Infiniti M35x

"for people who need a sedan that is faster than a 1990s Ferrari"

by Philip Greenspun, updated February 2010

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The Infiniti M is the four-door sedan that sits at the top of comparative tests in both Car and Driver and Consumer Reports, substantially beating the nearest competitor, the BMW 5-series.

The Infiniti M35 goes 0-60 in 6.1 seconds and covers a standing quarter mile in 14.8 seconds (Car and Driver). That's the M35, with the small V6 engine. The M45, with a V8, cuts the 0-60 time down to 5.4 seconds. For comparison, a 1990 Ferrari 348 went 0-60 in 6 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 14.3. A 1990 Porsche 911 turned in numbers of 6 and 14.5 seconds.

This is an owner's review of the Infiniti M35x, with the V6 engine and all-wheel drive. The car was purchased new for $44,000, slightly less than invoice, from Herb Chambers Infiniti in Boston in February 2007.

How does it drive?

The Infiniti M35x can do anything that a sports car can do. You can drive 100 mph down the highway. You can drive 60 mph around exit ramps with very little body-lean. You have ample power to get around slower drivers blocking a lane on the highway.

If you want to impress passengers with your shifting ability, the 5-speed automatic transmission has a Formula 1-style manual gear selection mode.

On dry pavement, 100 percent power is sent to the rear wheels. The car therefore is free of front-wheel drive torque steer in which pushing down hard on the gas pedal results in the car wanting to change its direction. In the snow and ice, the car sends power to all four wheels. Despite the wide tires, the Infiniti M35x drives with reasonable assurance in the snow and ice of a Boston winter.

Top speed is limited by a governor to 140 miles per hour. I have driven mine up to about 100 mph and the interior noise and performance were very similar to at 65 mph.

However you drive, the gas gauge will move almost as fast as the speedometer needle. The EPA says to expect 16 mpg city and 22 highway on premium fuel, which is consistent with my experience over 10,000 miles. Budget at least $1,000 extra per year compared to a Honda Accord, at least $2,000 extra per year compared to a Toyota Prius. Tell your liberal friends that you're helping send Iraqi children to college.

What about comfort?

Until 1954, all cars had very simple suspensions: one spring and one shock absorber at each corner. If you wanted to make a comfortable car, you made the spring and shock absorber soft so that bumps would be absorbed. If you wanted to make a fast car, you made these firm so that the car wouldn't wallow and lean during sharp corners. There was no way to have a car that was both fast and cushy.

Citroen changed all of that with its hydropneumatic suspension, introduced on the Traction Avant model in 1954. By pushing hydraulic pressure around, the car can rise up for extra clearance on rough roads, or be pushed back to level in a corner, or be stiffened for fast driving. Other car makers responded to this innovation by... doing nothing. More sophisticated vehicles, such as passenger railroad cars, took advantage of the possibilities of active suspensions, but except for Citroen and some licensees (Rolls Royce 1965; Mercedes-Benz 1974; Peugeot 1990; Infiniti Q45, 1990s through 2006), cars suspended themselves the same way that a Model T Ford had. Among 2007 cars in the U.S., those with active suspensions include the top-of-the-line Lexus and Mercedes and more limited systems in the Chevrolet Corvette. The forthcoming Audi R8 sports car will have a limited active suspension system. Bose has a Web page in which they try to sell their all-electronic active suspension to automakers.

Where does the Infiniti M35x fit in on the spectrum from old and simple to modern and active suspensions? Right in with the Model T Ford! The car's ride is beautifully controlled when sweeping around a corner on an Interstate at 100 mph, which inevitably means that you will get jostled and punished driving over potholes in the city at 5 mph.

If you want to feel comfortable when driving over bumps, buy a Lexus!

Interior noise is moderate, in the same range as a standard modern sedan such as a Toyota Camry and not nearly as quiet as a larger Lexus.

Safety

What happens when the 16-year-old kid in the 7000 lb. SUV hits you? Despite the use of aluminum for the doors, hood, and trunk, the Infiniti M35x weighs about 4000 lbs., or almost as much as a minivan. Certainly for a mid-sized car, the structure seems very solid indeed. The Infiniti M has all of the standard passive safety features, including front air bags that adjust their inflation rate depending on the weight of front seat occupants, seat-mounted side-impact air bags, and roof-mounted curtain air bags. The seat belts pretension under hard braking and when the airbags deploy. If you get hit from the rear, the front headrests move up and forward to prevent whiplash.

