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Model: Infiniti M45 Sport Sedan
Engine: 4.5-liter DOHC V8
Horsepower/Torque: 325 hp @ 6400 rpm/336 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed semi-automatic with manual shift mode
Wheelbase: 114.2 in.
Length x Width x Height: 192.6 x 70.8 x 59.4 in.
Cargo volume: 14.9 cu. ft.
Economy: 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway/17.1 mpg test
Assets 4.5-liter engine offers excellent performance and smoothness
Debits Low-profile tires detract from ride quality
It would be easy to dismiss the Infiniti M45 as a gussied-up Nissan Altima with a 4.5-liter V8 engine and all the Infiniti goodies. After all, the two cars are manufactured by Nissan (if by different divisions) and the new Altima does look a heck of a lot like the M.
But the M45 is much more, even if the two cars look somewhat similar. While the exterior is similar, the interior is all Infiniti, beginning with the traditional oval analog clock smack dab in the center of the dash. This clock has become so much of an Infiniti trademark that several other luxury car manufacturers have emulated it.
The dash is pure Infiniti as well. First, the instrument panel is more conservative than that in the Altima, which I drove the week previously. Infiniti uses simple white-on-black gauges with no orange rim lighting and no garish orange lights in the dark.
Theres a huge center stack with a master joy stick/knob that controls all functions. While this iDrive-like device took some learning to figure out, it worked easily once we mastered its functions. I liked the airplane-view navigation screen that gives more than the traditional map-like screen. If youre in a new neighborhood, this type of display gives a better idea of whats far ahead than switching the scale of the map every time you need to see more. Also, changing the scale eliminates some details, which arent lost looking ahead in this type of display.
The M45s DNA is performance, pure and simple. The 325-horsepower 4.5-liter V8 treats you to seemingly unlimited power, with control. Sure, there are more powerful cars out there, but the M45 gets you there quickly, but without giving you the feeling that youve rushed. In addition, the engine is relatively silent, even when pushed.
You start and stop the engine by pushing a start/stop button on the dash. As it turns out, the M45 is the third straight car with this option. Ill miss it when I return to normal key starts.
The 5-speed semi automatic transmission was smooth all the way. It has a manual shift mode thats totally unnecessary. The engine has so much torque that, even if the gearbox doesnt downshift as quickly as you might want, theres no need to shift because of the oomph available. Im certain that, under the right conditions, youd want to shift using the manual mode, but for normal and sometimes faster-than-normal driving, the automatic works fine.
Additionally, the suspension works well with the engine/transmission combination. Its a performance suspension, but its also an Infiniti, so it isnt quite as stiff as, say, a sports car might be. My only problem was with the low-profile tires that detracted from the overall ride quality by not masking any road imperfections. But there are trade-offs at all times between performance and comfort, and this wasnt a major one.
A luxury feature my wife and I appreciated in the M45 was the heated and cooled front seats. As it turned out, my wifes back was bothering her, so she used the heat mode to give some relief. I, on the other hand, was warm, so I turned on the cooling fan for some relief. Both have three settings, so you can adjust the seat to maximum comfort. Of course, the power seats have 10 adjustments (please dont write and ask what they all are) with lumbar support, so if you cant find the right comfort setting, you arent trying hard enough.
The front seats also have small speakers installed in the tops much like some of the rides at Disney and at Cirque de Soliel in Vegas to increase the purity of sound.
Rear seat legroom is excellent, although the center passenger in the rear would have to deal with a tall center hump.
Theres a good trunk with a center pass-through to the rear seats to carry longer objects like skis or a 48-inch driver.
The driver and front passenger will appreciate the double visor that allows you to get protection from the side as well as the front. In addition the main visor has an extension to offer even more blockage.
The M45 offers excellent performance in a fins four-passenger car. You can opt for the smaller 3.5-liter engine, but the 4.5 is so much fun. And when youre in that price range, saving a few bucks by going with the smaller engine isnt really an economy.
© 2006 The Auto Page Syndicate