Full 2008 Infiniti M35 Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Infiniti M35 receives notable technological upgrades including a new lane departure warning system and a switch to a hard drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and digital music capabilities. There's also revised interior and exterior styling. Last year's Sport trim level has been dropped, but a new sport package effectively takes its place.
Though the Infiniti brand has been in existence for nearly two decades now, it has only recently fielded a truly competitive midsize luxury sport sedan. Two years ago, Infiniti released the redesigned, current-generation M35 and M45 twins. Featuring a stylish design, a choice of V6 or V8 power, the option of all-wheel drive and impressive handling capabilities, the new M immediately became a critical success. It also stands as the brand's flagship sedan given that the Q45 has gone to the big garage in the sky.
The 2008 Infiniti M35 builds on this successful foundation with an enhanced, cleaner appearance outside including revised front and rear fascias, grille, rear fender panels, rear deck lid and taillights, and updated 18- and 19-inch aluminum wheels. A new sport package is similar to the previous Sport trim level but offers greater visual distinction between it and standard models. Inside, the roomy cabin is accented by a revised gauge cluster, trim highlights and center console. Infiniti is also keeping the M35 fully up to date in terms of technology, with a new lane departure warning system and an upgraded Infiniti navigation system with real-time traffic and digital music storage and playback.
Overall, the M35 continues to be a great choice in the performance-oriented luxury sedan segment. Of course, shoppers might also want to check out BMW's freshened and more powerful 535i, the Acura RL or perhaps Cadillac's new CTS with the optional direct-injected V6 and a sport suspension setup. However, for all-around competence in a generously equipped and fine-performing luxury sport sedan that handles most tasks well, it's hard to find fault with the 2008 Infiniti M35.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Infiniti M35 is a midsize luxury sport sedan offered in two fully equipped trim levels: base and x AWD. The standard rear-drive M35 comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, 10-way power and climate-controlled front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, wood accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a sunroof, adaptive xenon headlights, Bluetooth and a six-speaker audio system with a six-CD/MP3 changer, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The M35x AWD comes with all-wheel drive, of course, and is slightly different in terms of standard and optional feature availability. For rear-drive M35s, the Sport Package replaces interior wood accents with aluminum trim and adds front sport seats, a sport steering wheel, rear active steering, a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels and high-performance tires.
Other optional packages pile on more technology and luxury with amenities. The Technology Package includes an eight-speaker Bose audio system with a dedicated iPod interface and a hard drive-based navigation system with digital music storage, voice recognition, real-time traffic and a rearview camera. On top of that, the Advanced Technology Package adds a 14-speaker surround-sound Bose audio system, adaptive cruise control and additional safety features. The top-shelf Premium Package includes both technology packages and also adds power reclining and heated rear seats, rear audio controls, a rear sunshade and an entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The M35 features a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 275 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control and downshift rev-matching is standard on both models. In past testing, an M35x AWD model with this powertrain hustled to 60 mph in a little less than 7 seconds. Fuel economy, at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg for a rear-drive M35, is slightly below average for this class of car.
The M35 comes standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. An available advanced lane departure warning system is new this year. It alerts the driver of unintended lane drifting and, if necessary, automatically applies light brake pressure to the wheels opposite the side of departure direction to help prevent the M from inadvertently drifting out of its intended lane. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the 2008 Infiniti M35 scored a top-ranked "Good" rating for both frontal-offset and side impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Infiniti M35's large cabin seats five comfortably and is well appointed with leather trim and standard rosewood accents. Its seats are firm, highly adjustable and comfortably bolstered, even in non-sport package vehicles. While past models weren't quite as elegant and thoughtfully refined as others in its class, the 2008 M features new electroluminescent gauges with "gear-like" detailing, a revised center console, updated trim and a new full gray interior color option that should help it better compete against more luxury-oriented rivals.
Shoppers focused on the sport side of the equation will feel right at home with the M's simple layout, especially in Sport Package-equipped models with their unique steering wheel and shifter stitching, exclusive front sport seats, aluminum cabin accents and bright-trimmed pedals. The button-rich layout of the center stack controls still isn't as clean and intuitive as we'd like; however, it is better than some German competitors' point-and-click interfaces.
While not as responsive as the V8-equipped M45, the 2008 Infiniti M35's V6 should provide more than enough power for most drivers while providing superior fuel economy. The firmly calibrated suspension provides a fine balance between ride comfort and responsive handling, and braking performance is impressive. Although we generally find it to our liking, consumers with a comfort bias may find the steering and suspension feedback a bit harsh around town, especially in even firmer Sport Package models. At highway speeds, the M35 also transmits a modest amount of engine and road noise into the cabin. Again, while not objectionable, those interested in maximizing their serenity may want to consider a competitor like the Lexus GS 350 or Cadillac STS that offer a more isolated experience.