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Weidel on Wheels: Looks, luxury and performance

Infiniti’s M45 sedan delivers in the upscale segment in all areas
By: Jeffrey Weidel, Special to Gold Country Motoring
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Considering the downturn in the economy and the upswing in gas prices, the guess here is that a deal can be successfully negotiated for practically any 2008 vehicle. With 2009 models trickling in and more inventory than usual with this year’s vehicles, the careful buyer may come away with quite the deal. With the interest in sport utility vehicles diminishing with every up-tick at the pumps, many upscale buyers are looking at luxury sedans as their next purchase. There is a crowded field to choose from, a lot of qualified cars that combine high performance with a stylish look and plenty of extras. Infiniti produces a sedan that definitely fits the above qualifications. The 2008 M45 has impressive power, sharp exterior features, comfortable seating and a long list of standard features. Keep in mind, it’s pricey at $51,850 for the all-wheel drive X model driven here for a week that gets unimpressive gas mileage (14-20 miles per gallon). Yet the M45X is still priced lower than an upscale SUV and trips to the pumps are less frequent as well. If you haven’t checked out the M45 in a couple of years, it’s worth a look. Infiniti unveiled the M series in 2003 with the M35 (3.5-liter, V6) and the M45 (4.5-liter, V8). There was nothing wrong with the performance of either one, but both sedans had a lack of interior space and were on the conservative side overall in styling. That changed three years ago when Infiniti made some much-needed alterations and the M series immediately grew in stature. Improvements were not as dramatic for the 2008 models, but there are still some nice changes that make the M45 and its younger brother even more appealing and keeps them competitive with some of their biggest rivals — the Mercedes-Benz E Class and the BMW 5 Series. In this struggling economy, Infiniti may actually be competing against itself, because picking the M35 over the M45 isn’t such a bad idea. The M35 is a solid V6-powered sedan that will save money (about $6,500) while providing similar features and more than enough power for most buyers despite 55 less horsepower. Still, the M45X is the better choice, the type of car one looks cool in without the engine even running. And when it is running the X is fun to drive, offering excellent acceleration (it was tested at 0-60 mph in 6 seconds), responsive handling and a quick reacting braking system that allows one to be a little more daring than usual. This test model offered the new Lane Departure Warning system that this driver found a bit annoying. While the safety factor is enviable, the alert warning system comes on too frequently, triggered by even the slightest hint of wandering out of one’s lane. Utilizing a camera to recognize lane markings and calculating the vehicle’s speed and its distance from them, the system applies individual anti-lock brakes to steer the car as necessary to keep it in its lane. Thankfully, the system can be turned off. A definite turn on is the spacious interior that now seats five people comfortably. Other pluses are the leather upholstery, the attractive wood accents, a very cool audio system with six speakers, six-CD/MP3 changer and satellite radio. The exterior that was once dullsville now has a stylish grille, new taillights, headlights, a more appealing rear bumper and some attractive chrome accents. Standard features are numerous, including xenon headlights; 10-way power and climate-controlled front seats; dual-zone automatic climate control; sunroof; Bluetooth; brake assist; stability control; traction control and Intelligent Key with push-button start. ---------- Infiniti M45X Price: Starting at $51,850 Power: 4.5-liter, V8 engine with 325 horsepower Mileage estimate: From 14 mpg city to 20 mpg on the highway Standard features include: Adaptive xenon headlights; 10-way power and climate-controlled front seats; dual-zone automatic climate control; sunroof; Bluetooth; brake assist; stability control; traction control; Intelligent Key with push-button start