The new Infiniti M56 is a masterpiece of style, both inside and out. The great curves over the front wheels give way to an opulent cabin with wonderful leather and wood in a spacious, airy package. This Infiniti interior is essentially my definition of luxury. I find the controls easy to use, but it seems that by now the rotary controller should be located on the center console, not a full arm’s length away perched atop the center stack.
In all, I found the M56 to be a compelling car, but I also wondered if some of the options might have detracted from an excellent foundation. The sport suspension on our test car wasn’t excessively rough, but I would be tempted to try the standard spring and damper setup before deciding which best suits this larger luxury cruiser. Interestingly, Infiniti doesn’t have an optional package with active dampers to afford you both comfort and sport modes. The optional four-wheel steering (part of the $3650 sport package) will also be criticized by some for its behavior at higher speeds. While the M56’s rear wheels don’t start turning until 25 mph, the torquey engine eagerly rotates the rear end below that limit. The problem is that drivers will almost always have stability control on and its intervention is reactive and intrusive once the wheels start to slip, so it’s not uncommon to have a small hiccup in power through low-speed corners. A proactive system that limits power in such situations might be a better, less noticeable system. For buyers, the best bet is to skip the four-wheel steering system.
The notably positive attributes are decent steering feel, and a 420-hp V-8 that’s an absolute brute when you want it to be. My chief complaint is that the seven-speed automatic is sometimes fooled into downshifts that are delayed and then unnecessarily abrupt when they do arrive.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
From the moment you slide behind the wheel of the Infiniti M56, you are in the lap of luxury (as well you should be when you’re looking at an as-tested price of $68,000). Every piece of the interior is thoughtfully designed and well executed, e.g. the sweep of metal that surrounds the interior door handle (which itself mimics the swoosh of ink in the Japanese-style car rendering in current Infiniti commercials). The interior is also very user-friendly; I always thought that Infiniti’s navigation/stereo interface was easy to use, but the new system in the M56 is actually an improvement. The 420-hp V-8 has power to spare. With the V-6 now producing a hefty 330 hp, it’s clear that, no matter which engine you opt for, you won’t be behind at the starting line.
– Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I haven’t spent enough time with either car to make a final determination, but my initial impressions of the Infiniti M and the BMW 5-Series — both of which are revamped for this year — tell me that the Infiniti might be better. Like the 5-series, the new M does just about everything well. It’s comfortable, quick, attractive, and shrinks around the driver in a corner. But in addition to that all-around excellence, the Infiniti adds enough flair to make it just a bit more fresh and exciting than the Bimmer. You can see it in the beautifully grained wood on the center console, the voluptuous curves of its sheetmetal, and the flawless ease of its telematics. As I said, it’s too early to officially dethrone the 5-series as the best in the segment, but the student just might have become the master.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I know exactly what Eric Tingwall is talking about when he mentions the seven-speed automatic. If you’re at about 30 mph and the engine is at about 1500 rpm and you’re in automatic mode, the transmission is in fourth gear. Nail the accelerator, and the gearbox hesitates, taking at least a second or two for the engine to climb to about 3000 rpm. Then, suddenly, the big V-8 comes on with fury and the tach zooms from 3000 to 6000 rpm as it downshifts. It’s a weird, very nonlinear, response. Helluva engine, though.
Very athletic chassis, too, but these twenty-inch tires are a bit much for Michigan roads. I find the four-wheel steering to feel quite artificial, especially at around-town speeds.
Nice interior. I like the aluminum trim piece on the interior door panels, all swoopy and teardrop-shaped. It’s a modern, clean, Japanese aesthetic in here and for the most part I like it.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The last-generation Infiniti M was a very good car that was usually overshadowed by the plethora of luxury competitors, from the BMW 5-series to the Jaguar XF to the Lexus GS and others. The new Infiniti’s host of improvements should help it stand out better than before. That said, its strengths are similar to the old M’s: strong (optional) V-8 powertrain, muscularly refined styling with great-looking wheels, well-balanced chassis that’s willing to play when you ask it to, lovely interior with an excellent multimedia interface.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
If traffic laws were more lenient, you could easily ignite a firestorm of tire smoke with the M56 every time you pull away from a stop sign. Not that I did, Officer. The country roads that lead from the office to my house lend themselves instead to showing off the M’s gobs of power, poise, and precision. Its finely detailed interior showcases the latest array of Infiniti telematics, but there are way too many buttons and no easy way to discern which controls what. Once you get your bearings, though, everything works in concert. You’ve also got those amazingly sinuous wheel arches at the front corners. Pure beauty.
Two features, though, had me baffled.
I never pass up air-conditioned seats when offered, but the M’s might be the first. On full blast, I could feel blasts of cold air rising from the seat up toward the steering wheel. Blame it on wide, flat seats (presumably to accommodate wide, flat American bottoms?).
But the most puzzling feature has to be the “eco” setting, Infiniti’s killjoy switch. Flick the dial past “standard” mode, a green light appears on the dashboard, and-in the worst party trick in history — Infiniti takes all the fun out of driving by artificially removing the pressure from the pedal. Womp! Yes, fuel economy jumps — I gleefully watched it suffer in “sport” mode, by comparison — but, realistically, it’s so prohibitive that I questioned its worth.
– Jeffrey Jablansky, Associate Web Editor
2011 Infiniti M56
Base price (with destination): $58,415
Price as tested: $67,980
5.6-liter V-8 engine
7-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode
Power sliding, tinted glass moonroof
Power/heated outside mirrors
Power tilt/telescoping steering column
Heated steering wheel
Heated and ventilated front seats
Infiniti hard drive navigation system
8-inch color touch screen
Infiniti voice recognition for audio and navigation
Bose 10-speaker premium audio system
Streaming audio via Bluetooth
USB connection port for iPod interface
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Tire pressure monitoring system
Vehicle dynamic control
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Options on this vehicle:
Sport package — $3650
20-inch aluminum alloy wheels
Sport front fascia, headlamps, & grille
4-wheel active steering
Sport seats, steering wheel & shift knob
Technology package — $3000
Intelligent cruise control
Blind spot warning system
Lane departure warning
Forward collision warning
Active trace control
Sport Touring package — $2000
Bose digital 5.1-channel 16-speaker audio system
Forest air system
Power rear sunshade
R Spec high friction brake pads — $370
Illuminated kick plates — $350
Trunk mat, trunk net & first aid kit — $195
Key options not on vehicle:
Deluxe touring package — $3800
Fuel economy: 16/25/19 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 5.6L V-8
Horsepower: 420 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 417 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic with manual shift mode
Curb weight: 4028 lb
20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
245/40ZR20 Bridgestone Potenza performance tires