We like a winner. Dominate a comparison test and there's a good chance your ball goes into the hopper for entry into our long-term fleet. It's not a guarantee, but if a vehicle is fresh in our mind from a series of crushing victories, the vehicle is usually first to our tongues to answer the question, "What should we get next?"
The 2011 Infiniti M56, however, has not been much of a winner. First, the new V8-powered M56 luxury sedan got its rear end paddled by the granddaddy of the luxury sedan world, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E550.
More recently, the M56 got edged out by the 2011 BMW 550i. Both sedans had Sport packages, and after plenty of seat time we determined that the Infiniti's setup was just a little too sporty for our tastes. Instead of pleasantly firm and communicative, it was jumpy and overly sensitive. Fun on a back road, but too nervous in everyday driving.
But there's still something to the 2011 Infiniti M56. It's got loads of power, a tremendous list of standard features that undercuts the price of the big boys in the game and it doesn't come with the hang-ups people have about buying a Mercedes or BMW. Maybe it deserved another chance? Maybe an M56 without the overly wound-up suspension would prove to be the combination we were looking for all along.
What We Got
The 2011 Infiniti M56 comes loaded from the factory. Even for a vehicle that starts at $58,775, the features list is long: heated and cooled eight-way power front seats with power lumbar, rain-sensing wipers, power sunroof with remote operation, interior air filter, dual-zone climate control, Bose premium 10-speaker stereo, XM nav traffic, USB input, hard-drive-based navigation system, keyless entry/ignition, Bluetooth, analog clock, heated steering wheel and cruise control.
These standard features are, of course, in addition to the M56's burly powertrain. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic with a rev-match feature. The engine is a 5.6-liter V8 making 420 horsepower and twisting out 417 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. In previous testing, this combination has been good for sprints to 60 in as little as 5 seconds and low 13-second quarter-mile passes. All of this for less than the price of the BMW 550i ($60,575).
But there was still a decision to make. Did we want to live with the sport suspension to see if it would grow on us? Nope, so we ditched the Sport package in favor of an extra helping of high-tech goods.
First was the Deluxe Touring package. This $3,800 checkbox includes a 16-speaker Bose surround-sound system with digital 5.1-channel decoding along with the frighteningly named Plasmacluster air purifier and its grape polyphenol filter element. The package also includes a power rear sunshade, quilted seat pattern, white ash wood trim, suedelike headliner, soft-touch armrests, door inserts, center console and knee pads and Infiniti's Forest Air system. This feature has advanced auto recirculation and a breeze mode that lets the air waft through the cabin like, well, a gentle breeze. It sounds silly, but it's designed to reduce that dry feeling you get on long drives. Surely we'll be giving this a thorough test.
Next box ticked was the Technology package. For an extra $3,000 it adds intelligent cruise control, lane departure prevention, distance control assist, intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning, blind spot warning and blind spot intervention systems, front pre-crash belts, active trace control, adaptive front lighting system with auto-leveling headlights and another Infiniti specialty, the Eco pedal. This varies the resistance of the throttle pedal so you don't accidentally go fast and waste gas. Should be an interesting feature to try.
The final option was a set of 18-inch split five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels ($1,650) wrapped in P245/50R18 Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season tires.
Total price: $67,225. But, as the disclaimer at the bottom reads, this vehicle is on loan from Infiniti for the purposes of this test.
Why We Got It
The 2011 Infiniti M56 is the latest attempt by Infiniti to find a gap in the armor of the German stalwarts of this segment. Riding on the second-generation FM platform — shared with the Nissan 370Z and Infiniti's FX50 and G37 — the M56 is only marginally bigger than the car it replaces. But the size increase has come in an area that radio advertisements tell is very important: width. The new M is 2 inches wider and rides on the same wheelbase. This means a bigger cabin and if there's anything that says luxury, it's a spacious cabin.
This new M is also running a direct-injection 5.6-liter V8 with variable valve timing and lift. Despite the size and power bump over the outgoing 4.5, the new engine is 10 percent more efficient. Part of that lies in the wizardry of the new seven-speed automatic.
It's an interesting and (relatively) affordable package that has all of the makings of a real competitor for the crown. And then there's that whole suspension issue. It's been a long time since a Sport package caused such a stir and we're more than a little curious to see how the standard setup fares over a year's time.
Seeing the Forest (Air) for the Trees
For the past two comparison tests, the M56 has taken a backseat to the competition. This is despite the Infiniti being frighteningly quick and nimble for its size. But still, the swooping lines, smartly dressed interior and advanced powertrain have us coming back for more. And in this case, more means 12 months and 20,000 miles. Will it be more of the same? Follow the long-term road test blog to read more.
Current Odometer: 1,956
Best Fuel Economy: 19.5
Worst Fuel Economy: 15.0
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 17.5
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.