When it comes to buying a luxury sedan, most people usually stick with one of the ubiquitous models offered by traditional European luxury brands. But if you're someone who likes to look beyond the obvious choices, you'd be wise to add the Infiniti M to your short list.
That's because this midsize luxury sedan has matched, and in some ways bested, those traditional sport sedans from BMW and Mercedes-Benz at their own game. With strong engines, an attractive passenger cabin lined with top-quality materials, and a features list full of the latest cutting-edge gadgets, the M gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
Current Infiniti M
The Infiniti M is a midsize luxury sedan available in three models: M37, M56 and M35h Hybrid. The numbers indicate their respective engines. The M37 has a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 330 horsepower and the M56 gets a 5.6-liter V8 good for 420 hp. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but models with an "x" indicate the presence of all-wheel drive. The only transmission available is a seven-speed automatic with four different shift modes: Normal, Sport, Snow or Eco. We found that this transmission suffers from inconsistent shift timing, leading to jerky motions and delayed reactions.
The M35h has a hybrid powertrain that offers a combined 360 hp from its gas-fueled 3.5-liter V6 and electric motor. In testing, we found it matches the M56's incredible acceleration abilities, while besting the M37's combined fuel economy by 8 mpg. Unlike other luxury hybrids, its price isn't overly inflated, hitting the register in between its gasoline-only siblings.
Regardless of power plant, the M drives smaller than it looks, with sharp reflexes through corners and quick acceleration. For those with driving gloves, the Sport package boasts 20-inch wheels and summer tires, a specially calibrated chassis, four-wheel active steering, sport seats, magnesium paddle shifters, aluminum pedals and unique cabin trim. Unfortunately, we found the ride associated with this package to be rough and unbecoming for a class noted for its refinement and comfort.
All M models come standard with features like automatic xenon lights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, heated seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a rearview camera, Bluetooth and an iPod interface. On top of this, Infiniti offers heated and cooled front seats and high-tech features for entertainment (Bluetooth streaming audio, digital music storage), safety (blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning) and protecting your bumpers (parking sensors, multicamera parking assist).
While the Infiniti M is good-looking from the outside, it gets better when you slide behind the steering wheel. Stylish design accented with supple leather and genuine wood set the mood. Seating is comfortable for those up front, and the rear seat offers more room than you'll find in many competitors. The real treat here, though -- at least for folks who like to geek out on such things -- is the amazing array of electronic wizardry deployed to do everything from helping you keep the car in your own lane to quieting the interior using active noise-canceling technology. As a bonus, it's also quite easy to use despite the abundance of buttons.
In reviews, we've found the M37 and the M56 to be well-executed midsize luxury sedans that offer state-of-the-art technology, ample power, a classy cabin and compelling value. But this is a class occupied by some of the finest automobiles on the planet, and the M quite simply lacks the refinement and luxury je ne sais quoi that makes those models from BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz so compelling. Having said that, however, the M35h's incredible combination of power and fuel economy is impossible to ignore, and given its reasonable price, we think eco-minded luxury buyers would be keen to put it at the top of their shopping list.
Used Infiniti M Models
The current, fourth-generation Infiniti M was introduced for 2011, but the M35h arrived the following year. There have been no other changes since then.
The previous, third-generation M was produced from 2006-'10 in M35 and M45 models. Compared to the present car, it was more angular in appearance and thus not as visually interesting inside and out. Obviously, there are countless mechanical differences from one generation to the next, but many of the same attributes that make the current car appealing also apply to this generation, with strong performance, excellent handling and high feature content being among them.
Originally, the M35's 3.5-liter V6 produced 280 hp and was mated to a five-speed automatic. For '09, power output was increased to 303 hp and a new seven-speed automatic was introduced for rear-wheel-drive models only. The all-wheel-drive M35x always featured the five-speed.
The M45 featured a 4.5-liter V8 listed as 335 hp in its first year, but 325 hp thereafter due to a change in the way horsepower was measured (actual output did not change). A five-speed automatic was the only transmission available and all-wheel drive was not available prior to '08.
Regardless of which engine you chose, this Infiniti M provided plenty of power. Braking was also impressive, and a firmly damped suspension delivered finely controlled balance through corners. The trade-off was a suspension that tended to transmit road irregularities into the cabin, and at highway speeds, a noticeable amount of noise. While these flaws certainly didn't make the M uncomfortable, it was somewhat less peaceful than other performance luxury cruisers.
We had similar mixed feelings about the interior. It was attractive, amply equipped and well built, with firm seats that were highly adjustable, comfortable and heavily bolstered. However, the competition in this segment was pretty intense and the M wasn't quite as elegant and thoughtfully engineered as some of its rivals. The quality of materials was a bit uneven, and we found that the layout of the center stack controls wasn't as clean and intuitive as it could've been.
In total, this generation of Infiniti M was very much like the current one, albeit with less style and performance. It was never quite up to the level of its European competitors, but then it had a strong value proposition -- a fact that remains now that the M35 and M45 reside on the used market. Should you be interested in finding one, keep in mind that changes were relatively minor, with 2008 being the only year of significant non-engine alterations. Styling was tweaked, the navigation system upgraded and new high-tech features like adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning were added.
The second-generation Infiniti M was sold only as the M45 for 2003 and '04 -- there was no 2005 model -- and was basically a Japanese-market Nissan Cedric luxury sedan brought over to fill the gap between Infiniti's near-luxury G35 and the larger, technology-laden Q45. Engineered for the narrow streets of Japan, the M45's cabin proved too narrow to hold corn-fed Americans comfortably, and the backseat was scant on legroom for a car of its size. Even worse, the M's exterior design was bland to a fault.
However, it was fast. The original M45 was available only with a 340-hp V8 and rear-wheel drive. Combined with big 18-inch wheels and performance tires, the M45 delivered respectable handling. Equally important, the original M45 was equipped with nearly the same number of safety features as today's model.
Cheaply priced and available with most of the luxury features found on the larger Q45, first-generation M45s generally represent strong used-car values in terms of feature content and performance. For shoppers who like the car's combination of stealthy speed and luxury, and don't need a lot in the way of interior room, the first-generation Infiniti M45 could be a good match.
The original M was one of Infiniti's two original models. Dubbed M30 and sold from 1990-'92, it was available in coupe and convertible body styles.
Read the most recent 2013 Infiniti M review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Infiniti M page.