• INDIVIDUAL STYLING: The M sedan has very individual looks

  • The rear has almost fastback lines

  • The interior is well appointed with high quality materials

INFINITI, the luxury arm of Nissan, is taking things slowly according to local GM George Stegman.

This is probably not a bad idea, after all, the market is rather difficult at the moment and with more brands available in SA than almost any other country in the world, stepping back and taking time to build up the business makes sense.

The brand launched here a couple of months ago and has since opened two dealerships in Hatfield and Melrose Arch, with Durban and Cape Town following soon.

The first model launched was the FX SUV, which with its unique looks and high specification level, takes the fight to rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport.

Red Bull Racing F1 fans will also be pleased to hear that the FX Vettel Edition will be arriving on our shores next year.

Just 200 units of this tuned and specially equipped vehicle will be available globally, though according to Stegman the four units heading our way will only be used for marketing purposes.

The EX crossover, which we reviewed a couple of weeks ago, followed its big brother and now the company has launched the new M sedan.

It is not finished, though. The G coupe and convertible models are also available, but even more exciting news is in the area of future cars.

Stegman said the LE concept from the recent Paris motor show will go on sale in 2014. It is also considering production of the Emerg-e range extender sports car, though plans on that have yet to be confirmed.

Taking on German stalwarts as well as Jaguar, Lexus and others, is no easy task. Infiniti is aiming to offer something over and above its rivals though, particularly in terms of the overall ownership experience.

The showrooms are designed like first class lounges where you can interact with the vehicles, and the company is also now offering Tracker as standard on all its vehicles. This includes a three year subscription and roadside assistance.

Providing the feel-good factor is all well and good, but last week I got to experience the new M sedan in both petrol and diesel guise.

Unfortunately, the experience was somewhat limited by the force of Mother Nature. Barely 10km out of the Lombardy Hotel near Pretoria, that golf ball size hail you heard so much about started to pelt the car.

The sound was deafening and with no shelter and virtually no visibility, there was nothing to do but wait until we could creep back to base.

The damage to the cars was saddening, but as the skies cleared I found a piece of road on which to put the pedal to the metal.

You may remember that earlier this year I was impressed by the driving characteristics of the Infiniti models when I put them through their paces in the UK. My thoughts have not changed.

The steering is superb, with some of the best feedback in the game and the sedan remains well composed even when pushed hard into the bends.

It tracks well out of the corners and on a longer potholed road it provided good levels of comfort.

It is not as soft in its demeanour as something like a Lexus, in fact providing a good compromise between a dynamic soul and a nurturing character.

The 3l diesel with 175kW and 550Nm tended to run to the red line a little too fast for my liking, which almost negated the need for the Inifiniti Drive Mode Selector with its sports setting, but this function also tightens the steering and improves throttle response.

The M37 with its 235kW, 360Nm petrol motor from the Nissan 370Z would definitely be the choice for those who want to get the most from the car.

The response was instant and unlike so many manufacturers that see paddles on the steering wheel as some kind of trendy accessory, they add a genuine level of driver involvement in the M37. It will only be arriving early next year, though.

There are a great many driver aids depending on specification. The seven-speed automatic box is aided by Adaptive Shift Control and there is also ESP with Dynamic Cornering Enhancement.

Some models also have active steering ,which on a back-to-back test showed its ability to enhance the agility of the car.

Then there is the level of kit, most of which is standard. I am not going to list it here because it is simply too long, but you get almost everything, you can even get a multi-speaker Bose sound system with surround sound speakers on the top of the seat shoulders, which is a nice touch.

Overall the M is a very classy piece of kit. It has a solid look and feel about it, something that Lexus failed to see the point of until recently.

In my opinion, it even gives the Germans the best run for their money when it comes to interior quality and materials.

With pricing starting at a rather steep R649,000 the company has its work cut out for it, but with its high specification, good dynamics and in a nation where many are starting to seek individuality, it should develop a very loyal following.

Pricing: M37 GT R649,000 M37 GT Premium R706,051 M37 S Premium R730,305 M30d GT R671,000 M30d S R695,254 M30d GT Premium R728,051 M30d S Premium R752,305

The steering is superb, with some of the best feedback in the game and the sedan remains composed