By Lou Ann Hammond, Thu, 3 Feb 2005 08:00:00 PDT
According to Dave Burrows, Director of Operations, "Infiniti has been like a stock; you're not sure what to do with it, but you hang onto it." Burrows is saying that on the eve of a year of good fortune. Certainly many of us in the journalistic world have thought the same thing and wondered if Infiniti would make a turnaround. The speculation was quieted by the reveal of the G35. I remember the first time I drove the car with Michael Jordan of Automobile magazine fame. Michael is an old racer and he looked like a kid in a candy store. At lunch he let me out and went for some hot spins.
Infiniti Vice President and General Manager Mark Igo announced at the 2005 Detroit Auto show that Infiniti had its best-ever sales year in 2004, recording 130,986 units sold, an increase of 10 percent over calendar year 2003 sales. Both Nissan and Infiniti have been feeding off each other, getting great reviews and big jumps in sales.
Infiniti failed with the M45. It looked like a green hornet car from years gone by and it wasn't the luxury vehicle that Infiniti needed to score a homerun. On a roll, they have redesigned and remanufactured the M car in 5 models; the 2006 Infiniti M35 ($39,900), M35 all-wheel drive ($42,400), M35 sport ($42,700), M45 ($46,750)and M45 sport ($49,550). The all-new 2006 M35 and M45 sedans are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 and 4.5-liter V-8, respectively. The V-6 pulls 280 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque and the V-8 produces 335 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a five-speed manu-matic transmission.
The M is built on Nissan's successful Front-Midship (FM) platform. The Front-Midship is the platform for the Nissan 350Z and the Infiniti FX35, and FX45 and the G35. The Sport models have an adjustable rear suspension, dubbed by Infiniti as Rear Active Steer, which senses the driver steering input and vehicle speed and adjusts the rear suspension accordingly. Also included on the sport models are nineteen-inch wheels and stiffer springs and dampers. An all-wheel-drive system is only optional with the V-6 M35, monikered as M35X.
The exterior of the new M is more appealing than the outgoing model, but that doesn't say much. On the other hand, many of the luxury vehicles are rather bland to me when it comes to exterior design. It's reminiscent of an understated look that is supposed to be simple but elegant. Inside the sport model leather upholstery is matched with aluminum trim while the other models enjoy rosewood.
Options include intelligent cruise control, Bose sound, DVD entertainment, a lane departure warning system and a rear camera with a first ever in the United States trajectory path. I was reminiscing with my driver buddy, Marc Stertz of NADA fame about my childhood. As a kid my father would put all five of us kids in the station wagon and he and my Mom would head off cross-country. I was always in the back of the station wagon with all the luggage, being the smallest of the brood. My Mom thought I was easy because when we stopped to eat all I wanted was a cold can of Campbell's vegetable beef soup. Just open it, skim off the grease and eat it with a spoon straight from the can.
In order for there to be some sense of decorum in the station wagon we made up games to keep us busy. We'd look for cars of the same type, or VW bugs (what was that old saying?). For some reason the lane departure warning brought these memories up again. The lane departure warning starts beeping if you don't turn on your blinker and you hit one of the lanes. Marc and I were driving along and we couldn't believe how many times that lane departure beeped. I remarked to him that this would be a good way to keep kids occupied, everytime the lane departure beeped and the kid noticed it the parent would have to put 5 cents in a can. Marc told me that it may have been a long time since his kids were young but it was obvious that I had never had kids. "I would be aggravated by them bugging me about the lane departure beep long before the movie on the DVD finished." Oh yeah, the ultimate babysitter, the DVD entertainment system.
While I was in Detroit at the Auto show I met the kidsandcars.org group. According to consumers.org, since 2002, at least 160 children were backed over and killed, many in their own driveways by relatives, because they could not be seen in vehicle blindspots. Legislation passed by the Senate in S. 1072 in the final transportation bill is currently being negotiated in conference committee to evaluate backup warning devices to see which are most effective in detecting small children behind cars.
If you've got small children and backing up is an issue please consider looking at the backup sensors or backup cameras available. My favorite backup camera just came out on the 2006 Infiniti M car. It not only shows you what is behind you, but the path you will take with the way your wheels are positioned. If you change your wheel position the yellow line changes the trajectory path to show you your new position.
Both cars drove well, but my projection is that the M35 is going to do better than the M45, only because the M45 competition is stiffer.