What is it?
It’s probably the moment Infiniti really gets serious about Europe. Because for all the crossovers, natty coupés and occasional drop-tops that Nissan’s luxury arm has peddled in this part of the world since it inched over here (via Russia) in 2008, it has remained on the fringes, a bit like a party pooper keeping quiet in the corner while preparing to make a scene.
Now, though, in the shape of the M30d, Infiniti has a car that will take on the BMW 530d, Mercedes E350 CDI and Jaguar XF 3.0d head on. Gulp. Infiniti isn't trying to undercut the established European opposition on price, for this GT Premium edition of the M30d costs a little under £45k. That’s a couple of grand up on a XF 3.0d S Premium Luxury, around £5k more than a 530d M Sport and £9k up on an Avantgarde E350 CDI.
Infiniti says that the M’s comprehensive equipment list allows it to fight its corner on toys without resorting to the lowest common denominator. The GT Premium has only two options: metallic paint and a spare wheel (instead of a repair kit). Hard disk-based navigation with Bose surround sound and ‘Forest Air’ climate control come as standard.
The M gets the same 3.0-litre turbodiesel powerplant that we tried earlier this year in the EX. It produces 235bhp and 405lb ft, a decent enough pair of figures but shy of the outputs of the 530d, E350 and XF.
The hybrid version of the M, incidentally, is tipped by insiders to cost “only a modest amount more” than the diesel when it arrives in 2012.
What’s it like?
Well, this isn’t a car with the hard sporting edge of the 530d, or the waftability of the E-class. And the cabin doesn’t quite have the emotional connection of an XF’s, although fit and finish are excellent.
But if that sounds negative, it’s not meant to, because as an overall package, the M slips down between the cracks very effectively. The oil-burner has decent reserves low down, enough to make progress feel swift (but short of rapid).
You can rev it right through to beyond 5000rpm if you wish; doing so brings a note that fluctuates strangely between diesel rattle and sonorous V6. In truth, of course, there’s little point in thrashing it, because its best work is done by a little over 3000rpm. The seven-speed automatic gearbox isn’t particularly keen to be rushed anyway; even in sport mode, its shifts are smooth and relaxed.
It feels a heavy car, the M (it is, at 1840kg), but it’s well balanced enough and the steering has decent weight (if a little less feeling than we’d like). There’s enough there to deliver on the brand’s mission statement of a rewarding drive - just.
Inside the choice of materials is generally fine, and the refinement is excellent, particularly when cruising, when only a bit of wind noise will intrude. The non-S M30d rides on 18in wheels instead of 20-inchers, a factor that definitely reduces the amount of tyre rumble.