2011 Infiniti M56 Long-Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2011 Infiniti M56 Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Infiniti M56: Do We Really Need Seat Speakers?

January 05, 2012


Seat speakers have been around for awhile now. Remember the Fiero's perforated headrests?

But even as the sheer number of speakers in some high-end systems has grown, few automakers have gone the seat speaker route. I can understand why after driving our M56 again last night.

For one, they don't sound any better than your standard door-mounted speakers, at least from my admittedly untrained ears. Don't get me wrong, the Infiniti's system sounds great overall, it just isn't noticeably better than other similar systems.

Second, they look ridiculous. Not quite aftermarket levels of lame, just "they couldn't find a better place for those" kind of stupid. Maybe they would look more appropriate in a $35K G37, but in a nearly $60 M they're just not right.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Infiniti M56: Worth Going Back to Discs

December 10, 2011


Loading a physical disc into a slot in the dash. How quaint. And antiquated. With so many more music sources in most modern vehicles -- in the case of the Infinity M56, these include good ol' AM and FM, XM satellite radio, a hard disk drive, a USB port for iPod integration (or a USB thumb drive), Bluetooth audio and an aux-in jack -- why even bother with the inconvenience of clunky discs?

In the M56 (and in our Acura TSX Sport Wagon) DVD-Audio capability makes it worth going back to discs. The high-resolution, multichannel music format was pretty much DOA even when it first launched, thanks to the advent and popularity of MP3 and the iPod. But it's still supported by a handful of automakers thanks to "legacy" electronics that linger longer among automotive OEMs than in consumer electronics. (We're looking at you,in-dash cassette deck.)

As a sound-quality connoisseur, I was recently reminded of just how much DVD-Audio adds to the in-car music experience while listening to the M56's Bose Studio Surround audio system.

Compared to the thin sound of most compressed audio formats, DVD-Audio's hi-res reproduction is warm and detailed, and the format's multichannel surround capability gives the music a tangible 3D-like quality. The latter is what makes those small speakers in the top of the front seats sing.

When DVD-Audio was first introduced in the late 1990s, it was touted as the music version of DVD-Video, with better quality as well as extras such as photos and videos. But that association with a hugely popular format and those bonus features didn't save it from the dust bin of largely failed formats. And you can still get some of those features in the car, although only while sitting still. (See pictures below.)

Unless I'm sound-checking a vehicle for an audio review, I admit I rarely listen to DVD-Audio discs, preferring instead the portability and convenience of an iPod/iPhone for everyday listening. And even though I have a DVD-Audio player at home and a 5.1 surround setup, I rarely have the time to sit and listen there either.

But each time I get to listen to DVD-Audio discs in a car like the M56, I wish I did it more often. And I'm glad the format has survived. Good luck finding DVD-A discs, though.

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2011 Infiniti M56: When Siri Met Bluetooth

October 17, 2011

siri meets infiniti.jpg

Like a whole lot of other people, I got the new iPhone 4S this weekend and went crazy trying out its voice-activated personal assistant, which (who?) is called Siri. In addition to asking Siri to explain the meaning of life, I asked it to play songs via Bluetooth Audio in our M56.

It worked great. I told Siri: "Play 'Your Heart's a Mess,' " and the song immediately rang out through the car's Bluetooth Audio system. The track info on the M56's display lagged a bit behind the start of the song, but it caught up quickly.

I suspect that Siri-like ease of use is a long way off when it comes to OEM voice-command systems. But maybe Siri and other intelligent voice-activated smartphone programs are all we really need. Siri is in beta at the moment, so its applications for drivers are probably not anywhere near realized yet.

If you have a new iPhone 4S, what tricks can it do with your car?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @17,155 miles

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2011 Infiniti M56: Adaptive Cruise Control

September 21, 2011


When our 2011 Infiniti M56 passed through 15,000 miles a couple of weeks ago, observant readers studying the celebratory photograph noticed the car was in adaptive cruise control (ACC) mode. How could they tell? The indicated speed was a few mph lower than the cruise control "set speed", a situation that can only occur on flat ground when one is following another motorist who is travelling slower than the ACC system's target velocity.

Futhermore, the presence of only one (out of a possible three) illuminated bars on the dash was proof that I had set the system to the "closest" following distance. A mild scolding ensued.

The above photograph was taken at that closest following distance, with the image compressed slightly because the camera is zoomed in a little.

This is the unzoomed shot...

