Reviews

2012 INFINITI M Driving Impressions


We found the INFINITI M56X to be a strong performer. The added weight of the all-wheel-drive system is more than overcome by the additional 95 horsepower and 81 foot-pounds of torque from the new, larger engine and the deeper gearing in the silky-smooth, quick-shifting 7-speed transmission.

One drawback for both the V6 and V8 versions, however, is that both of these more powerful engines require Premium gasoline.

The 5.6-liter V8 engine's sound is muffled back to provide the car with a luxury feel, and the 7-speed double-overdrive transmission certainly lowers engine rpm at highway speeds; nevertheless, the throttle response is extremely quick, and the M56 accelerates with authority. And it does so quietly. This is not the 5.6-liter V8 used in the Nissan pickup trucks. Rather, is a larger version of the INFINITI 5.0-liter V8, the division's first engine fitted with direct fuel injection cylinder heads and other technologies such as variable valve timing and intake valve lift, and a variable intake tract, yielding a combination of low-end torque, high-rpm power, and very good fuel economy for an engine this size in a heavy luxury car.

The INFINITI M56X has a heavy steering feel aided by its heavier nose and tendency to understeer, but it acquits itself quite well on curvy roads, with lots of help from the suspension system, which uses mechanical twin-piston shock absorbers instead of electronic ones. It's plush and sporty at the same time without the harshness added by the 20-inch tires and wheels that come with the Sport package.

We found the braking to be exemplary, with a nice, high pedal, progressive actuation, and excellent ABS performance on panic stops. The standard brakes on our M56X were 12.6 inches front and 12.1 inches rear, but the Sport package brakes are huge: 14 inches front, 13.8 inches rear. INFINITI M brakes come with ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Quick Brake Assist.

We found the lane departure warning system to be unnecessarily aggressive. In congested urban areas like Los Angeles where constant maneuvering is a way of life, the system's incessant beeping proved irksome. Like the townsfolk in the “Boy Who Cried Wolf,” after awhile we stopped listening.

The INFINITI M35h doesn't feel much different from other hybrids. Hybrid gas-electric powertrains aren't known for feeling seamless. In the case of the M35h, you can feel the system kick in when the gasoline engine takes over, when the regenerative brakes kick in, and when the fuel-saving stop/start system engages. Drivers who are used to this type of ride won't find it any more or less obtrusive here.

Shifting into the different driving modes in the INFINITI M35h hybrid makes for very different driving experiences. Selecting Eco mode renders the M virtually gutless, creeping off the line and slogging along at low revs; Eco is the most efficient mode. In Sport mode, instant torque from the electric motor combined with ready power from the 3.5-liter V6 make for a snappy getaway, but those eager on the throttle should beware of obnoxious wheel spin off the line. Normal mode strikes an appropriate balance between power and economy.

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