- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

The Infiniti M is styled to appeal to the luxury sedan buyer who puts elegance before sportiness.

Although the rear-wheel-drive mid-size Infiniti M has short overhangs for an aggressive, sporty and athletic stance, its primary role is that of a luxurious sedan with a double wishbone front and independent rear suspensions systems that are designed for riding comfort.

There are four models in the M lineup, which is well-executed in serving particular needs for buyers in this class. Drivers who are looking for a performance luxury sedan with more of an emphasis on elegance than on sport-oriented dynamics will find what they are looking for. The Infiniti is primarily comfortable, smooth and luxurious, and secondarily a performance sedan. Each of the four models specifically designed to appeal to the levels of luxury that the buyer can afford.

The 2009 Infiniti M starts with the M35, with a base price of $45,800; the M35x all-wheel-drive model starts at $47,950. Infiniti also offers an M45 rear-wheel-drive version priced at $52,150, and the M45x all-wheel-drive at $54,650.

The M35 models underwent the most significant changes for the 2009 model year, notably a new standard-equipped seven-speed automatic transmission on the M35 RWD. The M35 sedans also get a more powerful engine with 28 more horsepower than last year’s engine.

Under the hood of the M35 is the Infiniti 24-valve dual overhead cam, a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 303 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 262 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. The RWD model has Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings of 17 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway, while the AWD sedan is rated at 16/22 mpg. Though it’s not required in the 3.5L V-6, the automaker recommends that drivers use premium fuel with this engine.

Unlike the V-6, Infiniti’s V-8 engine - which powers the M45 lineup - runs only on premium gasoline. The M45 sedans are equipped with a 32-valve 4.5-liter V-8 delivering 325 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 336 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. The V-8 is coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission with returns of 16/21 mpg on the RWD and 14/20 on the AWD.

I drove the M45x with the optional $3,350 Technology Package and the $2,800 Advanced Technology Package. Buyers won’t like this, but there’s a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax on the M45 and a destination charge of $815.

Among the features on the advanced-tech package are the lane-departure-warning and lane-departure-prevention systems. I sort of see where these technologies that alert and warn might be advantageous, because of the many driver distractions, such as text-messaging. So it can make sense to have a tone go off when the sensors detect that the vehicle drifting out of its intended lane (when the turn signal indicator is not used).

The basic technology package, though steeply priced at more than $3,000, includes the communications and information systems that drivers should be getting on cars that they intend to keep for the next three to five years. These systems include hard drive navigation, real-time traffic with satellite radio, a compact music flash drive, voice recognition and a rearview camera that displays onto an 8-inch screen.

The Infiniti is smooth riding, luxurious and ready for the technology of the future.

• Send e-mail to keane@motormatters.biz

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