2010 Infiniti M Road Test Review

Arv Voss - CAP staff
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Infiniti's flagship five-passenger sedan has upped the ante in the mid-luxury sedan class.  The goals of Nissan's luxury division for the 2011 M lineup included: coming up with a more expressive exterior design without sacrificing interior roominess, providing increased power output along with better fuel economy, and adding exclusive new features that aid in reducing driving stress factors. 

Infiniti's new design was skillfully blended with existing styling cues to maintain the M's brand heritage and DNA.  The form is slippery in terms of aerodynamics -- from the low-mounted horizontal grille to the high front fender wells and strong shoulder character line.  A definitive rocker cut line pulls the entire car's form into a lower, more sinister stance, displaying genuine rear-wheel drive proportions with its long hood and short deck. 

The new M is also wider, showcasing a more athletic overall image, with improved proportions that allow it to retain class-leading interior and cargo volume.  And despite the redesign, the new Infiniti M is nearly the same in terms of weight, compared to the previous generation, ranging from a loss of 2.7 kilos (6 lbs) in the M37 to a gain of only 45.3 kg (100 lbs) for the M56X. 

The interior is all-new as well, with a theme that manages to reflect the exterior's premium image.  Coach-built craftsmanship is apparent in the centre cluster flow and the attention to detail in door panels, switchgear and the shift panel.  Interior switches are all-new and specially selected materials generate a warm and welcoming ambience.  The use of genuine Japanese Ash wood trim is standard, with White Ash, hand-buffed with a silver powder finish, optionally available as part of a new Deluxe Touring Package.  The interior of this top-tier model also features special semi-aniline leather, a suede-like headliner and power rear sunshade. 
The 2011 Infiniti M comes in four basic models, defined by engine size and drive configuration.  The base model is the M37, followed by the M37X, the M56, and finally the M56X.  Models with the "X" designation feature Infiniti's intelligent all-wheel drive system.  Power for the M37 and M37X is delivered by a 3.7 litre, 24-valve V6 with sequential multi-port fuel injection that puts out 330 horsepower at 7,000 rpm along with 270 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm.  The M56 and M56X are upgraded to a 5.6-litre, 32-valve V8 that generates 420 horses at 6,000 rpm and 417 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. 

The transmission for both engines is a 7-speed electronically controlled automatic with Adaptive Shift Control and manual shift mode featuring Downshift Rev Matching.  Paddle shifters are available for RWD models as part of an optional Sport Package.  Additional inspired performance comes from "Infiniti Drive" with four selectable drive modes: Standard; ECO, which optimizes setting for greater fuel economy; Sport, which changes shift points for an enhanced performance feel; and Snow, which provides throttle modulation, limiting wheel spin. 

A four-wheel independent suspension carries the new M with independent double wishbones, coil springs and a stabilizer bar up front and independent multi-link with coil springs and stabilizer bar in the rear.  The optional Sport Package-tuned suspension features upgraded springs and a double-piston shock absorber design.  Standard tires are 18-inch V-rated all-season performance units mounted on double 5-spoke alloy wheels, with 20-inch W-rated tires on split 5-spoke alloys optionally available, or standard as part of the Sport Package.  Braking is accomplished by four-wheel vented discs with antilock, brake assist, and electronic brakeforce distribution.  The Sport Package provides larger brakes fore and aft. 

Other Sport Package upgrades include: a sport suspension with double-piston shocks, four-wheel active steering, where rear wheels turn in phase with the front wheels up to 1 degree; a specific front fascia with dark finish headlamps and grille; sport seats with enhanced bolstering; sport steering wheel and shift knob; and aluminum pedal accents. 

There is a number of additional packages available, filling the M with myriad features.  The Infiniti M's technology inspiration delivers a continuation of their "Safety Shield" driver assistance technology featuring Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Intelligent Brake Assist (Forward Collision Warning), and Intelligent Cruise Control.  An upgraded Blind Spot Intervention System takes blind spot warnings to the next level by applying selective braking, helping the driver to bring the vehicle back to the centre of the driving lane, should a vehicle be detected during an intended lane change.  The new Active Trace Control system aids in enhancing the transition from braking into and then accelerating out of corners, by applying selective braking to help create increased steering response.  Active Noise Control helps to cancel undesirable low-frequency engine sounds by utilizing door speakers when equipped with Bose sound systems.  And a new Forest Air system provides a breeze mode that creates artificial airflow variations while filtering cabin odors, bacteria and viruses. 

Base pricing for the 2011 M lineup starts at $52,400 for the M37, notably $3,100 less than the base 2010 M due to offering rear drive.  You'll need $54,900 for the M37X, $600 less than last year's version. The M56 with rear-drive is $3,350 less than the 2010 M56, and you'll need $68,700 for the top-of-the-line M56X, $850 cheaper than the 2010 model. 

I was afforded the opportunity to experience the 2011 M37 and M56 S (with Sport Package) during the national press launch, which took place in San Diego, California.  I began my drive with the M56 S and wrapped up with an M37. 

The M56 S obviously has considerably more power and provides added amenities, but the M37 base model would prove to be an ideal vehicle for the majority of consumers, as it cranked out plenty of power, yielding outstanding acceleration and superb handling characteristics.  The active steering system isn't readily discernable, since the steering feel is already positive and on centre.  The ride quality delivered by the Sport Package's beefier suspension was admittedly firmer than that served up by the M37, which was by no means mushy. 
Both the M37 and M56 S haul the mail with aplomb, while holding the road surface tenaciously and remaining flat and stable over challenging, twisty roads.  Both are equally pleasant to pilot in more sedate freeway scenarios. 

Both vehicles also feature exceptional comfort levels, while offering a host of technological marvels.  The cabin layout sports ideal positioning for all switchgear, with more than ample nooks and crannies for stashing personal gear. 

Bottom line, it's no stretch to summarize that the team at Infiniti did their homework well, and as a result, successfully achieved the goals that were ambitiously set.  The M in any of its forms proves itself to be a rewarding, safe and secure mid-luxury sedan to pilot in virtually any situation.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Infiniti, 2011, M56, M37, M56x, M37x, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Infiniti

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