By on May 28, 2010

With the 2006-2010 Infiniti M, a highly competent luxury performance sedan was hidden beneath utterly forgettable sheetmetal. Before my father bought his 2008 Cadillac CTS I suggested that he also check out the M. One glance at the car’s exterior was all he needed to summarily reject it. Well, for 2011 Infiniti has totally redesigned the M to address this shortcoming. The question now: does the rest of the car measure up to the new come-hither exterior?

Ads feature the new Infiniti M with the optional sport package and its 20-inch alloys, and the car so equipped is striking. Maserati-influenced curves are a stark contrast to the relatively conventional three-box shape of both the previous M and the current competition. Curves always lend a feminine aspect to a car, but the forms in this case are massive enough that no one will think the M strictly a “woman’s car” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In comparison, even Jaguar’s current styling direction seems overly stiff and straight of line.

Why bring up the ads? Because I’ve yet to see a car with the 20s in the metal. Here in Michigan the dealers only order all-wheel-drive cars, and for some reason Infiniti does not offer the sport package with all-wheel-drive. Yes, this package does include summer tires, but surely all-season tires in the same size are feasible.

The non-sport wheels are 18s. Not so long ago 18s seemed HUGE. Well, they’re lost within the new M’s massive fenders and supersized wheel openings. Bereft of the 20s it was clearly designed for, the exterior that looks so graceful in the ads appears stubby and stout in person, if still a refreshing break from the usual. Infiniti needs to find a way to offer the 20s more widely.

Inside you’ll find Infiniti’s best interior to date. Nearly all of the various surfaces and switchgear bits look and feel worthy of the $55,000+ price. And the interior styling is warm, classically inviting, and gorgeous. Most notable: the sporty double bump of the instrument cover and the teardrop shape of the door panel trim. The British and Italians, clearly sources of inspiration, have rarely done it better. The interiors of competing sedans are unimaginative and boring in comparison. And, unlike in many highly styled interiors, the controls on the new M’s center stack are all logically arranged within easy reach.

Yet some people will not be happy with the new Infiniti M’s interior. Though not to the same extent as that in the EX35 compact crossover, the new M’s interior fits closely around you. It was clearly designed to feel sporty and intimate, not spacious. I generally like this ambiance, but the A-pillars are too intrusive even for my taste, as they extend unusually far inward. From the driver’s seat the M doesn’t feel quite midsize despite its generous exterior dimensions.

The driver’s seat itself is larger and broader than that in the half-size-smaller G37 sedan. Adults who frequent neither the gym nor the buffet line might find them, unlike the interior as a whole, a little loose-fitting and short on lateral support. I recall cushier, more comfortable seats in the previous M, though perhaps my memory is misleading me here? To its credit, Infiniti has avoided the rush to install rock hard headrests that jam forward into the back of your skull.

The rear seat also doesn’t feel spacious, but it is comfortably high off the floor and includes a couple inches more knee room than you’ll find in the G37. The front seatbacks are low enough that they don’t block rear seat passengers’ view forward. The trunk continues the “not spacious” theme and, as in other Asian luxury sedans, the rear seat does not fold to expand it.

The new Infiniti M is offered with a 330-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 and a 420-horsepower 5.6-liter V8. The latter is the clear choice for torque junkies who can never get enough. For nearly everyone else, including most driving enthusiasts, the sampled V6’s noise output will be more of an issue than its power output. This V6 is perhaps the loudest in the segment despite the thoroughly sealed engine compartment. What might be fitting for a sports cars on the open road—and even then a sweeter song would be welcome—can come across as unseemly in a luxury sedan on suburban streets. Your ears will tell you to take it easy lest you attract unwanted attention.

With this six at least the seven-speed automatic is not the best of partners. Downshift to second for a thirty-something MPH turn and the resulting engine noise suggests that you’ve gone a gear too far. But third is too tall. Responses to the manual shifter are sometimes quick, sometimes not, and are not always smooth. To be fair, I didn’t have a lot of seat time in the car. After a few days a better working relationship might well develop as driver and transmission adapt to one another. A head-up display that included the selected gear would help. The attractive instruments are located too low for a quick glance during aggressive driving—good for seeing the road, not good for instantaneously seeing which gear you’re in (which is never nearly as intuitive with an automatic as it is with a manual) or how fast you’re going.

