2006 Infiniti M


2006 Infiniti M

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Infiniti creates a solid rival to sports-luxury sedans with prestigious nameplates.
  • Sleek
  • Fast
  • Luxurious
  • Angled dashboard controls
  • High trunk opening
  • Push button engine start-stop

Infiniti had an instant hit with its G35 sports coupe and sedan and successfully strikes again with its early 2006 Infiniti M sports-luxury sedan, which is compelling enough to seriously take on more prestigious rivals.

The new M blends sleek styling with high performance, good handling and a lush-life interior. It's sold as the M45 with a strong V8 and as the M35 with a potent V6. It comes in a variety of trim levels, including an all-wheel-drive version of the M35. Prices range from $39,900 to $49,550.

Replacing Bland Sedan
The new M replaces the nearly anonymous $43,250 Infiniti M45 that was a short-lived version of the Japanese market Cedric/Gloria sedan. While fast with a potent V8, that car was too bland to make much of an impression here. It last was sold for 2004.

The old M was a stop-gap car to fill the slot between the G35 and Infiniti's flagship model, the Q45 sedan. The new M has the same role in life, but is no stop-gap model and promises to be a success.

The new M is a serious threat to such intoxicating sports sedans as the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac STS, Jaguar S-Type, Lexus GS and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Tops Popular G35
That's heady company, and Nissan's upscale Infiniti division hasn't been able to make a major dent in the market in which those rivals compete—except for its premium G35. But the more powerful M has such things as a higher level of refinement and better interior materials than the G35 and thus should be a stronger contender. It's got a longer wheelbase, or distance between axles, than the G35 and is 6.1 inches longer overall.

The new M even has a longer wheelbase than the full-size Q45, at 114.2 inches compared to 113 inches for the "Q." But the M is 8.2 inches shorter than the Q45, with short front-rear body overhangs for a sporty, purposeful look. Wide front and rear tracks help provide an athletic appearance.

The M shares the rigid FM platform used by the G35, although 60 percent of the platform design and components are enhanced for use with the M.

Strong Performance
Strong performance is provided by the dual overhead camshaft, multi-valve M engines. The V8, which is borrowed from the Q45, provides nothing short of explosive performance. But acceleration also is strong with the 3.5-liter 280-horsepower V6 from the G35.

The smooth, sophisticated engines work with a responsive 5-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode that works especially well.

The M is available with rear-wheel drive or an advanced all-wheel-drive system with a balanced front-rear driving feel and, depending on the trim level, 18- or 19-inch wheels. There's also a Rear Active Steer system that steers the rear wheels slightly for better handling. It works virtually imperceptibly but can be noticed by a driver who's aware of it during such maneuvers as fast lane changes.

Five Trim Levels
There are five trim levels: M35 (V6, rear-wheel drive), M35 Sport (V6, rear-wheel drive with Rear Active Steer and 19-inch wheels), M35x AWD (V6 and all-wheel drive), M45 (V8 with rear-wheel drive) and M45 Sport (V8 with rear-wheel drive, Rear Active Steer and 19-inch wheels).

Premium fuel is required to get advertised horsepower ratings. The V6 delivers an estimated 18 mpg in the city and 25 on highways with rear-wheel drive and 17 and 24 with all-wheel drive. The V8 provides 17 and 23.

Superb Roadability
Some may feel the quick, precise steering is rather heavy, while others may feel it is nicely weighted, especially for highway use. All Ms have suspensions that keep them firmly planted on the road, with Sport versions having the best moves with their sport suspension and larger wheels and tires. The M weighs 3,832 to 4,004 pounds, but feels lighter than it is.

The all-independent suspension provides a comfortable ride that is firm but supple. Powerful brakes have an easily modulated pedal, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution for panic stops.

Well Equipped
All M trim levels have standard leather upholstery, sunroof, power tilt-telescoping steering wheel and a large number of power and comfort-convenience features. Sport versions have aluminum interior trim, while others get rosewood trim. The Sport also has heated and cooled sport seats that provide especially good support.

The posh interior is the best one Infiniti has ever offered. It's very roomy for four occupants. Alas, the middle of the rear seat makes it uncomfortable for a fifth person, and that area is best occupied by the large flip-down armrest, which contains sturdy cupholders.

The large inside rearview mirror partially blocks vision under some driving conditions, as do thick lower windshield posts. It's impossible to see objects directly behind the car when backing up, but there's an optional rearview television camera that uses a dashboard screen to warn a driver that he's about to accidentally back into an object.

Slanted Dashboard
Backlit gauges don't let bright sunlight wash out their readings. Controls are generally easy to use. However, the center of the dashboard, which contains many controls, takes getting used to because it's slanted at an awkward angle.

Some may also feel that the power window controls on the driver's armrest are set a little too far forward and thus can result in opening a rear window instead of a front one.

Voice control is standard for some audio and climate functions and a hands-free wireless cell phone link is available.

While the interior is generally quiet, the 19-inch tires become a bit noisy on some roads and there is mild wind noise at highway speeds if the elaborate sound system is turned off.

Keyless Entry and Start
A standard "intelligent key" system eliminates the need to take the key fob out of a pocket or purse when locking and unlocking the car, opening the trunk or starting the engine, which is done by putting a foot on the brake pedal and pushing a dashboard button. The engine also is shut off with the same button, which seems more gimmicky than practical.

While large, the trunk has a rather high, short opening that is inconvenient during quick cargo loading or unloading. However, its lid pops up well out of the way on struts to prevent accidental head-banging.

Standard safety items for all Ms include anti-lock brakes, anti-skid/traction control, front-seat side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags.

Sophisticated Options
Options include audible warning of unintended lane departure, a navigation system, satellite radio, a cruise control system that maintains a set distance from a vehicle ahead and even a heated power reclining rear seat. There's also a rear DVD entertainment system to keep kids occupied.

The Infiniti division arrived abut the same time as Toyota's upscale Lexus division about 15 years ago, but it never has become as prestigious a brand as Lexus or such automakers as BMW or Mercedes. The M should give Infiniti more prestige and overdue respect, especially if it comes up with more models like it.


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BB03 - 9/23/2014 3:43:51 AM