By Samuel Ee
Some have been curious about the Infiniti brand since it arrived late last year. Most prospective buyers know it is the luxury division of Nissan with a strong presence in the United States.
But they are also aware that it has relatively large engines of 3.7 litres and above (although a 2.5-litre V6 has since been introduced here).
The marque's sensuous styling has made an impact, however, and the range stands out on the road. But in terms of the actual user experience, it has not been easy defining it. Until the M37 Sports Premium came along.
The Infiniti M is a curvaceous mid-sized sedan with a few engines to drive the rear wheels. There is the M25 with a 2.5-litre V6 unit, the M35h hybrid with a 3.5-litre V6 and the M37 Premium with a 3.7-litre V6 - all of which are competent. Then there is the M37 Sports Premium, or as the badge on the boot lid says, M37 S.
Like the M37 Premium, the M37 Sports Premium uses the same 3.7-litre V6 mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. But unlike the former, the M37 S has been upgraded with a few visual and high-tech differences to make it feel like a very different car.
The most noticeable difference is the aggressive set of five-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels and a re-styled front bumper. But underneath the sheet metal, the M37 S also gets stronger four-piston front brake callipers (from two-pot brakes on the M37), double-piston dampers for the rear suspension and 4-Wheel Active Steer.
With these dampers, the rear multi-links have an extra piston to cancel out vibrations at both ends of the frequency range for a smoother ride.
But it is the 4-Wheel Active Steer that defines the character of the M37 S. The big Infiniti is unusually nimble and in Sport mode, which remaps the engine and transmission, becomes exponentially more enthusiastic. A fast corner displays sharper turn-in, with less steering effort. It is agile and stable and sheer fun to drive. It may weigh in at 1,765 kg but it seems lighter.
Inside, the M37 S also has double-glazed windows and the Forest Air climate control system to reproduce gentle breezes and arboreal scents. But it also gets piano black trim (instead of the silver powder wood finish) and a pair of steering wheel-mounted solid magnesium shift paddles to encourage sportier driving.
At the same time, the M37 S has Safety Shield as standard. This package of safety aids comprise Blind Spot Intervention, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, and Forward Collision Warning with Intelligent Brake Assist and Intelligent Cruise Control.
The most interesting is the Blind Spot Intervention. Like other systems, it also uses radar to provide visual and auditory warnings of another vehicle in the blind spot area. But if these warnings are ignored, it goes one step further and intervenes by selectively braking one side of the car to ease it back into its original lane using a camera to detect lane markings.
|Infiniti M37 Sports Premium
Engine: 3,696cc V6
Transmission: 7-speed automatic transmission
Max Power: 320 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Max Torque: 360 Nm @ 5,200 rpm
0-100kmh: 6.2 secs
Top speed: 250 kmh
CO2 emissions: 265 g/km
Distributor: Distributor Wearnes Automotive 6378 2623
Another cool feature is the Eco pedal. While most such aids merely denote fuel efficient driving behaviour with a visual indicator in the instrument cluster, the M37 S's actually "pushes back" the accelerator pedal by providing resistance to ensure better fuel economy if the Eco mode is chosen.
In the end, the sporty luxury of the M37 S has to be its most attractive character. It achieves a good balance between traditional luxury and athletic performance. The steering isn't so sharp that the driver has to be focused all the time, and the suspension not too stiff that it will rearrange any internal organs.
Yet there is significant driver enjoyment with an engaging number of high-tech gadgets. All for an extra $20,000 over the usual M37. This Infiniti is impressive.
This article was first published in The Business Times.