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The 2012 Infiniti M sedans are the luxury brand's most powerful and luxurious four-doors, and they take aim at some of the finest sport sedans from Germany with subtle yet gorgeous looks, truly great handling and performance, and interior appointments that are just as plush as stodgy, comfort-oriented lux sedans.
The Infiniti M37 and M56 models were completely redesigned last year, and it's the most graceful, voluptuous Infiniti yet. Swelling fenders flow from the car's grille, and flex from concave to convex surfaces along its shoulder, ending in an abbreviated, sloping trunk. Overall, it's more expressive than just about everything in its class, even the ravishing Jaguar XF. Inside, the M models push Japanese tradition and technology into an opulent marriage, with wood trim, lots of leather hides, and on some versions, a special wood trim treated with silver dust. The center console sits up and out prominently, like a jewelry case, and wears buttons for audio and climate controls that sit under under a large LCD screen that displays their outputs.
With the addition of the M35h hybrid model this year, the M sedans are now offered in three flavors. The M37 is the more common (and more affordable) of the three, powered by a 330-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6. Meanwhile, the M56 has a 420-hp, 5.6-liter V-8 that delivers neck-snapping responsiveness, accompanied by one of the more hellacious exhaust notes in a luxury car. Both engines pair up with a seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode, rev-matching, and available paddle shifters. In either version, the transmission is happy to pound out quick, unobtrusive gear changes at your command when the automatic’s moved to manual mode.
As for the new 2012 Infiniti M35h, it gets a Direct Response Hybrid system that's performance-oriented and delivers more than 350 combined horsepower yet is rated at an EPA 27 mpg city, 32 highway.
Most sport sedans sacrifice some ride quality for handling sharpness--or vise versa--but Infiniti nailed the calibration in the M37 and M56. Both have great handling, quick, responsive steering, and ride quality that's not quite supple but definitely not harsh or too noisy. supple ride--are an elusive mix, and Infiniti's nailed it. The steering has the right weight and turn-in feel. The rear-wheel-drive chassis is balanced and responsive for such a long car. You can get all-wheel drive on either as an option, (M37x, M56x), and it doesn’t dull the edge too much. Available Active Tracing Control manipulates power levels and anti-lock brakes to help the M sedan corner more quickly. And big, strong brakes on all versions come standard with lots of pedal feel. A Sport package adds 20-inch wheels, sport seats and steering wheel, and aluminum pedal trim to rear-drive versions, though there's no serious performance boost.
The key difference between compact sport sedans, like Infiniti's G37, and mid-sizers like the 2012 Infiniti M, is back-seat space. There's plenty of space for two adults in back in the M37 or M56--or a fifth on occasion--and the seats actually feel sculpted to the human form. In front, it's exceptionally comfortable; both driver and front passenger get ten-way power seats, and the front cabin has good head and shoulder room, minus a little width for the thicker center console. A big trunk rounds out this package that's surprisingly practical for a sport sedan.
Just as much as the BMW 5-Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the 2012 M sedans are a rolling showcase of some of the world's most sophisticated, radar-driven safety technology. Dynamic cruise control is available, along with adaptive headlamps, a blind-spot warning system, and lane-departure warning. There haven't been many official crash tests done yet on the new M, but it has received a top five-star score from the federal government for side-impact protection.
Lavish standard equipment is the norm in Infiniti vehicles, and the 2012 M is no different. Base M37 models come with all the typical luxury features, while the M56 and M56x add Bose audio, a heated steering wheel, and ventilated front seats standard; they also gets standard Bluetooth streaming, voice-activated navigation, XM traffic and weather with Zagat restaurant guides; a music hard drive, and an in-dash DVD player—all of which are available on the M37. Other options will include ventilated seats; a heated steering wheel; real-time traffic; a power sunshade; and a premium audio system with surround-sound speakers mounted in the front seats.
- Great handling
- Georgeous, functional dash
- Sensual, sharp-yet-organic styling
- Real back-seat room
- Available all wheel drive
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- Can be very gadget-happy (and expensive)
- V-6's strong-but-grumbly demeanor (M37)
- Still under-the-radar for status-seekers