On the theory that the car is smarter than the driver, the car tries to prevent accidents by adjusting power and braking to the four corners with "Vehicle Dynamic Control". If the car senses that you are trying to brake super hard, it will push yet harder on the brakes for you. The Nissan programmers couldn't figure out how to tell if it is the driver or passenger who is pushing buttons on the navi system, but supposedly can tell if you're braking for an emergency stop. How does this work in practice? At 8000 miles, the brains inside my car started hitting its own brakes on a dry road going 20 mph. I managed to lurch back to the driveway and have the car towed to a dealership where they spent a week debugging. The cost to repair would have been over $2000 had the car not been under warranty.

In crash testing, the Infiniti M scored the highest possible ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in both side-impact and 40 mph frontal offset crashes. It did poorly in a rear-impact test, indicating that those fancy headrests were not of much value. The Infiniti M has not been crash-tested by the Federal Government's NHTSA.

Cold Weather Performance

The Infiniti M35x starts instantly in temperatures down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The heated seats take close to 10 minutes to warm up under these conditions, however (see below).

Exterior

My Infiniti M35x is painted white so as to reflect heat in the spring and fall when I sometimes leave dogs in the car (windows and sunroof open, of course). The result is that the car looks like the kind of car that an Asian guy from Ft. Lee, New Jersey would drive. It is a white Japanese four-door sedan.

Interior

Leaving the "intelligent key" in your pocket, you walk up to the car and press a small button on the door handle once to open the door that you're touching, or twice to open all of the doors. Most of the people who can afford to spend $40,000+ on a car these days are pretty fat and pretty old, so the seats and steering wheel start in a fully retracted position. After you're seated and touch the "start/stop" button while holding the brake, the engine starts and the seat and steering wheel are driven by electric motors to whatever position has been stored to correspond to the intelligent key that is in your pocket (there are two keys and two seat/wheel/mirror position memories). The range of seating and steering wheel positions is impressive. I'm 6' tall and nowhere near the limits of where the seat can go.

Given the somewhat anonymous look of the exterior, passengers are always impressed with the quality of the cream-colored leather and wood paneling of the interior. The Infiniti M is very luxurious inside, as nice as the nicest business jets and yachts.

With most cars, it is only the salesman at the dealer who will blow smoke up your ass. The Infiniti M continues the experience with front seats that are heated and cooled. Instead of the more typical heated seat, which is like an electric blanket, the Infiniti relies on fans to blow heated or cooled air around underneath the seat, which is upholstered in perforated leather. It ends up taking as long as 10 minutes to heat up on cold days. You can't just jump in a cold car without a coat on as you can in a Honda minivan. This is a car that cries out for a remote starting system, but none is available from the factory. (Ford and Mazda offer optional remote starting systems, so it can be done by an automaker.)

On warmer days, the cooled seats are very effective and pleasant. The back seats are very comfortable for two, with lots of legroom, and can seat three if necessary.

To get out, push the big start/stop button and the car turns itself off, the seat pushes itself back, the steering wheel pulls itself up, and you're ready to hoist your 60-year-old 300 lb. frame out of the vehicle (maybe the next version of this car will offer a roof crane). Once standing outside, touch the button on the door to lock the car. You never have to pull that key out of your pocket.

The intelligent key system worked well when the car was new. Even with new batteries in the pocket units, however, the key system became unreliable after a year or so. You walk up to the car on a good day and it will unlock when the button is pushed. On a bad day, the car will unlock only 50 or 75 percent of the time. Ditto for starting. Sometimes you'll sit in the car, push the big button and the car starts up. Other times it just flashes "no key" on the dashboard.

Storage and Trunk

Interior storage is very clever, with lots of little pockets and cubbies. There is a hidden 12V outlet at the bottom of the cubby between the front seats, perfect for recharging a mobile phone. Bizarrely, the glove box isn't large enough to hold the owner's manual, which comes in its own leather/velcro case designed to live in the trunk.

The trunk looks small, but is large enough to hold five or six suitcases. If a criminal smashes a window and gains access to the interior, all he need do is press a little button on the dashboard to open the trunk. In theory you can lock this button out by throwing a switch in the glove box and then mechanically locking the glovebox with the "key inside the key". It would have been far better if the interior trunk release only functioned for a person who had the intelligent key in his or her pocket.