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2011 Infiniti M56: Control Logic

September 13, 2011


It's possible you've been following the ongoing debate here about shift logic. You know, which direction you should shove an automated manual gear lever to trigger an upshift or downshift. It's also possible you don't care.

I'm betting otherwise.

Here, for your perusal, is a control where Infiniti gets the logic right.

That knob, when using the nav system, controls the mapping zoom function. Turning it right (as the icon indicates) zooms in on the map. Turning it left zooms out. This, friends, is how it should be. Like driving a screw, turning the knob clockwise moves your perspective closer.

Unsurprisingly, not all manufacturers agree.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2011 Infiniti M56: Radio Presets + Much More

August 25, 2011

Infiniti M56 center stack.jpg

Last week I criticized the Hyundai Equus (and others) for lacking radio preset buttons. Well, the Infiniti M56 does have them and I like that. In fact, I like this entire set up. There are physical buttons, but they are well separated and there aren't too many (unlike Honda or our Volt). There is a multi-purpose knob, which is the best way to zoom in on the navi map or whip through iPod menus. What sets the Infiniti really apart, however, is that it has a touchscreen on top of all that. It's mounted high and thus not readily at hand meaning you don't use its functionality that often. But there are those times when it's quicker to just lean forward and press the screen -- like when wanting to switch to a North-up navi map orientation.

I really appreciate this redundancy because it allows you to choose your preferred method of controlling the car's myriad electronics features. I wish more cars were like this, and really, the Equus is only a touchscreen and six numbered preset buttons from being equal.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2011 Infiniti M56: Fish Out of Water

July 11, 2011

Fish out of water.jpg

I had requested the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor for a trip to the Sierra but it was already taken. Instead, I took the 2011 Infiniti M56 and headed north to Lone Pine, about 230 miles north of Los Angeles. Saturday, we drove to a trailhead north of Bishop, elevation 9,300 feet. The luxury sedan handled the road just fine in the sport setting and the 5.6L V8 had plenty of power even in the thin air. Parking at the trailhead I felt a bit sheepish like a city slicker at a rodeo. But really, for driving paved roads to any trailhead, the M56 was great, even though it didn't fit the image of the rugged outdoorsman that I try to cultivate.

My hiking buddy owns a QX56 and he had a few comments comparing the two vehicles.

First, my friend said that being in a sedan made him feel like his butt was scraping on the ground. Still, he loved the front seat leg room (and the rear seat occupant didn't complain when he slid the seat back). And he admitted that his Infiniti SUV's fuel economy is only in the high teens. On the drive from Los Angeles to Lone Pine the M56 got 21 mpg and on the return trip we saw 28 mpg using cruise control set at 70 mph.

My friend spent a lot of time playing with the nav system and said the downloads in the M56 were slower than in his SUV. Also, we both noticed that the small icon of the speed limit sign, visible on the nav screen, disappeared when we left the interstate. Driving U.S. Highway 395 through the small towns in the Owens Valley the speed limit is frequently changing and the highway patrol is out in force. Easily seeing the speed limit would be very helpful.

The only thing that put a damper on the trip was the Gatling gun noise coming from the window shade malfunction. When you put the M56 in reverse it sounds like you under attack from about 20 seconds. It will be visiting the dealership soon to have that repaired.

Philip Reed, Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor @ 12,763 miles

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2011 Infiniti M56: Which Would You Rather?

June 29, 2011


Today's topic is redundant volume control. Yep. That's the most interesting thing I have to say about our long-term 2011 Infiniti M56 -- far more so than gushing about the car's explosive acceleration down freeway entrance ramps as you breathe on the throttle, or rehashing criticism about the suspension's state of tune, which is out of sync with the promises the V8 makes.

So volume control. These days, you get it on the steering wheel and you get it in the traditional location on the audio head unit. I'd say I use the steering wheel controls consistently in maybe 30-40 percent of the cars I drive. This drives my boyfriend nuts. He's an incurable by-the-book guy and can't understand why I'd take my right hand away from the 3 o'clock position on the steering wheel, divert my eyes from traffic and twist the volume knob on the center stack.

However, in our M56, my argument for doing exactly that is solid. Yes, there will be photos after the jump.

Here's the two-sided volume button the M56's steering wheel.

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2011 Infiniti M56: 16 Speakers of Goodness

June 24, 2011


After spending the better part of a week in the Hyundai Genesis R-Spec, I came to realize that its thoroughly magnificent Lexicon audio system has probably ruined every other stereo for me. Seriously, it's just that good.

