I hesitate to use the word “distinctive” when describing the design of a car. It’s a little like a real estate agent telling you a house is “charming” — you automatically assume that something’s being glossed over. It’s not a bad assumption. Check out BMW’s over-the-top distinctive design that’s so enamored of Gehry-esque architectural forms that it’s easy to forget there’s a car underneath all the creases and seams.
Infiniti, however, has created a small line-up of sedans and coupes that, while distinctive, remain both pleasing to observe and to drive. In particular, the G35 Coupe remains one of my favorite cars — even though you can’t cross a street in the D.C. area without running across one, I always find myself taking the time to admire each one I see.
The new Infiniti M series takes that distinctive design and moves it a little further upscale in the luxury sedan market, although it loses a little bit of the visual verve of its siblings. Approaching the M45 sport sedan, it’s clear that the emphasis is on sedan, not sport.
And that’s not a bad thing, although from the side it too strongly resembles a Lexus. But if the shoeboxy headlamps of the G series were too much for you, the toned down front fascia may be just your thing. On the back end, I’ve always liked how Infiniti handles the shape of their taillights, although I’m often torn about the Lite-Brite bulbs housed within them. They’re particularly pronounced on the M45, to the point where every time you hit your brakes it looks like you’re announcing a table is ready at Chi-Chi’s.
When I first saw the M45′s interior, I had a brief moment of panic: How did that BMW iDrive system get in here? Make it go away! Luckily, it turned out that the large knob on the center of the desk-like dashboard was actually functional for manipulating a handful of the Infiniti’s controls (unlike iDrive, a frustrating kludge of a device masquerading as an elegant control system).
The center console is just this side of too much, with the white and black buttons all centered under the navigation screen. Although it adds over $4,000 to the package, if you’re looking to include a navigation system in your next car, I’d recommend the Nissan/Infiniti system. In every model I’ve used it in, I’ve found it intuitive and accurate in everyday use. It’s the type of luxury option that you’ll quickly find yourself using all the time — they’re so convenient that we’re only a few years away from them becoming standard options on all but entry-level cars.
Otherwise, the interior projects a distinguished and comfortable feel — you’d feel perfectly comfortable whether you’re driving around with friends, family or clients.
On the performance side, the V8 engine provides plenty of power, though the gas mileage isn’t exactly what people are looking for these days. If your driving is confined to rush-hour commutes, you’ll be paying the price in premium gas.
While it’s not as sporty as Infiniti might want you to think, the M45 certainly handles nicely, with enough road feel to keep you actively involved in the driving experience, but cushioned enough to keep the comfort in the cruising. The 5-speed automatic transmission’s manual shift mode, like most others, is fairly pointless. If you’re looking for a boy-racer car, you’ll want to look elsewhere.