Pros: Elegant styling; lovely interior design; lots of high-tech features; good fuel economy in hybrid models

Cons: High prices and poor fuel economy in V8 models; narrow front seats

What's New: The 2013 Infiniti M with all-wheel drive (AWD) can now be equipped with the Sport Package, which also includes the contents from the Sport Touring Package. The Premium Package adds the rear sonar system and Infiniti Connection, while all models gain auto-dimming exterior mirrors and a power trunk cincher.

If you're seeking a premium sport sedan that isn't as commonplace as the BMW 5 Series or Audi A6, get yourself down to your local Infiniti dealer and ask to test drive a 2013 Infiniti M sedan. Why? Because the M may well be one of Infiniti's best kept secrets. The exquisitely styled M is one of those rare cars that blends sumptuous luxury with an alluring body and performance worthy of the best European performance sedans.

Available with a choice of engines, including a powerful V6, potent V8 and surprisingly quick hybrid, Infiniti's M sedan offers owners a wide array of features and performance levels, with a price spread ranging from $50,000 to $72,000 fully loaded. There are even all-wheel-drive variants for those who live north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Inside, the M wraps its occupants in traditional Infiniti luxury amenities, including a long list of standard items that cost extra on many of the M's competitors. A backup camera, Intelligent Key keyless entry and start and heated front seats all grace even the most basic M, and there are several attractive option packages.

About the only gripe we can find with the 2013 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 shouldn't be dressed in such 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 2-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 truly unique look.

Technology

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 with the Technology package. Topping the list is Intelligent Cruise Control, 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 heated and cooled 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 designed to 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 3.5-liter version of this engine is mated to a 50-kW electric motor in the M Hybrid. 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 powerful 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 handling settings: normal, economy, sport and snow.

Fuel economy for the M37 is rated at 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy, while the AWD version gets 17/24 mpg. The M Hybrid moves those figures up 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.

Safety

Infiniti equips the M with standard traction and stability control, 4-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 (IIHS).

Driving Impressions

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 that enthusiasts will love, but luxury-oriented buyers will likely find too harsh.

The 7-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 prefer the manual mode for aggressive driving.

Other Cars to Consider

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 nothing comes close to the M56's V8 power.

BMW 5 Series: The 6-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.

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. But the Equus isn't available with AWD.

AutoTrader Recommends

Driving 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 M Hybrid. The hybrid has all the comforts of the stock M37, sacrificing only some trunk space for the battery pack. With the hybrid, you get the same performance as the gasoline-only V6, plus better fuel economy.

author photo

Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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