Take a look over Infiniti's current line-up and two vehicles stand out: The M and the QX. Both vehicles have been soldiering on while the brand's volume models (G and FX) have undergone major redesigns, leaving Infiniti's flagship sedan and hulking SUV toiling away unchanged since 2003 and 2004, respectively.
Last night, that changed.
We'll probably see a mildly tweaked G in So. Cal. while covering the LA Auto Show (an updated QX full-size SUV won't appear until later), but the star of the party is the 2011 Infiniti M. Due to go on sale next spring, the M will be available with two powerplants -- Infiniti's ubiquitous 3.7-liter V6 and a new 5.6-liter V8 -- each available with rear- or all-wheel drive and both packing enough electronic gizmos to make even the most hardened NASA engineer's head spin.
UPDATE: A hybrid version of the M will debut sometime in the middle of 2010. A live image gallery of the M56 has been added below, along with more high-res pics of both the Sport and Touring models. Also, scope out the sexiest door handles you'll see this week here.
Based atop the same FM (front-midship) platform as its predecessor (and a host of other Nissan and Infiniti models), the 2011 M grows in nearly every dimension, spanning a total of 194.7 inches, with a 114.2-inch wheelbase, and 72.6-inch width, while getting a little taken off the top with a lower (59.1-inches) roofline. The overall aesthetic, both inside and out, is decidedly more attractive and less anonymous than the M it replaces, with a host of strakes, curves and bulges that finally lend some drama to the last gen's drab design.
Tucked away underneath the M's new swelled hood, is a either a 3.7-liter V6 putting out 330 horsepower (at 7,000 rpm) and 270 pound-feet of torque (at 5,200 rpm) or a direct injected 5.6-liter V8 churning out 420 hp (at 6,000 rpm) and 417 lb-ft of twist (at 4,400 rpm) -- a gain of 95 hp and 81 lb-ft over the previous 4.5-liter V8.
Both VVEL-equipped engines send power to either the rear or all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox with Drive Sport manual mode and optional paddle shifters. Opt for the Sport Package (on RWD models) and rev-matched downshifts and four-wheel "active steer" (4WAS) join uprated 14-inch front and 13.8-inch rear brakes, along with bolstered front seats, an ugraded steering wheel, a sports suspension and 20-inch wheels wrapped in P245/40 summer rubber (18-inch wheels with all-season rubber comes standard).
Like every other luxury automaker, Infiniti has packed its newest flagship with a host of new technologies that have either appeared on previous models or are all-new for the 2011 M. A few stand out.
Four driving modes allow the driver to select the most suitable throttle and transmission mapping, with Standard, Sport, Snow and Eco modes, the latter of which will illuminate lights on the dash to inform the driver if they're piloting the M in a conscientious facing, along with a new system -- dubbed the "Eco Pedal" -- that will vibrate the throttle pedal slightly to reinforce the message.
In conjunction with the raft of passive and active safety systems, including Blind Spot Warning, Active Tracing Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Distance Control Assist, Intelligent Brake Assist -- breathe -- and Forward Collision Warning, Infiniti has included a world's first on the M: a "Blind Sport Intervention" (BSI) system. Used in conduction with the Blind Sport Warning programming, the BSI system "helps the driver return the vehicle back toward the center of the lane of travel." Something we're keen to sample in the coming months.
You can read up on all the 2011 M's features in the press release below, and expect live images later tonight.
2011 Infiniti M Sedan Set for Spring Launch; Offers Tailored, Vibrant Experience for Driver and Passengers
All-New Infiniti M56 and M37 Feature More Power, Magnetic Design, Luxurious Interior and World's First Blind Spot Intervention™ System
Performance reshaped to ignite invigoration. Luxury alive to the human touch. Industry-first technology honed to anticipate. Of all the ways used to describe Infiniti's all-new halo sedan, the 2011 Infiniti M, it all perhaps comes down to one word – Inspired. Like the dramatic Infiniti Essence Concept, which served as a blueprint for the new M's designers and engineers, this next-generation M embraces the essence of all things Infiniti – style, performance, luxury, craftsmanship and technology.
"The 2011 Infiniti M embodies all of our best thinking, design and quality to date," said Ben Poore, vice president, Infiniti Business Unit. "It builds on the strengths of the previous generation, delivering a performance luxury experience crafted to a higher standard."