Despite these shortcomings, perhaps even a little because of them, I did enjoy driving the new Infiniti M37 more than nearly any other car in this class, with the BMW 5-Series the only likely exception. The intimate cockpit combines with a balanced chassis and the relatively visceral nature of the car to inspire a close connection and confidence I never felt in the previous M. The all-wheel-drive system includes enough rearward bias that the attitude of the chassis can be adjusted with the throttle. The steering could feel more razor sharp, but it compares well to the numbness of today’s typical system. Pushed, the new M feels smaller and lighter than its 195 inches and two tons, and hustling it through curves quickly becomes second nature.

Ride quality is similarly more polished than that of the previous M, and is generally acceptable for a luxury sedan with sporty pretensions. There’s some jostling about on uneven road surfaces, but no harshness, at least not with the 18s. (The lower profile 20s could be a different story.) Wind noise is low, but road noise on concrete is a bit above the luxury sedan norm. Infiniti continues to have different priorities than Lexus.

No car is perfect. Overall, my criticisms stem from how close the new Infiniti M comes to perfection rather than how far it falls from it. Beautiful exterior—unless you get the standard wheels. Lovely cockpit—except the A-pillars are overly intrusive while the seat bolsters aren’t intrusive enough. Fun to drive—but the V6’s engine note could be of higher quality and lesser quantity. Compare the new M to existing competitors rather than an evasive ideal, and it stacks up very well for anyone who prioritizes the driving experience over silence and spaciousness.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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53 Comments on “Review: 2011 Infiniti M37...”


  • avatar
    mjz

    Come hither exterior? I think it’s lumpy looking. I really hate that new Infinity grill with those curved pointed chrome edges. Gaack.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    If you squint you can see an Elantra in profile.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought of the Elantra as well, but mostly because the Hyundai demonstrates quite clearly that you need a lot of length to pull off curves like these on a tallish body. The upcoming smaller Buicks should be…interesting.

  • avatar
    IGB

    This is a very attractive car. Light years ahead of it’s previous generation which I used to recommend to friends moving up from Camry’s and Avalons.

    Would love to see some sort of uber-sport version to compete with the AMG’s and M’s of the world.

    • 0 avatar
      kaka777

      I personally would not recommend this car to former Camry and Avalon drivers, they most probably would not like the unforgiving ride and loud unrefined engine note.

    • 0 avatar

      This is one of the few luxury cars that actually feels near perfect. If you like the styling, there’s no reason not to buy one. The problem is, the styling can be quite polarizing, moreso than the E350 or the 5-series. This car does feel very feminine.

      I loved the V6 and i loved the handling. I never thought I could say that I loved a non-turbo V6, but with 330HP, this thing is a rocket.

  • avatar

    Needless to say, I’d love to have quick reliability stats for the new M. It will be entirely a matter of how soon enough owners sign up to participate in the Car Reliability Survey. November is a reasonable target.

    If you know someone with a new M, please send them here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    carguy

    A great improvement over the previous model but it will be interesting to see how this generation of M cars will hold their value as the previous was the poster child for cliff face depreciation.

    • 0 avatar

      I reviewed the M37 too. http://www.epinions.com/content_510359473796

      The M37 is definitely an improvement over the M45. M37 offers character the M45 was missing.

      Problem for Infiniti is that with the current recession, I don’t think they are going to move as many of these as Mercedes is going to move E-classes or BMW is going to move 5 series. For whatever reason, people don’t recognize or desire the value here…only time and sales data will tell. Infiniti needs aggressive lease options.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    A slightly larger, rear drive Maxima with the right type of transmission and a much nicer interior… for 20k more.

