It was a what-the-heck day -- crisp, cold and slightly overcast, perfect for driving simply because there was a great car to drive.

I called Bella, one of my road buddies. She has been having a hard time of late, having buried her partner barely a year ago, and now caring for a sister battling cancer.

It is my long-held belief that road trips spontaneously taken are the best escapes from worldly worries. Bella, a friend of seven years, has similar faith. We hit the road in the 2007 Infiniti M45 Sport sedan, driving west of the District into Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. We didn't stop until we turned onto Sperryville Pike in Sperryville, Va., and spotted a quaint little restaurant, the Thornton River Grille.

We arrived 10 minutes before the restaurant's closing at 3 p.m. But the place was pleasant. The staff was friendly and willing. We were hungry. We settled in for a late lunch.

Have you ever been in an out-of-the-way restaurant at an odd afternoon hour with a friend you haven't seen or spoken with in four months?

I broke the silence.

"What do you think about the car?" I asked.

Bella smiled knowingly. I could read her thoughts: Same old Warren. The world's a mess. Wars are raging. My heart is still breaking for my lost love. I have a sister ill in California. And here we are alone in a little Virginia town, an easy chance for me to talk and him to listen, and all he wants to talk about is the car.

She looked at me, laughing and trying to suppress tears.

"It's a lot better than my Ford Focus," Bella said.

"Anything is better than your Ford Focus," I said, referring to her six-year-old car, which has spent a part of every year in repair service.

We both laughed.

Nuts & Bolts 2007 Infiniti M45 Sport

Complaint: The lane-departure warning system is an option that should be avoided. It is more annoying than it is protective with its incessant chirping. It becomes maddening on roads under repair or reconstruction where lane markings are redundant or poorly drawn.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories. The M45 Sport is one of the hottest dark horses in the luxury-car race -- wonderfully quick off the mark, steady as all get-out at highway speeds, and nimble and responsive in curves and accident-avoidance maneuvers. In short, it's remarkably graceful for a car weighing 4,032 pounds.

Head-turning quotient: Bold, deliberately masculine and sinewy.

Body style/layout: The Infiniti M45 Sport is a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, mid-size luxury sport sedan that sits at the top of Infiniti's M-series line. Other models include the M45 Base, M35 Base, M35 Sport and the all-wheel-drive M3 X. There is no all-wheel-drive version of the M45 at this writing.

Engine/transmission: The M45 Sport comes with a 4.5-liter (thus the "M45" moniker) V-8 engine that develops 325 horsepower at 6,400 revolutions per minute and 336 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. The engine is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually.

Capacities: There is seating for five. Maximum cargo capacity is 15 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 20 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: We averaged 23 miles per gallon in highway travel -- not exactly award-winning fuel economy, especially at premium gasoline prices.

Safety: Electronic stability and traction control are standard, as are four-wheel antilock brakes, side and head air bags.

Price: Base price on the 2007 Infiniti M45 Sport is $50,500. Dealer's invoice price on base model is $36,438. Price as tested is $53,570, including $2,500 in options (navigation system, backup camera, lane departure warning system and XM Satellite Radio) and a $700 destination charge.