The 2011 Infiniti M will be offered in M37 and M56 model designations when it goes on sale at Infiniti retailers nationwide in spring 2010. The M37 features a refined 3.7-liter V6 engine with increased power and fuel economy (versus the previous generation M35's 3.5-liter V6). The M56 also offers more power and better fuel economy from an all-new 5.6-liter V8 (versus the previous generation M45's 4.5-liter V8). Both the M37 and M56 engines feature Infiniti's advanced VVEL (Variable Valve Event & Lift) system and all models are equipped with a standard 7-speed automatic transmission. The M56 engine also utilizes Direct Injection Gasoline™ (DIG) technology. The M37 and M56 are available in both rear-wheel drive and with Infiniti's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system. A special Sport Package, offered on rear-wheel drive models only, offers 4-wheel Active Steer (4WAS), sport-tuned suspension, Sport Brakes and 20-inch wheels and tires.
The new M is a showcase for Infiniti's advanced, user-focused technologies, carrying on the tradition of the previous generation M. New technologies include:
- Infiniti Drive, a four-mode driver-selectable control of throttle and transmission mapping that helps optimize vehicle performance
- Active Noise Control, which reduces undesirable engine harmonics, providing a quieter cabin
- Blind Spot Warning (BSW), which helps alert the driver if another vehicle is detected in the blind spot area
- Blind Spot Intervention™ (BSI), a world's first system that, enhances BSW by helping the driver return the vehicle back toward the center of the lane of travel away from the vehicle in the blind spot area
- Forest Air™ system, which helps reduce the intrusion of unpleasant odors into the cabin and provides a more natural breeze-like airflow
- Eco Pedal, which provides driver feedback to encourage eco-driving behavior
- Active Trace Control, which adjusts engine torque and the control of braking at each of the four wheels to help enhance cornering performance
- Double-piston Shock Absorbers that control damping force according to frequency of input from the road surface
The 2011 M also offers a next-generation Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System, Bose® Studio Surround® premium audio system, Intelligent Cruise Control (Full-Speed Range), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) systems, Distance Control Assist (DCA), Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Front Pre-Crash Seat Belts.
"The new M utilizes technology that enhances the driving experience, rather than intrudes upon it, adapting to changing conditions or the driver's mood to provide optimized performance," said Poore. "The same philosophy holds true for the design of the M's luxurious interior, which blends comfort and technology in an intuitive, completely harmonious way to provide both driver and passengers with an unforgettable experience, every time they enter the cabin."
Magnetic Styling With an Unexpectedly Spacious Cabin
The story behind the exterior design of the all-new M is multi-layered, just like the body surface itself, which was conceived to mirror reflections from different angles to create a sense of mystery and magnetic allure.
Building on the previous M's balanced, rear-wheel drive proportions and stance – with a long, low hood and high rear deck – the new M maintains the roomy cabin of its predecessor while providing a longer, lower and wider shape. The M wheelbase is unchanged at 114.2 inches, but the width has been increased by 2.0 inches (to 72.6 inches), the length increased by 0.6-inch (to 194.7 inches) and the overall height lowered by 0.4-inch (to 59.1 inches). The front and rear tracks have been increased by 1.4 and 0.8 inches respectively (to 62.0 inches front and rear).
Along with the more aggressive dimensions, the new M's sportier appearance can be attributed to the deep body shape of the fenders and doors that give the M sedan a powerful look unlike anything on the road. The new wave-style doors are constructed from aluminum for light weight, despite the material's difficult formability. The stamping dies for each door are hand polished to maintain their precision and every door undergoes an exacting human inspection, providing a handcrafted level of quality.
Like the previous M, the new design optimizes both luxury and sport styling cues – with an expressive, signature Infiniti double-arch upright low grille and crystal-look headlight clusters, large aluminum-alloy wheels, and a wave-like trunk with a high aerodynamic performance that works like a spoiler to increase downforce. Infiniti M37 and M56 models equipped with the optional Sport Package also feature a unique front fascia, dark finish grille, dark headlight housings and 20-inch wheels and tires.
Underneath and unseen, though contributing to the new M's low coefficient of drag of just 0.27 and zero lift front and rear, are a series of aerodynamic enhancers including front tire deflector, engine under cover (front and rear), center floor cover, rear tire deflectors, exhaust cover, floor side fairings and rear diffuser.
