2011 Infiniti M37 Expert Review:Autoblog
Not too long ago, the Infiniti M was the lesser sibling to the flagship Q. It was the middle child. During the 2006 model year, when the Q was less than a year from being dropped from the lineup, Infiniti gave the M a strong shove in the back in the form of a 4.5-liter V8 and quietly told it to climb up on the soon-to-be-vacant throne. With the Q gone and unlikely to return anytime soon, the Infiniti M is now tasked with being the automaker's flagship sedan.
Completely redesigned for the 2011 model year, the Infiniti M is bigger and better than its predecessors ever were, but it still can't fill the Q's empty shoes. Shorted the substance and stature to battle the Lexus LS, the newest Japanese luxury sedan is relegated to fighting wars with the aged Lexus GS and Acura RL. But those two are the easy enemies. BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac are the ones fielding today's worthy adversaries.
We spent a week with the "entry level" Infiniti M37. While it isn't the range-topping M56, it does boast a proven 330-horsepower V6 and a luxuriously appointed cabin. Did we miss the eight-cylinder power? Should the Sports Package be a required purchase? What unique features does the gizmo-laden four-door offer? Most importantly, how well will it fare in this lion's den of a segment? Hit the jump to find out.
Photos copyright ©2010 Michael Harley / AOL
Basking in the warm glow of the sunset and waiting for its time in front of the camera, our Malbec Black over Java M37 sedan looks absolutely stunning – especially when compared to the quirky 2003 model (which itself was based on the Japanese domestic market Nissan Gloria). Modernly sculpted, with a very fluid shape, there is no denying its family resemblance or Infiniti character.
Our test vehicle, a 2011 M37, carried a base price of $46,250 (plus an $865 destination fee). Like most you will find on the dealer's lot, ours is fitted with several significant option groups.
The Technology Package:
- Eco Pedal
- Intelligent Cruise Control
- Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Blind Spot Intervention (BSI)
- Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP)
- Distance Control Assistant (DCA)
- Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
- Front pre-crash seatbelts
- Active Trace Control
- Adaptive Front lighting system (AFS)
The Deluxe Touring Package:
- Bose 5.1-channel, 16-speaker premium audio
- Forest Air system
- Semi-aniline quilted leather
- Wood trim with silver accents
- Stitched upholstery instrument hood
- Synthetic suede headliner
- Power rear sunshade
- Satellite Navigation with an eight-inch VGA touchscreen
- Voice command recognition
- Streaming audio via Bluetooth
- 9.3GB music box hard drive
- Climate controlled front seats
- Heated steering wheel
The list didn't end there. Our M37 was also fitted with a trunk mat, trunk net, first aid kit and illuminated kick plates. After adding nearly $13,000 worth of options, the bottom line on our window sticker read $59,460.
That's a lot of money, but Infiniti wants you to realize that the M37 is a lot of car.
Like nearly all of the vehicles we test, the 2011 Infiniti M37 spent a week with us. While it wasn't fortunate enough to join us on any fancy road trips, the four-door was used as a photo platform for our recent Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup vs. Honda CR-Z comparison, and it did a whole ton of running around with the family. Suffice to say, there was plenty of time to put our arms around this sedan and figure out what parts we liked, and which ones left us a bit, well... frustrated.
Without question, we were impressed by the luxury and passenger accommodations. The front seats, with their quilted-leather upholstery and climate controls, were very supportive and comfortable, although big hands might have a difficult time reaching the control switches on the side of the seat when the door is closed. The "silver powder accents" on the wood was stunning, and the rest of the industry cranking out wood that looks more like plastic should take note. And most importantly for those not sitting up front, the rear seats offered generous legroom made the 5 Series we recently reviewed look cramped in comparison.
We also liked many aspects of the M37's driving dynamics. The 3.7-liter VQ six-cylinder engine, rated at 330 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, is the workhorse of the Nissan/Infiniti lineup. Rightfully so, as the all-aluminum powerplant seems tireless. It pulls aggressively from all over the tachometer, only seemingly winded as it approaches its high redline (an impressive 7,500 rpm). Down on power compared to its eight-cylinder brother in the M56 (loaded with 420 horsepower), the rear-wheel-drive M37 still sprints to 60 mph in less than six seconds. Its growl is enjoyed from the cabin and the annoying vibrations we've come to accept from Nissan's VQ-Series engine seem to be finally isolated. The standard brakes are strong, and they feel easily up to any task, and brake dust didn't seem to be an issue with the wheels still appearing clean after a week of driving.
