Created in a rush in an effort to beat Lexus to the market in 1989, it suffered immediately from a weak dealer network and a widely-ridiculed advertising campaign, and then from a lack of capital and a truncated product line.
Little by little, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has been trying to strengthen Infiniti by infusing it with exclusive models to lift it out of the Acura-Cadillac brand tier and make it into legitimate competitor of Mercedes, BMW, and Audi.
That process began in earnest in 2003 with the G35 cars and gathered momentum with the 2006 M35 and M45 mid-sized, rear drive sedans. The cars were so good that they replaced the unappreciated Q45 as the flagship of the Infiniti lineup.
Now comes the all-new M37, with a 3.7 liter, 330 horsepower engine, which deserves to be the flagship of almost anybody’s lineup.
In many ways, it is a perfectly balanced automobile, precisely positioned between sport and luxury, infused with technology but not intimidating, elegantly styled without being flashy.
The base sticker price is an alluring $48,400 — some $5,000 below a 300-horsepower BMW 535x. But when I added up the factory-installed options on my pre-production model, I identified more than $10,000 worth. Another $4325 in port- installed options also turned up, items like splash guards ($165), illuminated kick plates ($350), and rear deck lid spoiler ($440) that pushed the as-tested price up to $62, 875.
That’s an ambitious price for a still-evolving brand. The strong yen is taking its toll on cars built in Japan and perfection has its cost.
Yet M37 drivers can to feel a certain source of pride for having identified a brilliant automotive execution so far from the mainstream.
The sheet metal is more expressive than in the previous generation with a clear bias to long-hood, short-deck, and exaggerated fender flares over the wheels.
Sitting in the front seat, you are constantly reminded of your good taste with an elegant and ergonomically superior instrument panel. One exception was the “white ash silver-powdered wood trim.” You wanted to run your fingers over the exaggerated grain, but all you felt when you did so was a thick layer of clear protective covering.
Once under way, there are no complaints. The engine makes all the right noises, the transmission shifts smoothly, the steering is nicely weighted, and the brakes are the most responsive in my memory. Some 400 hundred miles of driving only enhanced my appreciation of the M37’s abilities.
I would like the car better if I could clearly identify it as a bargain. As currently priced, it will have to stand on its own merits. It is superbly equipped to do so but it also has to compensate for the still evolving Infiniti brand.