Infiniti redesigned its M sedan for the 2011 model year. Inspired by the Essence concept the automaker revealed at the 2009 Geneva International Motor Show, the new M is longer, more powerful and more fuel efficient than its predecessor. The M caps a wide range of new choices for anyone shopping midsize luxury sedans: Jaguar and Lincoln brought out the XF and MKS, respectively, and Mercedes followed with a redesigned E-Class. BMW has a new 5 Series in the wings. The new M is available in two iterations. The M37 uses a 3.7-liter V-6 and the M56 has a new 5.6-liter V-8. Respectively, the cars replace last year's M35 and M45. As in the previous generation, both will come with rear- or all-wheel drive.
Slightly shorter than the outgoing M, the 2011 M56 retains the same wheelbase but adds a couple inches in its width and less than an inch in length. Its styling combines the taller presence of the outgoing M with some of the curves seen on the current G35-turned-G37 sedan. A large front grille sits low on the M's face, recalling the grille on the Essence. In back, the tail rises slightly at its center. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust pipes, xenon headlights and power-folding side mirrors are standard. The rear-wheel-drive M56 offers a Sport Package, which adds 20-inch wheels, a darker grille finish, darker headlights and unique bumpers.
Like before, the M's dash falls away from the driver and results in an open, spacious cabin. A wide panel with controls for the navigation and climate systems sits closer than before, while the transmission retains its short, leather-wrapped gearshift. Available upscale materials include a suede like headliner, faux-leather-stitched dashboard panels and wood trim with interlaced silver-powdered accents. Optional semi-aniline leather has a similar feel to a leather sofa, Infiniti says. A long list of standard features includes a CD stereo with 10 speakers and USB/iPod compatibility, power heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, a moonroof, a backup camera and keyless access with push-button start. Infiniti's latest-generation navigation system is also standard. Audiophiles can choose a 16-speaker Bose surround-sound stereo, which includes speakers on both sides of each front head restraint.
Under the Hood
The M56's 5.6-liter V-8 makes 420 horsepower and 417 pounds-feet of torque; it pairs with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A knob controller, dubbed Infiniti Drive, allows drivers to program drivetrain settings, including accelerator sensitivity and transmission shift points, to Standard, Eco, Sport or Snow modes. Eco mode provides accelerator resistance to the driver's right foot if it detects inefficient driving habits; it also includes a yellow-to-green gauge indicator to show how efficiently you're driving. The Sport Package includes a sport-tuned suspension and a four-wheel steering system. The package also swaps the standard brakes for massive 14-inch front and 13.8-inch rear discs.
Standard safety features include six airbags, active front head restraints, antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system. Blind spot and lane departure warning systems are optional. So is Infiniti's Lane Departure Prevention system, which employs light braking to keep the M56 from drifting into an unintended lane. New this year is an optional Blind Spot Intervention system, which attempts to keep the M in its own lane — using similar braking techniques as Lane Departure Prevention — should it detect the car moving toward traffic in the driver's blind spot. Optional adaptive headlights can swivel a few degrees in the direction of a turn. The adaptive cruise control system can warn the driver and preload the brakes for faster response should it detect rapidly slowing traffic ahead.