What is it?
Arguably there’s only one car maker that builds a direct rival for BMW’s signature front-engined, rear-wheel-drive models.
Infiniti uses the same formula to impressive effect in its distinctive SUV models. Now Nissan’s boutique brand has finally launched the M-series saloon in Europe.
What’s it like?
Although, on paper, this M37 is clearly aiming to match the 5-series, the execution and flavour of the Infiniti is very different.
As you might expect from a car engineered in Japan, the M37’s driving position is first rate. The interior is immaculately finished and built with typical high-end Japanese precision.
However, the design language (based on ‘wind and waves’ and used inside and out) just lacks the measured dignity of the inside of today’s 5-series or E-class.
The Infiniti’s profusion of silvered switches and centre console layout lean slightly too far towards the arcade aesthetic. Some individual pieces (such as the gear selector) are very finely executed, but other areas (the instrument dials and chassis selector) are rather plain and ordinary. The exterior styling is, arguably, similarly lacking in the deeply polished elegance of the best that European premium cars can offer.
Still, there’s not much arguing with the underskin execution. The V6 (appreciably shorter than the straight six in the 5-series) is tucked right back in the chassis, driving the rear wheels, through a seven-speed autobox. On this M37S Premium, the driver also gets the assistance of active four-wheel steer.
Using the three-position switch mounted on the centre console, the driver can dial up three very different characters. The Eco mode delivers a very long travel for the accelerator pedal and actively resists hard acceleration from the driver. A green light on the dash indicates suitably eco progress.
In Sport, however, this car really wants to motor. It’s extremely quick-witted, agile and thrusting, making good use of the motor’s sweet-spinning and pacey nature. The M37 also feels firmly planted and stable at high speeds.
However, if there’s one criticism of the the M37’s Sport setting, it’s one of over-eagerness. It can over-exaggerate the driver’s inputs and, consequently, exaggerates the car’s outputs. When pressing on in the M37, particularly during high-speed overtaking manoeuvres, progress is touch frenetic.
The Standard setting is much less focused than Sport, with the car delivering a less direct response to steering inputs. Indeed, the whole car is much slower-witted in the way it responds to moving away from straight head.
I was impressed by the four-wheel steering in Sport mode. Its response is extremely keen at lower speeds. Travelling around slow-speed corners the M37 really feels like it is centre pivoted.
At higher speeds, the 4WS allows the driver to easily run up to the tyres’ limit of adhesion. Pushing hard through bends, there’s no sense of understeer at all - though the sensations coming back through both the seat and wheel rim are rather distant and mechanical.