  • avatar

    I drive a G37S coupe daily and love it. If the M is anything like the G, this would make any car guy with a family a very happy driver. It may look like an Elantra in the photos, but in person the car is in a class of its own visually. Very subtle, but very attractive and Infiniti’s new interiors are indeed miles ahead of the their previous generations. Fair review Michael!

  • avatar
    mikenem

    Great review. This is no Maxima. The VQ is mounted longitudinally behind the front axle in typical Infiniti FM fashon. (front- mid engine platform) It’s a better balanced chasis. They do look much nicer when you see one on the road. Infiniti seems to be on a role, keep it up!

    • 0 avatar
      akitadog

      “Infiniti seems to be on a [roll], keep it up!”

      Uh, I strongly disagree. Both the new FX and the QX56 are hideous. Those were cases where the succeeding generations ended up uglier than the originals.

      They’re trying too hard to incorporate that family face across the entire line that, the bigger the vehicle gets, the more cartoonish it looks. It works fine on the Gs, it starts to look exagerrated on the Ms but still acceptable, and it loses the plot on the SUVs. I’m guessing the new EX will look uglier than the G, but better than the FX.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    I know this is a fine car to live with but it is over-stylized for my taste. If the exterior is sensitive to the wheel sizes available then something is amiss. The interior also follows suit, as usual for the Lexus, Infinity and Acura scene it borders on gimmicky like they just couldn’t stop fiddling with it. I don’t think this car will age well – one of the true tests of good design.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      hmm, i like the curvy exterior and was thinking the opposite, that this car will age well.

    • 0 avatar

      I personally think it will age very well. Can’t say that the interior struck me as at all gimmicky, unlike those in an increasing number of Honda and Toyota products. If anything, I got a classic car vibe.

      Many exteriors these days are sensitive to wheel sizes. Tall bodysides are part of it. This design is especially so because the upward-bulging fenders make it very wheel-centric.

  • avatar

    Flat tires suck on many roads, I learned it when I started driving wife’s Lexus. By now I learned all locations where I must slow down least the bump goes to the rim (in some places down to 30, or else). Certainly I’ve not had a tire blowout yet, nor a cracked rim, but it’s still unsettling. I would MUCH prefer normal tires on normal wheels to these. Also, what is going to happen when this car ventures out of town where I do not know every last bump and pothole?

    Another thing, check if 20s come in different sizes front and rear. On this Lexus they do, it’s an RWD. The AWD version is easy to tell because front and rear are the same. Maybe Infi has different 20s and thus cannot install them on an AWD car.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I haven’t seen one in person but I do like the styling from pictures. This is the first top line Infiniti I’ve liked the styling on since the brand came on the market. If I were in the market for this class of car I would definitely testdrive it.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m honestly sad to see the first-generation M’s kitschy styling fail to return here.

    I’m also kind of at a loss to understand why the previous M didn’t sell well. It actually seemed a very good car: more fun than the GS, A6, or E and quite nicely trimmed.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I can tell you exactly what ran me off of it 6 months ago: drivetrain stupidity at highway speed. You could only get AWD (RWD doesn’t cut it in the Snow Belt) with a 5-speed whose final drive had it spinning at some ludicrous RPM even in normal highway cruising. Combine that with the boy-racer exhaust, and you had the lovely combination of a fatiguing noise level and astonishingly wretched gas mileage. Pity, because otherwise, I was really enamored with the car.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    Sorry, but I agree with those who find the styling to be overwrought. (I love that English has legitimate words with letter sequences such as “rwr”…)

    • 0 avatar
      1scott

      The new M looks very nice in person and the interior is one of the best in the business, it is downright Jaguar style. The Infiniti line of cars both the G and M are some of the best kept secrets in the used car market. I am a current owner of a 2006 Infinti M45 which I purchased CPO, when I first drove my 06 M45, I was sold. These are great driving cars in their price range, you have too spend soo much more to get a better combo of ride, handling, and performance. Now the quality, not upto the standard I was expecting in a Japanese luxury sedan which has been somewhat disappointing. My M45 needed a new engine in 33kmi…yes 33kmi…excessive oil burn almost one qt per 1000 miles. This is a known problem on these cars and Infiniti has no fix for it…really sucks…but I love driving the car so much and the dealer service is outstanding and reasonably priced. I will look at the new M when mine is finnally paid off next year or a G37, another great value.

