Looking more Italian than Japanese, Infiniti's new M37 and M56 are stark reminders that not every car from the Land of the Rising Sun emanates from the car-as-appliance school of design. Bold where Lexus and Acura products are bland, the new M cars are all sensuous curves and bold creases, a testament to Infiniti's desire to rekindle the excitement that surrounded the launch of the original M in 2005 but that diminished significantly as it aged.
Like all Infinitis, the base M37 sees an upgrade to the company's new 3.7L V6, essentially the same engine powering the G37 and Nissan 370Z. In this guise, it's good for 330hp and 366Nm of torque. Like the other variants of this engine, the M's 3.7L uses the company's VVEL Variable Valve Lift and Event variable valve timing system that, for all intents and purposes, eliminates the need for a throttle, benefiting fuel economy to the tune of about five per cent, says Nissan.
The big noise this year, however, sees a complete revamp of Infiniti's 5.6L V8 workhorse. Not only does it get the VVEL treatment, but it's also treated to some new direct fuel injection technology. By feeding the fuel directly into the combustion chamber rather than the intake manifold, Infiniti has been able to raise the compression ratio to 11.5:1, increasing both power (up to 420hp from 345) and fuel economy (by 10 per cent) compared with the 5.6L currently used in other Infinitis, says Ian Forsyth, Nissan Canada's director of corporate and product planning.
Also aiding fuel economy - and performance - is a new, paddle-shifted, seven-speed automatic transmission that can be hooked to either rear- or all-wheel drive with both engine configurations. Also featuring heavily in the quest for better fuel economy is Infiniti's EcoPedal system that monitors speed and acceleration and determines the best throttle setting for optimum fuel economy. Unlike other such economy-seeking systems, however, the EcoPedal pushes back against the driver's foot, reminding them of their overly leaden driving.
Keeping all this power in check are some serious chassis upgrades as well as enough electronic gizmos for Infiniti to challenge Mercedes as the king of the car-related acronym. The Sport version of both Ms, for instance, get new 20-inch wheels and sticky 245/40R20 radials. The same package also sees the M's brakes upgraded to huge 14-inch discs up front (13.8-in. in the rear) and powerful four-piston calipers. On RWD models only, the Sport package also includes Nissan's 4-Wheel Active Steering (4WAS) that, depending on the vehicle speed, can steer the rear wheels in phase with the front tyres.
As for harnessing all that power, besides the revised all-wheel drive, electronic stability control and traction control systems, the Ms boast something Infiniti obliquely calls Active Tracing Control. According to Infiniti, ATC distributes both engine torque and braking force to each wheel individually thus increasing steering precision. Nor are all the new electronics limited to controlling the engine's power: the Ms also offer a new, industry-first, camera-based system called Blind Spot Intervention (BSI) that aids the driver to bring the vehicle back toward the centre of the lane if it detects another vehicle in the blind spot area. Not one to miss an acronym, Infiniti includes a warning system for the same miscue called Blind Spot Warning or BSW. These systems work in conjunction with Infiniti's Lane Departure Warning system (you guessed it, LDW) that alerts the driver whenever he, or she, is drifting into the next lane (without signalling, of course).
Not all of Infiniti's new-fangled technology is quite so logical, however. The new M37 and 56, for instance, include a new technology branded Forest Air. A step above the normal air conditioning system, I'm not quite clear how the system works, but according to Forsyth it creates a soft, gentle breeze of fresh air in the cabin similar to what might find in the middle of the, well, forest on a perfect spring day. Among other things, the system includes a Plasmacluster Ion generator, a humidistat that keeps the cabin's moisture content between 35 and 55 per cent and a special grape polyphenol element that is claimed to filter out unwanted odours.
There's a whole bunch more new technology I could talk about in the newly revitalised M37 and M56, but, in all honesty, despite a two-hour private sťance with Infiniti's product planners, I still didn't manage to catch it all. Suffice it to say that there are many more wondrous gadgets inside the new Infinitis, all, of course, with their own acronyms. Quite how Infiniti's salespersons will remember them all, or how they will convince prospective customers to sit still for an explanation of the long list of features is a question I dared not to ask.
What is apparent, however, is that with the Q45 no longer in Infiniti's lineup the M, and especially the reinvigorated M56, is now the flagship of the lineup. firstname.lastname@example.org