2011 Infiniti M37S: The Limit As Car Electronics Approach Infinity

We all knew that one kid that grew up getting everything he wanted. You know, the one that was always first to get all the cool electronics. Jealousy sets in, especially during the holiday season when all the other children begin asking their parents why they aren’t as loved. A response something like “spoiling never gets anyone anywhere” usually follows, or that being the first isn’t necessarily the best. Later, I learned this when my PlayStation still worked years down the road.

It’s easy to see that throwing comforts and amenities isn’t simply the answer to success or happiness. And as in-car electronics approach infinity, we see that one automaker is taking the similar approach of my childhood friends’ parents—Spoil ‘em.

Pounds of Package

When spec-ing out an M37, you already start with a decent amount of standard tech, such as intelligent key with push button start, HID lights, power folding mirrors and telescoping wheel, XM and USB audio, rear camera, Bluetooth and Homelink. Go for the $3,000 Technology Package and you add a beta adaptive cruise control, the Eco Pedal that slows down acceleration with reverse pressure on the driver’s foot when the go force is too strong. For sportier handling, active trace control is included in the tech package — a genius track-inspired software program that optimizes front brake pressure during turns dependent on steering angle. Also, blind spot and lane departure warnings and interventions are the first of its kind in the M, where the car will actually brake the opposite side wheels to which a slight veer is occurring, bringing the car back onto the road — this is a neat idea, but we learned that it didn’t work too well.

The next package to be added was the $2,000 Sport Touring Package, which added a 16-speaker Bose, Forest Air™ system, and power rear sunshade. The Bose system was okay, but there really hasn’t been much improvement in Bose’s sound quality in a while. Forest Air™ was pretty neat; a seemingly gimmicky option that became well appreciated. The system acts more like nature in that it blows air at an inconsistent rate similar to breathing, eliminating that annoying air in the face feeling.

Adding to the extensive list is the $3,650 Sport Package. This is a must-have for this car, but it’s also something of a catch-22. The 20-inch wheels make up a large part of the M’s beauty, but then the car suffers from a loud cabin, harsh ride and tram-lining on rutted roads — but without the 20-inchers, the wheels look like they came off a Honda Civic. Then there’s the $3,350 Premium Package, it adds the 8-inch touchscreen navigation with XM traffic and weather and Zagat reviews, voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio, 9.3GB music box, cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel.

Buttons, Buttons, who’s got the Buttons?

Start counting all the buttons on just your fingers and you’ll end up needing more friends than the car can hold. While many can appreciate an upfront view of every big/little button, the layout can be overwhelming and ugly. The ergonomics of the buttons were so-so; some made sense (climate controls), while others drove us crazy. Like the location of the audio controls: the power button kept getting hit by our knees, and most of the other buttons were in the way of the shifter, requiring an eyes-off-the-road navigated reach. What bothered us most was the location of the rotary dial, which didn’t work for some actions, including scrolling through XM stations. It’s easy to mistake the drive mode selector for a rotary dial, as that is the location is most other cars. It were these little things kept us asking, “who thunk that?” The correct button to scroll XM stations was found a few days later.

XM traffic and weather was used at least once a day, especially so because the entire week was full of severe weather alerts. Voice activation was awful at first, correctly guessing less than half the time. That is, until a training session was performed to better acclimate the car to my voice. Still it didn’t get one single name in my phonebook right, which meant it was time to work out those delts again.

Now for some of the safety systems listed above, I’ll have you know that the car does not drive itself and trying make it do so will put you in a ditch. Instead, get caught texting while driving over the center line and the system might pull you back and notify you of being a nincompoop — though next generations should be better. And, if you’re one of those who like all the nanny stuff turned off, don’t worry, it comes disabled from the factory.

Drive it like you stole it

There is no doubt that the M37S is a screamer — especially in its sport attire, which comes with the love em/hate em 20-inch wheels and performance tires, 4-wheel active steering, sport suspension, sporty looks, rev-matching paddle shifters and sport brakes—ours were even better thanks to the R SPEC brake pad option.

Driving the M is a treat for a driver, carving corners feels so good and don’t expect much in the over/understeer department because the stability software is excellent — the interface guy could learn from the stability guy. The brakes are strong and you can have a lot of fun dancing around corners with the 330-horsepower high-revving engine. Our favorite thing to do was downshifting and gassing and hearing the cat-like 3.7-liter VQ scream. It sounds that good.

The M has what is called a Infiniti Drive Mode Selector, which is one of those dials that is supposed to control the feel of the car. We only noticed a change in the transmission. In ECO mode, the car was very slow. You really have to push hard if you are trying to make a left turn in traffic.

Rides like a roller coaster

This was the consensus from four out of five passenger seat rides. Most complained of sickness during heavily trafficked city driving. They blamed the harsh ride, loud road noise and jerky transmission. It was only bearable, apparently, in ECO mode. It is one of the only vehicles my friend didn’t want to ride in.

The ride in the M needs to be better. If not for those passengers, then for the sake of the driver relationships. It seems to suffer from an imbalance between sport and comfort.

Overly M-bellished

A few more months of thought — and possibly different interior designers — could have had the M leading its class in terms of in-car experience, but instead it gets schooled. The menu structure is terribly lame and there are so many times we are caught saying, “if they just (….), it would have been much better.” It’s the details, it’s always the details. Sure, after being acquainted to the car, it became a bit easier, but the interface still felt antiquated. And not in the way that it’s so bad that you’d rather just drive and not be distracted, its in the way that simple tasks you need are just annoying and uneasy.

There are some really great things about Infiniti’s new M, surprisingly it is a very fun-to-drive car with great looks, but the interface between man and computer gives off a senior citizen feeling. It’s that reason alone that we can’t help but consider the M anything more than a hot freshman.

Specs and Pricing

  • Base Price: $46,250
  • Total Options: $13,215
  • Total w/ dest: $60,330
  • 330 HP
  • 270 ft-lb torque
  • MPG 17.3 (combined)
  • 4-year/60,000 mile warranty