2013 Infiniti M56x

Standup: Though the V8 has become a rarity, luxury nameplates like Infiniti still use them as top-billing on their most prestigious cars.  And the brand’s halo, the M56, packs the power of 420 horsepower and all-wheel drive.

When the M was redesigned for the 2011 model year, Infiniti’s aggressive marketing of features like silver powder accents, Forest Air and sensuous new lines created a lot of buzz for a car that had only years before assumed the flagship position.  But since, its’ been crickets at the M’s showroom space where Infiniti dealers sell less than 1,000 per month while the heavy hitters in the class from BMW and Mercedes-Benz sell at rates more than 5 times that.  And from a purely product-based standpoint, I’m not sure exactly why that is.

I enjoyed my week in the M37 back at the car’s launch and the M56x I have this week also left a generally positive impression…but with some caveats.  The M56 is pretty hard-core for a car playing the role the brand’s top luxury sedan – it is best described as a sports sedan first and foremost with pampering a distant second.  Though its outward appearance has devolved from elegantly sporty to almost nondescript in just a few short years, the M’s extroverted side still lives within.  The naturally aspirated 5.6-liter V8 is big and brash producing sports car-like sounds from both ends.  It makes more horsepower than its German competitors and weighs less than a BMW 550i xDrive and thus, acceleration is rambunctious.  It’s a pin you into your seat moment from 0-to-60mph in a tick under 5-seconds.  It works though a 7-speed automatic with downshift rev matching for an even sportier feel.  And though paddle shifters are reserved for M’s equipped with the sport package, you can still chose your own gear here at the console.  Your stereotypical wolf in sheep’s clothing, the M56 AWD communicates its eagerness to be driven hard through its quick and talkative steering, tightly wound springs, prodigious grip and sheer power.  Some will surely appreciate this Infiniti’s aggressive performance persona while the masses will likely consider it too extreme.

Standup: The new 20” high performance wheel and tire package bundles these beefed-up brakes, but the Bridgestones have a meandering personality that detract from the M’s luxury feel.

At around the town speeds, it’s 2 hands on the wheel as the M56 follows every grove it can find and the ride quality, even without the sport-tuned suspension, is quite firm for this class of car.  Braking however, is stop-dead excellent.

My tester had some hard miles on it and as such the interior looked pretty worn, but the deluxe touring package adds the aforementioned goodies of the Japanese White Ash wood trim with genuine silver powder accents and my favorite, the Forest Air system which simulates a forest breeze.  The Bose speakers built into the front seats are also a highlight and all told the cabin looks modern and provides premium leather comfort though it’s not especially fresh or becoming of a $70,000 car.  Passenger and cargo space match that of its midsize competitors while the gas guzzler tax has thankfully been removed with a bump of 2mpg combined over the previous M45x, now rated at 18mpg on premium.

Though it appears this car has fallen off the radar screen of affluent shoppers, those who desire an edgier midsize luxury experience should taste how the M56 can satisfy their hunger for sport.

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