Just about everything else one could want in a fine luxury sedan is standard: deliciously comfortable power front seats covered in Sojourner leather; air bags all over the place; a 225-watt Bose stereo system; and Infiniti's trademark analog clock, a subtle throwback. There is ample room for four, and the trunk can easily swallow a pair of golf bags.
Presumably, Infiniti thinks the M45's soul is revealed in its sheet metal, and I'd be hard-pressed to quibble with them. The body shape looks as if the skin were pulled tightly over a skeletal frame. Styling, of course, is always subjective, but to my eyes this is a real looker. It's retro without being overtly so, a much cleaner and less-fussy design than the Q45.
Driving the M45 is an intensely visceral experience. The athletic V-8 pushes you back in the seat like the great muscle-car engines of the sixties, and the all-black body and taut lines remind me of the old Fords moonshiners used to run. Rushing through the two-lane back roads of the North Carolina Sandhills at night, the car was swift and silent as it approached triple-digit speeds. One could almost imagine the ghosts of yesteryear with bottles of Apple Jack or Cherry Bounce stashed in the trunk.
And here's the best part: While the Q45 luxury model costs $52,000 and the Q45 premium model $61,000, base price on the M45 is just $42,300—which puts this full-size luxury sedan in the same ballpark as a heavily optioned 3-Series BMW or a similar C-Class Mercedes.
In short, the M45 delivers outstanding performance in every category and a lot more car than one would expect for the money. How can you argue with that?
Scorecard: INFINITI M45 SEDAN
ENGINE: 4.5-liter V-8
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
ZERO TO 60 MPH: 6.1 seconds
TOP SPEED: 144 MPH
By Alec Wilkinson
Chopard's Mille Miglia 2003, available in stainless steel, is named in honor of an annual sports-car race through Italy begun in the 1920s, interrupted in the fifties, and revived in the seventies. Chopard became the race's sponsor in the eighties and has released a commemorative-edition watch each year since. This year's model has a large face with three interior dials—hours, minutes and seconds—and the date artfully placed between two of them. The arrangement is dense, but not untidy. Engraved on the bezel is a tachometric scale. Most of the watches—the edition is limited to 2,003—are built in a steel case, with a raised outline of the Mille Miglia course on the back; 250 feature pink gold and 250 offer white gold.
The size of a poker chip, the Mille Miglia has the heft of a small machine. Its functional and captivating face suggests its role as sleek accessory to daring and stylish adventures—race cars and pin turns through mountain roads and ancient stone villages by day, casino odysseys by night. What it represents is nothing less than a triumph of engineering, the sublime and indifferent mechanical world that labors tirelessly, with an efficiency we can only approach.
Scorecard: CHOPARD MILLE MIGLIA 2003
DIAMETER: 40.50 mm
HEIGHT: 12.65 mm
MOVEMENT: Automatic self-winding
CONTACT: 800-246-7273, www.chopard.com
BILL FISCHER, TRAVEL AGENT WITHOUT PEER
By Larry Olmsted
Being the world's top travel agent means a lot more than booking trips to Cuba for Diane Sawyer or arranging vacations for Tom Cruise and Steve Wynn, all of which Bill Fischer and his team of twenty have done. It means making miracles happen every day. Clients routinely call and ask him to make dinner or spa appointments when their own hotels can't accommodate them—child's play, really, for a man for whom hotel owners and general managers bend over backward in order to court favor with his clients. What sets Fischer apart are some of his more spectacular accomplishments, like having the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach knock down walls to create bigger suites for a client—in the middle of peak winter season—or getting the Sistine Chapel opened after-hours for a private tour. In other words, we're talking about a bit more than getting you bumped up into first class.
All of Fischer's clients are demanding, and a lot of them play golf. Not surprisingly, their most popular requests are Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, neither of which is that hard to arrange, given the right budget. And yes, he gets requests for Augusta National. "I have to call a member, but I can't really talk about that," he said. Securing tournament badges for the Masters is another annual request: "The hardest part is getting a place to stay. I rent houses." Another "house" Fischer recently rented was Scotland's Skibo Castle, which he took over for a five-day party, including golf. "The managing director told me our party was better than Madonna's wedding," he noted.
Fischer serves on the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton advisory boards, and many of his celebrity guests book golf at those properties because of their privacy along with their courses, all of which he personally previews. (Fischer doesn't belong to a club but plays at every resort he visits, as well as in charity tournaments. As he spends nearly half his time on the road, checking out new resorts, inspecting villas and testing established destinations, he gets in around fifty rounds a year.) Some of his clients book and pay for twelve greens fees so they can keep open holes in front of them and behind them for additional privacy. Many travel by private jet or yacht, and some like to bring a golf pro along to work on their game (or simply to have someone to play with).
But nothing tops the birthday present Fischer set up at the request of a client's wife. "She said it was her husband's dream to play with Jack Nicklaus," he said. "We set it up as a surprise. He thought he was just playing golf in Florida for his birthday, so he's in the pro shop checking in. I set it up so Nicklaus comes over and says, 'Hey, we need a fourth. Want to join us?' The guy was stunned. Sometimes it's not even travel. We have clients who want to bring pros to their clubs to show off. We get Senior Tour guys for a reasonable amount. If he's not playing in a tournament, I can even get Tiger Woods. Last time I checked, it was $425,000." Fischer pointed out that in many of these cases, including Nicklaus's, the fee goes to the player's charity.
Want to experience the kind of service that Sandy Weill, Quincy Jones, Magic Johnson and Jonathan Tisch take for granted?Fischer requires a $10,000 fee just to become his client, plus a $5,000 annual retainer. Of course, his number is unlisted. "People will find you if they want you, one way or another," he said. "Oprah put her show's research staff on the job of tracking me down. If you make it too easy, it's not a challenge. If you're the right kind of person, you know the right kind of people."