The Headlights

If you drive in Canada or just want to increase your statistical level of safety by driving with headlights on all the time, you'll hate the Infiniti M. You can set the headlights to "auto" and they will go on and off at twilight. If, however, you set the headlights to "on", they will stay on after you exit the car, generating an annoying beeping noise, draining the battery for awhile, triggering an emergency shutoff system, and then requiring a manual reset.

If you do a lot of night driving, the xenon headlights (HID) are a potentially worthwhile $800 option, although note that Consumer Reports found the low beam HIDs to be feeble. The "brights on light" is a blinding bright blue, ridiculously too bright for driving on a country road at night. Similarly, the lowest setting on the instrument lights is too bright for driving on a truly dark road.

Power Windows

The power windows are automatic. If you breathe on the switch, the window will try to go all the way up or all the way down. After three years, I still haven't figured out how to achieve fine control of window position, but some quick combination of switch inputs is required.

Sunroof

The sunroof generates a noisy buffeting inside the car if the side windows aren't open part-way, which is not easy to accomplish (see above). My car has a rattle/buzz coming from the general area of the sunroof.

The sunroof is designed to allow some water to leak in. The water is then supposed to drain out the bottom of the car. Except that in my car it pooled under the carpet instead, creating a strong mold/mildew smell and corroding an electrical harness. The Infiniti dealers figured this out after about 10 service visits and three calendar years. The attempt at correction required about two weeks in the shop, new carpet, alcohol to try to kill the mold, etc. The repair would have cost thousands of dollars if not under warranty.

Climate Control

Climate control is automatic; you set the temperature that you want and the car tries to deliver it. The driver and passenger sides of the car can be set to different temperatures. The system is not very smart about solar heating. If the sun comes out and starts beating on you, you'll have to turn the desired temperature down in order to feel comfortable. Nor is the system smart about relative humidity. If you set the system to "auto", the air conditioning runs by default, even when the car is showing you that the outside air temperature is 15 degrees Fahrenheit and the chance of requiring dehumidification is minimal.

In keeping with the car's computer system's general inability to do two things simultaneously, if you touch a fan speed button while trying to, for example, input a street address, the laborious street address recognition process will be aborted and you'll have to start over.

Sound System

Lexus went to Mark Levinson, makers of $100,000 home stereos that sound fantastic, for their premium sound system. Infiniti went to Bose, makers of a $300 table radio with a one-note bass. How does the fancy Bose stereo sound? Not too bad, but it still has a touch of that one-note bass. (Instead of using big expensive woofers, Bose has always tried to cheat by sticking in a cheap mid-bass bump. Almost any kind of bass content will excite this mid-bass resonance. The theory behind this design, which has worked great for selling table radios, is that people who don't know anything about sound will be fooled into thinking that they are hearing deep bass.)

The sound system is remarkable for its lack of interfaces. Got a Sony Walkman from the 1979 or an MP3 player of more recent vintage? You can't plug them in. There is no aux input (saving Infiniti maybe $1). Got a state-of-the-art smartphone that can transmit music clips via Bluetooth? The Infiniti M has a Bluetooth receiver and it can talk to your phone, but it can't play music from the Bluetooth input (saving Infiniti from writing a few lines of code). Want to listen to one of the digital FM stations (HD Radio) that have been broadcast publicly throughout the United States since 2005? Not possible with the factory stereo and not available as an option on the 2007 car.

Would you like to pay $150 per year for the rest of your life to listen to muddy 64 kbit digital streams of music (half of the lowest bit rate that most people encode MP3s)? Sirius satellite radio is a $350 option. Just don't expect it to sound as good as a local FM station or the terrestrial digital HD radio.

The 6-disc CD changer will play MP3-encoded CDs. Like most of the world's audio devices, it cannot play tracks purchased from iTunes, which are in Apple's proprietary and incompatible AAC format.

How does the sound system work for basic stuff? Really well. You press a button on the steering wheel and say "tune eighty-nine point seven" and the car will turn to FM station 89.7. There are two FM radio antennas on the car and the stereo picks whichever has the strongest signal at any given moment. There is also a paddle on the steering wheel for cycling among preset stations. This is easy to knock by mistake if you're driving casually. The center console has a full complement of dedicated buttons for the stereo; you don't have to use the "Infiniti Controller" and big screen to change volume, tune, request presets, or change the bass/treble/balance/fader.