Even without the Sport Package (which adds 20-inch alloys, performance tires, 4-Wheel Active Steer and more), the M37 handles very well. Thrown into a corner, its sport sedan underpinnings (Nissan's shared rear-wheel-drive FM platform) come alive. It's not a track star, but on public roads it's much more capable than 99 percent of its drivers will ever require. Interestingly enough, we deliberately dove late into a tight bend and cranked the steering wheel over to see how the sedan would handle being severely unsettled. When the tail end came around, the front seatbelts automatically reeled us firmly against the backrest.
Sporty driving behind us, the M37 provided a soft side. At normal cruising speed, the cabin is hushed and peaceful (the car is fitted with "active noise control" as a standard feature, and it seems to work effectively). Highway cruising also gave us an opportunity to "play" with the electronic wizardry – which is overwhelming. We like the AFS, ICC and LDW, but the LDP, DCA, IBA and FCW drove us nuts (as do the acronyms). The "Eco Pedal" is designed to help save fuel by pushing back against your throttle foot when you are a bit too aggressive. In practice, it increased 0-60 mph times to about 20 seconds and feels eerie... almost like a little animal is pressing back to prevent itself from being squished. We got the heebie-jeebies and quickly turned it off.
We were also bothered by the vast array of buttons on the dashboard. Regardless of how many times we drove the M, they really never became intuitive. The round multifunction dial, designed to control most of the electronic features (navigation, vehicle settings, audio, etc...), is up high on the dash, making it a stretch for tall drivers. Why not place it down where the transmission setting dial is located, on the console between the front seats? We'll never know.
Our other biggest gripe was the transmission, which will drive your average enthusiast mad. The seven-speed automatic seems to take whole seconds between gear shifts. When tooling along at 60 mph and a quick pass is required, a stab of the accelerator pedal causes the transmission to dawdle for precious moments before it shifts. By that time, we have our arms out the windows flapping our hands for more speed.
A sports sedan connoisseur will not enjoy the M37. But, don't let that dissuade you. This entry-level M isn't targeting enthusiasts. Instead, this sedan is configured for those who appreciate modern styling, cutting-edge technology, world-class luxury and enough sport to prevent embarrassment in a canyon. If that is your aspiration, this may be your ride.
Photos copyright ©2010 Michael Harley / AOL
What is an Infiniti? That's a pretty harsh question to be asking 20 years after the brand's debut, but sadly, it's pertinent. To be fair, the possible answers to this question got much narrower in 2003 when Infiniti introduced a legitimate BMW 3 Series competitor, the G35 (now G37). The situation further clarified that same year when the "Bionic Cheetah," known to the rest of us as the FX showed its (then) quite handsome face. But it was the 2005 introduction of the second generation M sedan that announced most loudly Infiniti's luxury-performance aspirations: to kick BMW in the back of the pants.
When it debuted, the M (specifically M45S) was a better sporting sedan than the BMW 545i. It had more power, it arguably handled better, and the heavily larded-on high-tech gizmos were worlds more user-friendly than BMW's first-generation iDrive (two minutes to tune in a radio station sucks). Only problem was father time, who simply wasn't kind to the ultimately frumpy looking M. While the rest of the world's sporting, mid-size sedans evolved into better, sharper, faster machines (see the astonishingly good Mercedes-Benz E-Class), the Infiniti M languished on the vine. A good car? Yes, for sure, but by its less-than-notable refresh in 2008, the M had became an also-ran. All it really had going for it was a lower price than the competition, which isn't exactly a strong selling point in such a cachet-conscious segment.
Recently, Infiniti invited the U.S. motoring press down to mostly-sunny San Diego to meet and drive its new 2011 M cars. Lo and behold, we think we may now know what an Infiniti is.