Nevertheless, last night I decided to see how the M56 stacks up (in more ways than just the stereo, but you'll have to wait a few more days for the full Genesis story). Equipped with the Deluxe Touring package, our M56 has a 16-speaker Bose surround-sound stereo. Most notable is the little speakers on the front seat tops, which are unique to Infiniti, meaning they are either an ingenious idea soon to catch on or a gimmick nobody else bothers with.

My test CD was Dave Matthew's Crash and I thought the system did a great job of separating out the myriad instruments and vocals. In total, it seems like an excellent system that I'd be happy paying extra for. In the end, however, I still prefer the Lexicon. I'm not an audio aficionado, so you'll just have to settle for my simple, layman's, SAT-style conclusion of ...

Hyundai Lexicon > Infiniti M56

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,607 miles

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2011 Infiniti M56: Real-Time Traffic

June 02, 2011


I don't often use the nav systems or map features in cars unless I'm going out of my way. On a daily basis I usually don't even put them on. Last night, however, as I sat in traffic on the freeway, I used the Infiniti M56's real-time traffic map. I didn't have any intention of changing my route but it made me feel better when I finally starting seeing yellow and then green instead of red.

The video is a little blurry but you can see the blinky blinky red line let's you know when you're really screwed:

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2011 Infiniti M56: Climate Control Volume?

May 27, 2011


Despite what the picture above may be alluding to, no, you cannot adjust the volume of the M56's climate control. But I wish we could. You see, as I was stuck in bumper to bumper to bumper to bumper to bumper traffic last night (should've taken the Harley home), I noticed a weird whistle and hum.

Initially, I thought it was the big delivery truck next to me, but the noise persisted after he crawled a few car lengths ahead. I turned off the climate control and it was silenced. I turned it back on and after a few seconds, the noise returned.

The noise is coming from under the hood, not through the vents, thankfully. Once you get past 35 mph (which pretty much never happened last night), it becomes less noticeable. But it's still loud enough to hear when the radio is on while you're stopped. To me, it sounds like something's wearing out, almost like a chirping fan that used to be inside my old (first-gen) plasma TV. The climate control still works as it should, though, so perhaps this is just something to investigate the next time it's in the shop.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 Infiniti M56: Choose Your Screen Color

May 25, 2011


Here's something cool. The M56's display screen allows you to choose your preferred background color: Silver (like this), brown or black.

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2011 Infiniti M56: Forest Air

May 10, 2011

infiniti m56 forest air.jpg

See that button with the pine trees on it? That's the button used to activate a feature that Infiniti calls "Forest Air." And they're thinking of clean, bracing forest air, not the skunk-sprayed kind.

Forest Air includes a high-tech air purifier that deodorizes bad smells and Infiniti says it even works to deactivate viruses and bacteria. So the next time an editor comes down with a cold, this is the car they're getting. There's also a humidifier designed to tweak and optimize the air's moisture levels.

I couldn't tell you if the air purifier and humidifier are doing their jobs, but there's another aspect of Forest Air that's easier to gauge: its air delivery, which is designed to mimic that of a gentle breeze. The air from the M56's vents is modulated, so it feels more natural and less mechanical. It's a nice touch, one that adds a measure of refinement to an already pleasant cabin.

Does your car have an air purifier and/or humidifier? Have these features made a big difference for you?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2011 Infiniti M56: Adaptive Cruise Control

April 29, 2011


I somehow ended up in the middle of the desert this week and had to drive back in our long-term M56 (notice the bug graveyard on the bumper). I'm usually not a fan of cruise control, but on a flat, featureless expanse of highway, I gave it a shot. The last time I tested an Infiniti QX56, I complained that the adaptive cruise control was far too abrupt. When traffic cleared in front, the QX felt like it almost hit full throttle to reach the target cruise control speed. When a car entered the same lane, the QX felt like it slammed on its brakes.

I expected the M56 to be similarly jumpy, but I was wrong…

It was smooth -- a nice gentle ramp up to speed and a gradual coast to slow down. I'm glad Infiniti got it right on this one. Cooled seats also made the drive seem a lot shorter. There some things that I don't like about the Infiniti M56 (I'll save those for another post), but as a long-haul sedan, I admit, I'm a fan.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 Infiniti M56: Speech Lessons

April 07, 2011

speech lessons.jpg

It's Distracted Driving Awareness Month here in California, and every highway sign warns us (with terrible apostrophe abuse) "Texting Ticket $159+ Its Not Worth It." The CHP and more than 200 other police agencies are taking a zero-tolerance approach to drivers who hold their phones for chatting or texting as they drive.