Navigation System

How does the $2000 in-dash GPS navigation system compare to one that you might buy for $130 and stick on top of the dashboard? Well, for one thing it is harder to steal. The in-dash system is much better than the handhelds when in concrete canyons and driving through tunnels. When the GPS signal is lost, the Infiniti navigation system reverts to a dead reckoning mode, relying on the speedometer and some internal sensors to figure out where you're likely to be. This even works coming off the Mass Pike underneath the Prudential Center in Boston, where a 180-degree turn is made underground.

A dashboard-mounted GPS will generally receive ground-based WAAS corrections to the space-based GPS signals, thereby increasing accuracy to within about 10 feet. The Infiniti system does not seem to listen to WAAS and sometimes shows that the car is on a parallel road up to a full mile away from the actual road.

An aftermarket Garmin will have an easier user interface, partly due to better software, but mostly due to having a touch screen (Acura/Honda factory systems also have touch screens). The aftermarket Garmin will also make it easier to find points of interest and can be operated by a passenger while the car is in motion. The Infiniti has a legal disclaimer that comes up every time you start the car, even if you only stopped for two minutes. If you don't hit the "enter" button, the map and all navigation features are disabled. As the car rolls faster than about 3 mph, most of the navigation features are disabled, even if it is a passenger who is pressing the buttons. With all of the fancy electronics on board, you'd think that it would be easy for the Infiniti M to tell whose hands were on the controls. But we live in an age where a toilet knows whether or not you're standing in front of it and a personal computer does not. The Infiniti is closer to the PC than the toilet.

One test that exposes differences among navigation systems is "find the nearest post office". With the Garmin or the Acura/Honda factory systems, this is trivial since Post Office is a subcategory. With the Infiniti, I still haven't figured out how or if it is possible. It is much more cumbersome with the Infiniti than with the Garmin to bookmark and name a location as a user waypoint.

Navigation System--Database

Driving from Columbus to Cincinnati, Ohio, along Interstate 71, the only major highway that connects these cities that are home to millions of people, the "low fuel" light came on. I asked the GPS to find the nearest gas station. It said that there were none along the entire 100-mile stretch of Interstate.

After one year of usage, we've had roughly a 50 percent success rate in finding restaurants, museums, hotels, and other businesses in the points of interest database. This compares to a 99 percent success rate with the Garmin portable units. This is not an issue of currency, as many of the restaurants that are missing from the database were opened more than 10 years ago. The database and computer are extremely slow and therefore the database is partitioned into regions. Unlike with a Garmin portable, you search for a restaurant within just one region. If you type in the restaurant name and then realize that you need to change the region, scrolling up and changing the region will erase what you just laboriously typed. With most portable GPSes, the default behavior is to show you matches sorted by distance from your present position, on the theory that you are more likely to want to get pizza from a place 5 miles away than one that is 300 miles away. The Infiniti is not willing to make that assumption and points of interest search results come out in a seemingly random order.

The navigation database is stored on the Mother of All DVD players. This takes up nearly all of the space that would have formed a nice glovebox. A DVD-ROM holds about 5 GB of data. An 8 GB memory card for a digital camera retails for about $13 (was closer to $50 back in 2007). How do the technologies compare? The memory card is less than 1/100th the size of the DVD player. The memory card has no moving parts and always works. About 10 percent of the time that the car is started, the navigation system says "disk read error" and can't show any maps.

Updates are available from and are priced at $129 per disk from navigation.com, i.e., about the same as a Garmin or TomTom portable GPS that comes preloaded with a vastly more comprehensive nationwide database. It is difficult to figure out where to buy the disk; a Google search for "infiniti navigation update" mostly brings up BitTorrent downloads. Starting with the 2008 model year, the navigation database is stored on a (mechanical!) hard drive and must be updated by the dealer with a $100/hour labor charge.

Unlike with the Garmin and TomTom GPSes or with the Honda factory system, you don't have to pay an annual subscription fee to get traffic jam updates delivered over satellite radio. That's because the 2007 Infiniti navigation system has no receiver for traffic jam updates.

