Infiniti M45 Review

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman

Maybe it’s because my father’s Canadian, but I always pull for the underdog. Right from the start, I wanted Nissan’s upstart Infiniti brand to kick Lexus’s polished derriere. And so it did. The Z—make that G—35 made the original IS250 look like an over-stressed poodle. Where Lexus offered an overwrought interior (ahoy there diving-watch gauge cluster!) and under-cooked mechanicals, Infiniti served-up a four-door Camaro. The G35 dispatched the IS, yawned and started hunting Germans. When Japan’s ‘other’ luxury brand (not counting Acura) re-launched its 5-Series fighter, I thought, right, here we go. Round two . . . .

At first sight, all bets were off. Why would Infiniti produce such a fat, unsightly beast? Up front, the sedan’s massive chrome grill clashes with the body’s not-so-svelte proportions, and the brash headlights are just plain wrong. The M’s obese hind quarters are more offensive than a cartoon of the Prophet lounging by the pool. I’m not saying the M45’s taillights are garish, but they’d look huge on a school bus. From the side, the M45’s not a tragedy, but that’s only because you might mistake it for the more comely G35 at twenty paces. In all, the M45 is only vaguely alluring, like a post-partum Britney.

The M’s interior is slightly more cohesive, if only because of Infiniti’s relentless pursuit of luxury. Several severely pampered heifers gave their lives for the M45’s opulent leather, while a walk-in humidor deconstructed itself to further Infiniti’s pursuit of gentleman’s club chic. The M45’s 10-way adjustable climate controlled seats are seriously firm yet deliciously comfy, and the cabin provides four adults with ein Überflusse of lebensraum. Even so, drivers who aren’t coddled into a coma may still notice the M45’s humble roots: the vents are pure Altima and the switchgear’s about as classy as the buttons on your first cell phone.

In some ways, the M45 is simply trying too hard. Not only does the Japanese luxury sedan have every luxobarge bell and whistle and flute and flugelhorn, but it provides many of its pleasures in triplicate. For example, you can Bluetooth phone a friend by punching the nav buttons, fingering the steering wheel’s tiny doodads or shouting at the voice recognition system—which works about as well as Cambodian Communism. When equipped with a DVD-based sat nav, the M ships with three players—one for watching movies whilst parked and yet another in the stereo to accommodate Bose’s 5.1 surround sound.

And a killer stereo it is, too. The 308 watt, 14-speaker system—complete with speakers in the front headrests—is loud, accurate, rich and bright. Although the 5.1 audio format is proving to be about as popular as ye olde eight track, the Bose blaster delivers the best sound you’ve ever heard in a motor vehicle. Plant the M45 on a secluded bluff, crank-up something suitably lyrical and . . . bliss. Alternatively, slip in something raucous; fire-up the M’s 4.5 liter V8 mill and rock and roll.

Although the four-door’s 335hp powerplant stumps up 340 foot-pounds of torque, the grunt only fully manifests itself above 4000rpm. So the M45 isn’t smacked-in-the-ass-by-a-polo-mallet explosive; it’s more like being shoved forward by a giant unseen hand. Even so, it’s crack cocaine quality thrust. Four-thousand twenty pounds of mass is no match for that angry beast of an engine. Stomp on the go-pedal around 50 mph, blink twice, and you’re going 100. Keep stomping and hyperspace awaits. Good thing Infiniti equipped the M45 with woofer-sized brakes that can haul you down to sensible speeds, swiftly.

At speed, even a blindfolded pistonhead would know that the M45 is derived from Nissan’s unflappable FM platform (the endorphin-enhancing chassis underpinning all the company’s relevant rides, from FX to Z). With its magnesium cross-bar beam and multi-link rear suspension, the M45’s body roll is so perfectly contained, the limits of adhesion so accessibly benign, the ride so elegantly inspiring, you’ll swear she’s German. The tighter the turn, the more the M45 digs in, snarling, daring you to kick your right foot through the floorboard. The slush box is positively telepathic; only the most Luddite of enthusiasts will miss a manual cog-swapper. You can switch off the Nanny, kick the M45 in the ribs and drift the light fantastic.

