Although Infiniti's lineup isn't very big, Nissan's luxury division hits just about every major luxury segment from the entry-level G all the way up to the full-size QX56 SUV. As one of the more popular segments, the mid-size Infiniti M goes up against such established names as the BMW 5 Series, Cadillac CTS and Acura TL. Not only has the current M sedan succeeded in delivering an elegant and luxurious sedan, but it also manages to deliver plenty of athleticism and performance despite standing as the flagship sedan ever since Infiniti phased out the Q45 in 2006.
The 2010 Infiniti M is offered as either the M35 or the M45 with the availability of all-wheel drive on the M35x and M45x. The 2010 Infiniti M has a starting MSRP of $45,800, but the model I recently test drove was the M35S (signifying the optional performance-enhancing Sport Package) and some optional technology packages which all increased the as-tested price up to $54,465. Although some people are calling the M a lame duck model in its last year with the current design, there is nothing lame about the 2010 Infiniti M as it still offers impressive cabin technology to go with some minor packaging updates.
2010 Infiniti M35 Exterior
Compared to the Infiniti FX or the Infiniti G37 Coupe, the styling of the current M may not be as eye catching, but the Sport Package gives the M35S a more aggressive look and stance that is instantly recognizable. Up front, the blacked-out headlamps and the G37-like front fascia give the M35S a mean look, while lower side sills and rear fascia help finish off the sport sedan look. Big 19-inch split five-spoke alloy wheels add the final touch to the Sport Package look, but if body kit and wheel design aren't enough to give away the M35S, Infiniti also decided to install a big red S on the decklid.
As for the rest of the car, the sleek lines and chrome accent trim matching the regular M35 carry over the luxury sedan's elegant styling on the sporty M35S. Similar to the G37 sedan, the Infiniti M35 features signature design cues such as a large, chrome-trimmed grille and a long, sculpted hood up front and the short decklid and LED taillights in the rear. Another signature design element on all current Infiniti models is the stylish roofline, and this is also the case on the M with the tall, swept roofline and the large, chrome-trimmed greenhouse. To give the M35S a monochromatic look, the side body molding is body-colored to match the Lakeshore Slate exterior color, while the rear fascia is devoid of the bright chrome strip.
2010 Infiniti M35 Interior
Like the present lineup of Infiniti models, the M35's cabin is mix of rich leather laid out in attractive styling with plenty of cabin technology even in base form. As is the case with the outside, the M35S has a handful of identifying features to distinguish it from the base M35 as a part of the optional ($1,650) Sport Package. In place of the light leather and rich wood accents, the M35S gets a cabin covered in dark Graphite Leather with real aluminum accents on the instrument panel, door panels and center console. This package also includes heated and ventilated sport bucket seats for front occupants, unique leather wrappings on the steering wheel and shift handle and aluminum trim on the pedals.
Matching the sport-bolstered front seats, the M35 also gets a pretty impressive rear seat as well. Although it technically seats three passengers, the design of the rear seat will probably make it comfortable for only two adults and maybe a smaller center passenger. The reason for this is the fact that the Infiniti M35 features a back seat that is about as close as possible to offering bucket seats very similar in design to one of Nissan's original sport sedans, the Nissan Maxima. On some models, heated and power reclining rear seats are an option, but this isn't available when the M35 is equipped with the Sport Package.
As for the cabin's styling, the M35 gets a similar dual-brow cockpit layout that can be found on other Infiniti models. The curvy instrument panel leaves a large area of space available for the audio, HVAC and navigation system controls without leaving them in a boring layout. Further giving the cabin a nice look, the instrument cluster features electroluminescent gauges with a blue backlighting and the steering wheel features numerous soft rubber buttons for the operation of cruise control, audio system and hands-free phone operation. The cabin's styling is finished off with illuminated stainless steel door sill plates and embroidered Infiniti logos on the front seats and the carpeted floor mats.
In order to get the Sport Package, it is required that the M35 also add the optional ($3,350) Technology Package which includes a hard drive navigation system with an eight-inch touch screen display and 9.3 gigabytes dedicated to the Music Box system, an interface for easy iPod connectivity and a backup camera. On top of these packages, this test model was also equipped with the Advanced Technology Package which adds intelligent cruise control (ICC), lane departure warning (LDW), lane departure prevention (LDP) and a 14-speaker, 5.1 channel Bose surround sound audio system. One of the cooler features of this upgraded Bose audio system is the small speakers that are integrated into the top of the front seatbacks for a clearer, crisper sound.
2010 Infiniti M35 Performance & Handling
For 2009, the Infiniti M35 received a more powerful engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission, and these continue to be the only options for the 2010 model. The M35's 3.5-liter VQ35HR V-6 puts out 303 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, but for a little more horsepower and a lot more torque, the M45 offers a 4.5-liter V-8 under the hood. The rear-wheel drive M35 is unique in the fact that it is the only 2010 M to offer the seven-speed automatic transmission for shifts that are smooth than the five-speed used in the other M sedans. This transmission also helps give the M35 superior fuel economy compared to other 2010 M trim levels with EPA fuel economy estimates that are rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Like all 2010 M models, the seven-speed transmission features a manual shift mode and a downshift rev matching feature for more enthusiastic driving maneuvers.
Even though the M is a fairly large car with its spacious, luxurious interior, it delivers surprising handling capabilities thanks to its relatively svelte 3,864-pound curb weight and, of course, the Sport Package. For improved handling, the 2010 Infiniti M35S adds a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch summer rated Bridgestone tires and Rear Active Steer. The Rear Active Steer system uses electric motor to turn the rear wheels according to the driver's input through the steering wheel and the car's input through the vehicle speed. For optimal handling, the system controls the rear wheels by moving the lower suspension links which gives the car better cornering abilities without sacrificing the smooth luxury sedan ride qualities in normal driving conditions. In the end, the 2010 Infiniti M35S feels more like a sport sedan like the Cadillac CTS rather than a luxury-only sedan like the Lexus ES.
2010 Infiniti M35 Safety
Despite being on the market since 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to test the second-generation Infiniti M sedan. As for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it gave the 2010 M sedan Good ratings front- and side-impact protection but gave it a Poor rating for rear-crash protection. Standard safety features on the 2010 Infiniti M35 include six airbags, active head restraints, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, vehicle dynamic control (VDC), traction control and tire pressure monitoring system.
Much has changed in the midsize luxury sedan segment since the current Infiniti M launched in 2005, but judging by the quality, performance and luxury exhibited by the 2010 model, the upcoming 2011 M has plenty to build on. Even though a sexier, sportier and more luxurious M sedan is about to launch for 2011, a week behind the wheel should be enough proof that the current model still has plenty to offer.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross.
Infiniti provided a vehicle for this road test review.