"The look of the new M is distinctively Infiniti – vibrant, aggressive and comfortably complex to hold your interest over the life of ownership," said Poore.
Standard exterior features include a power sliding tinted glass moonroof with one-touch open/close, tilt feature and sliding sunshade, automatic on/off High Intensity Discharge (HID) bi-functional Xenon headlights with windshield wiper interlock, dual exhaust with chrome tips, power-folding heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature, rain-sensing variable intermittent front windshield wipers and courtesy lamps built into the outside door handles. Auto-leveling headlights with Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS) are available as part of the Technology Package.
For 2011, the Infiniti M is available in eight exterior colors: Malbec Black, Liquid Platinum, Platinum Graphite, Blue Slate, Storm Front Grey, Black Obsidian, Moonlight White and Harbour Blue.
An Interior That Fits Like a "Second Skin"
Unlike other performance luxury sedans that prioritize the impression their vehicles make on others, Infiniti's intention is different – with the focus centered around the individual driving the car. Nowhere is this philosophy more apparent than in the new M's interior that adapts to different driver conditions. Created almost as a "second skin," the carefully tailored and crafted M cockpit becomes an extension of the driver.
The M's engineers and designers researched all areas of the M interior, from the space between and shape of switches and controls to the response of occupants to material softness and textures. The result is what its creators describe as a "warm human accuracy with sensuality."
"The goal of the new M's interior is to present an elegant yet functional design that combines artistry with precision, comfort with innovation – all in support of enhancing driving performance and passenger enjoyment," said Poore. "From the handcrafted wood accents to the custom leather appointments, we've made luxury more sensory and alluring."
Careful attention was paid to identifying the precise location for key controls, using consistent shapes and groupings for controls that work in the same manner. There are three areas of operability – the sight information area, the operation area and the easy access area.
The M instrument panel features "Fine Vision" electroluminescent gauges, gear-like rings on the instrument cluster meters, a 7.0-inch vehicle information display, Infiniti analog clock and unique aluminum trim surface texturing. Leather-appointed, 10-way power driver and front passenger's seats with adjustable lumbar support are standard, along with a dual occupant memory system for the driver's seat, steering wheel, outside mirrors, HVAC and audio settings – which are linked to the individual Intelligent Keys. An entry/exit assist system for the driver's seat and steering wheel, heated front seats, sequential welcome lighting illuminated entry system and dual-zone automatic temperature also contribute to the M's outstanding level of standard luxury appointments.
Standard technology equipment includes Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, Infiniti Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition, HomeLink® Universal Transceiver and RearView Monitor.
Other interior highlights include a large center console, power windows with one-touch up/down and auto-reverse feature, power auto door locks, power trunk release, retained accessory power for windows and moonroof, standard XM® Satellite Radio (XM® subscription required, sold separately) and 6-speaker audio system with AM/FM/CD, Radio Data System (RDS), USB Connection Port for iPod® and other compatible devices, steering wheel audio controls and speed-sensitive volume control.
Listening to music or conversation in the M interior is a little easier thanks to the new Active Noise Control system. Standard on all 2011 M models, Active Noise Control uses sound to delete sound – generating "canceling" sound from four door speakers to reduce unpleasant engine harmonics. The cabin noise levels are monitored by two microphones located in the M's ceiling, with no action needed from the driver and passengers except to enjoy the quiet, comfortable cabin.
For buyers seeking a slightly higher level of features and technology, the Premium Package adds the next-generation Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System with 8.0-inch VGA color touch-screen display, XM NavTraffic® with Real-Time Traffic Information, XM NavWeather™ with Real-Time Weather and 3-day forecast (XM® subscription required, sold separately), Zagat® Restaurant Guide, Streaming Audio via Bluetooth® and 9.3GB Music Box® Hard Drive.
The Premium Package also adds a Bose® 2-channel 10-speaker premium audio system, heated steering wheel and climate-controlled front seats. All Premium Package equipment is standard on the M56 and M56x AWD.
The Touring Package adds such notable features as the Bose® Studio Surround® sound system with digital 5.1-channel decoding and 16 speakers (including two personal speakers mounted in the shoulders of each front seat), power rear sunshade, unique quilted seat pattern with contrasting piping, additional seat bolstering, suede-like headliner and a stitched, synthetic leather meter hood.
