Nissan stages a comeback in the luxury car segment with a bang in a driving demo of its M37 model
A taste of Infiniti Former Red Bull driver David Coulthard in the driver's seat navigating a devilish cone-marked circuit in a show-slide- and-tell at the Changi Exhibition Centre -- PHOTO: WEARNES AUTOMOTIVE

How do you launch a relatively unknown brand with a bang?

You could sign up as major sponsor to a successful Formula One (F1) team, such as Red Bull.

You could 'team up' with a top racing ace, such as Sebastian Vettel, to create a hot concept model that looks production ready.

You could make a sensational announcement, like wanting to start manufacturing outside your home country.

Infiniti - Nissan's answer to Toyota's Lexus - has done all that and more now that it has decided to woo buyers other than Americans.

For Singapore, Infiniti's latest appearance represents its second coming. The marque was here a decade ago, with the Lexus LS-rivalling Q45. But it soon fizzled out for lack of marketing muscle.

Now, as part of diversified Wearnes Automotive's growing luxury stable, Infiniti gets a second go at a segment Lexus has carved for itself in the last two decades.

Wearnes got things started with a bang at the sprawling Changi Exhibition Centre this F1 week. It devised a devilish cone-marked circuit in a show-slide- and-tell that sought to convey the message that Infiniti is about performance as much as luxury.

The model to demonstrate this was the M37, a car aimed squarely at BMW's 5-series and Lexus' GS.

Powering a sedan nearly 5m long and tipping the scales at almost 1.8 tonnes through a series of hairpins and chicanes in the wet may seem like a bad idea to start the day.

But actually, it was rather fun.

The M37 acquitted itself fairly well, even in the hands of a driver who had trouble remembering anything beyond the second turn.

Powered by a 3.7-litre V6 found in the Nissan 370Z, the Infiniti barge had more than ample grunt. Its seven-speed autobox with paddle shifters worked well with the engine and was also more responsive than expected.

Its battery of dynamic aids - from four-wheel steering to Vehicle Dynamic Control with side brake force distribution and pitching control - helped.

But there was a limit to what they could do with the vehicle's heft, the insanely complicated circuit and the driver's tendency to overcook things.

The car's capable brakes also showed wear from the abuse.

In the end, the overall impression was mixed: While the Infiniti had plenty going for it as a performance-luxury car, it is not meant for a course that is best tackled in a Lotus or a Porsche.

Hot laps with former Red Bull driver David Coulthard (oh yes, Wearnes and Infiniti arranged for that as well) did not change that impression much.

Coulthard had trouble remembering all the twists and turns, too, declaring that he was not a 'cone racer'.

'Driving around cones,' he said while powering out of a tight left, 'has no consequences. When there's no consequence, there's no risk. And when there's no risk, there's no fun.'

Getting in and out of a second hairpin, he muttered: 'Oh, where the hell am I?'

At the end of two not-very-hot laps, he apologised: 'Sorry, that wasn't very exciting.'

With subsequent passengers, the retired Scottish F1 driver ignored the circuit at times to execute donuts on the wet tarmac - which admittedly looked (and sounded) more fun.

For all the sound and fury, the exercise may signify nothing for most Infiniti customers, who are likely to be more impressed with the car's comfort and build quality, as well as its extraordinary equipment list.

That list includes a Bose 16-speaker 'surroundsound' hi-fi; a noise-cancellation system that masks aural intrusions from the road, wind and engine; and a built-in air purifier and freshener.

The car also comes with Scratch Shield Paint - a self-healing paint technology that frustrates vandals.

While the M37 - the first of several Infiniti models - will be launched officially only in January, indications are that the Sports Premium variant will be priced just below $300,000, while the Premium will be about 10 per cent less.

In short, lots of bang for the buck.