Photos by Jonny Lieberman / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
From the outside, there's little question Infiniti has stepped up the M's game in a major way. Drawing swoopy inspiration from the Essence concept, the new M is lower, wider and just a smidgen longer. Infiniti hammered home the point that the new car is the first Infiniti product to sport Essence-derived lines, but by no means will it be the last. They showed us a few pictures of the new QX56, and while we sadly can't share them with you, please take our word for it that the new QX is world's better looking than the frankly obscene old version.
Back to the M. The 2011 model looks unabashedly Japanese from its organic curves to its low-slung stance, and is a welcome return to the avant-garde sedan gauntlet thrown down by the original Q45 two decades prior. We find the heavy-looking, overly wrought grille to be a little much, but at least it's distinctive. The car's best side is either the right or the left. We love the long front doors, the relatively short (but still plenty big) rear doors and the rising, falling and then rising again belt line that terminates into a truncated-looking trunk. Squint hard enough and you can see what the Porsche Panamera should have looked like. The stance is just about perfect, the only flaw being that the 20-inch wheels somehow look slightly undersized. Go figure. The big picture is that with the exception of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-lookin' FX, Infinitis are fairly anonymous. The 2011 M changes that.
Inside is an evolution of what we've come to expect from Infiniti. Not a lot of bling or wow, but solidly business class, clean and arguably luxurious. In the negative column is button creep. For better or for worse, the new M lacks its German rivals all-in-one controller pucks (iDrive, COMMAND, MMI) and instead chooses to mimic Lexus by covering nearly every non-wooden surface in the cabin with a button. Including the starter, we counted 55.
On the good side are large patches of leather covering the instrument binnacle and acting as driver and passenger center-tunnel knee bolsters, the latter being key for when you're banging the car around a back road. Speaking of carving out corners, the leather-wrapped steering wheel is nice and chunky, though perhaps a touch too wide in diameter. We're also happy that Infiniti upgraded the nav screen (now eight inches) as the old, illegible, tiny screen was the previous car's sorest spot.
Like the third-generation Q45, Infiniti will put some really nice wood into the new M if you opt for it (side note: there were internal rumblings concerning an all-new Q flagship, but the 2009 economic tsunami nipped 'em in the bud). In the case of our photo subject, you're looking at silver-impregnated, sunburst white ash (part of the Deluxe Touring Package). While that particular wood is very nice, some of the plastics and rubbery compounds used elsewhere in the cabin aren't. For instance, there's a long strip of aluminum-look plastic inlaid into the fancy pants wood that kinda screams "Not quite."
Back to all those buttons. The new M, like the old M, is simply dripping with technology. We'd need an Infiniti M-sized owners manual worth of space to explain them all. Instead, we'll cover our favorites. Forest Air is Infiniti's attempt to make air conditioning luxurious once more. Essentially, Forest Air (depicted by a button covered with trees) oscillates the speed of the air coming out of the vents. It's supposed to mimic a fresh breeze and therefor be more refreshing. While Forest Air sounds absolutely gimmicky, we really enjoyed it in practice.
Next, we've got Active Trace Technology, also known as ACT. Like a lot of new automotive technologies coming on line these days, ACT is yet another way to utilize the ABS. For you racing types, think of it as automatic trail braking. For the rest of you, ACT selectively unbrakes certain wheels depending on the angle of the steering wheel. In theory this allows you to transition out of corners faster and more smoothly. In practice, when you're in Sport mode (and we were absolutely in Sport mode), the level of ACT interference fades into the background. It mind sound a bit spooky, but like the other new M technologies we're about to mention, you can turn it completely off by fiddling around in the nav system.
Y'all ready for this one? Blind Spot Intervention (BSI). When another vehicle is detected in either of the M's rear corners, a yellow light illuminates on the A pillar as a warning. Nothing new there. However, should you then decide to steer into said obstacle – let's say you're trying to change lanes to the left – both right-side brakes are gently applied. Actually, forget gently. If you really cut the wheel, the brakes come on rather hard. The result is that you are pulled back into your previous trajectory. Though Infiniti assured us that if you really do want to smash into the car next to you, you can muscle your way through BSI. Obviously, we were extraordinarily skeptical of this (or any such) driver interference technology. But, we tried it out, and we're here to tell you that it works as advertised.
