Wednesday

2008 Infiniti M45 AWD review

Back in 1989, Japanese luxury car brands began popping up on the automotive scene, taking on entrenched players BMW and Mercedes. Their proposition was very simple – deliver the same or better luxury amenities paired with reliability. BMW and Mercedes got nervous – as well they should have. Lexus burst on the scene advertising their cars with stacked wineglasses undisturbed on a running car, using words like "perfection" and "refinement" - things to actually help sell the car. Infiniti came out showing ads of streams, rocks, and trees. Guess which brand sold more?

By the early 2000’s, Infiniti was in do-or-die mode. They needed a hit car – BADLY. Rebadging Maxima’s and Sentra’s wasn’t working. They should have already learned this watching Ford handle Lincoln, but they didn't. Then the first generation G35 was introduced and sales took off. Nissan continued investing in the brand and more new models were introduced. The one reviewed here is the second generation M class (their middle line vehicle) with the V8 and AWD. Other reviews of this model have suggested that it can outdo a BMW 5 series and is potentially a new standard in this class of sedan. Sounds intriguing to me........

Styling on the M45 is a generic Japanese luxury shape. It’s inoffensive for sure, classy, not racer like. And that’s fine given the purpose of the car. The inside is attractively styled – comfortable and spacious front seats with a back seat that is more than adequate as you would expect and hope for in a large sedan. The gauges look back at you from two recessed pods and are easy to read. The center stack is a confusing array of buttons and knobs that require quite a reach to manipulate. I won’t bore you with everything included because, like most luxury cars, pretty much if you can imagine it, this car had it.

Looking closer at the interior, however, showed traces of cheapness. The center console for instance, looked as if the plastics had been plucked from Nissan’s parts bin. The wood, while real and probably expensive, looked ‘flat’. There was no gloss or sheen like in other luxury mobiles. This might sound like nit-picking, but when the car has a sticker north of $60k, I want to feel like I’m surrounded by over $60g’s worth of car. You should too.

Starting it up revealed a smooth and quiet 325hp V8. The transmission is a 5 speed automatic that has a manual mode that is claimed to rev-match downshifts, and has an adaptive mode to adjust to your driving style. Now we’re talking. That sounds like sports sedan material. Getting out on the road was effortless, and while it gets up to speed quickly, it just doesn’t feel like it’s as fast as it probably is. (This is not the only large sedan you could lob this complaint at however.) Worse, bending the chassis into a turn gives you an idea of what a cruise ship feels like when it’s listing. Body roll was excessive; not confidence-inspiring at all. The car is very isolated. Yes, I know that’s what the point of a luxury car is. But Infiniti and other reviews say this car is sports sedan material. I just don’t see it. The transmission is interesting for about 5 minutes, but I didn’t notice any real advantage to the rev-matching that made the car a memorable drive. Forget too working that center control stack with all the toys while the car is in motion.

Honestly, I just don’t get this car. It’s priced like a premium luxury car (as tested sticker was about $63,000). Yet there are obvious points of cheapness in the interior that would barely pass in an Altima. The engine, while willing, seems to be misplaced in the Infiniti lineup, considering that they have V6 engines now in the G series that will meet or exceed the V8’s power. It doesn’t drive special, doesn’t offer anything that couldn’t be gotten somewhere else (and probably for less too), and doesn’t do the term “sport sedan” any justice at all. Feel free to check it out if you want and see if you disagree. Just remember the time you spend in that car is time you’ll never get back.

2 comments:

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