Driven: Infiniti gives M35 more firepower for 2009

2009 Infiniti M35 – Click above for high-res image gallery

We slid behind the wheel of the 2009 Infiniti M35 S last week in Napa, California. It was a quick jaunt, but we wanted to try out the newly revised powerplant under the hood. Yes, even thought the nomenclature remains the same, the Japanese automaker has swapped out the mass of aluminum up front for something a bit more updated and powerful. Find out how the 2009 Infiniti M35 S did after the jump.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Michael Harley / Weblogs, Inc.

Since its introduction, the M35 has featured Nissan's familiar VQ35DE 3.5-liter V6 rated at 275-hp. For 2009, Infiniti has replaced it with the newer VQ35HR 3.5-liter V6 rated at 303-hp (it's the same "VVi" engine found under the hood of the '08 G35 sedan). While horsepower is up, torque is down slightly to 262 lb-ft (it was 268 lb-ft). We hardly think '09 M35 owners will care, as the new engine comes with a new slick-shifting seven-speed electronically-controlled transmission that should decrease 0-60 times by a couple of tenths, especially with its new Drive Sport shift mode. Best of all, fuel economy is up from 16/23 (city/highway) to 17/25 for 2009. Interestingly enough, the all-wheel drive M35x will get the new engine, but it retains last year's five-speed automatic and fuel economy stays the same. The V8-powered M45 carries forward without significant mechanical changes.

You are probably wondering why the '09 M35 didn't get the 328 hp VQ37VHR 3.7-liter like its slightly smaller sibling, the '09 G37 Sedan. We are betting that there is an all-new M Series replacement on the horizon (2010 model maybe?) set to debut as the M37. In addition, had Infiniti dropped that sweet engine under the hood now, it would have been stepping on some toes -- namely those on the foot of the V8-powered 325-hp M45. Then Infiniti would have needed to bump that car up to the M50... ah, you get the picture. The automaker has chosen to hold off for now and keep us all waiting.

In our brief spin around wine country, the M35 "S" (the Sport Package adds rear active steer, sport suspension, 19-inch wheels, etc...) proved comfortable and competent. Our seat-of-the pants accelerometer said it was quick, and it handled with confidence, but it was far from being as sporty as Infiniti's G lineup. The new transmission does make a difference in the driving experience as shifts are smooth and perfectly timed. Overall, the M35 still competes strongly in the segment against the BMW 535i, Mercedes-Benz E350, and Lexus GS 350. In addition to the aforementioned engine and transmission transplants, all '09 M models receive auto speed-sensing door locks and Infiniti's Scratch Shield "self-healing" paint. Infiniti will offer the M Series in four flavors for 2009: M35 RWD, M35x AWD, M45 RWD and M45x AWD. You can check out the new M35 in showrooms this month.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Michael Harley / Weblogs, Inc.

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