Photos: Nissan/Infiniti. Click image to enlarge
By Tony Whitney
Infiniti is an automotive brand that’s made huge strides over the last two or three years. Nissan’s luxury division was fairly moribund in the years following its launch and impetus wasn’t gained until the company branched out into the mid-size luxury SUV segment with its QX4. Later G35 sedan and coupe models were greeted enthusiastically by both the media and the public, and today Infiniti is one of the hottest brands in the luxury car business.
As far as four-door sedans go, Infiniti has three lines – the “entry level” G35 range, the midlevel M35/45 range, and the flagship Q45. Both the G and M ranges have models available with all wheel drive, while the Q45 retains a traditional rear wheel drive system. My most recent Infiniti experience was with a well-equipped M45 sedan, which is all-new for 2006.
The M45 is both fast and luxurious and compares with rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Jaguar S-Type, Cadillac CTS, Acura RL and Lexus GS – and maybe one or two more prestige automobiles in the $60,000 – $70,000 class.
This is a car of fairly restrained styling, but it sits nicely on the road. Up front are the now-common projector beam xenon headlights and a very recognizable grille which has become an Infiniti trademark. The rear lighting is stylish too and makes the car easy to identify out on the road. To keep the bodywork as light as possible, the hood, rear deck and doors are made of aluminum.
There are two engines available: a 32-valve, 4.5-litre V-8 with a pair of overhead cams and 335 horsepower on tap (the one I tested) and a 24-valve 3.5 litre V-6 delivering 280 hp. Both engines are fine pieces of engineering, but the V-8 was silky-smooth, flexible and powerful enough to get the car off the mark very quickly. Both power units use a 5-speed electronic automatic transmission with the manual shift mode that’s common on cars in this class.
Click image to enlarge
The V-6 powered M35x has all-wheel drive that offers seamless delivery of power to the wheels that have grip and provides a great feeling of confidence on slippery roads. For some reason, AWD is not offered with the V-8 powered car, but it may come along later.
Fully independent rear suspension and some excellent work by Infiniti’s handling engineers has endowed this new “M” with very good road manners on winding highways. In fact, it feels as sporty as anything in its class and is better than many rivals. Combine this with the V-8’s smooth power delivery and you have a car that’s a great pleasure to drive – even on very long hauls.
As far as the cabin goes, I’ve always thought that Infiniti did some of the best interiors in the luxury car business. The new M45 is no exception and the cockpit has beautiful matt rosewood accenting and high-grade leather seats and door panels. If ordered, the navigation system sits prominently at the centre of the console, but not so low down as to direct attention too far off the road ahead. Some controls and the gear shifter surround have polished aluminum accenting – a trend started by Audi.
The instruments are easy to read in any light and as a bonus, there’s lots of stowage space around the interior. The seating is very well designed and although I didn’t drive the car for more than a couple of hours at a time, I had the feeling that I’d be very comfortable on a long day of driving. Incidentally, the car uses a push-button starter – currently very much in vogue with high-end automobiles.
Safety benefits are wide-ranging. Safety does sell automobiles and luxury car buyers do expect to get all the security bells and whistles for their hard-earned dollars. The M45 has four-wheel ABS-equipped discs, brake assist for emergency stops, electronic brake force distribution for avoiding control loss under braking and vehicle dynamic control (Infiniti’s VDC) for additional stability benefits. There are dual-stage front air bags and roof-mounted side-impact curtain air bags.
The new Infiniti has an option I’ve never encountered before – a lane departure warning system. Using a tiny camera, the lines at the side of the road and down the middle are scanned as you drive along and a beep sounds of you cross one of these lines without a signal. I tried this extensively and it really works. Let the vehicle wander over the centre line without a signal and you get a warning beep. Given the tendency of some drivers to never signal lane changes, it might be suggested that this excellent fail-safe system should be fitted to all vehicles. It would certainly alert a driver who was getting drowsy and was lane-wandering a little. It’s a safety system that hopefully will become more widely used. According to research quoted by Infiniti, 60 per cent of accidents involve “lane wandering.”
This is a highly satisfying car with a very full specification and should fit nicely into the best range of products ever offered by Infiniti. It’s a worthy match for mid-sized luxury cars with more historic nameplates – and often higher prices. The M45 is priced at $64,400 and the V-6 version starts at $54,800
Technical Data: 2006 Infiniti M45
|Options||$6,200 (Ultra Premium Package: Lane Departure Warning System, Brake Assist, DVD navigation system, 18-inch tires and alloys, intelligent cruise control, power rear sunshade, power reclining heated rear seats, rear climate and audio controls)|
|Price as tested||$71,930 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives|
|Type||4-door, 5 passenger mid-size sedan|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive|
|Engine||4.5 litre V8, DOHC, 32 valves, CVVT|
|Horsepower||335 @ 6400 rpm|
|Torque||340 @ 4000 rpm|
|Curb weight||1791 kg (3948 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2900 mm (114.2 in.)|
|Length||4900 mm (192.9 in.)|
|Width||1798 mm (70.8 in.)|
|Height||1466 mm (57.7 in.)|
|Trunk capacity||422 litres (14.9 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 13.5 L/100 km (21 mpg) (Imperial)|
|Hwy: 9.4 L/100 km (30 mpg) (Imperial)|
|Warranty||4 yr/100,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||6 yrs/110,000 km|