Phone Interface

Not only can you leave your keys in your pocket, you can also leave the phone in your pocket. If someone calls you, the caller ID number shows up on the big screen (sadly not the name of the caller, even if the phone knows it) and you can press a button on the steering wheel to answer. Now you're on speakerphone and everyone in the car can participate in the conversation. You can program up to 40 numbers into the car and then call them with voice tags. You'd expect to be able to transfer contacts from your phone into the car, so that it would be easy to navigate to a friend's home address or call a business colleague. But the Infiniti system will not live up to your expectations. In fact, all of the time and effort that you invest typing in phone numbers and street addresses will be lost as soon as the car needs its electronics serviced (i.e., every few months). When the dealers monkey with the boxes behind the dashboard, everything that you've programmed disappears and you must start from scratch.

If you're listening to a book on CD and the phone rings, the car is smart enough to mute the sound from the CD while you're on the phone via Bluetooth. When you're done with the call, the sound comes back. If you talked for 5 minutes and 27 seconds, you've missed exactly 5 minutes and 27 seconds of the narrative because the car wasn't smart enough to pause the CD. The CD continued playing, with the volume muted, while you were on the phone.

With the car in reverse, you cannot answer the phone. The car's Bluetooth system has taken over the phone, but the main display is showing an image of what is behind the car. Pressing the "enter" button, which normally answers the phone, has no effect.

When the on-board computer systems are confused the result is that the car has grabbed hold of the phone's controls, but button presses to answer the phone are ignored. So you know that the phone is ringing, but you can't answer it. Pressing the "answer" button on the phone itself won't help because the phone thinks that the car has control of the user interface.

The phone interface gives Infiniti dealers and customer service an all-purpose answer to most questions about why the computer systems are going haywire: "You have paired an unsupported phone with the car's Bluetooth system." Radio Shack will sell you a Bluetooth headset that works with any Bluetooth phone. Infiniti's theory is that the M35x's electronics are much more sensitive. If you pair up a phone that isn't "supported" by them, even though it seems to be working as well with the car as any other phone, this can cause systems meltdowns in seemingly unrelated areas, such as the ventilation controls, the navigation system, the intelligent key, the antilock brakes, etc. What phones are supported? Almost any phone that was popular in 2005, e.g., the Motorola RAZR, version 1. What phones aren't supported? Anything that could be characterized as a "smartphone".

Alternative: Motorola Droid

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on navigation and Bluetooth speakerphone, why not get a Motorola DROID and the car dock ($30 extra)? For a lot less than the cost of factory navigation and speakerphone, you get the following:

Since the Droid is actually your mobile phone, you won't forget to take it with you when you leave the car, thus eliminating the potential for theft that is unavoidable with aftermarket standalone GPSes. Since your address book is stored in Google Contacts, you don't have to spend time programming your friends' street addresses and phone numbers into the car (and then losing them when service is required).

Internet Connection

The United States has no comprehensive wireless Internet (we were wise enough to invest in the welfare of Iraqis instead). Consequently, the Infiniti M has no ability to connect to the Internet. Here are the things that the car cannot do because it can't connect to the Internet:

How hard would it be to add these capabilities to the Infiniti? My Amazon Kindle came with a high-speed works-almost-everywhere Internet connection accomplished via the AT&T mobile phone network. The Kindle costs $259.

Options

A "sport" package is available. This uglifies the interior with aluminum rather than wood trim and stiffens up a ride that is already one of the harshest on the sedan market. The standard car comes with 245/45R18 tires, which are already lower profile (and therefore less cushy) than the standard Lexus tires. They carry a V speed rating, good to 149 mph. With the sport package, the profile comes down to a 40-series 245/40R19 with a speed rating of W, good to 168 mph, the kind of tires you might find on a Chevrolet Corvette.

The "technology" package gets you the navigation system as well as adding the glorious name of "Bose" to the stereo. It also adds a backup camera in the rear that will display an image on the navi screen of the stuff you're about to run over. The "advanced technology" package gets you a surround-sound stereo for watching movies, but no movie screen. It also adds a "lane departure warning system" that is apparently extremely annoying. The "premium" package adds a movie screen in the back as well as heated and reclining rear seats.

Don't leave the dealership without seeing an example of "bourbon" leather, a truly beautiful interior scheme that was, sadly, not available with the white exterior color mandated by dog ownership.

What about upgrading to the monster V8 in the M45? The gas mileage isn't as horrible as you might think, but you lose the option of all-wheel drive and Car and Driver says that the handling isn't as good.

Compared to BMW and Mercedes

The Infiniti M35x is manufactured in Japan by Nissan. How does it stack it up against the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-series cars that have been the traditional choices for a luxurious mid-sized sport sedan?

