To Infiniti and beyond?

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With its M30d saloon, Nissan’s luxury arm Infiniti has fixed its sights on that toughest of targets, the BMW 5 Series. Andy Enright wonders whether ambition has got the better of it.

The Infiniti M30d offers a welcome alternative to the executive car elite’s usual suspects and, for a first crack at this market sector, it’s a laudable effort. What it lacks is the element of genius or dash of charisma that is deeply woven through the likes of the BMW 5 Series or the Jaguar XF. If you value reliability and exclusivity above personality, then it makes a safe long-term proposition.

As somebody who is paid to make sense of this sort of thing, it’s perhaps a little worrying if I’m confused and have to occasionally refer to my crib notes when trying to decipher Infiniti’s seemingly impenetrable model range. The Infiniti M30d faces a tough enough task as it stands, facing down the likes of the BMW 5 Series and the Audi A6 without being hampered with a name that makes it sound like a computer motherboard. For those willing to do their homework and find out what this uninspiring-sounding vehicle is really all about, the M30d is an extremely credible offering.

Infiniti has been with us as a UK brand since 2008 and in that time it has launched a product offensive that includes the G line (think BMW 3 Series) saloon, coupe and convertible, the EX, a 4x4 SUV that competes with Audi’s Q5, and the bigger FX, a vehicle that goes head to head with the likes of the Mercedes M Class. Rounding out these familiar roles is the M line, a bigger executive saloon, of which the diesel M30d looks to be the prime pick.

Some vehicles have an amazing capacity to drive counter to any preconceived expectation. The Infiniti M30d is not one of the them, though. Even if you’ve never clapped eyes on one, you would imagine it to feel smooth but maybe not as cosseting as a Mercedes E350 CDI. It uses the same 235bhp turbodiesel 3.0-litre V6 as the EX 4x4 and it weighs 1845kg so you wouldn’t expect it to be as quick as a 271bhp Jaguar XF 3.0d. Likewise you’d probably be very surprised if the M30d was as competent through a series of B-road bends as a BMW 530d. And so it proves. The figures of rest to 60mph in 6.9s and a top speed of 155mph show that the M30d can lift its skirt when required.

That said, there are some extremely welcome details in the Infiniti’s DNA. The engine sounds better than most turbodiesel V6s, with a sonorous thrum in the midrange, and the seven-speed automatic gearbox changes gears with such a slick smoothness you’d imagine its internals were made of Teflon and jellied eels. The steering deserves special mention too, using traditional hydraulic power assistance instead of a feel-robbing electrical set up that many manufacturers use to eke another fraction of a mile per gallon from the fuel economy figures.

The first impression on getting behind the wheel of any Infiniti M line is that it’s a big car. The way the dashboard cants away from the driver and the low scuttle line makes the front part of the cabin feel spacious and airy. Unfortunately the second most obvious fact is that, despite being dubbed their ‘most European car ever’, the M30d’s interior just can’t match the high design values of the likes of Audi and Jaguar. For better or worse, it still looks a little Japanese. Get past that and you’ll appreciate that build quality is unimpeachable. Not only is the fit brilliant but the finish, with a soft-feel cabin featuring tactile aniline leather and hand-buffed silver powder-coated wood trim, is right up there with the best. That initial impression of spaciousness is borne out when you have a good look round the car. The rear seats offer far more knee-room than you’d get in a 5 Series and the 450-litre boot will take care of more golf equipment than John Daly stuck in the Road Hole bunker.

The exterior styling of the M30d offers plenty of neat detailing and a cohesive silhouette. From some angles, there’s something of a Jaguar XF reflected in a hall of mirrors about it, but fact is the Infiniti majors on more complex curves and challenging panel intersections than the more overtly aggressive-looking British car.

Pay attention at the back, because when it comes to Infiniti M30d model range and equipment provision there’s quite a lot to take in. The line up kicks off with the entry model which is equipped as standard with a 7-speed automatic transmission, bi-Xenon lights, 10-way power front seats, reversing camera, parking sensors, heated steering wheel, hard disk drive (HDD) sound system, White Ash wood trim with silver powder finish and Infiniti’s Drive Mode Selector which tailors key driving parameters to Sport, Normal, Snow and Eco settings. This is the base model, remember.

The GT specification then builds on the M30d spec with an emphasis on even more luxury, gaining semi-aniline leather and heated and ventilated front seats. Plump for the more overtly sporting S variant and you’ll benefit from 4-Wheel Active Steering (4WAS), sports suspension, sports seats (also heated and ventilated), gearshift paddles and 20-inch alloy wheels. At the top of the M30d tree are the aptly-named Premium variants of the S and GT which dump in every available M Line feature including Blind Sport Intervention, Intelligent Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention and other technologies comprising the Dynamic Safety Shield. Also included are Forest Air climate control, a 16-speaker Bose sound system and Infiniti’s Connectiviti+ information and entertainment platform comprising 30GB HDD navigation. Needless to say the list prices reflect this almost indulgent amount of standard kit.

After that all-you-can-eat buffet, options consist of just three; metallic paint, a temporary spare wheel (in place of repair kit) and, for the GT and S, the Connectiviti+ HDD multimedia navigation system.

Cost of ownership is where things get interesting. Let’s say you’ve been tempted by the massive equipment list of the Infiniti M30d S Premium. Even if you have chosen no additional extras, you’re looking at a car that will leave the dealerships costing at least £46,000. That’s the same as the top Jaguar XF Portfolio. A BMW 530d SE or a Mercedes E350 CDI Avantgarde will both run you around £36,000 before recourse to the options list and I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this one. The used market doesn’t place a great deal of store on toys and gadgets, preferring to value brand equity instead, so the Infiniti’s cost per mile figure over a typical three year ownership period is already off to a poor start.