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2006 Infiniti M45 Road Test

By CharlesOfria

Category: $45,000 - $55,000 Rear-drive Sports Sedan
Who should buy this car: A person who refuses to compromise between a luxury sedan and an all-out performance sedan.
Comparable models in this class: Audi A6, BMW 5 series, Cadillac STS, Lexus GS, Lincoln LS, Jaguar S-Type, Mercedes E-Class

If your heart's desire is to have a fast sports car, but your sensibilities tell you that you need room for the family, the M45 by Infiniti may be just the ticket to satisfy your cravings, while allowing you to be the picture of responsibility.

I was never crazy about the styling on the previous M45.  It looked, at first glance, like a Ford Crown Victoria.  If you painted it yellow and dropped it into midtown Manhattan, you would be hailed on every corner.

The new M has gained quite a bit of style, borrowing heavily from the G35.  At first glance, it looks like a G35 on steroids.  The styling up front has the smart Infiniti look, clean and elegant.  The rear has those angular taillamps borrowed from the G.

Infiniti has also come a long way on the interior look and feel.  Quality of materials, feel, fit and finish are all much better than previous attempts by Infiniti.  Still not up to the level of Lexus, but rapidly closing in.

Behind the wheel, the driving position was good and the seats were firm and supportive.  Controls, especially in the central stack, were somewhat confusing and not very intuitive.  Navigation had a bird view and, except for the awkward control knob, was very easy to use.  Navigation graphics were the best I've seen yet and easiest to follow to your destination.

Seats in our Sport model were beautifully finished in light gray with dark grey piping to give it a classic, expensive feel.  The analog clock in the center of the dash had the signature Infiniti hard-to-read face.  A nice touch on the Sport model was the orange stitching on the inside rim of the steering wheel.

The M45 has a keyless start system so that the key fob stays in your pocket or purse and never has to come out.  As long as the transmitter is on your person, the doors will unlock by simply pressing the black button on any door handle and opening the door. 

Once behind the wheel, you step on the brake and give the big Start-Stop button a tap.  The engine will come to life and move the steering wheel and seat into the position you have programmed for your transmitter.  If there is more than one driver, they can program their settings to respond to their transmitter.

Open the hood of the M45 and you will see a highly sophisticated V8 engine poking out of a sea of black plastic.  The engine has its own plastic beauty mask done up in silver and black.  The Infiniti V8 is one of the best engines in the business, smooth, powerful and responsive.

In the Fun to Drive category where comfort is still a priority, the new M is the winner by a nose for mid-luxury sport sedans.  There are a lot of great cars in this category so the choice was not an easy one.  Steering felt direct and accurate, cornering was flat.  The ride was slightly choppy due to the extra-low profile performance rubber.  Because of the aggressive performance tires, road noise on all but smooth blacktop was noticeable, but not at all objectionable.

Throttle response was instantaneous and rewarding.  The 5 speed automatic transmission was smooth, with quick shifts when using the manual mode.  It almost made you forget that it was still a 5-speed unit in a class filled with 6-speed transmissions and even a 7-speed automatic on the Mercedes E-Class..

The M45 had a number of interesting features including a first ever for a passenger car Lane Departure Warning system.  If you are on a road with lane markings and you are traveling over 45 miles per hour, the system will chime if you drift over the lines on the roadway without signaling.  The system worked really well, even with lines that were almost completely faded in spots.  There was a small camera mounted next to the center rear-view mirror that looked through the windshield.  That plus some pretty sophisticated computer software allowed the system to work surprisingly well in most road conditions.

Another feature, which we have seen on other high-end vehicles, was Laser Cruise Control.  Like normal cruise control, the system allows you to set a speed and have the system maintain the set speed without holding your foot on the gas.  The difference in a laser cruise system is that it is watching ahead and if it sees a car in your lane traveling slower than you, it will automatically slow you down and maintain a preset following distance, even applying the brakes if necessary to maintain a safe distance.  If more than 30% braking is required to avoid hitting the car ahead, it is up to the driver to make that judgment and step on the brake pedal.

