Sunday, September 12, 2010
This is the Infiniti M37, and it's Infiniti’s answer to the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class. And after we briefly tested the M35 Hybrid version in Japan, this is our first chance to try the new Infiniti M on UK roads.
So the Infiniti M37 is now here in the UK, but was it by any chance designed primarily for a market other than the European one? Perhaps one with no eyes.
It’s not a thing of beauty, that’s for sure, despite Infiniti’s claims that its styling was inspired by the striking Essence concept car. But Infiniti will shift trillions of these things in the US, and the slightly bland, swoopy lines are likely to go down better there.
I’m guessing it’s got more gadgets than a technology trade fair, right?
Right. There are five trim levels: £35k base, £38k GT, £43k GT Premium, £40k S and £45k S Premium. All cars get (this may take some time) a seven-speed auto, bi-xenon lights, electric seats, keyless entry, reversing camera, double glazing, 18-inch wheels, heated steering wheel, 2GB music hard drive…and on, and on.
GT trim adds heated and ventilated leather seats and GT Premium brings blind spot intervention that actually prevents you switching lanes if it’ll cause an accident, intelligent cruise control plus a 16-speaker Bose hi-fi and nav system.
Or you can opt for S and S Premium which get the same kit as the two GT trims but add four-wheel steer, sports seats and suspension, paddle shifters, and 20-inch rims.
How does it drive? Probably by itself judging by that list
Depends who at CAR you ask. Ben Barry hated everything about it – brakes, steering, grip, noise levels, gearbox, ride, body control, ashtray size and position, washer bottle capacity, the lot. I’d concur with some but not all of those and add that the otherwise comfortable seats lack side support for drivers not familiar with the business lunch.
It does resort to tyre-squealing understeer early on tighter corners and the super-quick steering does feel a little nervous on first acquaintance despite the stability-enhancing four-wheel steer system. And while you can disable the ESP, you’re unlikely to do it more than once. It’s a pretty sweetly balanced car but as soon as the wheels begin to slip, the active seatbelt tightens so much it feels like you’re being garrotted by a stalker hiding in the back seat.
So what does it actually do well?
It feels beautifully put together and the very Japanese-styled cabin (but none the worse for it) cocoons the driver. The huge instruments are easy to read, the unfashionably low waistline makes for brilliant visibility and rear passengers sit oddly higher than their front counterparts. But this means it’s far less claustrophobic in the back than rivals are.
And it does feel agile thanks to the combination of the four-wheel steer system and an engine mounted well back in the chassis. Yes the ride is firm because our test car was an S-trim model, which means, it’s equivalent to BMW’s M-sport spec and gets stiffer suspension. I was impressed that, while it’s certainly firm, it’s never harsh or noisy, a trick most manufacturers struggle with; Ben reckoned he wanted better body control as a pay-off for the kidney jiggling. Maybe the standard GT model with more relaxed steering and softer suspension setup is a better choice – we’ll let you know when we’ve driven it.
What’s under the bonnet?
It’s the same naturally-aspirated 3.7 petrol V6 fitted to the smaller G-series saloons and coupes, the EX crossover and the lesser of the two jumbo FX SUVs. There’s 316bhp and 266lb ft of torque driving the rear wheels through a standard-fit seven-speed auto box. It’s a great engine – smooth and cultured, but with a hard edge to the soundtrack and a limiter that doesn’t cut in 'til gone seven. It’s quick too, although it doesn’t have the low-rev wallop of the blown BMW 535i. Neither can it match the BMW’s consumption and emissions figures, the German being 6mpg and a massive 40g/km greener.
Is there a diesel version? This is prime company car territory but not with a petrol engine that invites the taxman to punish you like an Iranian adulteress.
There is a diesel, the only other engine option available. It’s the same 3.0-litre V6 we recently tried in the big FX crossover and costs around £1500 more than petrol at each trim point. We’ve haven’t tried it in the M yet but according to the spec it’s also comprehensively trounced by a BMW 5-series, this time the 530d. When it comes to 0-62mph (6.3sec plays 6.9sec), economy (46mpg plays 38mpg) and emissions (160g/km plays 199g/km), the Bavarian is streets ahead.
If you’re asking whether we’d suggest you buy an M over our current fave exec, new 5-series, the answer is no. The Five is a more complete car, better looking and better to drive. And in Britain, where cars like this are predominantly bought by company drivers, the BMW will be much cheaper to run. The Infiniti has its strengths – cabin ambience, an incredible equipment tally, refinement and rarity, and is probably a car that admiration builds for over time. But this is a ruthless market and the BMW 5-series takes no prisoners.