Newcomer Infiniti has been on the new model offensive since launching in South Africa just a few months ago. Adding to the existing range of models (see pricing here) the luxury arm of Nissan has added yet another arrow to its quiver of new models. This latest model is the most mainstream of the family, a traditional saloon aimed squarely at middle to upper management.
Simply titled Infiniti M this newcomer touts Mercedes’ E-Class, BMW’s 5 Series and Audi’s A6 as its natural rivals. As such it is a large car that easily falls into the D segment. At the local launch we were told that the M is based on the Essence concept car (viewing both of them – see above – I am not quite sure where the similarities lie).
More conservative styling
The traditional three-box saloon shape has been tailored into a more swooping, coupe-esque shape, not quite as dramatic as a Mercedes-Benz CLS but the sloping roofline does fall away gently towards the rear deck. Typical of the brand this model has a long bonnet with short front overhang.
The frontal treatment, however, is probably the most sober of all the Infiniti models on offer. Gone are the defined, swept-back headlamps and the in-your-face looks. The M is quite ordinarily styled when compared with the rest of the range. Perhaps the styling has been tailored with a typical executive buyer in mind, as opposed to keeping the familial visual punch. In my eyes there is more than a hint of Lexus GS about the overall appearance.
Much like its siblings the M is dripping with luxury inside. Soft leather upholstery adorns almost all surfaces and the bits that aren’t covered in cowhide boast soft-touch plastics. Parts of the facia are either covered in piano-key black plastic or interesting shades of wood trim (model-dependent).
While I did have the chance to experience two trim levels on the launch event, it was the M30d S Premium that I spent piloting for the bulk of the 150 km test drive. Memory-equipped, multi-way electrically adjustable seats and an electrically adjustable steering column make it a doddle to find a comfortable driving position in a matter of seconds.
As the name denotes this model tops the Infiniti range and boasts a full-range of mod-cons including inter alia: satellite navigation with touch screen, a 10 Gb music box, a “Forest Air” ventilation system that alters the airflow in the cabin an adds a scent to relax occupants, a Bose 5.1 channel surround sound system, a blind spot warning system, lane departure warning and prevention and intelligent brake assist among many others.
Two power options
There are two powertrain options available in the M range, one petrol and one turbodiesel. Both engines are already known as they are employed elsewhere in the range. The 3,7-litre petrol, which will be available later this year, develops 235 kW and 360 N.m of torque. As expected the turbodiesel produces less power, 175 kW, but a truck-load more torque, 550 N.m. There is just one transmission option, the smooth-shifting 7-speed automatic.
During the launch event I drove both engine types, albeit for a limited time. The petrol is very smooth and happily winds over 6 000 r/min, but to move the large car quickly requires large throttle openings and/or a few downshifts from the transmission.
The oil-burner seems, to me, to be the better option and more suited to the character of the car. With hardly a trace of diesel clatter and very little turbo lag the 550 N.m of torque works well with the transmission to make for easy (and swift) going.
Infiniti claims combined cycle fuel consumption figures of 7,5 litres/100 km for the M30d and 10,2 litres/100 km for the M37.
The launch event was held near Pretoria and the Delmas area where the roads are straight and in certain sections have some of the worst potholes I have seen in an urban environment.
Despite riding on 20-inch alloys the M30d didn’t seem to mind the pockmarked roads. Some of the more serious potholes were felt in the cabin but the noise and bump isolation was exceptional. Launch events in Gauteng seldom allow for any dynamic exploration and the M event was no different. Between trying to dodge potholes and maintaining the speed limit there was no real opportunity to delve into the drive selector with Eco, Sport and Snow modes.
While Infiniti sees the German trio as the main rivals, with a brief mention of its Eastern counterpart Lexus as a bit player, I really think that they should be targeting typical Lexus GS and Volvo S80 buyers. Those that have already moved away from the tried and tested Teutons are more likely to give another brand a look in.
At these prices the likelihood of seeing Infiniti Ms flooding our roads is very slim. Infiniti SA are quite aware of the fact that its products are niche but it feels as though the brand is making a commitment to SA that it plans to carry forward well into the future.
Model: Infiniti M30d AT
Engine: 3,0-litre turbodisel
Power: 175 kW at 3 750 r/min
Torque: 550 N.m at 1 750 r/min
0-100 km/h: 6,9 seconds
Fuel consumption: 7,5 L/100 km
CO2: 199 g/km
Top speed: 250 km/h
GT Grade R649 000 R671 000
GT Premium Grade R706 051 R728 051
S Grade – R695 254
S Premium Grade R730 305 R752 305