2011 Infiniti M56: 400 HP Is The New 300 HP
March 28, 2011
I feel like I fell asleep in my office chair, woke up and suddenly found myself in a different world. Who decided that it was OK to offer more than 400 horsepower in a V8-powered mainstream luxury sedan?
Well, I guess the automakers did. Our 2011 Infiniti M56 thumps out 420 hp. The 2011 BMW 550i has 400 hp. Oh, poor Lexus GS 460 -- you're so 2008 with your paltry 342 hp.
The thing is, you used to get this kind of power only in dedicated sport sedans like the old 2000-2003 BMW M5. I remember being awed at the 394-hp figure at the time. Now getting 400 hp out of your regular midsize luxury sedan is like seeing another Kardashian post on TMZ. Yawn.
But for me, this rise in power has negatively affected something: balance. Our M56 is ripping quick, no doubt. I did a four-hour freeway drive last week (moving in relative slow-mo speed -- the Fiat 500 in the photo above) and found the M56 constantly tempting me to accelerate past posted speed limits. The M56 imparts that big-car, big-displacement sense of hooliganism. You grin a lot when dipping into the M56's throttle.
But as Spidey's uncle Ben said: "With great power comes great responsibility." Unfortunately, the rest of our M56 feels like it's tuned for 300 hp. Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying Infiniti can't build a 400-hp chassis or anything like that. It's more about my expectations. If I've got 400 hp, I want my sport sedan's handling and braking to match. But going around corners, our M56 feels no more than what it is: a 4,000-pound, mild sport sedan riding on 18s with 225-series tires. That V8 will get you to a corner right-quick, but then what? Engine and athleticism aren't in harmony.
I know we wrote that the sport-package-equipped M56 we tested rode too stiffly. And perhaps I'd be complaining too if I spent significant time with it. Or maybe Infiniti should retune the sport package, perhaps adding adaptive dampers. But for our M56, I think I'd just have to pick the sport package.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 6,022 miles