2011 Infiniti M Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Infiniti M was new.


Performance: 8.9

The 2011 Infiniti M impresses reviewers with its powerful engine choices and good handling, but the M isn’t without a few minor shortcomings. It’s available as the V6-powered M37 or the V8-powered M56, and although the M37 has more than enough power, one reviewer thought that the V6 transmitted too much engine vibration. Still, most reviewers like the M’s handling and comment that the M37’s light weight makes it slightly more agile than the powerful M56.

If you’re considering an M equipped with all-wheel drive, be forewarned that not all reviewers are impressed. They say that the added weight of the all-wheel drive system affects the steering and handling, which means that the M is less fun to drive. One reviewer comments that a good set of snow tires should make the rear-wheel drive M livable in the winter and more fun during the rest of the year. 

  • "The Sport model option tries hard to compensate with a stiffer setup but lacks the more directly connected feel of, for instance, the 5-series. A non-Sport M will be plenty comfy for those seeking luxury, though." -- AutoWeek 
  • "As with most sedans in this segment, the V-6 sounds so sporty and comes across so robust that a V-8 is really unnecessary." -- Motor Trend 
  • "Well, after driving the production sedans for a day on some challenging driving loops in the mountains near San Diego, we can say these new Infinitis are assuredly smooth." -- Popular Mechanics 
  • "I test-drove the M37x, the all-wheel-drive version of the V-6-equipped sedan. The car drove brilliantly and offered a slew of extra safety features. At 330 horsepower, I was plenty happy with this smaller engine's performance. I drive a minivan in my real life, so anything over 300 hp causes me to twitch with glee." -- Cars.com 
  • "The powertrain tuning is refined, but it shows a bit of lash or hesitation when asked to emulate a sports car with snappy on-off inputs." -- MSN 
  • "Infiniti's added a drive mode selector complete with an "Eco" button to the M. All the Eco does is remove all pretensions of throttle response, making the car feel dangerously slow away from the lights unless you floor it." -- Jalopnik 
  • "During our preview drive, we actually found ourselves enjoying the drivability of the V6 more than the sheer power we found in the 5.6-liter V8. With the V8’s higher tip-in, it was constantly reminding you of the power underfoot." -- Left Lane News 

Acceleration and Power

The M is available in two trims that are based primarily around the engine. The base M37 features a 3.7-liter, 330-horsepower V6, while the M56 comes equipped with a 5.6-liter, 420-horsepower V8. Both engines are mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual mode that drives the rear wheels. All-wheel drive is also available on both models. Additionally, Infiniti has released a hybrid version of the M for 2012, which is reviewed separately.

If you’re concerned that the M37 won’t have enough power, you shouldn’t be. Most reviewers comment that the 3.7-liter V6 has more than enough power for most drivers, while the available V8 is downright fast when it comes to straight-line acceleration. Still, not all of the automotive press thinks that the M’s drivetrain is perfect. One reviewer says that the M37’s V6 isn’t the smoothest-running powertrain, while another thought the seven-speed transmission in the M56 was constantly hunting for the right gear. If these dings concern you, make sure that you like the M’s performance by taking it out for a thorough test drive.

According to the EPA, the M37 gets 18/26 mpg city/highway fuel economy with rear-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive models get 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The M56 gets 16/25 and 16/23 mpg city/highway for rear- and all-wheel drive models, respectively. If you’re looking for a luxury large car with more impressive fuel economy, the new M Hybrid might be worth considering. The data isn’t up yet on the EPA’s site, but Infiniti states in a press release that the M Hybrid has officially been rated with 27/32 mpg city/highway fuel economy.

Other best bets for good fuel economy in the luxury large car class include the Mercedes E350 Bluetec and the BMW 528i, which get 22/33 and 22/32 mpg city/highway, respectively.