The M45 Sport features a crueler suspension set up, 19″ wheels and active steering at the rear, but the plain-Jane M45 offers as much control as average hooligans will need without threatening their bridgework. Either way, the aesthetically bankrupt Infiniti M45 is dynamically pure; and more athletic than a comparable Lexus, which sacrifices adrenaline, grit and ‘get some’ for wafting in yawny silence. That said, the Germans had better watch out. One day, one of these Japanese luxury cars is going to get every single thing right. Judging by the M45, that day is near.

Jonny Lieberman
Jonny Lieberman

Cleanup driver for Team Black Metal V8olvo.

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  • MartinG MartinG on Mar 19, 2008

    I've found the M45 to be exquisitely balanced. Acceleration is surprisingly robust for a vehicle of this size and having driven it at 145mph felt it to be consummately safe. I was walking out the bank yesterday and a really nice looking lady just randomly told me how much she liked my car. This happens on a semi-regular basis. Also, being a geek I find the whiz-bang features to be, well, whiz-bang: The intelligent distance monitor on the cruise control works well at three different settings to automagically keep a constant distance based on the speed of the vehicle in front. The switchable lane monitor is effective and unobtrusive by telling you when you're over the lane markings with a gentle but persistent audible nudge. This alert is especially useful when starting to feel drowsy. As mentioned, the Bose system is awesome and a little spooky in the placement of its aural signature. You feel like you're sitting in the middle of a string quartet. I have never felt so spatially involved. Bose has the psycho-acoustic effect nailed down tight. Having both front seats with 3-setting AC/heat controls is true luxury in these days of overblown claims by car manufacturers. The [color] backup camera shows where you are about to be headed as you turn the steering wheel as well as differentiating distance by color [red being less than one foot from an object.] My two previous cars were Q45's and I mourned each passing until 10 minutes after driving the next. I believe the Q is going to be rebirthed in 2009. Just about the time I'll be looking for a replacement for the M. Aaahhh! contentment now and in the future.

  • Olddavid Olddavid on Mar 23, 2023

    15 years later I am reading these as if they are relevant. My only sentient comment is that the car my wife inherited from her Father was sufficient to motivate my Nissan loving self to look for a pampered M45 of 2002-03 vintage. They hit the styling out of the park with delicate third pillars a la 1961 Chevrolet bubble top coupe. The engine showcases the strength of Nissan - engineering. My 240Z went 200k when 80 was considered worn out. Even this long in the future when I have the luxury of hindsight I will stand by these comments. In cars, we are lucky enough to have the virtue of obvious evidence and these Nissans are the proof.

  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three
  • Akear I just wish GM could produce a vehicle 80% as good as the crown.I sat in a Trax at a Chevrolet dealership this weekend and was shocked how cheap it felt. GM does not care.GM - what a disgrace!
  • Akear I like the grill treatment of all Mitsubishi products. It is an interesting and original design.
  • El scotto Some rambling thoughts; Elon is pulling billions in cash out of Tesla. Tesla will be around, Elon won't let them fail. Mitsubishi is an odd place, you can't sell vehicles if you don't have dealers. Out of all the "Automalls" near you, how many have a Mitsubishi dealership? The Agnellis owned Fiat, Fiat got sold to Stellantis. The Agnellis control Exor. How much of Stellantis does Exor own? I really should be drinking beer with Billy Ford and talking Big-10 trash with him. Ford and Lucid should work out a partnership. You want an electric Lincoln? Have Lucid build it and slap a Lincoln name plate on it. BTW, kick Farley's butt to the curb.
  • Akear US contentChevrolet Trax - 5%Honda Pilot - 52%What a disgrace!I glad Consumer Reports panned the Trax, and put it on its avoid list.