The 2011 M also can be equipped with Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), an evolution of the previous car's Lane Departure Warning, a technology that's carried over to the new car. LDP works exactly like BSI, only instead of reacting to a car in your blind spot, LDP reads the stripes on the road and oppo-brakes the wheels to keep you in line. This one we didn't like so much, but we can see its usefulness.
There's also Intelligent Brake Assist (IBS), which uses the radar cruise control system to detect an obstacle in front of the car and then gently moves the accelerator pedal up against your foot. Again, it's sounds frightful, but in the real world it works well, essentially nudging your foot from the gas to the brake. It's more of a recommendation than an actual intervention (it really is a gentle push as opposed to a vicious shove) and is probably best used in stop-and-go traffic. Like all that we've discussed, if you don't like it, switch it off. Being even more fair to Infiniti, the new M ships with all the driver intervention tech in the off position, requiring you to turn it on in the first place.
The 2011 M comes in two main flavors, the M37 and the M56. The M37 (finally) gets Nissan's righteously good VQ37 3.7-liter V6 that's been in use for some time in the G37 and Nissan 370Z. For M duty, the VQ is tuned to 330 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 270 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. The big news is what's lying in wait under the hood of the M56 – a 5.6-liter direct-injected V8 that produces 420 hp at 6,000 rpm and a brutal 417 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Both engines are mated to Nissan's seven-speed automatic transmission that features rev-matched downshifts. If you opt for the Sport Package on either car, you also get proper column-mounted, leather-covered aluminum shift paddles.
For the purpose of this review, we're talking about cars equipped with said Sport Package that include bigger brakes and calipers front and rear, 4-Wheel Active Steering, upgraded springs and shocks, more highly bolstered seats, 245/40/20 summer tires and a big fat red S on the trunk lid. Caveat emptor: The Sport packs aren't cheap. Not only does the Sport Package cost an additional $3,650 over the $46,250 and $57,550 base prices of the M37 and M56 respectively, but you are forced to also get the Technology Package that lists for around $3,000. Is the $6,650 worth the stretch? To us, yes, but you've been warned.
It was quite eye-opening to drive the two Ms back to back. The M37S is a high-reving freak that's more than happy to spend an hour spinning along at around 5,500 rpm. Even though Infiniti's boffins managed to make the new M37 weigh six-pounds less than the outgoing M35, 3,858 pounds is still quite a chunk of car. That said, the impressive 3.7-liter V6 had enough power to motivate the big sedan quickly and satisfyingly. Yeah, you have to get on the pedal to get to the power, but that's the good part. Infiniti doesn't give out performance numbers, but we'd guess 5.5 seconds to 60 mph is about right. One quick note about the transmission, and this applies to both cars, is that it's a shame Infiniti didn't pull the trigger and put in a dual-clutch system. While you as the driver do get to pull the trigger (fine, paddle shifter), the shifts take way too long. Also, gas mileage is up by 1 mpg compared to the old M35 – 18 city/26 highway.
By contrast, the hulking M56S is much more of a grand tourer than the rev-loving M37. Torque comes on way lower down the rev range and there's so much more of it. The 5.6-liter V8 also makes more guttural, low-frequency sounds than the buzzy V6, so much so that the two cars hardly sound (let alone feel) related. Curiously, and despite its impressive power numbers, the V8 didn't come across as explosive as we thought and hoped it might. For comparison's sake, the Audi RS4 also makes 420 hp (and one hundred fewer torques) yet feels like it's being shot out of a cannon. A big cannon. The M56 on the other hand, feels more like the Lexus LS600hL. There's endless, inadequacy-compensating power on tap, it's just not a quick car. We suppose you could blame the M56's 4,028 pound curb weight (up 70 pounds over the M45), but we suspect that gearing and sound insulation is to blame. Still, the M56 probably hits 60 mph in five seconds flat, it just doesn't feel all that explosive. Mileage is unchanged compared to the M45 at 16 mpg in the city, but a vastly improved 25 mpg highway (the M45 clocked 21 mpg on the road).
