best-handling and most enjoyable-to-drive vehicles in their class. Very responsive acceleration is on tap from either engine, and the steering allows more of a feel of the road than is typical in larger sedans, permitting the big M to hustle through corners like a smaller car. That nimble personality does carry a downside, as the M35 and M45 permit more road noise inside than most of their peers. The ride is quite firm yet absorbent, and the M sedans are especially buttoned-down and comfortable for long-distance highway hauls, with plenty of space in front and one of the larger, well-appointed backseats. All the while, the supple leather upholstery and nice wood veneer trim, with the prominent oval clock and wide center console, contribute to an interior feel that’s more conservative and at odds—though not in a negative way—with the M’s real driving personality. All-wheel drive is available with either the V-6 or V-8 (M35x, M45x), and it doesn’t dull handling responses like the systems on some other sport sedans.

Each of the 2009 Infiniti M models are available with a Sport Package that brings Rear Active Steer (a system that helps improve stability in tight corners and quick lane changes), 19-inch five-split spoke wheels, sport-bolstered and trimmed front seats, a sport steering wheel and shifter, aluminum trim, and pedal accents. All models come standard with stability and traction control, anti-lock braking, and roof-mounted side-impact curtain airbags. High-intensity discharge lamps are now standard, as are climate-controlled seats and new instrument panel lighting.

All of this equipment adds to an already excellent sedan that editors at TheCarConnection.com count among their favorites. The M also features a number of electronic active safety measures, including Infiniti's LDP system, which can gently nudge the M back into the lane if the driver drifts to either side.

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2009 INFINITI M35

Styling

The 2009 Infiniti M isn’t going to draw crowds, but you’ll feel confident from its neat, conservative appearance.

Redesigned in 2006, the handsome shape of the Infiniti M is aging gracefully. For 2009, the Infiniti M has an "enhanced, cleaner appearance...including revised front and rear fascias, grille, rear fender panels, rear decklid and taillights, and updated 18- and 19-inch wheels," reports Edmunds, which adds the latest Infiniti M is "a much more alluring and well-rounded midsize performance sedan with the form to match its already impressive function."

“The 2006 original took the field by storm, and today's car is nine-tenths as terrific,” raves Cars.com, while Edmunds calls this generation “more stylish” than the first M sedan Infiniti sold in the United States. The 2009 M35s and M45s differ little from each other "aside from the badging," says Cars.com. They describe the M as having "a long wheelbase...and short overhangs."

The Infiniti M cabin has a "warm, upscale ambiance," coos ConsumerGuide, adding, "Trim consists of satin-finish wood or real metal [aluminum], precise-movement switchgear, and ample soft-touch surfaces." Changes to the gauge cluster consist primarily of the addition of Infiniti's white and purple lighting motif for "even greater legibility," describes Kelley Blue Book. "Warm and accommodating," "contemporary classic," and "upscale" are words used to describe the Infiniti 2009 M interior in various reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Edmunds notes of the 2009 Infiniti M, "most shoppers will discover a spacious interior that's both warm and accommodating...though some might find minor quibbles with cabin design."

The 2009 Infiniti M with the optional Sport Package has "unique alloy rims, more aggressive front and rear soft-trim contours, integrated side sills and charcoal-colored headlamp bezels," attests Kelley Blue Book. Infiniti Ms with the Sport package also receive, for 2009, a distinctive interior. Edmunds explains, "Shoppers focused on the sport side of the equation will feel right at home...with [a] unique steering wheel and shifter stitching, exclusive front sport seats, aluminum cabin accents and bright-trimmed pedals."

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2009 INFINITI M35

Performance

Beneath the conservative appearance, the 2009 Infiniti M35 and M45 are driver’s cars.

The 2009 Inifiniti M series boasts adequate performance and a selection of V-6 or V-8 engines, two- or all-wheel drive, and five- or seven-speed automatic transmissions.