The Touring Package also features semi-aniline leather, which feels soft and firm like premium sofa material, in two available colors – Java or Stone. Also utilized is specially developed soft synthetic leather for the armrests, door inserts, center console and kneepads. The Touring Package's genuine White Ash wood trim has been enhanced with real silver powder. Japanese Ash wood trim is offered on base and Sport models.
The Touring Package also offers the new Forest Air™ system, which recreates the refreshing climate and natural breezes of a relaxing forest setting. System sensors automatically open and close air intake ports to reduce the intrusion of dust, exhaust or unpleasant odors into the cabin, while the special grape polyphenol filter and Plasmacluster™ air purifier help filter allergens, mold and viruses out of the cabin. Humidity control prevents the over-drying of air from the air conditioner, while the breeze mode provides a natural airflow feeling, gently and subtly varying the airflow from the upper and front air vents.
Four interior colors are offered – Graphite, Stone, Wheat and Java (availability varies with option packages). Sport Package-equipped models receive unique front seat designs, sport steering wheel and shift knob stitching, and aluminum-trimmed pedals.
"With materials designed to provide a more premium feel and technology that anticipates the needs of the user, the new M provides the highest level of luxury of any Infiniti to date," said Poore. "This is an interior that makes you want to just keep driving."
Two Advanced Powerplants, A Naturally Dynamic Driving Feel
Infiniti engineers envisioned the all-new M to deliver a more fluid, naturally dynamic performance feeling, sculpting the power of the VVEL-equipped 3.7-liter V6 and 5.6-liter V8 to release like a rising wave.
The engines' VVEL systems combine hydraulic-controlled variable valve timing and electronically controlled variable valve lift on the intake side to help improve performance and response. Throttle response is enhanced by directly controlling the intake valve, rather than using the traditional method of controlling intake with the throttle valve. The VVEL systems also offer improved emissions and fuel efficiency (over the non-VVEL designs) by substantially reducing the intake resistance that occurs when the engine's throttle valve opening is narrowed and output is low.
The M37's 3.7-liter VVEL, 24-valve DOHC aluminum-alloy V6 is rated at 330 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 270 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm, increases of 27 horsepower and 8 lb-ft of torque versus the previous 3.5-liter V6. The engine also features rigid ladder frame construction, large crank journal and pin diameters, asymmetric piston skirts, twin knock sensors, an electronically controlled "drive-by-wire" throttle system, molybdenum coated lightweight pistons, Iridium spark plugs and a symmetric twin air intake system.
The M56's 5.6-liter VVEL, 32-valve, DOHC, Direct Injection Gasoline™ (DIG) aluminum-alloy V8 is rated at 420 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque, increases of 95 horsepower and 81 lb-ft of torque versus the previous 4.5-liter V8.
The new DIG™ system provides better wide-open throttle performance and improved fuel economy and emissions performance by reducing engine knock, improving combustion stability and offered more precise injection control.
All 2011 Ms come standard with Infiniti's refined 7-speed automatic transmission with Downshift Rev Matching and Adaptive Shift Control (ASC), which allows for sportier shifts during spirited driving. Solid magnesium paddle shifters are standard with the Sport Package (RWD models only).
A unique new feature of the 2011 M is Infiniti Drive, an integrated control system that allows drivers to select from four driving modes, depending on mood or driving conditions, with a dial switch located on the center console. Each mode, Standard, Eco, Sport or Snow, adjusts throttle sensitivity and transmission mapping to help optimize performance.
In addition to the standard mode (suitable for normal driving conditions), the fuel-efficient Eco mode utilizes green and yellow lights on the instrument panel to provide feedback on driving efficiency. The system also provides feedback directly through the accelerator pedal, giving a slight pushback if driving inefficiently. The Sport mode allows engine rpm to rev higher and extends transmission shift points for more power and quicker response.
The new M utilizes the advanced FM (Front Mid-ship) platform, which positions the engine behind the front axle, resulting in an optimized front-to-rear weight balance. In addition to increasing the number of places where the body joints are welded, laser welding is now performed at critical locations to help enhance lateral bending stiffness, torsional stiffness and suspension mounting point stiffness (versus the previous M design).