While the new engines are no doubt welcome news to enthusiast types, the biggest improvement (and really this car's killer app) is the 4-Wheel Active Steering, or 4WAS. Unlike the more aggressive (and in reality, not that great) systems you might remember from the late '80s and early '90s, Infiniti's 4WAS only moves the rear wheels in phase with the front wheels by a maximum of one degree. Admittedly, that doesn't sound like much and at low speeds you simply don't notice it. But crank up the engine's volume and get ready to be impressed. 4WAS helps eliminate both under- and oversteer, but more importantly the M just feels planted when you reach a turn's apex. Not just planted, but nimble, athletic and confident, especially in conjunction with some left-foot trail braking. Put it like this: We knew going in that both Ms would be fast, but an honest to goodness handler? Color us remarkably impressed. If you're wondering, the optional four-wheel-drive systems offered on both cars kill the handling. They also add weight and aren't available with the all-important Sport Package. We're sure that traction control alone (plus snow tires) will see you and your new M through the winter.
Now comes the hard part – which one to buy. We suppose it depends on what you're into. For the corner-carving set, there's no question that the lighter, much more tossable M37S is the Infiniti to get. The M37 changes direction better than its V8 sibling, sounds crazier, behaves more predictably and is lots of fun to pound around a winding road. However, if big, wafting, luxurious road trips are your thing, you've got to choose the M56S. Its smoother, more refined and quieter V8 nicely satisfies the first part of the luxury-performance descriptor.
Which one would we drive home in? After about ten minutes of consideration, we're saying the The M37S. Surprised? We suspect that on a race track the M56S would be able to pull on the M37S in the straights, but that the lighter, more nimble M37S would make up all the time lost in the corners. And if the roads you like driving don't have any straight parts, well, the choice is that much easier. Either way, the 2011 M almost totally answers any questions we may have had about Infiniti. Almost.
Photos by Jonny Lieberman / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
All-new technological tour de force.
The 2011 Infiniti M37 and Infiniti M56 are the all-new successors to the outgoing M35 and M45. Because the V6 and V8 engines are larger for 2011, the names have changed, but the changes go much farther than engines and model nomenclature. Just about everything on these cars has been redesigned for 2011. Lower and wider than the outgoing models, but not longer, the 2011 Infiniti M models are a great deal swoopier and far more eye-appealing than before.
The 2011 Infiniti M37 is the V6 version while the 2011 Infiniti M56 features the V8.
Both are available with all-wheel-drive, denoted by M37X and M56X. The M37X and M56X feature a part-time computer-controlled drive system to add engine power to the front tires when the driving situation calls for more traction. Sports suspensions are available for the rear-wheel-drive M37 and M56 models, and a hybrid version is scheduled to join the lineup. The Infiniti M competes in the entry luxury sedan market segment with the Acura RL, Lexus GS, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and BMW 5 Series.
Infiniti's V6 and V8 powertrains have received substantial upgrades for 2011, with far more torque and horsepower available from both engines. With a 330-horsepower V6 engine, the most powerful in its class, the M37 offers 27 additional horsepower, 18 more foot-pounds of torque, and far better acceleration performance than the outgoing M35. Similarly, the V8 engine, enlarged from 4.5 to 5.6 liters, fitted with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing and lift, produces 420 horsepower, or 95 horsepower more than the M45 of last year, and 417 foot-pounds of torque, or 81 more than the M45 engine.
Both engines now use a 7-speed automatic transmission with manual shift override, which yields better acceleration in the lower gears, and significantly better highway fuel mileage, up to four miles per gallon better, than the smaller, less powerful engines with the old 5-speed automatic transmission. The new transmission features four driving modes, including Normal, Sport, Economy and Snow, controlled by a knob on the center console. Sport models include magnesium paddle shifters with blip-throttle downshifting.
The width of the 2011 Infiniti M is increased by 1.5 inches over the previous version, to 72.6 inches wide. The overall height has been lowered by 0.3-inch (to 59.1 inches). However, the wheelbase is unchanged at 114.2 inches, and the length has grown by just 0.6-inch (to 194.7 inches). The front track increased by 1.5 inches on rear-wheel-drive models to 62.0 inches and the rear track has been increased 0.8 inches to 62.0 inches. (The track is the distance between the left and right wheels.) For AWD models, the front track has increased 0.9 inches to 62.0 inches and the rear track has increased 0.6 inches to 61.6 inches.
With all the changes, the new M is about the same weight as the old car because of lightweight material substitutions such as aluminum doors. The body shape and some underbody trickery yield a coefficient of drag for the new body of only 0.27 Cd, the world's lowest for a four-door luxury car.
