Infiniti M30d

Bold styling and endless kit make newcomer an intriguing proposition

When you launch a new brand into the crowded European car market, it’s hard to get noticed, but Infiniti isn’t afraid to be bold with its styling. The M saloon takes inspiration from the Essence concept car, which debuted at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, and its flowing lines are supposed to give the appearance of a coupé. 

The end result isn’t entirely convincing, but look hard and there is a slight hint of Maserati Quattroporte about the front end, although the large grille and dated rear are a bit clumsy. One thing’s for sure, it’s a bigger car than the Lexus in every dimension, and the extra size is obvious on the inside. 

In the back, there’s plenty of headroom and noticeably more legroom than in its rival. The sumptuous leather seats wrap around you, and although the Lexus makes do with a tiny 330-litre boot, the Infiniti has a useful 450-litre capacity.

In the front, the seats offer excellent adjustment and while the cabin design is busy, there’s no questioning its quality. It’s incredibly well equipped as well. Despite this modernity, the analogue clock, sweeping dash design and plush quilted leather door panels give a dash of retro appeal. It’s a strange mix, but the Infiniti certainly feels like a premium car. Standard double glazing ensures superb isolation from road noise and every piece of trim is impeccably put together. 

On the road, the Infiniti’s smaller 18-inch alloy wheels aid ride comfort, as it’s more composed and controlled over bumpy tarmac than the Lexus. But anyone coming to the M from a class-leading contender such as the BMW 5-Series will lament the lack of body control and steering feel, and be disappointed by a harsh low-speed edge to the suspension. 

Still, the Infiniti doesn’t roll as much as its hybrid rival, plus it soaks up imperfections more effectively and has a more natural feel to its steering. The Drive Mode switch also allows you to fine-tune throttle and transmission sensitivity, but the differences are hard to spot.

The 3.0-litre diesel engine can’t match the combined thrust of the Lexus’ petrol engine and electric motor when it comes to outright acceleration, although it isn’t far behind, and refinement and throttle responses impress.

This oil-burner has already graced models from Nissan and Renault, and it features a number of upgrades in this guise.Unfortunately, the slow-shifting seven-speed automatic gearbox takes the edge off the experience. Unlike the CVT of the Lexus, you can shift manually, and there’s less fuss during kickdown, but this is one area where the best European cars really lead the way.

The braking figures weren’t particularly impressive, either, although the feel through the pedal here was significantly better than in the Lexus.

Hi-tech driving aids such as blind spot and forward collision warnings come as standard, as does adaptive cruise control. Typically, these features command a healthy premium. Buyers also get a high-end audio system, plus heated and cooled memory seats. 

With the firm pledging to offer the sort of customer care Lexus owners are used to, the Infiniti experience promises to be just as luxurious once you’ve taken delivery. Will that be enough to secure victory here?

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: It is unfamiliar, but the latest M saloon was designed and built for Europe. Does this GT Premium model have the desirability and driver appeal to take on the establishment?

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