Test Drive: Infiniti M

San Diego ? European sport sedans should watch their rear view mirrors closely because there is another Infiniti pulling into the passing lane.

Graphically expressed by sweeping brush stokes, the new 2011 Infiniti M styling is a translation of organic lines to sculpted steel.? From the complex face with the trademark Infiniti grille and raised fenders that extend back to the rear fascia, the lines are distinctive and elegant.

The interior styling is where art meets business with luxurious appointments like soft-touch leathers, hand rubbed woods and brushed aluminum accents sculpted into a well-organized cockpit.? Infiniti-exclusive controls, instinctively placed, have the precise feel of fine tools.

Pressing the start button of either the M37 or the M56 and the driver is rewarded with the subtle roar of a powerful 330-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 or 420-hp, 5.6-liter V-8.? The V-6 is the latest iteration of the award winning Nissan V-6 and the V-8 is a new Direct Injection Gasoline? engine.? Both engines are attached to a fast-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels, with all-wheel drive as an available option.? Fuel economy for the RWD V-6 is 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, while the V-8 is slightly less at 16/25 mpg.? All-wheel drive versions are slightly lower.

The acceleration of both engines is amazing with a hint of rumble in the exhaust note and smooth rocket-like thrust.? I found no published test numbers, but I estimated 0 to 60 mph times for the V-6 in the 5.5-second range and the V-8 at less than five seconds.

Both engines have Infiniti?s new drive mode selector that changes the throttle control and transmission mapping to optimize the performance.? For vehicles outfitted with the optional Technology package, the switch also tweaks the settings for the 4-Wheel Active Steering, Active Trace Control and Eco Pedal.

Both models get abundant standard features like leather, real wood, RearView monitor, Active Noise Control, Bi-Xenon headlights.? The M56 elevates the features with state of the art navigation, Bose audio, 9.3GB Music Box hard drive and Bluetooth.

In addition to a full spectrum of standard safety equipment, the optional technology package adds a dozen more safety and convenience features like Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Front Lighting,

For as little as $46,250 a buyer can park the RWD M37 in the garage and the AWD version is only $2,150 more.? The M56 RWD is $57,550 and $60,050 for the AWD.? Even with 95 hp more than the previous generation M45 V-8 engine, fuel economy is 4 mpg better and it avoids the gas-guzzler tax.

Just as the Infiniti G37 models have eclipsed world-class competitors, the Infiniti M styling, performance and value will challenge the Mercedes- Bend E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.

[review pros=”Excellent performance Luxurious appointments” cons=”Navigation can’t be programed while car is moving” score=89]

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