2009 Infiniti M45 Review – the prince of understated luxury and performance

Thursday May 14th, 2009 at 1:55 AM
Posted by: peter

2009 Infiniti M

By Peter N.

Pros:

  • Powerful acceleration
  • Stable, yet responsive handling
  • Excellent fit and finish
  • Crisp stereo system

Cons:

  • Limited iPod control and information
  • Rear seating uncomfortable for three


Introduction
I had written Infiniti off as a brand some time in the 90’s. Their flagship model Q45 was bloated land yacht and their G20 and J30 models were underpowered failures that never made a dent in any luxury brand, Japanese or European. Infiniti couldn’t even beat American luxury cars at a time when Lincoln and Cadillac were everyone’s whipping boys. But things change. Carlos Ghosn became the CEO of parent Nissan in 2001 and brought good change with him, resulting in a turnaround of the entire company. His success has been much praised, but I wondered how much he had done with the Infiniti brand. More of my friends seemed to be driving Infiniti cars. Had Infiniti learned to deliver premium cars?

2009 Infiniti M

Driving Impressions
I drove the 2009 Infiniti M45 with the Advance Technology and Sport packages, which provided the car with just above every advanced feature on the market, from adaptive cruise control to rear active steering. The 14-speaker Bose stereo system worked flawlessly to deliver both crisp concertos and booming classic rock. The touch screen navigation system offered intelligent directions and was easily visible and controllable. The 325 horses powering the rear wheels kept things exciting, while a sport tuned suspension and traction control system (TCS) kept it safe. This car had the whole package – power, control, technology and an exciting, yet luxurious ride.

Build
As you would expect in a Japanese luxury car, the M45 offer solid construction with nanometer precision. The entire car conveyed quality manufacturing, from the “chunk” of the door closing to the almost complete lack of road noise when driving. I found no imperfections during my five days with the car. While Nissan has not achieved the legendary reliability that Toyota or Honda has, it is still one of the big three of Japan and has improved its reliability track record this century. My experience leads me to expect the M45 would further Infiniti’s reputation for reliability.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
With a sizable cabin, the M45 feels spacious and orderly and delivers a complete luxury experience. The controls and navigation screen are well laid out for easy operation by both the driver and the passenger. Infiniti’s center dash control area differs from most brands by adopting a much flatter angle of presentation. While at first it unsettled me, within a day I came to understand the advantage. Instead of stabbing at buttons with the tips of your fingers, you press the large buttons instead, making it much easier and more comfortable to use. Infiniti has made intelligent use of this large angled surface by covering it with a wide variety of the most frequently used controls. With the myriad of features offered, having lots of buttons simplifies and speeds things up a lot. Even with so many knobs to adjust, the dashboard remains uncluttered. The analog clock in the center of the dash adds a touch of elegance to an otherwise overly digital cockpit.

2009 Infiniti M45 - Vehicle Information System with Infiniti Controller2009 Infiniti M45 - Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System2009 Infiniti M45 - Infiniti analog clock

Compared to the Mercedes-Benz E350, the M45 cockpit feels more substantial, seating the driver lower and surrounding him with information and control. The E350 cockpit feels more open and airy with a larger windshield and better external visibility.

One complaint I had about the M45’s electronics were the paltry controls and sparse track information offered with their iPod integration. It’s something that should be easy to do, so I was surprised they overlooked this increasingly important capability.

2009 Infiniti M45 - Dual Zone Automatic Temperature Control system2009 Infiniti M45 - Climate-controlled front seats2009 Infiniti M45 - Rear doors open a full 80 degrees

I should also mention that while the backseat is comfortably wide enough to accommodate three full adults, the hump seat is quite uncomfortable. The other two rear seats are quite comfortable, so be sure you get a window seat if you’re riding in back.

Infiniti M electronically controlled 7-speed automatic

Performance
What would you expect from a 325 hp V-8? Muscle, and plenty of it. The power plant of the M45 makes the almost two ton vehicle run and dance, providing a surprisingly responsive driving experience. Acceleration at any speed enables the car to jump into any opening on the freeway. Merging or passing become child’s play with this thoroughbred. With Electronic Brake Force Distribution (that’s EBD, not eBFD) enhancing the ABS system, forget trying to skid as bringing the M45 to a stop is done with confidence and control.

Handling
The M45 achieves the fine balance between road feel and ride comfort that vex many a luxury sedan. The M45 delivers the best of both worlds. Bumpy highways and large potholes were smoothed away while the taut suspension kept the car from leaning on fast turns. At high speed, the car remains as stable as a sumo wrestler, yet responds nimbly to changes in direction and speed. The rear active steering and traction control system prevented any slippage, no matter how hard I tried (and believe me I tried!). The M45 will challenge the BMW 5-series for the best luxury handling in a sedan. While both cars deliver excellent driving experiences, the Infiniti shades towards a smoother experience, while the BMW leans towards exact dynamic road feel and feedback. The M45 is a joy to drive, both to experience the raw engine power as well as controlled and precise handling.

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