The BMW is the strongest competition, according to both Car and Driver and Consumer Reports. In the November 2006 Car and Driver, a BMW 550i pushing $70,000 was almost able to keep up with a $56,000 Infiniti M45, but the reviewers hated the BMW iDrive user interface and, in the real world, the Infiniti would have been closer to $20,000 cheaper since BMWs generally sell at list price. A BMW 3-series car optioned to the level of an average Infiniti M35 would actually cost more to drive out the door, so the BMW definitely has the image advantage of "I can afford to waste $15-20,000." The 5-series BMW is rated by Consumer Reports as being substantially worse than average in reliability, compared to the Infiniti M's substantially better than average score (only Lexus beats Infiniti).

The Mercedes E-series are more comfortable cruising cars, but not nearly as nimble as the performance-oriented Infiniti. Again, you're going to pay a lot extra for the Mercedes name so if the objective is to awe the public with your spending ability, it might be a good idea. The Mercedes E, S, and CLS, are expected to be so unreliable that they are below the bottom end of Consumer Reports's scale, among the least reliable cars on the market right now (worse than Jaguar!). If you want to impress people by having them see you come out of the Mercedes dealership, the lack of reliability might be a plus. You'll be visiting the dealer every few weeks!

The interior fit and finish of my Infiniti M35 is excellent, but the visual experience and tactile experience has been marred to a substantial extent by the mold/mildew smell that developed after a few months (see the "sunroof" section above for how the dealers spent three years figuring out that water was leaking in through the roof).

[Before you decide that you want to advertise your wealth by giving much of it to BMW and Daimler-Benz shareholders, do reflect that shareholders of both of these companies were substantially enriched by the use of hundreds of thousands of slave laborers in BMW and Mercedes factories during World War II. See this "Straight Dope" article or Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich (Yale University Press; 1998) for more details. Mercedes in particular profited from its support of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, but those profits came at the cost of the lives of many of their slaves.]

Dogs

I traded a 9-year-old minivan somewhat impulsively on this sedan, without testing whether my 11-year-old Samoyed could jump into the back seats easily. He had always been good with rental cars and the actual seat height is lower than the minivan, but it turns out that the minivan is the ultimate driving machine for dogs for a variety of reasons: (1) the side doors slide backwards, leaving an unobstructed pathway direct to the seat, (2) the dog can step up first on the floor of the minivan, about 8" off the ground, and then make the final 12" step up onto the seat naturally, and (3) the dog can move around easily once inside the minivan (bringing much-loved mud and hair into the driver's seat).

The lower door frame of the Infiniti M is probably a bit lower than the floor of the minivan, but it is a narrow spot that is tough for a dog to get a footing on. I end up having to pick up the dog (75 lbs.) and throw him into the back seat. On getting out, I let him jump into my arms and gently let him down on the pavement. If parked next to other cars, this is much tougher than in the minivan due to the fact that the doors are where I need to be.

Since the interior of the Infiniti M was so nice, I purchased a rubber-backed bathmat runner from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The 22" wide size is wide enough to cover the entire rear seat and the rubber back ensures that it won't slip.

Bicycles and Other Gear

The trunk isn't big enough for bikes, so you have the usual two choices:

Infiniti does not offer a trailer hitch, so you're limited to a roof rack. Currently, only the Swedish option is available. If you navigate through www.thuleracks.com, you'll learn that the recommended roof rack combination from Thule is "400XT Aero Foot | LB50 Load Bars | 2177 Fit Kit".

Wishlist

Here are some features that would improve the Infiniti M35x:

Maintenance History

Current Squawks

Older Squawks

Customer Service

After multiple dealer service visits that failed to repair the navigation system, I called Infiniti customer service. They said that they performed no function other than to suggest customers with problems bring the car back to dealers. They said that they had no standards for how many times per year an Infiniti should need to go in for service or how many weeks per year an Infiniti should spend in the shop.

Conclusion

Assuming that the fancy electronics are functioning properly, the Infiniti M35 is, as Car and Driver and Consumer Reports suggest, the best driving car in its class. If you're a middle-aged rich guy pretending to be a serious driver, the car shows other people that you bought the highest performance mid-sized sedan on the market. After a few months of being pounded by the stiff suspension, though, you might wish that you'd been more honest with yourself and the world and gotten a Lexus or Toyota Avalon.

Don't pay more than invoice for the car. Infiniti does not attract the same crush of status-crazed yuppies that the German brands do.

