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  • 2011 Infiniti M37

    Posted on November 10th, 2010 ninarussin

    Premium sport sedan for driving enthusiasts

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Infiniti M

    To say that Infiniti’s flagship sedan is a nice piece of machinery is akin to admitting that the Pope is Catholic. Twenty seconds behind the wheel is all it takes to discover how evolved Infiniti’s front midship platform has become.

    The 2011 model comes with two available engines: a 330-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6, or 420-horsepower 5.6-liter V-8. Both versions feature a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. Magnesium paddle shifters that come with the sport package enable the driver to snap between gears with lightning speed.

    Base price for the rear-wheel drive V-6 grade is $46,250, not including an $865 destination charge. The sport package upgrades standard 18-inch alloy wheels 20-inch rims with summer performance tires. It also adds a sport-tuned suspension, bigger brakes and 4-wheel active steer: a system which makes steering effort speed-sensitive ($3650).

    A premium package replaces the standard audio with a Bose surround-sound system, adds voice activated navigation with XM traffic and weather updates, heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel ($3350). Other options on the test car include high friction brake pads ($370), trunk nets, mats, and a first aid kit ($195), plus illuminated kick plates ($350), bringing the MSRP to $55,030.

    Front midship engine and rear-wheel drive balance the chassis

    2011 Infiniti M

    Infiniti locates the engine behind the front axle. When mated to a rear or all-wheel drive platform, it creates an ideal front-to-rear weight balance. Since most of a vehicle’s weight is typically in front, this arrangement reduces the tendency of the car to dive during hard stops, and brings the center of gravity closer the drive axle for better performance.

    While the car’s wheelbase is the same as the original model, the 2011 M sedan is wider, longer and lower. Engineers increased the number of laser welds to enhance torsional stiffness, contributing to the sedan’s exceptional steering feedback.

    The sedan’s exterior proportions are more like a coupe, with a long nose and snub rear decklid. Designers pushed the tires to the corners of the chassis, giving the M a more aggressive stance and enhancing its performance at speed. The optional 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires on the test car offer an ample footprint for maneuvering through challenging turns.

    New six-cylinder engine offers more power and better gas mileage

    Both the six and eight-cylinder engines in the 2011 M are slightly larger and more powerful than the blocks they replace. The V-6 produces 27 more horsepower and 8 foot-pounds of torque, while the V-8 increases 95 horsepower and 81 foot-pounds of torque.

    Thanks to variable valve timing, both also yield better fuel economy: about two miles-per gallon in city driving. The V-8 has slightly higher fuel economy gains on the highway.

    While I wouldn’t dissuade someone from buying the more powerful engine, the V-6 has some distinct advantages. It is lighter, reducing the vehicle curb weight by 170 pounds. As a result, the car is more evenly balanced front-to-rear. In addition to enhancing fuel economy, the lighter engine reduces wear and tear on brakes and other components over the long haul.

    Fuel economy for the rear-wheel drive V-6 is two miles-per-gallon better around town and a mile-per-gallon better on the highway than the comparable V-8. Since both engines require premium fuel, the difference in ownership costs is significant.

    The seven-speed automatic transmission adapts shift points to the driver’s style. A drive mode selector on the center console has four settings: standard, eco, sport and snow. Eco and snow settings shift at lower revs for better gas mileage and better traction on slippery roads. The sport mode increases throttle sensitivity and holds the gears longer for better power.

    A rev matching function blips the throttle when the driver manually selects gears to smooth out the transitions. The feature may not make a lot of sense under normal conditions, but anyone who drives the car hard will notice significantly smoother shifts.

    Test drive in Phoenix

    I spent the past week behind the wheel of the new M in the Phoenix, Arizona. The 100-mile test drive included some surface streets, highway and a two-lane rural road east of town. I kept the car in fully-automatic mode while driving through town, and used the paddles to shift manually outside the city limits.

    Infinitis are their own animals: the M is no exception. It is not a good choice for drivers who want a soft, compliant ride and a dead quiet interior. The sport-tuned suspension on the test car is rather stiff, and the optional 20-inch wheels with summer tires don’t absorb much shock. They also produce some road noise, although not enough to interfere with passengers conversing inside.

    The V-6 engine develops ample power, both off the line and in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range for accelerating into high-speed traffic. Engine horsepower is only as good as the vehicle’s able to transmit it to the ground. The M’s exceptional front-to-rear balance and high torsional rigidity ensure that power generated under the hood travels efficiently to the rear wheels.

    Large overdrive gears on the transmission extend fuel economy on the highway. I slipped the car into eco mode, and was surprised at how hard I could push things while still remaining fuel efficient.

    The optional formula paddles make the sedan a lot more fun to drive on challenging roads. Shifting is quick and precise, making sport of steep grades and sharp switchbacks.

    Steering response is the best I have found on any car in recent memory. It’s so good that it took me some time to get used to.  The four-wheel independent suspension consists of a double wishbone in front and multi-link setup in the rear with stabilizer bars on both axles. I took some decreasing radius turns at speed to see whether I could upset the chassis. The M was solid as a rock, even when I pushed the car to its limits.

    Visibility is good around the perimeter. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway. The optional navigation system comes with a rearview camera which makes it easier to parallel park and back out of vertical parking slots. Standard bi-xenon headlamps are brighter than halogen to enhance nighttime visibility.

    All models come with huge vented disc brakes which stop the car on a dime.

    Driver-focused cockpit

    Infiniti M Interior

    The M has the advantage of comfortably accommodating four passengers while making the driver feel as if he’s in a sports car. Power seat adjustments are easy to use. Multiple seat position memory allows several drivers to share the vehicle.

    The steering wheel is a nice size, with redundant audio and Bluetooth controls logically arranged. Center stack controls for the optional navigation and audio system are easy to reach. The navigation screen is at the top of the center stack, minimizing driver distraction. A hood over the screen makes it easy to read in bright daylight.

    A locking glovebox provides secure storage up front. The large center console bin includes a 12-volt power point and USB port.

    The moonroof brings ample light inside the car during the day, while four overhead reading lamps illuminate the interior at night.

    Access and egress to the back seats is remarkably good, considering the sedan’s large wheel arches. Outboard passengers have ample hip, head and legroom. A tall floor tunnel all but eliminates legroom in the center position.

    Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin. A fold-down armrest includes cupholders and a shallow bin. A locking pass-through enables the driver to load in skis and other long cargo with the rear seats in place.

    The trunk is surprisingly spacious, with plenty of room for the weekly groceries, luggage and perhaps some camping equipment. Cyclists will want to look Infiniti’s crossover or sport-utility vehicles.

    Standard safety

    All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Standard keyless entry and start saves the driver for fumbling for the keys when entering the car at night.

    Infiniti builds the M at its Tochigi, Japan assembly plant

    Likes: A stylish sport sedan with exceptional performance and two powerful engines. Available all-wheel drive gives the M all-season capability.

    Dislike: Tall floor tunnel essentially eliminates legroom in the center rear position.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Infiniti
    Model: M37 Sport
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $46,250
    As tested: $55,030
    Horsepower: 330 Hp @ 7000 rpm
    Torque: 270 lbs.-ft. @ 5200 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 18/26 mpg city/highway

     

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