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Infiniti G37S Premium

Price: £37,590
Top speed: 155mph 0-62mph 5.9 seconds
Consumption: 26.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 246g/km
Best for: quality and performance without badge baggage
Also worth considering? BMW 5-Series, Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class

If there were much justice in this world, the Infiniti G37 would be a raging success. But there isn't, so you probably have no idea what an Infiniti is and almost certainly have no intention of buying one. Anyway, for the uninitiated, Infiniti is to Nissan what Lexus is to Toyota, which is to say that it is Nissan's premium brand – and the G37 is Infiniti's idea of a sporty saloon. It really is very good. In some respects, it feels more like a BMW 5-Series should than the current BMW 5-Series does, if that's not too daft a notion; the G37 is smaller than today's 5 but it is very close in size to the popular and wieldy E39 5-Series of 1996, and its six-cylinder motor has an agreeable snarl of the sort that used to be a BMW trademark before the Bavarian car-maker switched its emphasis away from petrol-powered sixes to four-cylinder engines and diesels.

But if the G37 feels like a 5-Series should, it doesn't really look like most Europeans' notion of a prestige car. Its curvy form is far from unattractive but it has nothing like the presence of, say, a Mercedes or a Jaguar – and this is where the existing premium car-makers have an edge over newcomers such as Infiniti. Each has an established design language which it draws upon in subtle ways in order to tie its new cars to famous models that have gone before, and that history is exploited to the full; go to Stuttgart and look at the new museums built by Porsche and Mercedes, mighty monuments to decades of engineering achievement. And if you've got an old Mercedes or BMW, its makers are still there for you, able to supply new parts decades after it left the factory, while armies of enthusiasts complement those efforts with lively owners' clubs and independent specialist workshops, activities that support the residual values of older cars and help burnish the brands concerned.

None of that necessarily makes a BMW, a Jaguar or a Mercedes a better car than an Infiniti, but it does all exert an almost irresistible pull over European buyers. It's different everywhere else, though. Infiniti is new to Europe but like Lexus it has been present in the USA for over 20 years. It can also compete on fairly equal terms with European prestige brands in emerging markets where many of tomorrow's buyers of expensive cars will be first-generation drivers – and that's where the profits of the future will be made.