Can an automobile have too much technology? That probably depends on who you talk to, but according to Ian Forsyth, Nissan Canada�s director of corporate and product planning, the simple answer is no.
"If we had a Luddite version of this car," he commented at the launch of the new made in Japan Infiniti M sedan in San Diego, "we couldn�t sell it. Technology is what these cars are all about. Our customers want it."
And they�re going to get it, with a vengeance. The latest Infiniti M sedan, which is scheduled to hit showrooms in a few weeks, is absolutely saturated with engineering features and modcons. Literally, there isn�t one area of this car that doesn�t have an electronic enhancement of one kind or another.
But first, a few basics. Completely restyled and re-engineered for 2011, the M sedan will be offered as the M37 or M56 and will be available with either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. There are two engine choices: a 3.7 litre V6 and 5.6 litre V8. This latter powerplant belts out a hefty 420 horsepower, which is up 95 hp from last year�s model, and makes the M56 a very quick car. "This is a serious engine," adds Ian Forsyth, and even the V6 is good for an impressive 330 horses. Both engines are mated to a seven speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode and, in the case of the M37, Nissan/Infiniti�s downshift rev matching feature. Thus automatically matches engine and transmission speeds when downshifting and can also be found in the latest version of the 370Z Roadster.
But that�s not all. Not by a long shot. Both rear-drive models will also be available with Nissan�s four-wheel active steering feature, which angles or "steers" the rear wheels up to one per cent during hard cornering. It�s part of the Sport Package, which also includes upgraded brakes and 20-inch wheels and tires. And you can also alter performance through the Infiniti Drive system, which lets the driver, via a console-mounted rotary knob, choose from four performance modes, including an Eco setting, which changes the throttle pedal response and makes it "push back" slightly when you want to overtake or speed up. It�s quite a weird sensation; you floor it, but the pedal gently resists. Infiniti is calling this the "Eco Pedal", and performance is directly affected when it�s in play.
And so is fuel consumption. Thanks to this and other engineering features, the M sedan will now pay the same gas guzzler tax in Ontario as everyone else: down to $75 from a whopping $1200.
But arguably what sets cars like this apart from the herd are its "user focused technologies". Things that pamper the driver and occupants, in other words. And the M sedan has plenty. For example, as well as providing an impressive 16-speaker aural experience, the Bose sound system also helps to reduce NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness). If, for example, the engine is revving at 5000 rpm in one of the lower gears, the sound system will sense this and dampen the racket accordingly.
But perhaps my favourite goodie is a ventilation system option which automatically switches to recirculating mode when it senses certain smells outside the car…diesel fumes, for example (it doesn�t work for smells inside the car, alas). It�s part of the Technology Package, and the standard issue Forest Air ventilation system will, according to Infiniti, impart the "sensation of a fresh breeze from the forest". The interior itself has been on the receiving end of a complete redesign and features a "tiered" centre stack that�s angled toward the driver and has all-new switchgear. Infiniti products these days feature some of the most interesting and nicely-designed layouts in the industry, and the new M sedan is no exception.
And a quick word about the exterior. Taking inspiration from Infiniti�s Essence hybrid electric concept car, the body style is, according to Ian Forsyth, "a body glove" and is lower and wider than its predecessor. Visually, it conveys a muscularity and upscale athleticism that�s hard to ignore. Presence, in other words.
Underway, the M sedan has impressive road-holding abilities. During a spirited days drive around southern California, it handled tight corners and switchbacks with ease. The V8, in particular, is a scorcher, with neck-snapping acceleration. Needless to say, it has a full complement of safety features, including a lane departure warning system that will alert the driver if he/she strays from the straight and narrow, and a blind spot warning system that will, via a small flashing light on the exterior mirror, alert the driver if another vehicle is in their blind spot. This latter feature will also help steer the car back to its proper lane if it is straying towards the vehicle beside it. The lane departure warning system is actually kind of annoying, as it seems to beep all the time, and, thankfully, it can be easily disabled by pressing a dash-mounted button.
None of this comes cheap. Prices for the new M sedan will range from just over $52,000 for a base M37, going up to over $73,000 for the M56 with all the goodies. If you want technology, you gotta pay for it.
AT A GLANCE
Type: Full-size Luxury four-door sedan
Price Range: $52,400 – $73,400
Engine: 3.7 litre V6 & 5.6 litre V8
Transmission: Seven-speed manual/automatic
Drive: RWD & AWD
Horsepower/Torque: 330 hp @ 7000 rpm/ 270 foot-pounds @ 5200 rpm & 420 hp @ 6000 rpm / 417 ft. lb @ 4400 rpm
Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.4 city; 7.6 hwy, (M37) regular gas.
Alternatives: BMW 5-series, Audi A6, Lexus GS, Mercedes E-class, Cadillac STS, Acura RL.