Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor
We didn't get along with the 2011 Infiniti M37 at first. A harsh ride compromised the feel from the steering, and the programming of the throttle and transmission got on our nerves. But we're all better now.
After all, the 2011 Infiniti M is a sport sedan and we are enthusiasts, right? So naturally we wanted the sport version.
When the M sedans showed up with 20-inch wheels filling the wheelwells, we were pleased. The high-performance tires had us smiling and the taut suspension tuning (plus active rear steer) that all comes with the $3,650 Sport package seemed perfect for us.
Sporty these cars were; compliant, not so much. We determined that there was such a thing as too big, too firm and too vigilant. And that is how we found the path to true righteousness with this 2011 Infiniti M37.
Our Goldilocks Moment
We had observed that the ride quality of both the M37S and M56S degraded on less-than-ideal surfaces (of which we have an amount in Los Angeles certified by the federal government as class-leading). The drivetrains were happy to shift up enthusiastically at redline and then downshift quickly with rev-matching throttle blips, and yet they were also cursed by quick, unpredictable throttle engagement from idle and questionable shift schedules in normal, day-to-day conditions.
We wanted to know, were these liabilities exclusive to the Sport package?
"Ah, that's more like it," was our first impression as we drove the 2011 Infiniti M37 away from the curb with a backside already clenched for a flinty suspension and jittery steering, only to be swept away by a more civilized chassis calibration.
No doubt the downsizing of the wheels and upsizing of the sidewalls improved the ride quality of the 2011 Infiniti M. The switch from 20-inch wheels with 40-series tires to 18-inch wheels with 50-series tires reduced impact harshness noticeably. At the same time, the ride didn't grow any quieter, as 70 mph in 7th gear produced 68.6 dBA, only a fraction better than the Sport-style M's 68.7 dBA. Of course, maybe the M37's active noise-cancellation feature (which is standard equipment) makes this a moot point.
Choppy freeways and potholed surface streets are met without a concern for the M37's occupants or their brimming coffee cups. There's still a trace of that typical Infiniti ride that makes the tires feel slightly overinflated, and you have to say that this car does not have the same sophisticated road isolation and buttery steering as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Even so, we certainly enjoyed the far more livable setup of the M37 to the M37S.
Do You Lose It at the Track?
Once we went to the test track, the 2011 Infiniti M37 showed us that it had lost the high-performance edge of the M37S, yet it's still respectable by luxury car standards. Some of the variation is attributable to the lack of rear steer, and some is due to the less aggressive rubber that gradually lost bite as the test runs piled on. Where the M37S with its Bridgestone Potenza RE050A summer/performance tires clung to the pavement with 0.86g in lateral force, the M37 with its Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season tires still posted 0.84g lateral acceleration. Not a huge decline in performance, wouldn't you agree?
The differences were more evident on the slalom course, however. The M37's 63.1-mph effort proves 5.6 mph slower than the M37S, essentially a tie with the Mercedes-Benz E550's 62.8 mph.
It should come as no surprise that there were virtually no differences between the identically powered M37 and M37S in a straight line, right down to the tenth of a second. Both cars run to 60 mph in exactly 5.9 seconds (5.6 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip). The M37S covers the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 99 mph and the M37 runs 14.1 seconds at 99.5 mph. Let's hear it for repeatability, and go check your back issues of Hot Rod to see just how quick this really is.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the all-season tires don't adversely affect the 60-0-mph braking distances, because just 1 foot separates the M37S from the M37 with efforts of 114 and 115 feet.
After track testing, it was clear to us that in the 2011 Infiniti M37 we had a car just as fast on the drag strip as an M37S and which stops just as well. The M37 also has a noticeably more compliant suspension that produces measurably lower handing limits, but these are within the competitive range for cars like it.
So what's not to like?
Well, the throttle mapping and transmission programming drew either mindful praise or measured scorn depending on who was driving this car and how. Engineers at Infiniti inform us that there are three distinct transmission shift schedules, even within the Normal setting, and as a result it might take some time for the car to, ahem, shift from one schedule to another depending on the way it is driven. Of course the Sport mode is quicker to recognize enthusiasm.
