The 2012 Infiniti M
flagship sedan is comparable to handsome, upscale sports sedans from any country.
The "M" never sold as well as Nissan's upscale Infiniti division felt it should have. So the 2011 model was blessed with superior styling, more-powerful engines, advanced safety equipment and a more attractive interior. Sales quickly picked up.
Changes were so major for 2011 that there are few enhancements for 2012. They include a new 18-inch wheel package, combining the previous M56 Sport and Sport Touring packages into a single Sport package-and availability of the Graphite Interior for models with the Deluxe Touring package.
The M comes with front-drive or an all-wheel-drive system. Carried over from 2011 are the M37 model with a 3.7-liter, 330-horsepower V-6, which is strong enough to satisfy most, and the really fast M56. It has a 5.6-liter V-8 kicking out a neck-snapping 420 horsepower that propels the car from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds.. All-wheel-drive versions of the M have an "x" designation.
New for 2012 is the M Hybrid (M35h) rear-drive hybrid model. It develops 360 horsepower with a 3.5-liter V-6, electric motor and battery pack, which work with a seven-speed automatic transmission. It reportedly does 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds and can drive on electric power alone at speeds up to 62 mph. It delivers an estimated 32 mpg on highways.
The M35h highway economy figure handily beats the estimated 23 and 26 highway mpg figures for the V-8 and V-6, respectively. The M35h delivers 27 mpg in the city, which also easily tops the 16 (M56) and 18 (M37) city figures.
List prices for the the M lineup are $47,700 to $61,600, with the new M35h at $53,700. The M is Infiniti's flagship sedan, so it's packed with comfort, convenience and safety features.
I tested the $61,600 M56x with all-wheel drive. As with all M models, it's heavy, at approximately 4,000 pounds, and feels large. But it's nimble, and stability and traction control systems can help out in a pinch.
Steering is nicely geared, with the right amount of assist. The ride is firm, but compliant. The responsive seven-speed automatic transmission in all models has an easy manual-shift feature, and braking is strong.
The solid, precisely built M is a fast, genuine grand touring (GT) car. It's handsome, but drivers should keep in mind potential damage to its low front end, which helps allow very low aerodynamic drag for a quieter interior and better fuel economy.
Doors have large outside handles for quick entry to the quiet, decidedly upscale interior, and rearview mirrors fold against the front window glass to avoid damage.
Gauges can be read at a glance, although a small digital "mpg" gauge in the instrument cluster seems rather odd. Controls are easy to use. There's even ashtrays, which are in few cars these days. However, I found it impossible to partially stop the power front windows from racing down or up after they were activated.
The M is roomy, both front and rear. Front seats provide good support, and a large front arrmrest helps keep occupants comfortable. But front door pockets don't hold much. There are no rear door pockets, but storage pockets are on the rear of the front seats. The hard center of the back seat is best left to the fold-down large center armrest.
The trunk is large, but has a rather high opening, and rear seatbacks don't fold forward to enlarge the cargo area. Rather, the rear seat in the regular M37 and M56 has a small center pass-through area from the trunk.
The hood raises on struts to reveal a large plastic engine cover. Most fluid areas are easily reached.
The new Infiniti M covers all three bases, with the addition of the M35h, and promises to score higher.