    • 0 avatar
      Rusted Source

      I thought the RX-8 was overwrought when it first came out and yet years (and years) later I find the design still appeals to me.

      Put me in the yea column for this M – I can’t wait to see one on the road.

  • avatar
    saponetta

    Once again, audi and BMW have nothing to be concerned about.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Saponetta, exactly. My feeling is that it’s a better looking car than the previous one but to call it stylish or competing with the Germans, not even close. I think they strictly compete with Lexus and Acura for owners disappointed with the German reliability.

  • avatar

    to MIKE:

    Great review Mike – just a couple comments.

    #1 I think the cushiness of the M37 is more cushy than the M45, but, what I noticed is that the seats feel slightly wider. I believe the width of the car has increased an inch or two – as you stated, I am quite sensitive to those extra inches.

    #2 I’m not sure how many options your dealers order, but as I stated in my review http://www.epinions.com/content_510359473796 the M37 offers a second type of seat in the “touring package” that offers slightly more leg space and feels different.

    #3 I think the V6 doesn’t get noisy unless you force it to. I think this is actually done to let people be excited about how loud it can get so they don’t feel like the car is *slow*. Worked for me… I loved the sound.

    #4 The rear seat I think is too high. When the front seat is pulled back and tilted, the curvature of the seat backs lops off knee space as if you were in tight stadium seating.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I was behind one of these at the gas station today. The invisible and generic rear end struck me as a possible new Hyundai or Kia. The new E class and 5 series are both much more stately looking. I’ve never liked Infiniti M interiors, and the steering wheel design is particularly bad. I would be hard-pressed to spend more money for this when a G37 is a much more balanced design in nearly every way.

  • avatar
    gettysburg

    What’s up with the padded bra draped over the instrument cluster?

  • avatar
    Cougar Red

    Just like there is no good reason to choose a 535i sedan over a 335i sedan unless you need the extra room, ditto for the M37 and the G37. Why pay $10K more for the extra weight to drive the same engine unless you need the bigger size?

    I decided I didn’t need the extra room. I’m picking up my 2010 RWD G37 automatic tomorrow. It’s got every available creature comfort option except adaptive cruise control. It does not have any of the hot rod options (sport package, rear deck spoiler, and performance tires). I’m out the door at $36.4K + TTL. IMO, no brand offers as much car for the money.

    If I was going to buy an M or a 5-series, it would be the M56 or the 550i. I hate buying the kid brother of any model line.

    PS The M is very cool looking. Blows the new E-Class out of the water re: appearance.

  • avatar
    BigDuke6

    “This car does feel very feminine.”

    Please tell me what the fook you mean by that statement…..
    Do you mean it doesn’t drive like an F-150? WTF?

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Another fugly Infiniti, a true second-tier brand. Even the Legacy is better looking:
    http://www.autoblog.com/photos/2010-subaru-legacy/#1462748

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Mark me down as another styling hata. Is Bangle moonlighting at Nissan these days? Not a single one of their designs for replacing/updating previous models works for me–M35, Murano, Maxima, 370Z, FX–all overwrought. I remain a fan of the Y34/Gloria-based M45. Understated and elegant.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I’ll echo the comment that called the current Nissan design language “cartoonish”. This car looks as if it escaped from Toon Town.

    These days much of modern luxury car styling is of the “make it look distinctive at all costs” school. The new E-class looks like something penned by a 13 year old. I still haven’t gotten used to the silly rear wheel arches of the S-class and whomever is styling BMWs these days needs to lay off the surplus of “character lines” (although the new 7 series is a big improvement).

  • avatar
    caljn

    I believe Thornmark in another recent post charged Nissan as a second tier brand as well. Me thinks axes are grinding there.
    I couldn’t disagree more…IMHO each Nissan/Infiniti model is far more interesting drive then the corresponding Toyota/Lexus/Honda/Acura.

