2009 Infiniti M

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Tech Review: 2007 Infiniti M35x

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2010.
By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.5

Bottom Line:

Cutting-edge safety technology, a great multi-channel music system and gobs of gadgets make the 2007 Infiniti M35x AWD a high-tech litmus test.
Pros:
  • Innovative Lane Departure Warning System
  • Excellent multichannel music system
  • Easy-to-use Bluetooth hands-free and navigation system
Cons:
  • Frustrating steering-wheel audio controls
  • No easy way to hook up an iPod and MP3 players
  • Inconveniently placed multifunction controller

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.

No Warning
It took me a few moments to figure out that the sound was coming from the M35x's Lane Departure Warning System (LDW). I did have to later spend some time with the manual to find out that the system can be set to automatically activate every time the ignition switched on. And I figured out pretty quickly that the system can be temporarily turned off as well.

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
Besides, with all of the noise it was hard to enjoy the M35x's Bose Studio Surround audio system, which is one of the best available. Four of the reasons for why are the small speakers on either side of each front-seat headrest that help create remarkably seamless rear-channel effects on surround-sound recordings.

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.

Backseat Comforts
The Bose sound system is part of a pricey $8,900 Premium Package option, but it includes rear-seat comforts usually found only on sedans costing twice as much: heated and reclining seats, separate audio and climate controls, a power rear-window sunshade.

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
Another against-the-grain quirk of the M35x is that the steering-wheel audio controls for track/station up and down work in the opposite way of those of most other automakers'. To skip ahead you press a toggle switch down and to skip back you press up. The scheme goes against the innate logic of pressing up to skip forward and down to skip back—and it's just flat-out frustrating to use.

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.

Just Enough
Which again begs the question of when does tech become too much? That's a question each driver must answer. For me it's when the gizmos start to get in the way of the driving experience, like when I had to switch off the Lane Departure Warning system to enjoy the audio 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.

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BB03 - 7/29/2014 8:21:17 PM