INFINITI M SEDAN REVIEW
|M37 3.5 petrol||$85,900+||235kW/360Nm||7 auto||10.2 l/100km|
|M30d 3.0 diesel||$87,900+||175kW/550Nm||7 auto||7.5 l/100km|
|M35h hybrid||$99,900|| 225kW/350Nm |
|7 auto||6.9 l/100km|
"It is not about doing what everyone is doing." So says Infiniti boss-of-bosses, Nissan/Renault CEO and all-round automotive modern prophet, Carlos Ghosn.
Neither German nor Japanese in character, but somewhere a little apart, Infiniti has landed two very compelling cars here.
And it’s not in a hurry to become a household name. "We have a very long-term plan (for the brand) locally and globally," Infiniti Australia GM Kevin Snell said at launch.
Of the two model lines, the powerfully-styled and arresting FX SUV range is the stand-out.
The FX50S V8, in particular, is a thumping brute of a car with surprising punch and agility.
The M-range, not so boldly-styled nor convincing on-road, is nonetheless an enticing drive with the kind of quality feel, suite of features - and price of entry - that places it firmly among the 'premium motoring' scrum.
So, good cars, sure, but good enough? And different enough to be noticed?
While the FX takes the cigar for exterior style, the newer M range of Infiniti luxury sedans has the more-cohesive interior. And each we drove was superbly trimmed and appointed.
The sunburst wood-panel trims on the centre-stack, console and doors on the up-spec models, may not be to everyone's taste (it looks like it was lifted from the Rickenbacker guitar factory) but the finishing and feel is exquisite.
Of the three models tested, the lesser M37 we drove had to make do with flawless piano-black.
The attention to detail in the metal highlights, chrome-rimmed controls and instrument bezels, and the elegant chronograph-style clock, places Infiniti's M range firmly in Lexus territory for that elusive sense of craftsmanship and quality.
The hybrid M35h, in particular, is a cosseting drive with deep supportive seats, soft leathers and an enveloping luxurious feel.
Each in the range also offers lots of room in the back, and two nicely contoured buckets for outboard passengers (the middle passenger does not fare so well).
For standard features and some quite unexpected technologies, even the $85,900 entry-model M37 offers a cornucopia of abundance. Open this door, and prepare to be pampered mercilessly.
Among a long list of standard features is keyless entry and ignition with memory function for system-settings including audio, climate control, seat and steering wheel settings; active noise control (utilising sound-wave cancelling technology); rear view camera and monitor, active steer (low-speed steering assistance); cruise control with distance control assist; lane departure warning.
There's also air-con and climate control with Infiniti's 'forest air' system with breeze mode and 'plasmacluster' air-purifier; Bluetooth and audio streaming, satellite navigation and a superb 160Watt audio system (upgradeable to a Bose surround system with speakers everywhere - even in the seat shoulders).
Further up the range, the M35h Premium offers a 'dynamic safety shield' with blind-spot monitoring (and blind-spot intervention to steer you out of trouble), lane departure warning, and surround cameras with bird's-eye view.
At the wheel, look about and you're in no doubt that you've joined an exclusive club.
On The Road
Three models, three drivetrains, all with a V6 engine under the M range’s curved aquiline bonnet, distinguish the Infinity M sedans from the FX. Only the M sedan range offers a hybrid, the M35h sedan.
All across the Infiniti model ranges feature a seven-speed automatic.
The FX models get magnesium paddle shifters behind the wheel (but mounted to the steering column), while the M sedans can be operated manually through a plus-minus plane on the centre shift.
Each of the engines across the M range pulls like a train, and each makes the right subdued high-tech noises while it goes about the business.
The M37 24-valve DOHC 3.7 litre petrol V6 provides a very healthy and eager 235kW and 360Nm of torque.
It's very lively away from the line and can be punched 'out and around' when overtaking. It provides a seamless wave of power uncommon to a V6 (where you can often expect to find a torque hole at mid-speeds).
The turbo-diesel V6 found in the M30d and FX 30d is similarly lively. And even from outside the car, you'd hardly pick it as a diesel.
The 3.0 litre, 24-valve, DOHC with turbocharging and piezo injection produces 175kW and 550Nm of torque. It will happily spin its head off (it's redlined at an un-diesel-like 5250rpm) and comes on song with a rush from 2500rpm.
Though not as quick away from the line as the V6 petrol-powered M37, it provides stronger mid-range urge when pulling out of corners.
Top of the tree in the M range is the M35h - a hybrid with real performance stonk. It features a (slightly smaller) 3.5 litre, all-aluminium V6 producing 225kW and 350Nm of torque.
This is teamed with an electric motor producing 50kW and 270Nm. With a total combined IC/electric engine power of 268kW, the result is that the M35h drives like a performance saloon.
The petrol engine shuts down when stopped or coasting. We went right through one town along the way of the test loop without realising we were relying on electric power alone.
It also aggressively recoups power when braking - you're instantly aware of the change in pedal feel.
Infiniti claims 0-100km/h times of just 5.5 seconds for the M35h hybrid (and 6.2 seconds for the M37, 6.9 for the M30d).
This is quick - quicker than it feels in fact, and quicker even than the V8-powered FX50S. Better still, in the case of the M35h, it does it with the thirst of a smaller diesel.
At launch, the fuel-saving benefits of the hybrid were apparent, but there were too many drivers to get anything like a consistent or reliable fuel economy rating.
Take it with a grain of salt – it got a bit of a pounding over the day – but that the M35h was showing an average of 9.5 l/100km was remarkable for the kind of driving it had been subjected to.
The only debit with the hybrid is the unusual feel when cornering. The lithium-ion battery pack would appear to be set above the rear axle behind the rear seat-back.
This not only compromises the depth of the boot (keen golfers may need to assess it carefully), but the extra weight there it seems to unsettle the balance a little.
The M35h certainly does not corner with the same assuredness of the M37 and M30d.
First Drive Verdict
Certainly, with the M range, it’s not lacking in firepower. Neither the M37, nor the M30d, nor the remarkably swift M35h are short on performance.
Neither are they short on features, nor the sumptuous trappings of luxury, nor a fastidious attention to detail.
We’re not as convinced by the styling of the M range; its organic lines and deep swages look a little overdone for the traditionally conservative sector Infiniti is targeting.
But Infiniti is about “not doing” what “everyone else is doing”. And if that appeals to your sense of individuality, these big powerful sedans from our newest entrant to the Australian market are well worth a very close look.
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- M37 GT - $85,900
- M37 S Premium - $97,900
- M30d GT - $87,900
- M30d S Premium - $99,900
- M35h GT Premium - $99,900
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.