First Drive: 2011 Infiniti M37 / 2011 Infiniti M56 are nothing short of impressive

It’s been 21 years since Infiniti started selling vehicles in the United States. While at first they were known to be selling rebadged Nissans (Infiniti”s parent company) at a premium price, Infiniti has grown-up and evolved into its own luxury brand with global operations that include more than 230 dealers in 15 countries. Infiniti also gives its competitors, including BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, something to worry about; this was most apparent with the 2003 introduction of the G35, when Infiniti swore that it would never take its eyes off of BMW.

Infiniti’s sales continued to rise and its reputation grew stronger as Carlos Ghosn made it his goal to break the company away from its Nissan roots; a move seen by many as Infiniti taking on the role of “Japan’s BMW”. That role was firmly built upon the 2006 model year M35 and M45 sedans, engineered and designed to compete head-on with the BMW 5-Series.

For 2011, the M”s have undergone their first major re-design and engineering since their inception in 2006 – and we feel confident in saying that the all-new 2011 Infiniti M37 and M56, will have the competition seriously concerned about losing market-share.

Last week we went out to beautiful Southern California to spend a few hours test-driving the all-new M37 and M56; here is our first impression of the “˜Japanese BMW.’

Hit the jump to read more and to view the high-res image gallery (at the bottom of the post).

First Drive: 2011 Infiniti M37 / 2011 Infiniti M56:

All Photos Copyright © 2010 Omar Rana ““ egmCarTech.

With styling inspired by the Infiniti Essence concept, the 2011 Infiniti M gets a redesigned body with sportier proportions, a low front end, and deeply sculpted fenders. The folks at Infiniti made it a specific point to draw attention to the fact that the new M has better overall proportions, being lower and wider, offering a more aggressive stance with its long hood and short deck. While those changes will be apparent to car enthusiasts, the average car shopper will notice the more-obvious things like: new headlamps and tail lights, a new low-slung grille that has become Infiniti’s new signature as it is featured on many of its models, and of course, the more aggressive stance.

Inside, the new M”s remain pure Infiniti, with their upgraded, Japanese-influenced design. Even though interior volume of the new M (103.6 cubic feet) has been reduced by 1.6 cubic feet, the sedan still offers best in-class interior room and cargo space. For the 2011 model year, Infiniti used specially selected materials throughout the interior including new wood trims, new switches and a welcome lighting system that provide for one of the most luxurious interiors in its class.

All 2011 M”s come standard with a number of options including:

  • 7-speed automatic with Infiniti Drive Mode Selector – four selectable modes (Eco, Standard, Sport, Snow) adjust throttle sensitivity and transmission shift points to optimize performance or fuel-economy.
  • Power folding outside mirrors.
  • Enhanced Intelligent Key memory – now includes memory function for audio, navigation and climate control settings, in addition to seat, steering wheel and side view mirror.
  • Bi-Xenon Headlights.
  • RearView Monitor.
  • Active Noise Control – generates sound waves which help to reduce undesirable low-frequency engine sounds in the cabin.
  • USB port for iPod.

No matter your needs or tastes, there is an options package out there that suits everyone. The $3,350 Premium Package (standard on the M56, optional on the M37) adds navigation with 8-inch VGA color touch screen, heated/cooled front seats and a Bose 10 speaker 2-channel audio system. The Deluxe Touring Package adds an upgraded Bose Studio Surround System, Forest Air climate control system, and power rear sunshade. The Technology Package adds Intelligent Cruise Control with Distance Control Assist, Intelligent Brake Assist, Blind Spot Intervention, Active Trace Control, Eco Pedal and Adaptive Front Lighting System.

For 2011, the Infiniti M lineup starts with the M37 powered by a 3.7L DOHC VVEL V6 making 330-hp and putting out 270 lb-ft of torque, providing for 27 more hp and 8 lb-ft of torque than the previous generation. Even with the power increase, there comes a modest boost in fuel-economy; the M37 gets an EPA estimated 18/26 mpg (city/highway), while the M37x gets an EPA estimated 17/24 mpg. The M56 gets a brand new 5.6L DOHC VVEL Direct-Injected V8 engine that puts out 420-hp with a maximum torque of 417 lb-ft, providing for an increase of 95-hp and 81 lb-ft over the outgoing M45. EPA estimated fuel-economy comes in at 16/25 mpg for the M56 and 16/23 mpg for the M56x.

Both engines come mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission with Downshift Rev Matching, Adaptive Shift Control and available magnesium paddle shifters. All 2011 Infiniti M models come standard with four selectable drive modes including Normal, Eco (optimizes settings for better fuel-economy), Sport (changes shift points for better performance) and Snow (modulates throttle to limit wheel spin). Those vehicles outfitted with the Technology Package also feature an Eco Pedal feature, which promotes fuel-efficient driving by pushing back on the pedal if you’re behaving badly. Infiniti claims the feature to increase fuel-efficiency anywhere between 5% and 10%.

While on the topic of fuel-efficiency we’d like to point out that Infiniti will also offer a hybrid version of the M, the M35 Hybrid, as a 2012 model year vehicle. The hybrid system will consist of a single electric-motor/twin-clutch arrangement, mated to a 3.5L V6 unit. Infiniti says that the M35 Hybrid, which will carry a lithium-ion battery pack, has the ability to run on electric-power under certain driving conditions.

Overall, the 2011 Infiniti M37 and M56 are a huge improvement over the outgoing model in terms of design, engineering, performance and overall luxury appeal. Prices start at $46,250 for the 2011 Infiniti M37 and $48,400 for the M37x. The range-topping 2011 M56 starts at $57,550, while the all-wheel-drive M56x starts at $60,050. While that might be a modest increase over the outgoing Infiniti M, it’s still very competitive with rivals including the $45,600 Lexus GS, $45,950 BMW 5-Series (2011 model due out in spring), $48,600 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the $45,200 Audi A6.

Sales of the 2011 Infiniti M37 and 2011 M56 kick off later this month, so make sure you put it on your list of cars to test-drive if you’re shopping in the mid-size sedan segment.

First Drive: 2011 Infiniti M37 / 2011 Infiniti M56:

All Photos Copyright © 2010 Omar Rana – egmCarTech.

– By: Omar Rana