These two systems help the inattentive driver stay out of trouble, but are not meant to be an automatic pilot, even though the technology is good enough to be able to actually drive the car for you in some conditions.  The manufacturer's lawyers will have none of that.  They will not allow the engineers to take that final step and actually have the computer steer the car for you.  No, the responsibility for driving the car still falls to the driver and is likely to remain that way for years to come.

While the lane departure camera watches ahead, another video camera is mounted just above the rear license plate and provides an unobstructed view to the rear when you put the car in reverse.  The image is displayed on the navigation screen and is easy to see day or night.  There are lines superimposed on the screen as a guide to show you the path the car is taking.  These lines will bend as you turn the steering wheel and also tell you how close you are to obstructions.  It is a really neat system.

Trunk space on a rear-wheel drive car is usually not as good as in a front-wheel drive car because the rear drive axle takes up some of the space, but the M45 made good use of available space.

As I mentioned earlier, the under-hood area is covered with black plastic shrouds to hide the mechanicals.  Even the normal fluid checks and fillers are covered up.  The only things that are exposed are the engine oil dipstick & filler cap and the windshield washer bottle.  The brake fluid reservoir is under a snap-open plastic cover in its usual location.  This is not a cause for concern, since any of these checks are done electronically anyway and reported as soon as they require service by indicators on the dash.  Judging by the reputation for reliability that Infiniti enjoys, I would say they made the right decision.

The new styling direction on the M, which is patterned after the G35, doesn't quite do it for me, but other people that I have spoken to think it is the cat's meow, so I guess it is all about taste.  This would be a pretty boring world if everyone liked the same thing.  For me, the cars in this class that toot my horn are the Lexus GS and Audi A6.  But, despite the way I feel about the styling, it is not the only thing that is important to me.  If I were in the market for a car in this class, the M45 would be high on my short list of candidates.

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Specifications

Engine Type 4.5 liter DOHC 32-valve V8 with Variable Valve Timing
Horsepower 335 @ 6,400 RPM
Torque 340 ft-lbs. @ 4,000  RPM
Fuel Recommended Premium Unleaded.
Transmission 5-speed Shiftable Automatic Transmission
Drive Type Rear wheel drive
Tires P245/45VR18 All Season Tires
Overall Length 192.6"
Wheelbase 114.2"
Width 70.8"
Turning Diameter 36.7 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 3,948 lbs
Fuel Tank 20.0 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon 17 city, 23 highway
Base Sticker Price $46,950  plus $610 Destination Charge

Standard Equipment
(partial list)

  • 5-speed automatic transmission
  • 18" V-rated performance tires on alloy rims
  • 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS
  • Traction control
  • Stability control
  • Dual front side-mounted airbags
  • Front and rear head airbags
  • Tire pressure monitoring
  • Leather upholstery
  • 10-way power driver seat with memory for two drivers
  • 6-way power passenger seat
  • Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
  • 4 one-touch power windows
  • Dual-zone electronic automatic climate control
  • AM/FM in-dash 6 CD player with MP3 stereo and 6 speakers
  • Bluetooth wireless data link for hands-free phone

Sport model adds...

  • P245/40WR19 tires on alloy wheels
  • Multi-level heating for front seats
  • Xenon high intensity discharge headlamps
  • Special interior trim

Major Available Options

  • Premium Package, includes: DVD Navigation System, Bose Studio Surround sound system with digital 5.1 channel decoding, 14 speakers & Audio Pilot Noise Compensation, Intelligent Laser Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Satellite Radio (choice between Serius and XM), climate-controlled front seats, HID xenon low-beam headlights with automatic leveling, Adaptive Front Lighting System, advanced rearview monitor, pre-crash seatbelts, DVD player, 8" power retractable rear screen, 2 wireless headphones, remote control, rear heated and power reclining seats, rear seat HVAC and audio controls and power rear sunshade.
  • Technology Package, includes: DVD Navigation System, Bose Studio Surround sound system with digital 5.1 channel decoding, 14 speakers & Audio Pilot Noise Compensation, Intelligent Laser Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Satellite Radio (choice between Serius and XM)
  • DVD-based Navigation System
  • Aerodynamic Body Kit
  • 18" Chrome Wheels
  • Rear Deck Spoiler

For more information on the M45, visit infiniti.com

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