Live from the launch: Infiniti M 30d GT
Despite its arrival in the UK about two years ago, you could be forgiven for not instantly recognising the manufacturer behind the BMW 5 Series rival pictured above.
The car in question is the Infiniti M, an executive saloon from the upmarket brand established by Nissan to rival Toyota's premium brand, Lexus.
Infiniti hopes that we will one day cease to refer to it as an offshoot of Nissan, as it wants to act as a manufacturer in its own right. But with this E-Class challenger only likely to sell around 200 examples a year in the UK, and just 2,000 across the whole of Europe, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
That is a shame because the M is a very good car. The attention to detail in the cabin is fantastic, with the different materials on offer almost all to an impeccably high standard. There are two trim levels, GT and S, with a Premium pack that can be added to both meaning the range is kept simple at just four combinations.
The S is the sporty one, while the GT is the one that looks to concentrate on luxury. With this comes a wood-detailed interior and a series of soft-touch leathers on the dash and door panels. The wood looks as good as any bit of tree in a car – the Japanese Ash is fantastically well polished, but this makes it look a little artificial and may not suit every taste.
To call the leather soft is an understatement, though. Apparently the (somewhat disturbing) intention was to make it feel as soft and smooth as a baby's skin. Being childless ourselves we can't confirm this to be true, but it certainly feels luxurious, as does the pliant squishiness of the dash.
The 235bhp 3.0-litre diesel we drove will only come with an automatic gearbox, and in the GT trim it feels fast – 0-62mph comes in 6.2 seconds – but not conducive to blistering downshifts for nippy overtaking manoeuvres. The steering-wheel mounted gear paddles only come with the S model.
The comfortable ride and cosseting, electric seats of the M means that it is likely to be chosen by those that want a long-distance cruiser rather than a part-time B-road plaything. The amount of electric assistance certainly backs this theory up, too. There is a multi stage blind spot warning system that flashes a light at you, and then brakes the wheels on one side should you start to move over to a lane that is already occupied.
There is also a collision mitigation system that recognises when there is a car too close when in front and applies the brakes and beeps at you, and another system that stops you from straying out of a lane on the motorway.
All of them allow the driver to overrule them, and are intended to act as reminders rather than replacing the need for human responsibility. They can be turned off, and conscientious drivers might want to as the nagging gets a bit much at times.
With just the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine and no 4-cylinder alternative available for the next year or so, the M lags behind its rivals in emissions and frugality. It might be the first Infiniti below 200g/km for CO2 emissions, but it is still some way short of the BMW and E-Class's ratings of around 160g/km.
It will be the M hybrid that is planned for next spring that should excel in fuel economy and tax, but it will still fall short at no better than 170g/km. As this sector is dominated by fleet managers trying to keep the bills low, it won't matter how luxurious the M is for now, it is not competitive enough on practical grounds, and that is a shame.