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TheCarConnection.com's editors have prepared this preview of the 2011 Infiniti M - M37 - M56 sedans from information provided by the manufacturer, as well as a first-hand look at prototypes. Editors will update this preview with driving impressions as soon as the manufacturer provides a road-test vehicle.LikesVoluptuous new bodHigh-style interiorA tradition of good handlingAll-wheel drive optionHybrid version in the worksDislikesSleek, but sits highInterior seems less roomy than its specsBrand recognition still lags Audi, Benz, BMWThe 2011 Infiniti M sedans are on a mission: to erase some of the distance shoppers put between the German super sedans and Nissan's most luxurious and powerful four-doors. The M37 and M56 arrive none too soon to replace the dynamic-driving, but not as dynamic-looking, 2010 M. On sale in the spring of 2010 for a base price well under $50,000, the 2011 Infiniti M will compete with the Audi A6, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the BMW 5-Series, the Lexus GS, the Jaguar XF, and even the Hyundai Genesis and Lincoln MKS.Inspiration has taken charge of the big Infiniti, by way of the Essence concept. Borrowing cues from that styling-studio exercise, the 2011 M is 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. It's a long, long way from the ungainly old Infiniti J30, for sure--though in person the M seems to sit a little tall on its tires. The whole car bears a much-improved, more aggressive look than the somewhat bland wrapper of the previous M--especially with the big five-spoke wheels on some models that would fit right on a Nissan 370Z roadster. The M's interior treatment is subtly opulent: there's wood trim, lots of leather hides, and on some versions a special wood trim treated with silver dust. It's an attractive and elegant cockpit, with a prominent center console between front passengers neatly organizing banks of controls under a large LCD screen that drives audio and climate systems. There's more wood trim than in the Jaguar XF--and in person, the M cockpit looks and feels more well-fitted and traditionally luxurious.There's a startling power upgrade awaiting some Infiniti M drivers. Base versions share an uprated version of the corporate 3.7-liter V-6, rated at 330 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, for a 25-hp bump over the 2010 model. Spend more for the V-8-powered M56, and hell breaks loose in a righteous way: the 2011 M56 swaps in a 5.6-liter V-8 engine and drills out 420 horsepower and 417 lb-ft of torque--almost 100 hp more than the last V-8 M. Both engines will pair up with a seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode, rev-matching, and available paddle shifters; an "Eco Pedal" feature will give a driver feedback to help promote more frugal driving. Fuel economy could better the 2010 model's best rating of 17/25 mpg.Rear-wheel drive is the basic drivetrain layout, but all-wheel drive will be an option. The suspension remains a control-arm and multi-link design; a Sport package for rear-drive cars adds sport tuning for the suspension and sport-duty brakes, along with 20-inch wheels and four-wheel active steering. Like the German competition, the Infiniti M also adds an optional set of electronic controls for transmission shifting and throttle response, with four individual settings (Sport, Normal, Eco and Snow). Available Active Tracing Control manipulates power levels and anti-lock brakes to help the M sedan corner more quickly.The 2011 Infiniti M looks distinct from the past edition, but it rests on an identical 114.2-inch wheelbase. That translates into plenty of room for four adults, and a fifth on occasion. TheCarConnection.com explored the five-seat cabin in prototypes of the new 2011 M, and found them felt exceptionally comfortable. Both driver and front passenger get 10-way power seats, and the front cabin has good head and shoulder room, minus a little width for the thicker center console. The back seats' high, supportive cushions felt fine, but the tall doors and rear deck gives the rear seat a closed-in feel. The M's trunk appears usefully large; it's likely a coming hybrid edition will consume some trunk space for the battery pack. The 2011 M37 and M56 sedans will offer Active Noise Control, to reduce ambient noise in the cockpit. Early prototypes were well on their way to traditional Infiniti levels of quality, with especially attractive wood veneer on the front console and dash, a sueded headliner, and metallic highlights.With the previous car a strong performer in crash ratings, TheCarConnection.com expects the same or better for the 2011 M. Dual front, side and curtain airbags will be standard, along with anti-lock brakes; active headrests; and traction and stability control. Brake assist and dynamic cruise control will be offered, along with adaptive headlamps. An advanced, optional blind-spot warning system is designed to alert the driver if another vehicle is detected in an adjacent lane during an intended lane change, and then help assist the driver in returning the vehicle toward the center of the original lane of travel. Lane-departure warnings are bundled with this system, while adapative cruise control is offered separately.Lavish standard equipment is the norm in Infiniti vehicles, and the 2011 M won't be any different. Leather seating will be standard equipment, along with 10-way power seats with memory and heating up front; Intelligent Key; a hard-drive navigation system; an AM/FM/six-CD/XM sound system with USB connectivity; Bluetooth; and a moonroof. A Sport package adds 20-inch wheels, sport seats and steering wheel, and aluminum pedal trim. Other options will include ventilated seats; a heated steering wheel; real-time traffic; and a premium audio system.The 2011 Infiniti M sedans go on sale in the spring of 2010. Pricing will be announced in the spring, and TheCarConnection.com's full road test is coming early in 2010.The Bottom Line: The 2011 Infiniti M pairs beauty with a beastly V-8 engine, as Nissan tries to make its marque among the German supersedans.Other Choices:If you're interested in the 2011 Infiniti M, also consider:- Audi A6- BMW 5-Series- Mercedes-Benz E-Class- Jaguar XF- Lincoln MKS- Hyundai GenesisReason Why:The 2011 Infiniti M pits itself against some of the best-selling luxury sedans in the world. The Audi A6 is in its final year of production, yet still offers a balanced ride and handling package, a well-fitted cabin, and choices of engines, transmissions and front- or all-wheel drive. The BMW 5-Series will be new for 2011, and a more cohesive look will put its recent styling troubles in the past--though electronic systems could overwhelm its essential driving characteristics. The Benz E-Class arrived new for the 2010 model year, with a sharply pressed new suit and an upgraded interior--and a newfound sense of the road ahead, with sharper, quicker steering and a hot AMG-powered E63 four-door version. Revamped this year: the Jaguar XF, which gets a 510-hp V-8 as its most powerful offering while its rejuvenated body still draws stares and its gimmicky interior still wows first-time passengers. Two dark horses in this race are the turbocharged Lincoln MKS, which marries Volvo-style dynamics with a brilliant powertrain and a distinctive, chrome-lined interior, and the Hyundai Genesis--a dead ringer for the former Infiniti M, down to its leather-trimmed dash and its rippling V-8 option.Buying TipAmerican buyers will be among the first to experience the 2012 Infiniti M hybrid sedan, but the M diesel under development is intended for Europe and Japan--with no plans for sales Stateside.