  • "When choosing an M, you might think that the V-6's more-than-sufficient power would render it the easy choice, but there's one problem: even the M's standard active noise cancellation system can't come close to drowning out the vviibbrraattiioonnss coming from the VQ-series V-6." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "For most, the M37 provides just the right amount of thrust. And it is engaging, with a sweet V6 howl that only seems to get better with each generation of Infiniti car. But the M56 is the one we want. Its effortless power and torque reminds us why we love V8s. And its enormous thrust makes it far quicker than any previous Infiniti M sedan. The only problem is that the sound of the V8 is muffled. We'd like to have seen louder mufflers bundled with the Sport package on the V8 cars." -- Popular Mechanics 
  • "The Infiniti Drive Mode Selector was great. It's a simple knob between the driver and passenger seats that gives you the option of switching the car into Eco, Snow, Standard or Sport mode as you see fit. The throttle and transmission respond to maximize performance based on what you choose, and the results are impressive." -- Cars.com 
  • "The M37 (finally) gets Nissan's righteously good VQ37 3.7-liter V6 that's been in use for some time in the G37 and Nissan 370Z." -- Autoblog   
  • "In Normal or Sport mode, however, the M56's transmission seemed to hunt for gears unnecessarily, especially on the freeway while you're gently rolling into and out of the throttle to find a pace with traffic." -- Edmunds 
  • "The lack of a manual option makes the M37S sound less like a car for enthusiasts than the 5-series, but the torque converter works so ridiculously well in manual mode and is so smooth when you let if shift gears itself that we actually prefer it to most automated manuals." -- Jalopnik 

Handling and Braking

Reviewers are generally impressed with how the Infiniti M handles. They say that it drives smaller than it actually is, which is a good thing among luxury large cars. Many also comment that the M37 is more fun in the corners than the M56, thanks to its lighter weight.

Choosing the $3,650 Sport Package makes the M even more impressive when the road gets twisty. It adds 20-inch wheels, bigger brakes, a sport-tuned suspension and active four-wheel steering, which can turn the rear wheels of the M up to one degree to make the steering more precise and direct. Reviewers are impressed with how the Sport Package-equipped M handles, but some say that the larger wheels and stiffer suspension also make the ride less comfortable.

  • "The steering is less communicative than we'd like, but it remains precise and predictable, even with optional active four-wheel steering-something even BMW doesn't always get right." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "The 2011 Infiniti M56 is a big car, but it drives smaller than you might think. Its steering weights up less abruptly than in other Infiniti and Nissan sedans, and it exhibits a willingness to change direction that is downright feline for its size." -- Edmunds 
  • "The M's steering proved quick, linear, and communicative." -- Motor Trend  
  • "The handling is still very sporty, the steering precise." -- Popular Mechanics 
  • "Put it like this: We knew going in that both Ms would be fast, but an honest to goodness handler? Color us remarkably impressed." -- Autoblog 
  • "Brake feel is superb, with either the standard setup or the sport package's upgraded anchors." -- Automobile Magazine 

All-Wheel Drive

Like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5-Series, the Infiniti M is available with all-wheel drive. However, reviewers who have tested the M in this trim generally aren’t impressed. They comment that adding the all-wheel drive system makes the M less fun to drive, adversely affecting the steering and handling. Additionally, all-wheel drive means that you can’t get Infiniti’s optional Sport Package, which adds upgraded wheels, brakes and suspension components to improve handling on rear-wheel drive models.

  • "If you're wondering, the optional four-wheel-drive systems offered on both cars kill the handling. They also add weight and aren't available with the all-important Sport Package. We're sure that traction control alone (plus snow tires) will see you and your new M through the winter." -- Autoblog 
  • "Also like most of its competitors, adding all-wheel drive to the normally rear-wheel drive car completely screws the whole thing up. Not only does it add about 200 lbs and reduce the fuel economy a smidge, it also removes all steering feel and makes the M feel heavier and more sluggish." -- Jalopnik 
  • "In non-Sport, AWD trim, the Infiniti M37 doesn't feel as athletic as its Germanic competition." -- Consumer Guide

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