Pros: Elegant styling; lovely interior design; lots of high-tech features; good fuel economy (hybrid model)
Cons: High pricing (V8 models); poor fuel economy (V8 models); narrow front seats
In the world of premium luxury sport sedans, the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Jaguar XF and Cadillac CTS are among the names that reign supreme. But there is one offering we think is too often overlooked, a potent and quite exquisite sedan available with a choice of V6 or V8 engines and, for the green crowd, a high-powered hybrid. That car is the 2012 Infiniti M. It may not be as popular, but it can give any one of the above-named models a run for its money. The M offers a variety of engine options and can be had with all-wheel drive, which makes it an attractive prospect for those in cold areas of the Northeast and Midwest.
Beyond its mechanical credentials, the Infiniti M offers a unique exterior, notable for flowing curves and rounded edges that culminate in a seductive sheetmetal skin. Inside, the M wraps its occupants in traditional Infiniti luxury features, including a long list of standard items that the M's competitors might make you pay extra for. A rear-view camera, Intelligent Key entry and start and heated front seats all grace even the most basic M, and there are several attractive option packages.
Perhaps the best reason to want to own this car is the way it drives. With silky-smooth engines and impressive road-hugging abilities, the 2012 M excels in almost every category that matters. About the only gripe we can find with the 2012 model is the lackluster choice of colors, which all border on shades of black, white or silver, without a vivid red or a brilliant blue in the bunch. A car this exciting should never be dressed in a dull wardrobe.
Comfort & Utility
The M's cockpit is among the most unique and well-appointed interiors you'll find in any sedan. The sweeping patterns on the doors and seats blend with dash and console, covered in soft-touch materials and accented by two-tone color schemes and matching real wood inlays. The M's comfortable seats offer multiple adjustments for the driver and passenger, although the wide center console subtracts hip space. Rear-seat occupants will find a roomy perch with plenty of headroom for taller passengers.
Those willing to spend a bit more can opt for the Deluxe Touring package, which includes semi-aniline leather seating, a 16-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, a faux suede headliner and a power rear sunshade. It also includes the unusual Forest Air system. Unlike regular climate controls that simply regulate temperature, the Forest Air system can detect foul odors or noxious fumes and close the system to outside air. It then recirculates air through a Plasmacluster purifier, at which point the clean air is pumped through the cabin at various speeds, simulating a gentle outdoor breeze.
Also part of the Deluxe Touring package is beautiful white ash wood trim dusted with real silver powder for a one-of-a-kind look.
The M's technology roster goes well beyond its 16-speaker Bose audio and voice-activated navigation. The car can be equipped with numerous features designed to aid the driver, all of them bundled into the Technology package. Intelligent Cruise Control tops the list, a system that uses radar to keep a safe distance between the M and the traffic ahead. The Lane Departure Warning and Prevention system alerts the driver when the car is crossing out of its lane and will even nudge the vehicle back over if the driver isn't paying attention. Blind spot intervention warns of cars in the driver's blind spot, and adaptive front lighting turns the headlights in the direction the vehicle is steering.
Other features of note include the Premium package's climate-controlled front seats and heated steering wheel, active rear steering in the Sport package and active noise control, which uses the car's speaker system to create sound waves that counteract road, wind and tire noise.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The M37 is powered by a smooth and lively 3.7-liter V6 good for 330 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. An older version of this same engine is used in the M37h hybrid, only it displaces 3.5 liters and is mated to a 50-kW electric motor. The hybrid's combined output is slightly better than the standard V6, producing 360 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The M56 uses a powerhouse 5.6-liter V8 good for 420 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. All but the hybrid can be equipped with Infiniti's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive. Similarly, all the M cars use the same seven-speed automatic transmission, which features manual shift control and Downshift Rev Matching. The transmission also comes with the Infiniti Drive Mode program, which offers four settings: normal, economy, sport and snow.
Fuel economy for the M37 is rated at 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway; the AWD version attains 17/24 mpg. The M37h hybrid moves those figures north to a very impressive 27/32 mpg. The V8-powered M56 goes in the opposite direction: the rear-wheel-drive model delivers 16/24 mpg, and the AWD gets 16/23 mpg.
Infiniti equips the M with standard traction and stability control, four-wheel ABS and a tire pressure monitoring system. The passenger compartment is protected by front, front side impact and front and rear side curtain airbags.
The M is so well constructed that it earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
We drove all three models. The V8-powered M56 is the one for power junkies, but we also found the V6 and hybrid models more than sufficient in acceleration and passing. The M is a marvelous driving machine, striking the correct balance between comfortable ride and adept handling. The Sport package's taut suspension and active rear steering push the M into BMW territory. However, the 19-inch wheels and tires and the firmer suspension turn the M into a car enthusiasts will love, but luxury buyers will find too harsh.
The seven-speed transmission can be a real buzz kill at times. In automatic mode, we found it slow to downshift, sometimes seeming as though it was taking its time trying to figure out the best gear for the rpm. We much prefer the manual mode for aggressive driving.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW 5 Series - The six-cylinder 5-Series costs a bit more than the M37, but it's not as powerful or roomy. We also like the M's interior design and layout better than that of the 5 Series.
Audi A6 - The A6 may be the only car with a more elegant interior than the M's, but its base 2.0-liter turbo engine can't match the M37's V6 for horsepower or torque, and there is no matching V8 model.
Hyundai Equus - The Equus is the surprise player here. Although it doesn't carry the lofty brand image portrayed by Infiniti, pound for pound you get similar power and fuel economy with more passenger and cargo volume. However, there's no AWD version of the Equus.
Purists with big bank accounts will likely insist on the M56 with the Sport package, and who could blame them? For the rest of us who are looking for good performance in an elegant package that spoils its owner, we'd go for the M37h. The hybrid has all the comforts of the stock M37, sacrificing only some trunk space for the battery pack. With it, you get the same performance as the gasoline-only V6, plus better fuel economy.