Infiniti launches its new ‘M’

If you’re anything like me then your first reaction upon hearing the phrase ‘Infiniti’s new M’ was to expect an outright competitor to BMW’s M3 or M5, after all it is no secret that BMW executives have cited Infiniti as the brand they most fear.

But for Infiniti, M doesn’t stand for Motorsport – although some might argue the same could be said for BMW these days.

Infiniti is a relatively new brand in Europe, although it has competed successfully against the likes of BMW, Mercedes and Lexus in the US for many years. 2009 was scheduled to be a big year for the brand, with new dedicated centres being opened in Paris, Rome, Zurich and…. Reading in Berkshire, but the economic downturn forced Infiniti management to curtail some of their plans as they prepare for an upturn in the market during 2010.

They’ve been busy though, with new variants of the G37 entry-level model released, plus their sports-oriented crossovers, the EX and FX.

Those of us who attended Infiniti’s stand at the Geneva show this year will have felt mixed emotions – elation at seeing the Essence Concept followed swiftly by disappointment as we heard that Infiniti had no plans to produce it. We were told that it represented the design language of future Infiniti models, which was little solace to those of us who saw the Essence as one of the most gorgeous looking Japanese cars yet to be conceived.

We’ll leave you to judge whether Infiniti are living up their promise of reflecting the Essence’s style in their mainstream models, but it’s a tough act to follow and therefore perhaps we should not judge them too harshly.

So the Infiniti M joins the range above the G37, competing against the likes of BMW’s new 5-series, Mercedes fresh new E-Class and Audi’s A6.

The M37 is powered by the same 3.7-litre VVEL V6 petrol engine found in other Infiniti models producing 316 bhp (320 PS) and 266 lb ft (360 Nm) of torque. A V6 diesel will be launched in 2010 with a petrol/electric V6 hybrid model sometime later.

On first acquaintance the M37 appears to offer nothing particularly new in this sector, however there are several technical innovations that Infiniti are hoping will tempt buyers away from their German competitors.

Blind Sport Intervention (BSI)
Infiniti describes this as a ‘world-first safety feature’, as well as giving the driver both visual and audible warnings of another vehicle in the blind-spot area which is detected using radar, BSI intervenes if the driver ignores the warnings and attempts to steer into the other vehicle’s path. The intervention is in the form of a directional adjustment, executed automatically. This is achieved by selective braking on one side of the car to create a “yaw” effect that eases the vehicle back into its original lane.

Active Noise Control (ANC)
By identifying undesirable sounds in the cabin and then playing back through the speakers sound waves of an opposite phase, the original noises are cancelled out, making the M’s interior a quieter, more restful place to be. The system is aimed at reducing undesirable low-frequency engine sounds only. M models with the 16-speaker Bose Studio Surround sound system are equipped with Bose Engine Harmonic Cancellation (EHC) which is claimed to be even more effective at controlling unwanted noises.

Infiniti Drive
The M’s throttle sensitivity and transmission mapping are fine tuned according to which of four driver-selectable modes is engaged via a switch positioned behind the gear lever: Standard, Eco, Sport and Snow. The Eco mode utilises green and yellow lights on the instrument panel to provide feedback on fuel efficiency. Eco mode also introduces a new Infiniti concept known as the Eco Pedal. If driving too aggressively, the driver will feel the accelerator pedal “push back” to indicate fuel is being wasted. Sport mode changes the automatic shift points and enhances throttle response for increased performance. It will also adjust the 4WAS for a nimbler feel and raise the ESP intervention level.

Forest Air
Infiniti believes the quality of the air within a car’s cabin has a direct bearing on the well-being of driver and passengers. Which is why it developed Forest Air – Infiniti’s most advanced climate control system that makes its debut in the M37. The system offers temperature, humidity and pollution control while re-creating the gentle breezes and subtle scents of an environment known to promote alertness and relieve stress: the forest.

The M uses a Front Mid-ship platform that positions the engine behind the front axle resulting in an optimised front-to-rear weight balance for naturally stable and rewarding handling. Suspension is double-wishbone in front and multi-link at the rear, along with front and rear anti-roll bars. The standard wheel size is 18-inches however for the sportiest models, 20-inch wheels, new double-piston shock absorbers, special suspension settings, 4-piston brakes and 4-Wheel Active Steering are all available.

Prices are still to be confirmed, but will be announced prior to the beginning of European sales in September 2010.