- Very advanced and very powerful V8.
- Eye-popping value for money.
- Smooth-shifting automatic transmission.
- Fair amount of headroom.
- Sports-sedan handling to match muscle-car acceleration.
- Controversial styling, to say the least.
- Almost useless manual shift mode.
- A little short in rear leg-and-shoulder room.
- Somewhat firm seats.
- Hard-to-reach electric seat controls.
Press Coverage :
The M45 uses the full-size Q45 chassis, but its overall length is three inches less. Legroom is still decent in front, but five inches have been lost in the rear. The exterior dimensions of the car are a bit unusual; it's relatively long, tall and narrow; a 2003 Honda Accord, for example, is a couple inches lower and wider. So the M45 has good headroom front and rear, but it's squeezed on shoulder room.
Heat in the front seats is standard. An optional cooling system for the seats blows cool air through the pores in the leather. The M45 offers voice recognition, but we had trouble getting it to understand us. The driver's space is tidy and sporty. On the floor there's a solid dead pedal, and on the door there's an armrest that fits perfectly. There's a modest amount of smoky maple trim, most of it on the console. In addition to the two-stage airbags, important standard safety features include side thorax airbags in front, curtain airbags front and rear, and active front headrests.
Performance in a mid-size car doesn't get any better than the new Infiniti M45. For this price, most other midsize luxury cars offer V6 engines, so the M45 starts the game with a hole shot. Rear-wheel drive is another strength, giving the M45 a real advantage over front-wheel-drive sedans. The acceleration will knock your socks off, with a massive 333 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm to go along with the 340 horsepower. But the high-tech V8's continuous variable valve timing makes the power delivery so smooth and steady there's nothing wild about it. The best part might be catching the looks on the faces of the drivers around you, who would never suspect something that looks so pedestrian could vanish so quickly. The M45 is lighter than the Q45, which is already a fast luxury car, and its final-drive gear ratio is numerically higher than last year's Q, so flight is effortless.
The five-speed automatic transmission is superbly compatible, delivering dazzling smooth upshifts and kickdowns. It's right on the money when driving hard. At slow speeds, between 20 and 40 mph, easy on the gas, it shifts invisibly, imperceptibly. The manual mode in this tranny might as well be a write-off. But it's no great loss with the M45, which doesn't beg for its use. It's just not programmed for serious sporty use. Full-throttle upshifts have a lag time in the manual mode that doesn't exist in the automatic mode. And, totally unlike the sensational and drop-dead gorgeous new Infiniti G35 Sport Coupe, the M45 manual operation is over-ridden by a chip that shifts up and down on its own. Worse, the digital readout indicating the gear doesn't always change.
The brakes are big vented discs, and earn great marks. The ABS was as solid and true as any we've felt in recent memory. We made a full panic stop at 70 mph, and they were very busy, very firm, very quick and very true, with only light pulsing transmitted to the steering wheel. The M45 is equipped with Electronic Brake Distribution (distributes the braking force to the tires that have the best grip), which is always a good thing to have. It also comes with Brake Assist, which senses a panic stop and applies braking harder or longer than your foot signals.
With 340 horses' worth of potential to get in trouble, this level of development is a good thing. It's fully independent, with struts in front and links in rear, and sport tuned. Unlike the Q45, which has three shock absorber settings from the cockpit, the M45 lives with just "firm." It's a very high quality of firmness, never harsh or uncomfortable. It erases most of the rough and patchy stuff, and stays the same degree of firm, keeping the car on an even keel no matter what the surface. You know the ride means business.
We didn't push the suspension that far, but we drove it as hard as we've driven some other luxury sedans, and it passed with flying colors. Although the track (the distance between the left and right tires) isn't very wide, the 18-inch wheels and W-rated tires help it handle nicely in the curves, and the speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering provided good feedback and didn't feel soft.
There are no separate M45 models, so the powerful V8 with its smooth five-speed automatic transmission is what you get. For the base price of $42,300, more great features come standard: the same high-quality leather as in the flagship Q45, a 225-watt Bose premium sound system with satellite-ready AM/FM radio and in-dash 6 CD changer, Vehicle Information System with large LCD screen, skid control, dual-zone climate control, high-intensity xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloy wheels with W-rated tires, and last but definitely not least, front-door side airbags and four-door curtain airbags. The Comfort and Convenience Package ($950) includes memory seats, electrochromic mirrors which are heated and reverse-tilting on the outside, the HomeLink remote system and a tire pressure monitor. The Technology Package ($2700) includes the DVD navigation system and Intelligent Cruise Control, which uses lasers to maintain the distance from the car in front of you by controlling the throttle. The Premium Package ($2200) includes seats that are cooled as well as heated, a sunroof, and voice recognition system for climate, audio and navigation control. Chrome wheels can be added to this package for another $1000. Stand-alone options include the sunroof ($1000), natural maple trim ($300), rear spoiler ($540), satellite radio ($400) and all-season tires (no extra cost).
1999-2002 Infiniti G20
1,998 cc / 145 hp / 136 lb-ft / 2923-2961 lbs / 0-60 mph 10.2 sec.