Despite stiff competition in the midsized luxury car segment, the second-generation Infiniti M stayed atop CR’s Ratings in that category for all five model-years (2006-2010) that it was produced. In addition to providing generous accommodations, this luxury sedan is as fun to drive on a twisty backroad as it is comfortable while cruising on the highway.
Now, 2011 brings a redesign for the M. Gone is the stolid upright styling; now the car looks like a pumped-up version of Infiniti’s G37 sports sedan, with even more overt curves. The interior is even more luxurious and the list of available electronic options is even longer.
Our $53,825 rear-wheel-drive M37 has the optional Premium and Technology packages. The Premium package adds navigation, a Bose stereo system with a hard drive for storing music, climate-controlled front seats, and a heated steering wheel. It’s also a prerequisite for adding other option packages, like the Technology package. That includes active cruise control, collision warning, adaptive headlights, Active Trace Control (which changes braking and engine torque application to individual wheels to “smooth vehicle response”), and an Eco drive mode that, when turned on, pushes back on the accelerator pedal to force better fuel economy.
The $3,000 Technology package also adds two dynamic electronic safety systems—Lane Departure Prevention and Blind Spot Intervention—that go beyond simply beeping to warn the driver of impending danger, or even autonomously slowing the car down. Both systems utilize Dynamic Driver Assistance-- braking each wheel independently, similar to electronic stability control--to help keep the car away from danger:
- Lane Departure Prevention will actively push the car back into its lane if it senses the car veering over lane markings without using a turn signal.
- Blind Spot Intervention uses the brakes on one side of the car, with input from radar sensors and a camera, to keep the M in its original lane of travel if its driver starts to move into a lane that is occupied by another (presumably unseen) vehicle. This system doesn’t care if you’re using the turn signals or not.
“Prevention” and “intervention” are rather strong words for active safety devices. Given that, we’re curious to see if drivers take kindly to this much “assistance” as the miles go by, even if they paid extra for it. Fortunately, if drivers don’t like the Dynamic Driver Assistance, there is a button on the steering wheel that turns the intervention off.
First impressions? Like the G37, the drivetrain is eager and willing, and we’d expect the new seven-speed automatic transmission to improve fuel economy over the previous M35’s 19 mpg. Despite being a sizable car, though, the M’s posh interior feels oddly snug inside, with a visually looming A-pillar and dashboard. And hard-to-access seat controls and gauges that are blocked by the steering-wheel rim are odd ergonomic oversights.
We’ll see if the M37 regains its place atop our luxury car Ratings as we fully test it in the weeks ahead.
— Tom Mutchler