At the New York International Auto Show in March 2002, Nissans luxury division introduced a pair of new models: a G35 Sport Coupe, related to the sedan of the same nomenclature, and an all-new M45 sedan. The M prefix has been used before by Infiniti previously for a midrange series named the M30 that was sold from 1990 to 1992. But this time, the 45 designation refers to the sedans 4.5-liter V-8 engine, which is borrowed from the companys flagship Q45 sedan.
Billed by Infiniti as a luxury performance sedan, the rear-wheel-drive M45 features a four-wheel-independent suspension. In size and price, the new model is positioned between the company's G35 and Q45 sedans, and the M45 shares many drivetrain components with its more costly mate. The M45 went on sale in October 2002 with prices starting in the low $40,000 neighborhood.
Although the M45 doesnt look dramatically different from other models in its class, Infiniti is focusing on its sculpted wedge shape and distinctive styling, inside and out. Mark McNabb, vice president and general manager of the Infiniti division, refers to the sedans strong, integrated appearance, as if carved from one piece of stone, with strong, stealthy lines. The front end is low and wide and features what Infiniti calls an aggressive grille, with its wide, black, chrome horizontal bars that flow into the headlights.
Chrome door handles and body-colored side moldings and outside mirrors are installed. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are matched by clear-reflector taillights.
The M45 rides a 110.2-inch wheelbase and measures 197.2 inches long overall, 69.7 inches wide and 57.6 inches tall. The sedan is equipped with power-vented disc brakes and speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering. Aluminum wheels hold P235/45R18 all-season Michelin tires, and performance tires will be available as a no-cost option.
Sojourner leather seating surfaces are provided for five occupants, with sport contoured bucket seats available in the front. The driver gets eight-way power adjustment, while the front passenger seat is equipped with a four-way setup. Heated and cooled front seats are available as part of an option package. Birds-eye maple wood interior trim comes in a smoke graphite color, and the gauges are illuminated in orange. A Vehicle Information System uses a center multifunction LCD screen.
A 225-watt Bose premium audio system takes cassettes and has a six-CD changer. Standard equipment includes automatic dual-zone temperature control with an ambient-temperature display, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an analog clock and a lighted entry/exit system. Intelligent Cruise Control will be available, which uses lasers to sense vehicles ahead and then adjusts vehicle speed to maintain a selected distance. A DVD-based navigation system, a Voice Recognition system that uses Visteon Voice Techology, and heated and cooled front sport bucket seats are optional. The trunk holds 13.4 cubic feet of cargo.
A Comfort/Convenience Package includes memory seats, electrochromatic mirrors, heated outside mirrors with a reverse tilt-down feature, a universal HomeLink transmitter, a full-size spare tire and a tire-pressure monitor. A technology group consists of a navigation system with an upgraded LED display and Intelligent Cruise Control. A Premium Package includes climate-controlled seats and a voice recognition system. Only three factory options will be offered: a sunroof, chrome wheels and natural-look maple wood trim.
Like other 2003 Infiniti models, the M45 will be fitted with a telematics system that can provide a variety of services such as automatic airbag deployment notification, emergency notification, stolen vehicle tracking and hands-free voice-activated phone dialing and voice mail, as well as information and location-based navigation services.
Under the Hood
The M45 shares the same power plant as the Q45: a 4.5-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 that generates 340 horsepower and 333 pounds-feet of torque. It mates with an electronically controlled five-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates a manual-shift mode. Dual exhaust outlets are standard.
Dual-stage front airbags, front-seat side-impact airbags, and front and rear curtain-type airbags are standard. Antilock brakes include a brake assist feature and electronic brake-force distribution. A standard Vehicle Dynamic Control system improves stability in understeer, oversteer and adverse road conditions, and it teams with traction control that includes a cancel switch. The front seats have active head restraints.
A smooth, luxurious ride is the No. 1 trait in the M45, which looks and feels awfully large. But its handling is reasonably secure and tautly controlled, so you get a hint of sporty behavior along with plush road-going softness.
You also get plenty of V-8 power, but responsiveness in an early sedan proved to be distressingly hesitant. This was true even in the automatic transmissions manual-shift mode, which suggests that throttle control might be the culprit. Space is bountiful inside, but a longer test-drive will be necessary to make a full judgment about performance.