Tech Review: 2007 Infiniti M35x
By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos
With vehicles coming with more and more gadgets, the inevitable question becomes: When does all this tech become too much? I asked myself this after only a few minutes behind the wheel of a 2007 Infiniti M35x AWD sedan ($54,900 as tested). Soon after the car began beeping at me.
My road-testing routine typically involves a quick cruise to gauge how intuitive the controls of a vehicle are. While I make it a point to peruse the manual on every car I evaluate, I figure anyone should be able to hop into a vehicle and use the key features without first sitting down with the sort of novel-size tome that comes with today's high-tech cars.
The LDW system uses a camera to scope out a road's lane markers, and when the vehicle travels too close to the stripes on either side, an indicator in the instrument cluster flashes and the beeping starts. The system doesn't kick in until about 45 MPH, and it won't trip when you use a turn signal to change lanes. I found the LDW works well—almost too well. And after a few miles of driving the audible warning became such an annoyance I wanted to turn the system off.
Subtle Rear Surrounds
Along with cohesive bass response, realistic but understated rear fill is the Achilles heel of surround systems. Whereas the rear speakers sometimes detract from the overall surround-sound experience in other such systems, in the M35x I even tried to discern the sound coming from the tiny speakers next to my ears. Only by bending my ear towards one of the speakers could I get any sense of direct output. Otherwise, there's no indication of where the subtle rear channel sounds were coming from.
An 8-inch monitor that motorizes down from the ceiling so that backseat passengers can watch a DVD-Video is part of the package also. (The DVD drive, which also plays DVD-Audio discs, is located in the center console, while the dash houses a 6-disc CD changer.) Supplied wireless headphones allow those in the back to watch the flick while front-seat occupants enjoy music from a CD, AM or FM radio or XM Satellite Radio.
Unlike most cars that have a common mini-plug for adding an iPod or other MP3 player to the system, Infiniti uses RCA jacks. Adding to this inconvenience, the odd aux-ins are mounted on the back of the center console in the M35x. While this may be ideal for connecting an external A/V source such as a videogame console to the rear-entertainment system, it means you need an adaptor to jack in your MP3 player.
Against the Grain
Fortunately, the rest of the steering-wheel controls are straightforward in their function, but I'm not a fan of Infiniti's multifunction controller, or more specifically, its placement on a slanted section in the middle of the dash. I much prefer those mounted in the center console, as with BMW's iDrive and Mercedes' Commander.
The controller works in conjunction with a screen in the center of the dash, and when the car is shifted to reverse the screens serves as a display for the RearView Monitor, which is also part of the Premium Package, along with Intelligent Cruise Control and a navigation system.
Infiniti's Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System come standard and makes pairing a phone a cinch, and the voice-recognition system is another standard feature that performs better than similar setups on pricier vehicles, particularly when executing tough navigation-system commands. The nav system, in fact, has so many high-tech features—from 3D building icons to adding voicetags for destinations—I spent more time reading about them in the owner's manual than using the system.
But when I took my eyes off the road for a few seconds to quickly look for the button to turn off the LDW system, I heard another jarring sound—from a semi's air horn as I started to slightly drift toward the truck's lane. So I decided to leave the system on and continue my audio-system analysis later, on a quiet country road. And I decided that sometimes too much tech is just enough.
Doug Newcomb has been writing about car electronics since 1988, as editor of Car Audio and Electronics, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, Road & Track Road Gear and as a freelance writer. His new book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publications. He lives in Hood River, Oregon.