The Infiniti M35 demonstrates that, aside from the lack of active suspension, cars have developed about as far as they can individually. For a car to be substantially more useful than the Infiniti M, it would need at least a low-speed connection to the Internet. Sadly, it is hard to see how that will happen within our lifetime. As a society, we are willing to spend $trillions on roads, $1 trillion on Iraq, but for some reason we aren't willing to string inexpensive wireless base stations along our expensive traffic-clogged roads.

Prediction from 2007

I wrote this in mid-2007 and have left it here as a reminder that I am a bad prophet.

This car will be obsolete with the 2010 model year as active suspension finally enters this size/price segment of the car market. So don't get every option because you'll probably be trading it in....

[Fortunately, the Infiniti M was listed by the Kelley Blue Book as having the highest resale value in its class and among the top 10 cars period.]

Prediction evaluation 2010

With 30,000 miles on it, the car has a trade-in value of about $22,000. So the high resale value prediction did not work out. The active suspension prediction fared even worse. Lexus seems to be the leader here, with a system that tightens up its suspension during hard cornering (Wikipedia), but allows the ride to remain plush during ordinary driving. Mercedes has an Active Body Control system that allows a softly sprung car to corner without too much body roll. BMW has a Dynamic Drive, which can stiffen up the anti-roll bars (article).

Active suspension is kind of a "bag-on-the-side" feature offered in a handful of 2010 cars from a handful of automakers; it isn't the core designed-in feature that I would have expected on any car costing more than $30,000. It is hard to know what makes car companies so persistently unable to innovate, especially when electronics are involved. You can now buy a complete four-seat Tata Nano car for the cost of a rear-seat DVD player option in a 2010 minivan.


Text and images copyright 2005-2010 Philip Greenspun.
philg@mit.edu

Reader's Comments

Infiniti M is for Misery. My M35 Bluetooth would not synch with an AT&T 8525. At first Nissan refused to fix it even though it froze my entire console. They said it wasn't on their list of phones. But Bluetooth is a trademark a company can ONLY use if its devices are interoperable with other tested devices. Failure to do this is a violation of the trademark agreement. Finally Nissan relented and after FOUR tries finally fixed the problem. More recently the A/C Condenser was struck by a stone. The car was under warranty but they refused to cover this. Damage by stone chips is one of their exclusions. Understandable for paint damage but if you design a grill only for air flow and not to protect the radiator and condenser that is a design defect. Could it have been deliberate? A way to make sure they make money on replacement condensers and radiators? And their voice recognition, for simple telephone numbers may be the worst in the world. So, on the face of it, the M35 may look like a nice car and be fun to drive but God forbid you have to deal with Nissan for warranty repairs. Of the Japanese car manufacturers they are, no doubt, the worst to deal with. Buy at your own risk!

-- Eugene Mannacio, April 23, 2009
There are no worse tires in the galaxy than the junk Goodyears that come on this car. And enjoy freezing to death on the "heated seats" which don't heat. Gas pig. Harsh ride (and not because its a dream in hard driving - on those junk tires its handles pathetically - on real tires it may be different) Cadillac STS has no rear leg room but is way better balanced car - but too late for me now. I am stuck with this.

-- Sir Fred, March 14, 2010
I enjoyed reading this comprehensive posting on the M's features and faults. I own a 2009 M35X. The car has been an absolute blast to drive. Looks like between 2007 and 2009, a number of the original issues from this posting have been fixed by Infiniti. The big issue I had was the "Tram lining" that would happen on uneven roads. once I changed my tire to Michelin Primacy MXV4, this problem went away.

-- ramesh n, May 13, 2011
The 07 review was most helpful. It seems the problems have been updated or fixed on later model units. I know there is still a phone problem but in this state you cant use a phone legally unless its hands free; minor detail. I accept the mileage and "harsh" ride. The reliability factor is most important to me as I own a 08 Charger which has seen its wear and reliability problems... i plan to purchase a pre-owned 2010 next year and hope that the problems presented do not appear. i am prepared to deal with minor problems as the charger has schooled me in that respect. I anxiously read any and all consumer real world reviews of the 09-10 models. thank you!

-- Ronald Witherrspoon, June 27, 2012
"The Infiniti M35x can do anything that a sports car can do."

Umm...take it to a track day and then get back with us.

-- Sam Herring, August 25, 2013

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