Infiniti has been introducing a stream of compelling new or redesigned vehicles over the past couple of years, part of Nissan’s strategy to make its premium line a stronger competitor against the European luxury brands, as well as archrival Lexus.
The flagship Infiniti M sedan is one of those new, improved models, with great performance along with excellent curb appeal. The current generation arrived a couple of years ago.
It’s a lovely vehicle, with windswept curves flowing from the front bumper, along the side of the hood, following the belt line to the rear fender and across the trunk lid. The hood is bold and the front fascia is powerful-looking.
For 2013, there are five versions: the rear-wheel-drive M37 and all-wheel-drive M37x, which come with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine; the front-drive M56and all-wheel-drive M56x, with a 5.6-liter V-8; and the M Hybrid, which has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and an electric drive motor — along with EPA ratings of 27 mpg city/32 highway.
The M56x model I tested had the V-8, with 420 horsepower and 417 foot-pounds of torque, combined with a seven-speed automatic transmission with Adaptive Shift Control (senses driving style and adjusts shifting accordingly), which provided all the power I needed, and then some.
A mode selector allowed a choice between Standard, Sport, Snow or Eco modes to control shift points and throttle response. The Eco mode was a little slow out of the gate, so I used it only on open highway where there were no intersections or stoplights. I found it to be quite effective, though, giving me an average of 25 mpg on a long highway trip.
EPA ratings are 18 city/26 highway for the M37; 17/24 for the M37x; 16/24 for the M56; and 16/23 for the M56x. Except for the long trip, I averaged about 21 mpg with my M56x tester, mostly in local freeway driving.
My tester came with lots of really nice standard equipment, and more than $6,000 in options. It had the Liquid Platinum exterior. Inside, it came with Stone leather and White Ash Silver-powdered wood trim (reminding me of the coloring of a silverback gorilla), with muted silver curved around the console, dash, door panels and door handles — very elegant.
The Midnight Black grille accented the powerful front, and the 20-inch, double five-spoke, pewter-look aluminum-alloy wheels bolstered the feeling of power.
An interior lighting package included illuminated kick plates (“Infiniti”) and ambient lighting around the interior door handles. Premium carpeted floor mats also featured an M56 badge.
The Touring Package included the premium AM/FM radio with speed-sensitive volume, Bose studio surround sound with 16 speakers (two each on top of the front seatbacks), speed-sensitive volume control, CD/MP3/WMA playback, and, satellite radio.
Also in the package were the Forest Air Advanced Climate Control System (destroys odors, regulates humidity, adds a subtle pleasant scent, varies fan speed to create a gentle breeze), Plasmacluster interior ionizer and polyphenol air filter, power rear sunshade, semi-aniline leather seats, the silver-powdered wood trim, a suede cloth headliner, soft-touch material on armrests, console, knee pads and doors, and premium stitching on the meter hood.
Standard equipment on my M56x included rear console air vents and floor heater vents, rear reading lights, rear armrest with storage, front map lights and four cupholders. The 10-way power front seats were heated and cooled with lumbar support (nice for my long-distance trip) and dual-occupant memory for the driver’s seat, mirrors (power fold, heated, auto-dimming) and steering wheel (linked to individual Intelligent Key fobs). The tilt/telescopic steering wheel was heated, but I didn’t need that.
The front center armrest had a felt-lined tray, a 12-volt power outlet, USB port, and auxiliary input jacks. The tray was attached to the lid and retracted when the lid was raised, instead of being removable, which can be a hassle.
Other amenities included remote-keyless entry with selective unlocking of the driver’s door or all doors; remote window opening; retained accessory power for windows and the power moon roof, battery saver, backup camera and monitor, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, and valet key/trunk lockout.
Infiniti also includes voice recognition for audio, navigation and vehicle-information systems, as well as Bluetooth connectivity.
The standard navigation system shares an eight-inch color touch screen with the audio system. The navigation system was multi-layered (most high-end systems are), using either the touch screen or a rotating knob for programming. The only problem I encountered was reaching the “map menu” on the touch screen in order to continue selecting options using the knob.