  • avatar
    MattPete

    Looks Korean. That’s not a complement.

    I want to like Infinitis (I owned a G20 at one time), as they seem like a good bargain and are sportier than Lexi, but the company keeps blowing it styling-wise.

  • avatar
    dingram01

    Another vote for cartoonish here, inside and out. Trying way too hard and failing abominally.

    I don’t expect to change my opinion once I see one of these in the (ample) flesh. I just keep wondering what ever happened to restraint and taste in automotive design?

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    This re design is uglier than the previous! Ugh! Unfortunately, Infiniti is still not sure what it is trying to be.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    Last week, I visited the local Infiniti dealer and was put off by the M37 and its curves, swoops, bulges, and warts. The sun visor was only a few inches from my head after I positioned the driver’s seat and I found that uncomfortable. The interior is OK, but the sedan’s exterior is overly styled. Maybe not ugly, but certainly odd. By contrast the G37 seems more coherent, smoother, simpler. I then visited an Audi dealer and certainly liked what I saw, but experienced sticker shock. Finally I spent some time at a Cadillac dealer to check out the CTS. My head tells me that the CTS is a really good machine, but my heart’s bling alert made loud noises. What’s a shopper to do?

  • avatar
    skysharad

    SLLTTAC- the seating position of the new 5 series is worse.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    A pretty and distinctive car in person, this. Like the Maxima, it comes across better than it photographs. I do think those interested in the M should try the Maxima first. It’s almost certainly a level down in handling and interior accommodations, but the size, power, and styling aren’t far off the mark.

  • avatar

    Looks a lot better than the previous model version but the engine is a deal breaker. I have a G37S and it is fun to drive but the engine coarseness gets on my nerves. It would be worse in a more lux setting as a la the M. I’d much rather have the new 5 series.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    I recently test-drove an M37x Touring, and agree with most of Mr. Karesh’s comments. I was pleasantly surprised by the interior, though the exterior leaves me cold, despite all the curves and swoops.

    I didn’t care for the previous M at all, but this new version is really a very nice car if you like the styling. It’s well worth a look if you’re in the market.

    In the end, I decided that I’d rather have an Audi S4 for essentially the same money, trading space for pace.

  • avatar
    wsn

    This is THE best looking sedan in the past 20 years.

  • avatar
    CMK

    A great-looking car, but Michael’s list of shortcomings ensures it’s not on the list.

    I love a tight-feeling interior (stop giggling), as my 2008 R32 seems positively cavernous compared to my old 2001 Audi A4. Michael hits the nail on the head: it feels more intimate.

    But – there’s always a but – I’m not a very large person, and I’m sure I can safely assume that the seats will not hold me in place.

  • avatar
    M37INF411

    I picked up my new Infiniti M37 one month ago when my lease on the M35 was up. For the most part, there are improvements with this model. The sound system is fantastic and the AC, in this model, could be the best I’ve ever felt. There are problems like the choppy transmission that feels like it’s a manual 5 speed that is being forced to be an automatic. Takes some getting use to, if I ever do. The bluetooth system, in the new Infiniti M37, is not compatible with certain cell phones. To name two (although I have read reviews which say more) is the Apple iPhone 3GS and the new iPhone 4G. I was told by the salesman (you just can’t trust them) that it was the same, if not better, then what I had in the M35–but that was a lie. In the age of ‘smart phones’ you would think Infiniti would not develop a ‘dumb’ new model.

  • avatar
    G37S

    tonycd, you obviously have no clue what you are talking about. RWD is just fine for 99% of the snow that USA and most of Canada will ever encounter. RWD got its bad name for snow because of shitty open differentials with no traction control in the past, nose heavy design, and the fact that only performance cars kept it in the late 80′s to early 90′s which only came with summer tires. Why sacrifice the best handling drivetrain you can get for 99% of driving situations for maybe a few days per year of snow? People like you running their mouths… the victims of marketing… are the reason I have a hard time finding the rwd version of these cars in dealerships in my area.


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