Thinking can ruin a good ride, which is what happened to me during my week with the 2013 Infiniti M37xS sedan.
I was distracted by the car’s homage to prestige — the extravagant muscularity of its exterior body; the richness of its interior, bedecked with supple leather, Japanese ash wood and brushed-aluminum trim; the weight (a hefty 4,059 pounds minus passengers and cargo) and stiffness of it all.
I get it, I thought. This is a Japanese luxury sedan that wants to be German — better than German, if possible. The German luxury sports cars have all of the prestige. Infiniti, the luxury group of Japan’s Nissan Motor Co., wants its share.
Infiniti succeeds in that pursuit with the M37xS, which competes with offerings of luxury all-wheel-drive cars from domestic, Asian and European manufacturers.
But prestige is a tricky thing. In many ways it’s like religion. The faithful can pray to the same God in a variety of houses of worship. But when it gets down to preference, they choose their own.
So, too, is the matter of cars and prestige. The M37xS, equipped with a 3.7-liter V-6 (330 horsepower, 270 pound-feet of torque), easily competes with rivals such as the Audi A6, BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class in terms of on-road performance, creature comforts and safety and communications technology. There is no real argument there.
If you worship expensive cars with exceptional speed and handling excellence, the M37xS belongs on your altar. But if you were reared in the Church of BMW, the House of Audi or the Congregation of Mercedes-Benz, you are not likely to stay long or stray too far with the Church of What’s Happening Now at Infiniti.
The feeling is markedly different. And feeling is essential to prestige and religion. It has to feel right. And the MX37xS simply doesn’t.
It can run as fast as a BMW 5-Series, although that distinction means relatively little in a world governed by strict speed limits. It handles as well as an Audi A6. And it comes with an interior as plush as anything that can be found in a Mercedes E-Class.
The difference is this: When I’m behind the wheel of a 5-Series BMW, I’m not thinking, “This one moves as fast as an Infiniti M37xS.” When I’m marveling over the brilliant handling of an Audi A6, I’m not thinking, “This one takes curves as nicely as an M37xS.” Or when wrapped in the luxurious womb of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, I never think, “This is just as nice as an Infiniti M37xS.”
But I was making those comparisons with German cars when I was in the M37xS. In the end I found myself wanting to park the M37xS in favor of something genuinely German, or, as was the case, in return for something less pretentiously German, something relatively simple but gifted with most of the technology and amenities — albeit not the power — of a substantially more expensive automobile.
I turned to the 2014 Kia Forte EX compact sedan, newly arrived in my driveway. It was a beautifully sculpted little car. There was nothing the least bit prestigious about it. But it had a nice interior — leather-covered seats, faux carbon fiber accents, good vinyl. It had good safety technology (four-wheel disc brakes) and a modern communications/entertainment system including onboard navigation and high-resolution backup camera.
I experienced a different kind of enjoyment in the Kia Forte, equipped with a 2-liter in-line four-cylinder engine (173 horsepower, 154 pound-feet of torque). I could park it on urban streets, something I wouldn’t dare do with the “I’m expensive and prestigious” Infiniti M37xS. I could fill it with regular gasoline, as opposed to premium grade required in the M37xS. And this: The Kia Forte got as many miles per gallon in the city as the M37xS got on the highway — 24 mpg in each case.
The Forte got 36 miles per gallon on the highway.
Granted, these are apples-and-oranges comparisons. But they are the fruits of my thinking this week on the matter of cars and prestige.
What is “prestige”? Does it really matter anymore when it comes to automobiles? Does it make any sense? Will automobile manufacturers have to change their thinking about “prestige”?
It would have been much easier for me to have ignored these thoughts and just drive and enjoy the very enjoyable Infiniti M37xS. But thinking sometimes gets in the way of pleasure.