2004 Infiniti M45

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2003 Infiniti M45

This 2003 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2004.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.5

Bottom Line:

Infiniti adds a second V8-powered car to its lineup in the 2003 model year. The M45 has a sort of funky look, but it rides and handles and powers along with amazing grace. Best of all, it's not as expensive as the Q45.
Pros:
  • Responsive power
  • Unfettered travel
  • Based on Q45 but priced less
Cons:
  • Odd styling
  • Look out for speeding tickets
  • Not likely to be a trendsetter

Sliding behind the wheel of Infiniti's M45 at 3:30 a.m., I wasn't sure I was going to like this car. The very early hour made me grouchy, and I had 400 miles to travel from Southern California to Sacramento.

But what better way to learn if this new luxury sedan, largely based on the Infiniti's Q45 flagship but priced thousands of dollars less, could pamper and please even the crankiest driver?

I set my jaw and set out on a quiet Sunset Boulevard, pretty certain that I wouldn't find other M45s out there and hoping I wouldn't find many other vehicles, either. I was right on both counts.

Two V8 cars now at Infiniti
Shipments of the M45 began arriving in showrooms late in calendar 2002, giving Infiniti dealers two V8-powered cars for the first time in the brand's 13-year history. Just 12,000 M45s are expected to sell annually, so drivers won't see a lot of these cars around, even at regular drive times.

Infiniti officials added the M45—a rear-driver that shares the Q45's satisfying, 340-horsepower 4.5-liter V8 and some other Q45 components in a slightly smaller package—to help flesh out the lineup.

And, frankly, given the less-than-strong sales of the Q45 in calendar 2002, Infiniti looks to the M45 to help bridge the gap between its lower-priced sedans like the V6-powered G35 and the more than $50,000 Q45. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price for the M45 is just over $42,000.

Watch that speed
Judging by the test car, the M45 certainly can spotlight Infiniti's V8 power and show how easy it is to get going past the speed limit. Yikes! After just a few miles, I was suddenly on the lookout for cops as I worked to get my speed back down under control. It sure didn't feel like I was going that fast.

The M45, which is a sizable, five-passenger car, managed the road heaves and bumps from Sunset's concrete pavement capably.

I felt bumps mostly mildly. At the same time, I didn't feel isolated from the road. Better still, the M45 didn't get unsettled in the many curves, and body sway—for a 3,851-pound car—felt well controlled.

I wouldn't describe the M45's ride as entirely sporty. I'd say it's a mix of luxury feel with a sport capability. There were no punishing jolts nor temperamental steering here.

The M45 shares the Q45's platform and has independent MacPherson struts up front and a multilink system with semi-trailing arms in back. Tires are big, 18-inchers and do transmit a bit of road noise.

Smooth, powerful V8
Once on the freeway, the M45's V8 really performed. Acceleration was palpable, with maximum torque of 333 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. Yes, riders sit lower in the M45 than they do in a sport-utility vehicle or a truck. But who cares? With the M45's ample power, I didn't stay behind other vehicles very long.

Shifts through the five-speed electronically controlled automatic were smooth. And using the self-shift mechanism was satisfying as I managed my speeds and planned my passes. Fuel economy in this 16.4-foot-long sedan wasn't as bad as I had feared, given my aggressive driving. I managed nearly 18 miles a gallon, and when I stopped to fill up, I used the recommended premium gasoline.

Funky styling
By this time, the sun was up and I could see the M45's exterior clearly. I dunno. The car has a sort of funky look, reminding me of big American sedans from a couple decades ago. The similarity seems most apparent when I view the M45 from the rear quarter panel. The styling may be mainstream in Japan, where the M45 has other names. But it seems like a styling throwback here.

Infiniti's fun navigation system is optional on the M45, and I kept it on the whole way, though I knew exactly where I was going. I just liked seeing the route through the system's "bird's eye" view. It inserts landmarks—like an airplane in the sky when you're headed toward an airport—on the map horizon to help you orient yourself. But this nav system is a pricey option on the M45.

Thankfully, the 225-watt Bose audio system with AM/FM stereo and cassette and CD player is not. It's standard and produces strong, clear tunes—just the thing to keep me entertained.

In fact, the miles passed pleasantly in the leather-and-wood-swathed M45. By the time I arrived in California's capitol city, I was no longer cranky. I was ready to take on the day.

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BB05 - 8/31/2014 3:44:59 AM