Looking at the all-new Infiniti M56 for the first time, this discerning eye found lots to like. It has curvy, aggressive bodywork that is almost seductive from some angles, especially when equipped with the sport grade’s aggressively styled 20-inch wheels with split five-spoke design. The sleek and wide powerful stance is hard to ignore and credit goes to the designers for finally getting the design right on the new “M.” Previous generation designs have struggled to get to this level of style and substance with their generic looks. Much of the new styling cues can be found from the Infiniti Essence showcar concept that made the autoshow rounds a few years ago, which showed off the new design language for Infiniti’s future styling direction.
The model name “M56” is fairly nondescript. It’s only when seen in person that the M56 truly impresses. The “56” part is what’s going to raise eyebrows, as it stands for the engine’s displacement size of 5.6 litres with huge amounts of firepower under the hood. The large direct-injected V-8 puts out an astounding 420-horsepower and almost an equal amount of torque at 417 lb.-ft. Getting the power to the rear wheels is a seven-speed automatic transmission with a selection of drive modes that include Snow, ECO and Sport settings. With horsepower at its disposal, Sport Mode would seem to be the default as the insane acceleration the M56 is capable of can be intoxicating. In manual mode, using the steering wheel Paddle shifters, the rev-matching downshifts provide added aural feedback, and this function also helps to smooth out the harshness when a lower gear is selected.
Infiniti offers six grades of “M” to choose from, starting off with the $52,400 rear-wheel-drive M37 with a 3.7-L, V-6 engine that produces a generous 330-horsepower. Next up is the M37x all-wheel-drive and M37 Sport. The V-8 models are made up of the M56 rear-wheel-drive, M56x AWD and M56 Sport that tops out at $73,400. The sport grades offer a stiffer suspension set-up and standard 20-inch wheels, larger disk brakes and four-wheel steering for added dynamic agility. Sport front seats with prominent side bolsters will help keep the driver and front occupant in place during hard cornering.
When choosing a car with over 400-horsepower, it’s usually wise to opt for the all-wheel-drive model as it will get the power to the road a lot more effectively than the standard rear-wheel-drive system. With this driver’s heavy right foot, the traction control system was working overtime trying to keep wheelspin under control! Misbehaving is easy as the driver has the option of deactivating the traction control system.
Once inside, the cabin will impress with its elegant and modern design. With the generous use of leather throughout, combined with tasteful application of silver powdered wood accents and metal trimmings, the cabin is luxurious. Pampering the occupants is a broad array of amenities expected in this class. A great feature is the available heated steering wheel that is truly appreciated on those cold winter days. Audiophiles will appreciate the available 16-speaker Bose system with surround sound and a hard drive for storage of up to 2,900 songs. The navigation system is unique with its 3-D graphics and also incorporates a rear-view display when reverse gear is selected. First time offered on Infiniti is the Forest Air system, designed to contain unwanted odours and keep the air smelling fresh within the cabin, which can keep the peace during long-distance travel.
On the safety side, Infiniti has equipped the M with an arsenal of devices to keep the driver and occupants out of harm’s way. These consist of a Blind Spot alert system and Lane Departure prevention system that can actually steer the car back to its lane if the system detects another vehicle within its range.
When shopping in this category, it’s hard to ignore the all-new Infiniti M56 as the attractive styling and immensely powerful V-8 combined with a luxurious interior puts it squarely against the top dogs like the new BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-Class.
2011 Infiniti M56
Engine: 5.6-L, V-8 DOHC 48-valve
Torque: 417 lb.-ft.
Fuel economy L/100km: City – 12.9 / Hwy – 8.0
Transmission: Seven-Speed Automatic
Drive train: Rear–Wheel-Drive or available All-Wheel-Drive
Base price: $66,200