Some on our staff had absolutely no problem gently leaving a stoplight at part throttle, while others said the throttle tip-in was too abrupt. Still others felt the car's standard two-gear kickdown from 7th to 5th while rolling on the throttle at freeway speeds seemed unexpected, while others barely noticed. Such is the plight of those who must program a driveline to suit a multitude of drivers, so perhaps it's understandable that so many cars are now equipped with several choices of driveline attentiveness/aggressiveness available at the twist of a knob.
After driving 1,418 miles, however, we were pleased with our average fuel economy of 22 mpg. Our best tank returned 25 mpg, just 1 mpg shy of the EPA's 26 mpg highway rating. That's pretty remarkable considering most of this fuel-efficiency was achieved while crossing a desert in the wind with the cruise control set to 80 mph and the air-conditioning set to 72 degrees F.
As far as creature comforts go, this 2011 Infiniti M37 in Malbec Black (a color loved by customers and hated by photographers) has almost every option available minus the aforementioned Sport package. Added to the $47,115 base price were $12,345 in options, including: Deluxe Touring package, Premium package, Technology package, split-spoke 18-inch wheels, illuminated door sills and a carpeted trunk with a first-aid kit. While those first three bundled packages are inarguably exhaustive in the levels of comfort and convenience equipment they provide, they also range in price from $3,000-$3,800, so the total adds up very quickly.
But all that added technology didn't earn widespread admiration either. At a minimum, there were complaints for the lack of parking sonar and a power-down trunk lid. The adaptive cruise control is very conservative and shuts down your speed quickly (don't ask how we know, but the cruise control can only be set to 90 mph max). We hate the lane departure warning system.
Delving deeper, we found the Bluetooth phone compatibility lacks a call-waiting function, and the available voice-activated controls are also too limited when moving, including the lack of voice-activated POI search. All this shows how the legal liability involved with permitting even ordinary levels of driver distraction is affecting the comfort and convenience items that manufacturers are installing in the modern car.
So, with an as-tested total of $59,640, more than one staffer questioned whether this car was worth the money. By our count, there are at least 22 sedans priced between $45,000 and $55,000.
We need look no farther than the 2011 Infiniti lineup for the easiest answer. A 2011 Infiniti M56 starts at $58,415, which has as standard equipment a 420-horsepower V8 as well as the Premium package at no extra cost. Fuel economy is basically the same between the M37 and M56, so the EPA says. More power and a theoretical tie in fuel economy? You see our point.
Learning To Live Without Dubs
Without 20-inch wheels and tires and the aggressive suspension calibration to match, the 2011 Infiniti M37 becomes what we hoped the underappreciated M35 to become as it matured: a comfortable, technologically advanced and sporty sedan for a prudent driver to enjoy every day or for four adults to relax within for a five-hour nonstop drive through the desert.
The vastly improved interior alone surpasses what was previously available or even imagined for the M35. The superior track results and improved fuel economy speak for themselves. The new look is superior in detail to that which preceded it, though it lacks the road presence of the BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF and Mercedes E-Class.
As it is, however, the 2011 Infiniti M37 is almost just right. It just depends on who's asking and who's answering.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath says:
Infiniti must have panicked when it saw that the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class would be completely redesigned, and $5,000 less than the 2009 Mercedes E-Class.
The Infiniti G37 is a bargain-and-a-half. It looks cool, goes fast, rides well and has a kickass interior. It stands on its own two feet as a great car, and when you compare it against the other cars in the class, well, that's where the value of Infiniti's sporty midsize sedan stands above the rest. The same applies for the FX50 — fast, cool, nice interior, less expensive than the competition.
But now we've got the M37 and it's swimming against the corporate stream. Compared with its peers the M37 gets lost in the crowd. Conservatively styled, working with a noisy VQ-Series motor and riding a bit like a 1.3-times-scale G37, the M doesn't measure up to the rest of the Infiniti line. It never feels special, never feels expensive and never quite feels as good as the E350 ($61,115, similarly equipped) or as cool and exciting as the Jaguar XF 5.0 ($61,825, similarly equipped).
On its own two feet, the 2011 Infiniti M37 is a solid car with a gorgeous interior (although the fake chrome creates way too much glare), but the Mercedes and Jaguar are solid cars with gorgeous interiors, too.
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