Being an automotive journalist, one runs of the risk of becoming a jaded car guy. Cars that look good on paper are often a disappointment on the pavement, and most cars bear the telltale signs of cost-cutting in ways that are most distressing to the enthusiast.
However, the M45 is exactly the opposite. It is somewhat overshadowed by its best-selling smaller sibling, the G35, which offers the best bang-for-the-buck in the entry-level luxury market. But the M45 offers a much more refined driving experience, complete with a snarling V8 under the bonnet that delivers 325 horsepower at 6400rpm and 336 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000rpm. And it’s one of those cars that just blow you away as soon as you turn the key.
Settling into the M45 is easy. It’s comfortable, and everything is in the right place. That sounds like a clichÈ, but after five minutes of driving this car, it felt like my car. The controls are simple and intuitive, and although the M is equipped with an iDrive-style interface like high-dollar German cars, using it is totally optional, as all conventional knobs and buttons are present.
That brings us to our next point, which is that the M does not feel like a Japanese car. Once you get it moving, it feels distinctly German. It’s clear that Infiniti targeted BMW’s 5-series, and they have hit the mark squarely. Everything about the M, from its buttery throttle tip-in to its perfectly weighted steering, echoes the E39 5-series, regarded by many enthusiasts as the best 5 ever built, and in our opinion one of the best all-around sedans of all time. The idea that this Infiniti channels, and in some cases exceeds that most balanced Bavarian barnstormer, is the highest compliment we can bestow on this Japanese wondercar.
How could it possibly be better than a BMW, you ask? Well, the M45’s five-speed automatic transmission is fantastic. The shift knob is wrapped in leather, rather than being coated in lacquer or made of metal or plastic. It’s also the perfect size and weight, and when you slide the selector down and over into the manual-shift position, the location is perfect for quick, aggressive shifts. It feels more like a sequential gearbox for a race car than a conventional five-speed auto.
The M45’s transmission also features a rev-matching function for downshifts. This may sound gimmicky, but we can assure you it’s the real deal. When you’re bombing down a straightaway into a tight corner, get on the brakes hard and pull the lever towards you. You’ll find that the automated downshifts are not far from what a well-trained driver could do with a manual gearbox and a clutch, and there’s none of the slurry hesitation or ‘shift shock’ that a normal automatic exhibits when downshifted manually.
Handling is superb as well. The M45 is as neutral as a modern luxury sedan, with all the stability and traction controls that modernity entails, can be. Bombing around the back roads of northern Virginia, the M45 impressed all of our staffers with its solid chassis, limited body roll, and the total absence of pushy understeer. Some of this is probably due to the M45’s “rear Active Steer” system–standard on our Sport model–an active system that uses electronic motors to continuously adjust the suspension geometry in response to changes in steering input and vehicle speed.
And that’s to say nothing of the acceleration. The M45’s 325 horsepower hustle it around with aplomb, and rowing through the five forward gears manually with the sublimely designed transmission is a true delight. 0-60mph takes only around 5.5 seconds, and M45 owners have been reporting quarter-mile times in the mid-14-second range. That’s deadly quick, deceptively so for a car with far less than 400 horsepower. The M45 is truly an overachiever.
We haven’t made mention of the M45’s bona fides as a luxury sedan, but that’s not because there aren’t any. It’s just that the M is such a wolf in sheep’s clothing, so good at being a sports sedan, we think that’s really the thrust of the story here. An ever-expanding array of luxury features is a given nowadays, and the M45 certainly fits the bill. But if you want a car that coddles and isolates you, look somewhere else (like a Lexus dealer). The M45 is a razor-sharp instrument for gobbling up vast amounts of road quickly and comfortably, while giving away precious little of the hair-raising, ear-tickling excitement that true sports cars deliver.
Base MSRP for the M45 Sport is $50,550. Our two technology packages added almost six grand, and the aerodynamic body kit added $1,590. Even our grand total of $58,240 seems like an outstanding bargain after a couple days behind the wheel. For years, sports-sedan buyers have had to choose between Japanese reliability and German precision. Now, thanks to the M45, they can have both.