The M suspension continues the previous generation's independent double-wishbone design in front and multi-link independent system in the rear, along with front and rear stabilizer bars. The rear suspension geometry has been updated to provide a quieter ride.
The Sport Package's sport-tuned suspension includes new double-piston shock absorbers that provide a high damping force at low frequency vibrations for a flat ride and low damping force at high frequency vibrations for a smoother ride.
Also available with the Sport Package is the 4-Wheel Active Steer system, which helps provide lower steering effort and agile handling at low/medium speeds and a more stable feel at higher speeds. Depending on the vehicle speed and the steering angle, the rear wheels are steered in-phase with the front wheels.
The Infiniti M's large diameter wheels and tires are positioned out near the corners of the vehicle, helping to enhance handling. Standard 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and P245/50R18 V-rated tires are offered on all models. Unique 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with aggressive P245/40R20 low-profile summer tires are available with the Sport Package.
Every 2011 M utilizes standard 4-wheel power-assisted vented disc brakes (12.6-inch front, 12.1-inch rear) with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). The Sport Package includes larger 14.0-inch front/13.8-inch rear rotors with 4-piston front/2-piston rear opposed calipers.
The steering system is an electronically controlled vehicle-speed-sensing variable-assist power rack-and-pinion design. Every Infiniti M includes Infiniti's advanced Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS). VDC automatically adjusts brake pressure and engine torque during certain situations where the vehicle is near its handling limit, helping the driver to maintain control of the vehicle.
For drivers seeking the enhanced performance of all-wheel drive, the M37x and M56x models feature Infiniti Intelligent All-Wheel Drive. The system uses an advanced torque split control strategy that automatically redistributes torque to the wheels (0:100 up to 50:50 front to rear) according to road and driving conditions.
"The new Infiniti M is designed to take the driver to a deeper level of performance, whether on a winding mountain road or navigating more efficiency through city traffic," said Poore. "It's a completely balanced performance, maximizing power, handling and ride comfort on one exceptional package."
Advanced Safety and Security Systems
The 2011 Infiniti M is available with a number of innovative technologies designed to help avoid potentially dangerous situations. The M again offers Infiniti's Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) systems. The LDW and LDP systems use a small camera installed behind the windshield to detect lane markers in front of the vehicle, calculate its position relative to those lane markers and warn the driver of a potential unintended lane departure with a visual display and audible buzzer. If the driver does not return the vehicle back toward the center of the travel lane, the LDP system assists the driver with a gentle application of the brakes.
New for 2011 is the addition of the Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Blind Spot Intervention™ (BSI) systems, which are available as part of the M Technology Package. BSW illuminates an indicator light if another vehicle is detected in the blind spot area. If the driver then uses the turn signal, the indicator flashes and an audible warning sound. BSI is another world-first safety feature from Infiniti and takes blind spot technology to the next level. If the vehicle gets close to the lane marker and another vehicle is detected in the blind spot area, the indicator flashes, an audible warning sounds, and selective braking is applied to one side of the vehicle to help the driver bring the vehicle back to the center of the driving lane. BSI operates regardless of turn signal usage.
Other available safety features include Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Front Pre-Crash Seat Belts.
In addition, all 2011 Infiniti M models come equipped with standard Infiniti Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual-stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt and occupant classification sensors; standard front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags; and standard roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection.
The Infiniti M also includes standard 3-point ALR/ELR seat belts (driver's seat ELR only), front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, front seat Active Head Restraints with 4-way manual adjustments, along with Zone Body construction with front and rear crumple zones and LATCH System (Lower Anchors and Tether for CHildren).
Four Well-Equipped Models
The 2011 Infiniti M is offered in four well-equipped models: the M37 (V6 rear-wheel drive), M37x AWD (V6 all-wheel drive), M56 (V8 rear-wheel drive) and M56x (V8 all-wheel drive).
The Sport Package, offered with M37 and M56 rear-wheel drive only, adds 20-inch wheels and tires, Sport Suspension, Sport Brakes, 4-Wheel Active Steer (4WAS), paddle shifters, sport seat, aluminum pedal accents, stitched synthetic leather meter hood, sport steering wheel and shift knob, unique front fascia with dark finish grille and dark headlight housings.
Other available 2011 M option packages include the Premium Package, Touring Package, Sport Touring Package and Technology Package.