2011 Infiniti M
Infiniti dealers have been begging for a new halo car ever since the ponderous Q-series was retired in 2006. While Infiniti had hoped the somewhat smaller M-series could play the part, it’s reviews as a showroom star have been lackluster at best. But now that may change. The M-series is again reborn, and it finally looks like it just might master the part. So let’s raise the curtain and see how it acts.
In Japan, it’s called the Nissan Fuga. Here in the States, it’s called the 2011 Infiniti M. Regardless of its badge, this redesigned, premium four-door sedan retains the swoopy, long hood, high rear deck form for which the M-Series is well known, but now adds sleeker design language to project a more expressive, upscale, and substantial image.
Wheelbase is unchanged, but the M-Series is now slightly longer, wider, and lower than before. A new low slung grille is flanked by swept-back crystal-look headlight clusters. The profile is defined by deeply sculpted fenders and flowing wave-style doors.
But the M’s brawniness comes from its chunky C-pillar area, which almost gives the car a jacked-up muscle car vibe, complete with sporty dual exhaust. Exhaling through those pipes are a pair of stronger engines. The M37 sports the G’s 3.7-liter V6. Horsepower is 330 – an increase of 27 over last year's 3.5 V6 - and torque is 270 pound-feet – up eight.
The M56 uses a direct-injected 5.6-liter V8. About a quarter larger than the previous 4.5 V8, it rates 420 horsepower – a big jump of 95 – and 417 pound-feet of torque – up 81.
The lone transmission is a seven-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control, feeding either the rear wheels or all four on "x" models.
Remarkably, even with a big boost in power, fuel efficiency is up too. Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 18/26 for the M37, and 16/25 for the M56. A new feature, Eco Pedal, provides feedback to encourage efficient driving. Infiniti claims a five-to-ten percent economy gain.
But a bigger increase comes in performance: the M feels much stronger. We judge the M56 to be capable of 0-60 in under 5.5 seconds. That puts it in the league of the Mercedes-Benz E550.
Still, after testing both engines, we found the V6 to be more than adequate for most buyers. With the V8, there's more power, but the front-end also felt heavier and less responsive. The new Drive Mode Selector adjusts throttle response and shift points to one of four settings; Standard. Eco, Sport, and Snow.
The front double-wishbone, rear multi-link FM chassis remains, but with a new back end geometry. The Sport Package, only offered with rear drive, brings tighter tuning with upgraded springs and new double piston shocks. It also adds Four-Wheel Active Steer for greater nimbleness. Infiniti's Intelligent all-wheel drive system is geared more for routine all-weather driving, unlike Audi's more performance-spec quattro setup.
Still, optional Active Trace Control, which adjusts engine torque and braking at all four wheels, does help to smooth out turn-ins. Brakes are enhanced, too, but only with the Sport Package, which brings larger rotors with four-piston calipers front, and two-piston rears. So, we judge overall dynamics to be both more sporty, yet still luxurious. Neither soft and Lexus-like or taut and BMW-like. Rather, the M is smack dab in the middle.
The interior also benefits greatly from the M's new design language. It now looks like a top drawer sedan. From the twin-hump instrument shroud, to the stepped center console, the look and feel is both athletic and luxurious.
The leather front seats have standard 10-way power, with optional heating and cooling. Sport Package brings added bolstering and a sport steering wheel with available heat. New comfort features include Active Noise Control, and Forest Air, which manages airflow and humidity to mimic a fresh breeze.
Higher-end options includes Navigation with satellite traffic and weather, a back-up camera, a 9.3 gig hard drive Music Box, and a Bose stereo. The rear seat is roomy for two adults, three in a pinch. The seats do not fold, but there is a pass-thru which leads back to a spacious 14.1-cubic foot trunk. For advanced safety technologies, the M offers Distance Control Assist, Intelligent Brake Assist, and Blind Spot Intervention. A world first, it uses selective braking to correct lane drift.
Pricing starts modestly for its class. $47,115 for the rear drive M37, $49,265 for the M37x. The M56 has a base of $58,415, while the M56x begins at $60,915. A V6 hybrid M is due for 2012.While it still takes up little less pavement than most flagship sedans, the 2011 Infiniti M-Series gives up nothing in style, accommodations, or performance to rivals. The curtain is up, and Infiniti's new star is more than ready for a command performance.
- Engine: M37 3.7-Liter V6m56 5.6-Liter V8
- Horsepower: M37 330/m56 420
- Torque: M37 270/m56 417 Lb Feet
- 0-60 MPH: M56 5.5 Seconds
- EPA: M56 16 MPG City/ 25 MPG Highway
Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better
When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.
The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.
Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.
A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.
That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.
The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.
At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.
While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.
Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!
- Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 227 | 250
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
- EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined