First Drive: 2011 Infiniti M

The seats are both more supportive and more comfortable, and the rear seat is particularly plush, with a great view out. The cabin is quieter than before but still noisier than we hoped. Impact noise comes through loud and clear, and there’s a rush of wind around the A-pillars that becomes intrusive as you near triple-digit speeds, which, especially in the M56, are very easy to achieve. Brake feel is superb, with either the standard setup or the sport package’s upgraded anchors. We have nothing but praise for the M’s handling, which, like before, is characterized by beautiful balance and superb body control. The steering is less communicative than we’d like, but it remains precise and predictable, even with optional active four-wheel steering—something even BMW doesn’t always get right.

The M remains among the leaders in active safety technologies, with the industry’s first blind spot intervention (BSI) system added to its repertoire of driver aids. BSI gently nudges you back should you try to make a lane change with another car hidden in your blind spot. In a quick test of the system, it worked unobtrusively but is easily overridden or turned off should you be in the mood to pit-maneuver yourself into someone else’s car. We think it’s great. BSI, that is, not the suicidal pit maneuver.

When choosing an M, you might think that the V-6’s more-than-sufficient power would render it the easy choice, but there’s one problem: even the M’s standard active noise cancellation system can’t come close to drowning out the vviibbrraattiioonnss coming from the VQ-series V-6. Once the world’s standard for V-6 engines, the VQ is now near the bottom where NVH is concerned. Singing alongside the glass-smooth in-line sixes and quiet, balanced-shafted V-6s in this segment, the VQ sounds and feels out of place. And since the V-8 carries only the slightest of fuel-economy penalties (only 1 or 2 mpg), we think it’s the M to have.

The Infiniti M56 is one top performer among a rarefied set of highly capable competitors but so, too, was its predecessor. However, success at the dealership, like triumph on the Idol stage, ultimately becomes a contest of popularity rather than just raw talent. Maybe this time, the M’s more dramatic styling will finally earn it the public recognition and votes that it deserves.

On Sale: Now

Base Price Range: $47,115–$60,915

Engines: 3.7L V-6, 330 hp, 270 lb-ft; 5.6L V-8, 420 hp, 417 lb-ft

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Drive: Rear or 4-wheel

EPA city/highway: 16–18/23–26 mpg

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Hot hot hot. Looks even better than the 2011 5 series (which looks pretty elegant). And the interior is gorgeous.

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