Road test: Infiniti M37 GTMotor News Motor Reviews New Car Reviews
Driven: Infiniti M
- Badge Description
- Sports Automatic
- Gear Num
- Build Country Origin Description
- Car Size
- Overall Green Star Rating
- Fuel Type Description
- Petrol - Unleaded ULP
- Drive Description
- Rear Wheel Drive
- Warranty KM
- Lots of toys
- Plenty of space
- Strong V6 engine
- Road manners fall short on typical Australian tarmac
- V6 not that refined or economical
- Cabin's detail foibles
We all know Lexus but there's another upmarket brand from a Japanese manufacturer that, had things gone to plan, would also be looking back on more than 20 years selling luxury cars to Australian buyers.
It didn't, though. The Infiniti Q45, Nissan's rival to the game-changing Lexus LS400 of the early 1990s, flopped and the brand soon disappeared from the local scene.
The same thing didn't happen elsewhere, notably the US, where Infiniti gained a foothold and grew to encompass a range of vehicles equal (at least in quantity) to its Japanese rival.
Now Nissan is having another go at floating its luxury brand here and, with three models, it's a more comprehensive attack. We tried the mid-sized M prestige sedan to see how it stacks up.
Price and equipment
The M range doesn't include four-cylinder models so it has no answer to price-leading petrol and diesel versions offered by Audi, BMW and other brands.
But the cheapest model, the petrol-powered M37 tested here, more than justifies its starting price of $85,900 plus on-road costs, matching the dual-zone climate control, sat nav, leather, Bluetooth and other doodads offered by its competitors and then upping the stakes with heated/cooled seats, power/heated steering wheel and a reversing camera.
There is another M37, the $97,900 S Premium, which is mechanically quite different with four-wheel steering and sports suspension and also has more toys and a lot more safety gear.
There's also the diesel-powered M30d (starting at $87,900 for the GT and $99,900 for the S Premium) and a petrol/electric hybrid model, the M37h, which is available in just one trim level (GT Premium) and starts from $99,900.
Unlike most rivals, Infiniti doesn't offer a wagon version and it hasn't been tested by the ANCAP crash-test regime either, though with six airbags, stability control, parking sensors and that camera there's nothing to suggest it wouldn't be competitive.
Under the bonnet
The M37's 235kW 3.7-litre V6 has the herbs to push it from standstill to 100km/h in just 6.2 seconds, making it a bit quicker than a 528i (it does it in 6.3 seconds) and significantly punchier than a A6 2.8 FSI or Jag XF 3.0 V6 (they do it in 8.1 and 8.3 seconds respectively).
It's a boisterously responsive dancing partner on the road, mixing unflustered low-rev shove and flexibility with a free-spinning, eyes-to-the-horizon zeal when uncorked. The slick seven-speed auto isn't as adept at catering to red-mist requirements as it is in relaxed driving but the manual mode allows you to make the most of the considerable poke.
Its refinement or economy aren't as impressive as its performance. Work the engine hard and it's particularly intrusive (if not as gravelly as the similar engine in the Nissan 370Z) and its 10.2L/100km official economy rating is way off the class-leading 528i. Still, as we found with our 10.4L/100km test average, it is at least achievable.
How it drives
The ingredients are there to make the M37 a good drive. It's rear-wheel-drive, with sharp steering and an admirable ability to keep turning in when other cars would be pushing their noses wide.
Around town and on smooth tarmac it's OK but on typical Australian rural roads (i.e. crap) its composure and control go AWOL. Mildly pockmarked surfaces leave it pitter pattering around restlessly and it lurches into bigger, sharper bumps with a surprising lack of delicacy. That sensitive steering is also a liability, constantly squirrelling in your hands and kicking back savagely over big bumps.
Switch the M37's adjustable suspension to sport mode and it not only corners with less slop but has a more controlled and comfortable ride, though its underlying struggles with big bumps remain. Tyre noise is also a noticeable companion on coarse-chip.
Comfort and practicality
Distinctly swoopy design and some nice touches like silver Japanese ash wood trim and a stitched leather dash binnacle impart the M37 with a look and feel way beyond the mainstream.
But it doesn't run as deep as some luxury cars. The white "Infiniti" seat stitching looks tacky and the trip computer has a simple duo-tone readout rather than the flash high-definition units now offered by most rivals.
There are functional idiosyncrasies, too, like a foot-operated parking brake and touch-screen sat-nav unit that's clear and easy to use but too far away to operate without a stretch. The front seats are luxuriously padded but a bit flat, the sunroof eats into headroom (not a problem for most, but taller folk will notice) and there's a shortage of small-item storage once you get past the cupholders and big centre console bin.
Back-seat occupants enjoy a nicely reclined, lounging bench with good leg room but head and foot space could be more generous. Access to the respectably cavernous boot could be better, too.
The M37 offers up plenty of space, toys and power to compensate for its lack of providence but its other shortcomings are likely to do its chances more harm than its unknown badge. It doesn't look or feel quite as upmarket as the best luxury mid-sizers and, in base GT form, is desperately lacking when it comes to on-road finesse and drivetrain refinement.
If the M37 GT cost 60 grand you might be able to forgive its sins. But for not a whole lot less than some very capable and desirable luxury mid-sizers it's just not cheap enough.