Infiniti gives its M car a much-needed update for the 2011 model year, including a luxury make-over on the interior, a host of new driver aid technology, new engines, and a new interface for its cabin tech.
Body work on the new Infiniti brings it in line with the brand's current design language, giving the front fenders a more defined line along the top and making the flow from rear fenders to the back of the roofline more curvaceous. As Infiniti emphasizes performance, the rear seats are not particularly spacious, suggesting that the M isn't intended as a chauffeur-driven car.
The M can be had in both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive formats. A sport package is available for rear-wheel-drive models that gives the M a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch wheels, sport brakes, and Infiniti's four wheel active steer technology. The M's shock absorbers use two pistons for better damping.
The V-8 model, dubbed the M56, uses a 5.6-liter direct injection V-8 that gets better power and mileage than the outgoing 4.5-liter V-8. The 5.6-liter V-8 makes 420 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. An M37 is also available using Infiniti's 3.7-liter V-6.
Driver technologies include adaptive cruise control, around-view camera, lane departure warning, and blind spot detection. Infiniti also makes lane departure prevention and blind spot prevention available. Both technologies cause the car to resist crossing a lane line by braking the offside wheels a little. The driver can override this prevention easily. The car also features something called Eco-pedal, a technology that pushes back on the gas pedal a little if you drive with a heavy foot. Eco-pedal can easily be turned off.
The M56 comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A knob on the console controls the new Infiniti Drive feature that lets you choose from four performance modes: snow, eco, normal, and sport. These settings remap the performance characteristics of engine and transmission.
The M56 uses the current package of Infiniti cabin tech, including a hard drive-based navigation system with traffic, onboard music storage, and iPod integration. The interface knob has been changed substantially, though, losing its directional buttons in favor of joystick operation. The look is more elegant, but we like the functionality of the former.