There may be five different nameplates in Infiniti’s current lineup but, for all intents and purposes, Infiniti is a three-vehicle brand, as the EX and FX crossovers as well as the different variants of the G provide the bulk of Nissan’s luxury division’s sales. With the new and completely redesigned 2011 model year M luxury sedan, Infiniti is once again hoping to compete with the established segment leaders and to steal some of Germany’s thunder, a feat it never managed with the previous-generation M as well as the now very much forgotten larger Q sedan.
While the previous-generation M was an able performer performer from a driving dynamics standpoint, it suffered from bland and uninspired styling, a core issue that the new model confronts head-on. Borrowing cues from the softer-edged G, the new M is all about styling that is almost organic in nature with flowing and curved lines that allow the new car to stand out and be noticed.
Getting behind the wheel for an initial test drive, I found the same story applies inside the cabin. Whereas the previous-generation car was outfitted with a largely black plastic interior that did not accurately reflect the brand’s luxury credentials, the new one offers tasteful genuine ash as well as aluminum trim on its dashboard and console. While BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have developed single-controller setups (iDrive, MMI, Comand) to access their car’s various systems, Infiniti has gone old school by way of a myriad of single buttons as an interface. Getting aquainted with the location of the various controls was relatively straightforward with the exception of a most puzzling feature, which is called the Forest Air climate control system and its breeze mode, designed to emulate a natural breeze by randomly varying the air flow through the cabin – it proved to be more annoying than refreshing.
The new M comes as the 37 or M56, depending on the choice of engines, and the all-wheel-drive system is available on both models. While the 5.6-litre, V8 delivers major power in the form of 420 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, the 3.7L V6 proves to be more than adequate with its 330 h.p. and 270 lb-ft of torque. Indeed, the car of choice for most buyers will be the V6 engine matched with the all-wheel-drive system.