The Infiniti M has inherited a tough gig.
Its pricing, which runs from $85,990 through to $99,000, means it goes up against cars like the Jaguar XF, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS as well as the base models of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class range.
These are some seriously good, even great, vehicles. They have proper brand pedigree in Australia and the resale values, even though they are not always great, are well known.
To put it this way, how would you like to respond to someone at a dinner party who asks what car you drive? “I have a Jaguar”, “I have a BMW” or “I have an Infiniti… it’s kind of like an upmarket Nissan”.
As one of two launch vehicles for Infiniti Australia, the M stands in the shadow of the radically styled FX crossover, which gets all the attention.
The Infiniti M37 has a rounded, almost jelly-mould, design that is not as striking as some of the stunning vehicles it competes with (the big Jag is at the top of our list).
It is an impressive car, however, with excellent handling and a strong V6, the option of a diesel and a petrol-electric hybrid variant, which is only otherwise available at Lexus.
We drove the Infiniti M37, which runs a 3.7-litre V6 petrol producing 235kW and 360Nm. The fuel consumption is not the best at 10.2L/100km, but the diesel and hybrid provide options for fuel misers.
The engine is almost identical to what lies beneath the bonnet of Nissan’s 370Z, albeit producing 10kW and 3Nm less. It is linked up to a seven-speed automatic (a regular torque convertor rather than a dual-clutch), which sends power back to the rear wheels only. There’s an all-wheel drive version in the US but it’s not expected to come here.
The M sits on Nissan-Infiniti’s FM platform, which is also used by the Infiniti G and the 370Z.
This is actually the entry-level car in the range, but doesn’t lack anything when it comes to acceleration.
The official 0-100km/h sprint time is 6.2 seconds and that seems about right judging by the way it feels in the car.
It gives off a meaty engine note, but as is the case with the 370Z, the pleasant engine sounds are mixed in with some nasty ones. It gets a bit thrashy as the revs climb. It doesn’t please your ears in the same way as a BMW straight six, but still sounds better than the small, entry-level diesels in some of its rivals.
The transmission works well when left in automatic mode, you just don’t notice the shifts, and the manual mode is a bit of fun. Just don’t expect it to change as quickly as a dual-clutch unit and you won’t be disappointed.
The Infiniti M37 does qualify as an engaging car. It would come as no surprise to learn Infiniti engineers channeled the 5 Series when they developed this model.
The minimal lean in the bends and excellent body control make for a lot of enjoyment along the twistier sections of road.
It is well tied down and sits on 18-inch alloys. The suspension tune is probably spot on for this kind of car – it’s a little firm but not uncomfortable and is the kind of car you could easily take on a long country drive.
The steering is up there with the better cars in the class and the M goes exactly where you expect it to when you turn the wheel.
It’s comfy in the back, with adequate head and legroom for average adults. The interior is not bad, but not great either. It doesn’t give the occupants the same kind of premium feel that a Jaguar or Audi would and is tinged with blandness. It’s closer to Lexus in terms of design but the finish and feel of the surfaces is not quite at the same high level.
There is certainly no shortage of gear at hand. Infiniti realises it needs a tonne of gizmos to draw in customers and pretty much everything the rivals offer is here, except possibly a heads-up display system that projects the speed and navigation technology onto the windscreen.
Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot intervention (which stops your car turning into a vehicle in the blind spot) and an overhead parking system in the S Premium model will no doubt appeal to the techno-minded.
Then there is the Active Noise Control system that works like those noise cancelling headphones that are popular with people on planes and with young families. The speakers actually emit white noise aimed at cancelling out some of the unpleasant road noises. On our drive, the Infiniti M37 seemed relatively quiet, but not amazingly so.
It also has an advanced climate control system that filters out all kinds of bacteria and potential allergens and can even detect ‘unpleasant odours’ and then increases the amount of air it brings into the cabin to disperse them.
Thankfully, there was no need to test this on our short drive, but I imagine it could come in handy on road trips.
The long list of standard gear is one of the best aspects of the Infiniti M.
There is a lot of equipment in here that would cost a heap if you optioned it on some of the more established models.
However, there are probably a lot of potential buyers out there who would be prepared to forgo some gizmos and drive a better-known car from the much-loved brands in the same price range.
The Infiniti M is a competent prestige car, but will find it tough luring customers away from such impressive models as the Jaguar XF, Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series.