2013 Infiniti M37x Sport Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Here's some good news for mid-size luxury car buyers who favour a sport-oriented approach but want to be able to tackle mountain roads with all-wheel drive confidence: For 2013 Infiniti has combined its until-now mutually exclusive M37x and M37 Sport packages into one super-capable mid-size performance luxury sedan: the M37x Sport.

The M37x Sport shares the same curvaceous bodywork as its M siblings, and looks light-years ahead of the rather mundane previous-generation M sedan. I liked the looks of my Aspen Pearl test car from pretty much every angle, except perhaps the direct rear view where the bumper appears a bit large compared to the trunk lid. I especially liked the view over the hood from the driver's seat, with muscular fender bulges pointing the way down the road.

Under the hood, the M37x Sport gets the same 24-valve 3.7-litre DOHC V6 as all other M37 variants, hooked up to a 7-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. This engine churns out a healthy 330 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, which is good enough to launch the big sedan from 0 to 100 km/h in about six seconds. During everyday driving it pulls strongly at any speed, and emits a nice throaty exhaust note that's authoritative sounding without being obnoxious.

Getting the power to the road is Infiniti's Attesa ETS all-wheel drive system, which is shared with the garden-variety M37x. Attesa stands for "Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain," and it uses a computer to monitor wheel speeds (using the ABS sensors) and vehicle acceleration (using a three-axis g-force sensor) and then feed up to 50 percent of power to the front wheels as needed. The system is the same secret weapon as used in the Nissan GT-R to provide phenomenal cornering grip, and it provides rear-wheel drive dynamics in perfect conditions with easier recovery of control in poor conditions. I had the opportunity to try the system out in an empty, frost-coated parking lot and it exhibited exemplary behaviour, allowing a sporting amount of oversteer while making it effortless to bring things back in line as desired.

Keeping the M37x Sport planted to the road is the same sport-tuned suspension as in the M37 Sport, with big P245/40 R20 tires mounted on good-looking 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and Sport-specific four-piston front brake calipers with 35.5 cm (14-inch) vented front discs and 35 cm rear discs.

I found the M37x Sport to be rock solid on the highway, while in the corners it offers plenty of grip and feels reasonably agile and light-on-its-feet for a 1,815 kg car (this is in contrast to the smaller G37x, which I found a little heavy-feeling at 1,732 kg). Steering feel is decent, and there's enough feedback that you can occasionally feel the tires tramlining a little on rutted city pavement, especially under braking. The price you pay for the relatively athletic handling is a correspondingly firm ride, but while firm it is by no means harsh, and the car's structure is solid enough that large bumps don't rattle it at all.

Inside, the M37x offers a serene, luxurious and well-crafted atmosphere with precision-looking instruments and rich woodgrain trim. The materials and switchgear are all top-notch, and while Infiniti scatters a fair number of switches around the centre stack they are all logically grouped, and the Infiniti Controller menu system is relatively intuitive to use. My only negative comments are that the foot-operated parking brake seems a little old-school (either a handbrake or an electronically-actuated brake would be more in keeping with the car's luxury-performance intent), and the bank of switches down by the driver's left knee is rather difficult to find and operate when driving. Putting switches there certainly helps keep the dash uncluttered, and makes reasonable sense for occasional-use items like the parking warning sound override and the stability control override, and even the trunk release (which should only be used when stopped). But I'd prefer to have the heated steering wheel and rear window sunshade buttons in a more visible, easy-to-reach location.

In terms of equipment the M37x Sport is very well kitted out: All M37 variants get dual-zone climate control, power moonroof, automatic HID headlights, rain-sensing variable intermittent wipers, intelligent key with pushbutton start, sequential welcome lighting, rearview camera, and all the expected safety features such as full airbag protection, traction and stability control, and ABS brakes. All M37s also get the expected conveniences like Bluetooth telephone connectivity, a vehicle information system with seven-inch display, power locks, power windows, and retained accessory power for the windows and moonroof. Unfortunately the audio system doesn't get retained accessory power, so it shuts off as soon as you cut the engine, which rather encourages wasteful idling.

Additional equipment that comes with the Sport package includes perforated leather upholstery (instead of smooth leather), sport-bolstered climate-controlled front seats, heated sport-trimmed steering wheel, sport-trimmed shift knob, aluminum pedal accents, hard-drive navigation system, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and prevention (the car uses the rear brakes to help correct lane drift), distance control assist, and nice big column-mounted magnesium paddle shifters. I found these to be a pleasure to operate, and the car doesn't force upshifts in manual mode (you can take it right up to the rev limiter) although it will deny early upshifts if it deems the road speed too low for the desired gear. When downshifting, it speed-matches the engine revs to provide smooth, seamless shifts.

The M37x Sport also gets a 10-speaker Bose premium AM/FM/XM/CD audio system with USB plug and MP3/WMA playback capability. I found the USB plug to be a little flimsy feeling and hard to access (it's mounted in the console bin and isn't backlit), but the audio system itself is truly fantastic sounding, and even includes a small pair of tweeters in each front seatback.

Like other M37 variants, the M37X has a mode selector switch to allow operation in sport, standard, eco and snow modes, which alter the transmission and throttle mapping to match the driver's desire for either performance, economy, or a reasonable compromise between the two (the snow mode is an occasional-use mode that dulls throttle response to avoid spinning tires in the snow).

In eco mode the car gives visual and tactile reminders to go easy on the throttle, with the "Eco" dashboard light first changing from solid green to flashing green, and then changing to yellow, and the Eco Pedal pushing insistently back against you (though it can be easily overridden with a little extra force). In practice the Eco Pedal is a bit like having your spouse kicking you under the table to remind you not to be rude to your aunt Petunia during Thanksgiving dinner: it's probably helpful, but also slightly annoying. Thankfully, unlike your spouse's insistent kicking the Eco Pedal's tactile reminder can be easily shut off by switching to standard mode.

What was surprising to me was just how early the eco warnings kicked in: I found it pretty much impossible to keep up with regular city traffic flow without getting chided for my heavy-footedness. So after playing with the eco mode for a brief while I switched over to sport mode and gave free rein to the horses, with the result that I managed to burn through 15 litres of fuel in a little over 100 km of mixed city and highway driving (official city/highway fuel consumption ratings for the M37x Sport are 12.0 / 8.3 L/100km). In fairness, my driving was in cold weather and included a spirited run up (and then back down) a steep, switchbacked ski resort access road.

Speaking of ski resorts, I was able to get three pairs of skis into the M37x Sport thanks to the trunk pass-through, but I wouldn't have wanted to try cramming a fourth pair in there, because the pass-through is fairly small. And if you have snowboarders amongst your friends or family you'll need to invest in a roof rack because the rear seatback doesn't fold.

Pricewise, my M37x Sport test car showed a suggested sticker of $69,395 including destination charges and a $300 three-coat paint option. At this price it competes against the likes of BMW's 535i xDrive (which starts at $66,895 including destination) and Cadillac's CTS (which starts at $62,635 when similarly equipped with all-wheel drive and the Performance Collection 1SH package). With its appealing style, athletic performance and finely crafted, well-featured interior, the big Infiniti certainly deserves its share of attention.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Infiniti, 2013, M37, $50,000 - $74,999, Midsize,

Organizations: Infiniti

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