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2007 Infiniti M35

     When I first drove the Infiniti M sedan late last year, I got the brutal M45 with a big, brawny V8 under the hood.
     That car was a monster. It felt almost like an American muscle car, with a heavy, deliberate driving feel and a relatively soft suspension that made it seem like you were riding on bowls of Cream of Wheat. It was a great car, but it was more of a grand tourer than a true sports sedan.
     Fast forward to this week, and I’m behind the wheel of another Infiniti M that costs thousands less than the last one, which would ordinarily mean it’s less fun and less extravagant.
     Oddly enough, now I think the cheaper M is the better M.
Called the M35, this V6-powered sports sedan feels light, nimble and balanced, all things that the pricey M45 lacks. Where the heavier M45 plows through corners like a big NFL lineman, the zippy M35 cuts with the speed, grace and precision of a wide receiver.
     I’m usually a vocal member of the “more power” crowd, but in this case I’d actually rather have the less powerful car because it’s a heck of a lot more fun to drive.
     One of the reasons is that the M35 I recently drove had a very different suspension from the M45. My latest drive in the M came with the benefit of Rear Active Steer, which uses computers and electric motors to constantly adjust the rear suspension geometry according to steering input and vehicle speed. The difference is amazing, making the driver feel like they’re controlling an X-Acto knife rather than a chainsaw.
     Another reason for the extra fun is that the V6 engine is a better match for the M than the bigger V8. I called the V8 “frighteningly powerful” last year because it was easy to lose control of the car with 325 horsepower under foot. In contrast, the V6 still makes plenty of power — 275 horses — but is much easier to control because it responds faster and keeps the car’s weight more evenly balanced through corners.

     Both versions of the M can come well equipped with the latest gadgets to coddle you. The M35, which cost a nearly $52,000 as tested, came with a navigation system, heated and cooled front seats, a rear-view video camera to help you back up, and the high-tech rear suspension. It’s an expensive car, sure, but you get a lot of bang for the buck.
     There are only a couple of downsides to this car. For one, its cabin isn’t as quiet as its competitor at Lexus — the new GS — and the fit and finish don’t quite match Lexus’ lofty standards. It also doesn’t come with the same brand cachet as, say, a BMW, which can be a good or bad thing depending on why you’re buying a luxury car.
     In any case, do yourself a favor and save a few thousand bucks. The M35 is definitely a better car than its more powerful twin.
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