“This is the best car they've ever built,” my usual co-driver said over and over again.
He was talking about the 2011 Infiniti M sedan. The only question was which one?
First let me set the stage.
The M is now in its third generation, the first one debuting in 2003.
Like the last generation M, there is one sedan with a choice of two engines and rear- or all-wheel-drive (RWD or AWD). They are badged as the M37, M37x, M56 and M56X respectively.
The M37 uses the latest version of the long-serving “VQ” DOHC V6, but now with variable valve lift technology producing 330 hp and 270 lb/ft of torque, up 27 hp and 8 lb/ft over the current model. Fuel economy has been improved to 11.4/7.6L/100 km city/highway for the RWD and 12.0/8.3L/100 km city/highway for the AWD.
The M56 uses a 5.6-litre DOHC V8 now with gasoline direct injection for a thumping 420 hp and 417 lb/ft of torque up an impressive 95 hp and 81 lb/ft over the current model. But fuel consumption is actually slightly better at 12.9/8.0L/100 km city/highway for the RWD and 13.4/8.5L/100 km city/highway for the AWD.
Of the two, the M37x, probably because of the AWD, seemed more sure-footed but not as fast as the M56 when it came to coping with road conditions.
Over a stretch of about 400 km from Nanaimo to Ucluele in British Columbia and back, surfaces ranged from four-lane highway, to twisting two-laners overland to challenging off-camber 30 km turns across the tops of the mountains in rain, drizzle and sun.
The M56 was by far the most powerful. With all that newfound torque, passing was a breeze even on the few short stretches available.
The other thing was the M56 had the upgraded 20-inch wheels with low profile tires which were less compliant on uneven and rutted roads than the standard 19-inch tires with slightly higher sidewalls as fitted to the M37x.
Making spirited driving all the better was the standard seven-speed automatic. Heading into a corner, with the brakes either on hard or soft, the transmissions blips the throttle during down shifts and always, it seemed, at the right moment now matter how slowly or urgently I used the brakes.
The new M sedans are also the best looking cars to come from Infiniti in a long time. Much of the inspiration comes from the Essence concept car that got such rave reviews last year on the car show circuit.
You can see it in the high rising front fender line and the low-slung grille. Slightly wider and longer than the current model, it is also 76 mm lower giving the M a more balanced profile.
The interior is tasteful, and I don’t say that very often about Japanese cars. Sure it’s about fine leathers and woods, but where you see the thought is in the many finishing details like the teardrop shape of the inside door pulls and their surrounds. They pick up the flowing shape of the instrument panel and carry it on past the front seat where they are repeated in the back.