Kelley Blue Book provides the specifics on each Infiniti M's performance: "the V6 propels an M35 from 0 to 60 in just over 6 seconds—or slightly more for the heavier AWD M35x...Rated at 325 horsepower and 336 [lb-ft] of torque, the larger V8 in the M45 drops that interval into the mid-to-high five-second range."

Edmunds calls the 2009 Infiniti M's powertrains "impressive" and proclaims, "the M35's V6 should provide more than enough power for most drivers." On the other hand, their editors "praised the Infiniti M45 for its explosive power." In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, this sentiment is a common theme. Cars.com also appreciates the V-6's power, saying it "churns out fluid power with no peaky burst or low-end sluggishness, and under hard acceleration its high-pitched whine should be music to any gearhead." Of the M45, they report, "It trades the M35's finesse for brute hang-the-tail-out power at pretty much any speed."

Where the 2009 Infiniti Ms fall below the average is fuel economy. According to fueleconomy.gov, an M35 achieves 16 mpg city, 23 highway, while a top-of-the-line M45x gets 14/20 mpg. In ConsumerGuide testing, "rear-drive M35s averaged 16.4 mpg. M35x models averaged 17.4-21.2 mpg with mostly highway use. Test M45s averaged 16 mpg in [mixed] driving." Premium fuel is required for the M45 and recommended for the M35.

Opting for the Infiniti M all-wheel-drive models will "sacrifice a bit of enthusiast appeal," warns Kelley Blue Book, though "Nissan's outstanding AWD system can seamlessly transfer torque from [rear-to-front] and side-to-side as...conditions warrant, making it a feature well worth considering for those who live outside of the Sun Belt." ConsumerGuide notes, "A 50/50 front/rear power split can be locked in via the snow-mode button on the center console." Underpinning the 2009 Infiniti M chassis is an "advanced suspension design [that] responds with just the right mix of compliance and firmness," finds Edmunds. "All Ms have a firm, composed ride," observes ConsumerGuide. "Base M35 and M45 absorb bumps best. M35x has tauter suspension settings, resulting in a slightly less compliant ride."

ConsumerGuide notes, "Steering feel is sporty and precise." They add, "Braking is strong." Infiniti Ms with the Sport Package receive Rear Active Steer, which "varies the geometry of the rear wheels...to deliver even more immediate and positive reactions during spirited cornering," says Kelley Blue Book. Cars.com sums it up well: "All told the steering feel encourages twisty-road driving in a way a Volvo S80 or Mercedes E-Class cannot. Body roll remains well in check, and at its limits the M displays good grip and even better balance."

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2009 INFINITI M35

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Infiniti M sedans have rich, upscale materials and a luxurious feel inside, though it’s a little noisy.

Although noise can be intrusive, the 2009 Infiniti M's cabin features rich materials such as real wood or metal trim and, for the most part, comfortable seating.

"A warm, upscale ambiance" is how ConsumerGuide describes the Infiniti M's cabin. However, Edmunds warns, "the quality of materials is a bit uneven, and we find that the layout of the center stack controls isn't as clean and intuitive as it could be." Cars.com notes, "There are leather wrappings around the door pulls and chrome runners along the steering wheel."

ConsumerGuide finds that noise is a problem in this Infiniti, saying the 2009 M35X and M45 "thump more loudly over cracks and bumps.” Edmunds reports, "It is somewhat less peaceful than other performance luxury cruisers,” and “at highway speeds, the Infiniti M35 also exhibits a noticeable amount of engine and road noise."

Cars.com notes of the 2009 Infiniti M, "Four of the five M's seats offer ample legroom and headroom, but the bulky floor hump in back means a fifth passenger has to share foot room." They like the fact that "after you park, the steering wheel automatically powers upward to ease exit and entry—and does so much faster than in some of the M's crankier peers." Infiniti 2009 Ms have 105.2 cubic feet of cabin volume, also according to Cars.com.

"The Infiniti M35's large cabin seats five comfortably and is well appointed with leather trim and standard rosewood accents. Its seats are firm, highly adjustable and comfortably bolstered," reports Edmunds. They like the Infiniti M's "10-way power and climate-controlled seats" and detail optional features: "power reclining and heated rear seats, rear audio controls, and a rear sunshade."

