Infiniti M45 2008

Though high-end vehicles now come in more shapes and sizes than ever, the midsize luxury sedan segment remains the heart of the luxury automobile market. Nissan's luxury division, Infiniti, has been around since 1990, yet it had no real presence in this key segment until 2003, when it launched the V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive M45.

The first Infiniti M45 was little more than a Japanese-market Nissan sedan that was rebadged and slightly "Americanized" in order to give Nissan dealers something with which to compete against the high-profile German nameplates that dominate this class. But although it offered a credible amount of luxury and performance, the original M45's relatively uninspired design and cramped interior kept it from registering anything more than a faint blip on luxury buyers' radar screens.

In mid-2005, the current Infiniti M45 was introduced to wide critical acclaim. With substantially more space, a tremendous amount of technology and comfort features, and a bold, imposing exterior design, today's M45 is a high-tech powerhouse with plenty to offer midsize luxury car shoppers. Its performance capabilities have been raised significantly due to things like available four-wheel steering, a precisely tuned suspension and strong brakes. All told, the current M45 is a swift, stylish, superbly executed luxury sedan that should be considered with the top players in the segment.

Today's Infiniti M45 luxury sedan debuted as a 2006 model and comes in two trim levels: M45 and M45 Sport. Both are motivated by a powerful, 4.5-liter V8 that sends up to 325 horsepower and 336 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. The M45's five-speed automatic transmission has manual shift control and a sporty rev-matching feature that imparts a particularly lively feel to downshifts. Infiniti also offers a 275-hp, V6-powered version of the sedan called the M35. All M45 models are rear-wheel drive only. (The M35 is available with rear- or all-wheel drive.)

Base M45 models are geared more for luxury than sport and offer a long list of standard amenities, including climate-controlled seats, adaptive xenon headlights and tasteful wood and metal trim, among other things. The M45 Sport swaps the wood for aluminum trim, but otherwise is identical inside to the standard M45. Mechanical enhancements on the M45 Sport that raise its performance potential include 19-inch wheels and tires, firmer suspension tuning and active rear-wheel steering.

Options for the M45 line are consistent with its high-tech image, including adaptive cruise control; a lane-departure warning system; a Bose surround-sound DVD audio system with front-seat, shoulder-level surround speakers; heated and reclining rear seats; and a navigation system with voice-activated destination entry.

In road test reviews, editors have praised the Infiniti M45 for its explosive power and sharp handling and its bounty of luxury features. Criticisms of the M45 include overly intrusive road noise and complicated center-stack controls that are hard to master.

The original Infiniti M45 debuted in 2003 and was basically a Japanese-market Nissan Cedric luxury sedan brought over to fill the gap between Infiniti's near-luxury G35 and the larger, technology-laden Q45. Engineered for the narrow streets of Japan, the M45's cabin proved too narrow to hold corn-fed Americans comfortably, and the backseat was scant on legroom for a car of this size. Even worse, the M's exterior design was bland to a fault.

However, it was fast. The original M45 was available only with a 340-hp V8 and rear-wheel drive. Unlike today's model, there were no separate standard and Sport versions from which to choose, and the only suspension offered was on the sporty side. Combined with big, 18-inch wheels and performance tires, the M45 delivered respectable handling. Equally important, the original M45 was equipped with nearly the same number of safety features as today's model.

Competitively priced even when new and available with most of the luxury features found on the larger Q45, first-generation M45s generally represent strong used-car values in terms of feature content and performance. For shoppers who like the car's combination of stealth speed and luxury, and don't need a lot in the way of interior room, the first-generation Infiniti M45 could be a good match.
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