Infiniti M56x

By March 3, 2011

Infiniti started off slow in 1991 compared with Lexus.  While Lexus sales took off and the brand became famous for its quiet luxury, Infiniti always took a more sporting approach, and wasn’t until the G35 sedan that the brand really took off .

The original M was also pretty good but the new M promises to be even better and poses a great challenge to cars like the Mercedes Benz E-class and BMW 5-series.  It was with great excitement when we found that Infiniti had one of its top-of-the- line M56x sedans available for us.  So is the M56x better than the competition? It’s a fantastic sedan with some serious credentials.

Most people that buy an M56x want luxury, but that is not the feature that stands out as much as the power under the hood.  The M56x is powered by a 5.6 liter V8 that uses direct injection and 11.5:1 compression ratio to crank out a stout 420 horsepower from the VK56VD engine.  The power is there whenever you want it and despite the 4,200-pound curb weight, the M56x can blow away many sports cars with ease.

The “x” in the M56x means that it has the optional all-wheel drive system which makes launching the car from a standstill easy.  Just stomp on it and the M leaps like a jaguar and within a few seconds you will see triple digit speeds.

But let’s not get so excited and focus on the exterior styling first.  The new M has a very muscular stance while still looking mature.  The new M’s sportier appearance can be attributed to the deep body shape of the fenders and doors that give the M sedan a powerful look unlike anything on the road. The new wave-style doors are constructed from aluminum for light weight.

The M’s engineers and designers researched all areas of the M interior, from the space between and shape of switches and controls to the response of occupants to material softness and textures. The result is what its creators describe as a “warm human accuracy with sensuality.”

“The goal of the new M’s interior is to present an elegant yet functional design that combines artistry with precision, comfort with innovation — all in support of enhancing driving performance and passenger enjoyment,” said Ben Poore, vice president of Infiniti Business Unit.  Careful attention was paid to identifying the precise location for key controls, using consistent shapes and groupings for controls that work in the same manner. There are three areas of operability — the sight information area, the operation area and the easy-access area.

The M instrument panel features electroluminescent gauges, gear-like rings on the instrument cluster meters, a 7.0-inch color vehicle information display and Infiniti analog clock. Leather-appointed, heated 10-way power driver and front passenger’s seats including 2-way power lumbar support are standard, along with a dual occupant memory system for the driver’s seat, steering wheel and outside mirrors — which can be linked to the individual Intelligent Keys. In addition, each Intelligent Key remembers the last used climate control, audio and navigation settings. The tastefully done interior is a great place to spend time with supportive and comfortable seats that melt the miles on long drives.

Cars in this category seem to be dripping with technology and high-tech gadgets.  Our car came with the optional Technology Package which includes what Infiniti calls Eco pedal, adaptive cruise control, Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Distance Control Assist (DCA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA), and Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS).  The package is a home run for the gadget hungry guru but do we really need all that?  Some of the features are good ideas and can be useful.

For example, the Eco pedal is an active gas pedal.  Switch on the economy mode and the pedal resists harsh inputs, effectively teaching the driver to drive gently and smoothly to save fuel.  Unfortunately, if you really “listen” to the system, there will be a traffic jam behind you because it effectively causes you to accelerate at a snail’s pace.

The equally ridiculous LDW warns you with a series of beeps if you stray out of your lane.  LDP tries to steer the car by using the brakes to bring the car back into the lane.  As long as the road is fairly straight it works but is this a good thing?  If the driver can’t keep the car in its lane, we should not be giving him technology to fix it?

Driving the M56x is a great experience, although it foreshadows the day we will just punch in a destination and the car will drive there.  If you really enjoy spirited driving, the rear-drive M56 is the better choice.  The M56x is fun to drive, but when the road gets twisty the AWD system just creates too much understeer. It won’t allow you to use the full 420 horsepower of the monster engine, forcing the driver to wait until the car is pointed straight before flooring it.

The rear-drive M56 even can be ordered with a special Sport Package.  The package, which is offered on rear-wheel drive models only, provides 4-wheel Active Steer (4WAS), sport-tuned suspension, and 20-inch wheels and tires, and replaces the standard 12.6-inch front brakes and 12.1-inch rear brakes with 14-inch four-piston caliper fronts and 13.8-inch two-piston caliper rears.

Our car also came with the Deluxe Touring Package, which includes a fantastic 16 speaker Dolby 5.1 surround premium audio system.  Also included in the package is Japanese white ash wood trim, suede like headliner, and the Forest Air system which helps reduce the intrusion of unpleasant odors into the cabin and provides a more natural breeze-like airflow.  We tried it and it is kind of cool because it basically alternates the vent air from the various ducts.

All of this technology is not cheap.  The base M37 with the 6-cylinder engine will cost you $47,000.  Order the V8 and the price goes up to $58,450.  Add the AWD and you will need to dig a little deeper in your wallet for another $2,500.  Our top-of-the-line M56x, with the options, came out the door at a cool $68,260.

Ali Arsham

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