"Interior storage is OK," says ConsumerGuide of the 2009 Infiniti M. "[There's] good trunk volume and lid hinges don't intrude, but short aperture means drawer-like access." Kelley Blue Book points out "a pull-down center armrest [in the rear] conceals a modest pass-through opening to the M's 14.9 cubic-foot trunk."

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2009 INFINITI M35

Safety

The 2009 Infiniti M35 and M45 are safe, secure sedans—especially when you factor in all of the available active-safety options.

2009 Infiniti Ms offer an abundance of standard safety features and unique safety technologies, along with mostly good crash-test results.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded "good" scores for both frontal offset and side impact tests of the Infiniti M. The Infiniti 2009 M35 rated an overall "poor" rating in the IIHS’s seat-based rear-impact test, however. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not tested this Infiniti.

Visibility from the driver's seat of the Infiniti M isn't addressed much in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, save for Cars.com's mention of the RearView Monitor, which "shows the view behind the car when the transmission is in Reverse." Kelley Blue Book claims, "Bi-xenon adaptive front lighting is optional in the M35x but standard on all other M models...[and] their brilliant blue-white beams...provide an even better look at what lies ahead."

Some of the unique safety features of the 2009 Infiniti M are in the optional Advanced Technology Package, as described by Cars.com: "you get adaptive cruise control, Preview Braking and Lane Departure Warning. Adaptive cruise control uses a laser beam to judge the distance to the car ahead and apply modest gas or brakes to maintain a proper distance. Preview Braking uses the same lasers to sense any oncoming obstructions, including a rapidly slowing vehicle...and it will alert the driver with an audio chime and pre-load the brakes for sharper response. Lane Departure Prevention...applies individual brakes to nudge the car back on course."

According to Cars.com, on the Infiniti M "standard safety features include six airbags, with side-airbags for the front seats and side curtain ones for both rows, as well as four-wheel-disc ABS, traction control and en electronic stability system. Front seat occupants have active head restraints and pre-crash seat belts."

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2009 INFINITI M35

Features

The base M is well equipped at a competitive price, while options appeal to techno geeks and gear heads with deep pockets.

The 2009 Infiniti Ms come well equipped with standard features, while options packages increase technology, luxury, and comfort to new levels.

Options on the 2009 Infiniti M are available primarily as packages. "The Technology Package," says J.D. Power, "adds an upgraded Bose stereo, DVD-based navigation with voice recognition, a RearView monitor and a 9.3 gigabyte Music Box hard drive." The 2009 Infiniti M Advanced Technology Package, also according to J.D. Power, "upgrades the Bose [stereo] to a 5.1 channel Studio Surround system, Lane Departure Prevention system, and adds a DVD-video [sic] to the center console." Cars.com reports that the Studio Surround system comes with 14 speakers and can play DVD-Audio discs.

Kelley Blue Book reveals the Premium Package adds "dual-screen rear seat DVD video systems, heated and power-reclining rear seats and rear air conditioning." The Sport Package, J.D. Power reports, is equipped with "Rear Active Steer, sport-tuned suspension, sport front seats [with additional side bolstering], sport steering wheel, aluminum pedal accents, sport body styling, and 19-inch wheels."

The following additional features, according to Cars.com, are listed as standard on the Infiniti M: "push-button start, voice recognition [controlling radio, HVAC and phone], Bluetooth, and XM satellite radio (subscription sold separately), a ten-way power driver's seat, heated and cooled driver's and front passenger's seat and a vehicle information system with a seven-inch LCD screen."

Kelley Blue Book states of Infiniti 2009 M's standard equipment: "Complementing leather and wood [or] aluminum trim a bounty of power assists plus dual-zone climate control, 160-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six-disc changer, Intelligent Key remote locking and ignition, one-touch power moonroof and a power tilt and telescoping steering column." The 2009 Infiniti M's steering wheel has "switches to operate the audio, cruise control, phone and vehicle information functions."

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Styling 8
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 10
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