Befitting and proper on any modern luxury sedan, the 2011 Infiniti M line bristles with electronic technology to make driving safer and more enjoyable. For instance, the M cars are available with a blind spot warning system that beeps to tell the driver there is a vehicle in the mirror's blind spot. The M also carries a lane departure warning system to warn the driver that he or she has crossed the centerline of the highway. If the driver doesn't respond to the warning, the blind spot intervention system steps in and applies the right front brake to gently guide the car back into the lane in which it belongs.
For audio enjoyment, there are three different sound systems on the M cars, including two Bose system upgrades. The Premium Package includes a two-channel, 10-speaker sound system by Bose, the Deluxe Touring Package adds a 5.1 surround sound system with a subwoofer and 16 speakers arrayed throughout the interior.
We found the Infiniti M56X has a lovely, sporty driving demeanor. The active noise-canceling system works very well, perhaps too well, because the cabin is so quiet that exterior factors like tire noise and wind noise around the mirrors can intrude. The cabin is gorgeous and roomy, although the rear seat headroom was reduced to obtain the new shape, and the controls arrayed around the 8-inch screen are very easy to use.
The 2011 Infiniti M lineup includes the V6-powered M37 ($46,250) and M37X all-wheel drive ($48,400), and the V8-powered M56 ($57,550) and M56X all-wheel drive ($60,050).
Standard features on all Infiniti M models includes leather seating and trim, eight-way power seats, dual-zone climate control, a multi-function steering wheel with cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with AUX plug iPod compatibility, power windows, mirrors, and locks, and HomeLink garage door opener.
The Premium Package ($3,350), optional on M37 models, standard on M56 models, adds the Navigation system with 8-inch display screen, Bose two-channel, 10-speaker audio, 9.3 gigabyte Music Box hard drive, Bluetooth streaming audio, climate controlled front seats and a heated steering wheel.
A Deluxe Touring Package ($3,800) features higher-grade interior materials including semi-aniline leather seats and a faux suede headliner, special stitching and patterns on the upholstery and dash, an upgraded Bose digital 5.1 surround sound system with 16 speakers, four mounted on the tops of the front seats, power rear sunshade, and a special white ash wood trim hand-rubbed with silver powder. A unique feature of the Deluxe Touring package is the Forest Air system that not only filters and purifies incoming air, but also is programmed to blow gentle breezes into the cabin periodically, and control cabin humidity.
The Sport Package ($3,650), for rear-drive M37 and M56 only, adds active rear steering, sport suspension, sport seats, 20-inch performance tires and alloy wheels, larger brake discs and calipers. Sport models get dark chrome trim on the unique Sport grille, headlight surrounds, and alloy wheels. A Sport Touring Package ($2,000) adds the Bose 5.1 studio surround sound system, Forest Air and rear sunshade to Sport models.
The Technology Package ($3,000) adds Blind Spot Warning, Blind Spot Intervention, Active Trace Control (a form of yaw control), Intelligent Brake Assist, Forward Collision Warning, which will actively brake the car if audible warnings are ignored, and an Eco Pedal, which pushes back on the driver's right foot if driving is too aggressive for good fuel economy. Infiniti claims a 5-10 percent fuel economy improvement if the driver uses this pedal religiously.
Freestanding options include 18-inch alloy wheels and an aero package.
Safety features that come standard on all 2011 Infiniti M models include dual-stage front air bags with seat belt and occupant classification sensors, side-impact air bags, and roof-mounted curtain air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection. Active safety features on all models include anti-lock brakes (ABS), and electronic stability control. The optional Technology Package further enhances safety. The all-wheel drive that comes on M37X and M56X models further improves handling stability in slippery conditions. Infiniti M models come with excellent seat belts with force limiters and pretensioners, so be sure to wear them.
The Infiniti M exterior design is all new for 2011. The design is reminiscent of Infiniti's Essence concept coupe introduced summer 2009, but with four doors instead of two. It is altogether more swoopy, curvaceous and modern than the previous middle-of-the-road M designs, with a pleasing combination of more curvature and less chrome. The body and underbody are aerodynamically pure, leading to a very low 0.27 drag coefficient, and that leads to a quieter interior, among other things.
