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Driving impressions: Infiniti M37

Consumer Reports News: August 24, 2010 07:08 AM

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The redesigned M37 brings sharper looks to a pleasant, civilized luxury car. Nissan’s luxury Infiniti division has never enjoyed the cachet or sales success of Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, but not because the cars as lacking: The mid-sized G sports sedan has topped our ratings in its category since 2007 and the slightly larger M has been our top-rated sports sedan since 2006.

Nissan hopes the redesigned 2011 M will draw more interest with its curvier styling and lower stance. We recently bought a rear-wheel-drive M37, which stickered for $53,825. A V8, called the M56, tops the range. All-wheel drive is available for both.

Driving Impressions: The new M37 is quick, responsive, and comfortable, but it’s not as spacious inside as the previous generation and the plush cabin is not as quiet as most competitors’. The ride is firm yet supple. The suspension mutes most impacts well and body control is quite solid. Moderate wind and road noise penetrate at speed,but the cabin stays quiet overall.

The 330-hp, 3.7-liter V6 feels punchy and revs happily but sounds a little coarse from mid-revs upward. The seven speed automatic is smooth and responsive. We found its Sport mode a tad hyperactive, with aggressive downshifts and delayed upshifts. ECO mode was the opposite, aggressively pushing back on the throttle pedal. Fuel economy, at 22 mpg overall so far, is good for the class.

Opting for the $3,000 “technology” package brings advanced safety gear including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, and blind-spot warning and intervention. If the car drifts into another lane while the system is activated, the brakes on one side apply automatically to draw the car back into line. Similarly, blind-spot intervention prevents the M from moving into the path of a car approaching through the blind zones in back.

These systems work effectively, but letting the electronics intervene so much in everyday driving can feel eerie. We found the lane-departure warning annoyingly over-sensitive, for instance, and often just shut it off after start-up.

Inside the cabin: The interior is well put together, with soft-touch materials and high-quality switchgear. The seats are comfortable, but the rear isn’t as spacious as in the last M. Controls are relatively straightforward but some will find the sea of buttons daunting. A multi-function controller for the audio and navigation systems is less confusing and frustrating than most, and redundant “hard keys” obviate the need to wade through many menus.

CR’s take: The new M37 is capable and pleasant and loaded with new technology. It’s also more stylish but less roomy. We’ll see how the M compare with its peers when testing is complete. It also remains to be seen whether the M will find favor with the luxury-car crowd.

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