2011 infiniti M56: This Big Boy Can't Dance
May 16, 2011
Really, I've tried.
I've put this big boy on wide roads and narrow, on gently winding two-lanes across rolling pasture land and nasty little tangles in narrow canyons. I've dialed it up and dialed it back. Driven it with my fingertips and driven it with my biceps. Made the tires rush smoothly through the bends and made the brakes smoke into hairpins.
But it ain't dancing for me.
When you let this car drive in the comfort mode, it does a fine job of insulating the cabin from the tremble of rough pavement, but even mild variations in the camber of the road surface tip the car out of balance. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to distract you. And as soon as the road starts to bend back and forth, the car just seems to tip out of its comfort zone altogether, rolling awkardly (even if it's just a little) and taking an uncomfortable set. Even left-foot braking doesn't seem to help the car keep its balance.
You can give yourself the illusion of tightening things up in the Sport mode, but the overlay of abrupt throttle response makes the task of guiding this 4,037-pound car down the road worse instead of better, because quick power inputs just make the chassis confused. And don't be blaming it all on the tires, as these 50-series 18-inchers make this car more predictable than the M56S's 40-series 20-inchers and don't give up more than a fraction of grip, much as our testing of the M56 and the M56S has shown. And the M56S's trick four-wheel-steer program is really better at producing numbers in the slalom than in straightening out a long and winding road.
What we're talking about here is balance — a nearly indefinable coordination that you look for in any athlete, human or mechanical. And this car doesn't have balance.
Infiniti knows what balance is, as the original 1990 Infiniti Q45 showed us all those years ago. But every time I drive this car I want to head for the Nissan proving ground in Arizona, start throwing springs and dampers and bars and bushings at this car until it comes good. Maybe throw some new electrons at it, too.
There should be a good car inside the Infiniti M56, but right now this big boy can't dance.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com