Infiniti says the long-hood, short-deck design conveys that the M is a rear-drive sedan, with the severely laid-back windshield and the flowing fenders and body lines accentuating its sportier nature. They say that, for its size, it has the largest interior volume and largest trunk space in its class.
The M line carries high-intensity xenon headlamps, with adaptive lighting optional. A power tilting sunroof is standard, as are power folding and auto-reversing mirrors.
The 2011 Infiniti M has been completely redesigned inside. Everything in the cockpit has been redesigned to be more luxurious to see, touch and use, with beautiful design work on every piece and higher quality materials throughout. The steering wheel, wheel controls, instrument panel, center stack, center console, door panels and seats, all have been redesigned and upgraded.
The intelligent key system used on the 2011 Infiniti M incorporates the normal unlocking and locking features but adds audio setting, climate control settings and navigational settings to the memory in the key, an interesting and useful feature not offered on most luxury cars.
Every M car uses active noise control inside the cabin, a dual microphone system that listens to the ambient noise created by the powertrain, the mirrors, the body, and the tires and produces sound waves that cancel those noises. Even at triple-digit speeds and lots of throttle, the M is very quiet inside.
We found the 2011 Infiniti M56X, equipped with all-wheel drive, Deluxe touring package, and Technology Package, to be a very high performer. The added weight of the all-wheel-drive system is more than overcome by the additional 95 horsepower and 81 foot-pounds of torque from the new, larger engine and the deeper gearing in the silky-smooth, quick-shifting 7-speed transmission.
One drawback for both the V6 and V8 versions is that both of these more powerful engines require premium fuel.
The 5.6-liter V8 engine's sound is muffled back to provide the car with a luxury feel, and the 7-speed double-overdrive transmission certainly lowers engine rpm at highway speeds; nevertheless, the throttle response is extremely quick, and the M56 accelerates with authority. And it does so quietly. This is not the 5.6-liter V8 used in the Nissan pickup trucks. Rather, is a larger version of the Infiniti 5.0-liter V8, the division's first engine fitted with direct fuel injection cylinder heads and other technologies such as variable valve timing and intake valve lift, and a variable intake tract, yielding a combination of low-end torque, high-rpm power, and very good fuel economy for an engine this size in a heavy luxury car.
The M56X has a heavy steering feel aided by its heavier nose weight and tendency to understeer, but it acquits itself quite well on curvy roads, with lots of help from the suspension system, which uses mechanical twin-piston shock absorbers instead of electronic ones. It's plush and sporty at the same time without the harshness added by the 20-inch tires and wheels that come with the Sport package.
We found the braking to be exemplary, with a nice, high pedal, progressive actuation, and excellent ABS performance on panic stops. The standard brakes on our M56X were 12.6 inches front and 12.1 inches rear, but the Sport package brakes are huge: 14 inches front, 13.8 inches rear. Infiniti M brakes come with ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Quick Brake Assist.
The 2011 Infiniti M is the newest arrival among luxury sedans starting at $45,000 where German cars are the dominant players. The new Infiniti M looks better, drives better and feels better in every way than the car it replaces, at about a $400 premium for V6 and $2500 premium for the V8 versions. However, there is no more $1300 gas guzzler tax to pay on V8 models. This is a fairly and competitively priced, voluptuously styled luxury car that most drivers would agree wants for nothing in standard form and offers a huge array of options for customizing.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from San Diego, California.
Infiniti M37 ($46,250), M37X ($48,400); M56 ($57,550), M56X ($60,050).
Options As Tested
Technology package ($3,000) with intelligent cruise control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Distance Control Assist, Intelligent Brake Assist, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Blind Spot Intervention, front pre-crash seat belts, active trace control, Eco Pedal, Adaptive Front Lighting System w auto-leveling headlights; Deluxe Touring package ($3,800) with semi-aniline leather seating, wood trim with metallic finish, seat bolstering, suede-like headliner, door inserts, Bose surround sound digital 5.1 with 16 speakers, power rear sunshade, Forest Air with Advanced Auto Recirculation, breeze mode, Plasmacluster air purifier, Grape Polyphenol filter.
Infiniti M56X ($60,050).
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