Nissan Infiniti M35

In 1990, Toyota went from leader of the bland to champion of the premium car brand. In launching its luxury Lexus division, the firm took on the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar for the first time.

Superbly built and well equipped, the Infiniti M35 shouldn't be underestimated. With a great engine and sporty handling, only a harsh ride and dull steering take the shine off the driving experience. Nissan's new executive looks the part and is destined to give premium favourites a scare when it arrives in UK showrooms.

In 1990, Toyota went from leader of the bland to champion of the premium car brand. In launching its luxury Lexus division, the firm took on the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar for the first time.

That same year, Nissan introduced its prestige badge - Infiniti - for the same reason, but only in the USA. Now, after a long wait, the marque is finally on its way to the UK. Auto Express got behind the wheel of the Infiniti M35 that will spearhead the launch here.

Called the Nissan Fuga in Japan, the saloon has bold lines, a wide stance and deep bumpers. Inside, the fit and finish are exemplary, and highlight the kind of quality buyers can expect.

All models will be generously equipped as standard, too - the car we drove even came with blindspot cameras. These are mounted under the wing mirrors, and send images to the LCD screen on the dash. The only real downside to all this kit is the sheer amount of switches, which makes the centre console look cluttered. However, the cabin is spacious, particularly in the rear, while the electrically operated front chairs are among the most comfortable we have ever tried.

It's just a shame their relaxing effect is marred by the harsh ride. Admittedly, our test car had 19-inch wheels, but it is evident the Infiniti's suspension has been set up to offer a sporty drive. And it certainly delivers, handling well with lots of grip and minimal body roll, even when cornering hard. But the steering is vague and over-assisted.

Fortunately, the 280bhp 3.5-litre V6 under the bonnet is much more involving. Shared with the 350Z, it provides excellent throttle response and acceleration. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a smooth five-speed automatic gearbox, with a manual shift option.

If you thought Lexus was the only Japanese marque that could cut it in the executive car class, think again. Infiniti is a force to be reckoned with.

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