So yesterday was a good day to test the voice-activated dialing command in the 2011 Infiniti M56. I used the touchscreen to pair my phone before setting out -- that was a snap. On the road, I followed the voice commands to access my iPhone's contacts. So far, so good. When asked who to call, I said, "Cheryl's cellphone."

And that's where the trouble started. The system heard it as "Sheryl," and the options I got all started with "Sh": Shankman, Shay, Shilo, Shingleton. Cleverly, I noted the last-name trend and I tried again with Cheryl's last name, which starts "Do." More like d'oh. The system wouldn't display her listing.

So when traffic came to a halt on the freeway, I used the touchscreen to make the call. (The M56's touchscreen dialing commands are locked out until the car is slowed to a crawl or, better yet, stopped. The CHP likes that, I'm sure.)

After I got home, I took the system up on its offer to analyze my voice to see if we could improve communication. The M56's screen and voice commands prompt you to say a specific phone number. The system records and analyzes your voice for volume, speed and start of speaking. If you talk too softly, too slowly or start your commands too early or too late, the system might not understand you.

In several tests, the system told me that my volume and speed were good, but I was starting to speak too soon after the system's prompt. I thought I was waiting, but finally, I did a silent count to three before I started speaking. That was a tad too long, as you see in the screen shot. A two-count turned out to be perfect. And when I tried my voice commands again, I had better results in getting the contacts I wanted. Thanks for the elocution lesson, Infiniti.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @6,562 miles

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2011 Infiniti M56: Surround-Sound Movie Time

April 04, 2011


Our Infiniti M56 comes standard with navigation and the 8-inch display screen. It also has the optional Bose sound system (it's part of the $3,800 Deluxe Touring package) that includes 16 speakers and 5.1-channel surround sound. Since listening to my regular music doesn't involve surround-sound, I was curious to see how what the audio experience was like when I popped in a DVD movie to watch.

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2011 Infiniti M56: Doesn't Play Well With Others

March 05, 2011

infiniti valentine one.jpg

Our 2011 Infiniti M56 is chock-full-o high tech nonsense features. There's (and yes, I'm copying this directly out of the intro instead of typing it) "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 more. If nothing else, they're nifty toys to talk about. Unfortunately, there is something else...

Our M56 refuses to play nice with my Valentine One.

Now, refusing to get along with a radar dector isn't so bad in, say, a Smart, but this thing has some 420(!) horsepower and has excellent wind-noise damping. 65 in this thing (on the right pavement) feel like park. Setting up the ol' V1 comes shortly after plugging in my iPhone.

And it's not that the V1 doesn't work, it does. But then it starts with completely random, full-strength laser warnings. And as owners of radar detectors know, the laser warning is the loudest and most annoying of them all. More than annoying, though, if your car is causing false positives on the radar detector, what good is the detector? There's a parable about a boy and a wolf that applies here. Go ahead and insert that.

I've tried the same thing with an Escort and the same thing happened. Never got a false read with any other car with similar features, only this one.

Oh, that and the M56 doesn't get along with the already signal-challenged iPhone; close the door and a bar-or-two drop immediately.

Annoying or deal-breaker? I've yet to decide.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 4,949 miles

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2011 Infiniti M56: Practically Drives Itself

February 15, 2011


If you're like me the idea that a modern car, through its numerous and often imposssible-to-defeat electronic controls, is practically driving itself is an infuriating concept. Just the notion makes me want to punch whoever thought this was a good idea. Let me drive. Believe it or not, I can actually do it. And I enjoy it.

However, there is one thing which boils my blood even more than a car which doesn't do what I want.

LA traffic.

Kyle Reese said it best: It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."

Unless, of course, you drive a car with various electronic controls which make it more bearable. Like, say, our long-term M56. As you might have already read, the M is capable of covering serious miles in bumper-to-bumper traffic without the driver ever touching a pedal. In fact, I can make the majority of my 55-mile commute home -- inlcuding a 200-degree transition ramp -- without touching the pedals once.

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2011 Infiniti M56: Watches the Weather

February 09, 2011

I'm a seriously addicted surfer and snowboarder. So for me, watching the weather is akin to a compulsive gambler checking the odds in Vegas or reading a racing form. While I can appreciate that the 2011 Infiniti M56 would let me know that there's a high surf warning -- although I'm sure Surfline.com would have tipped me off to a big swell long before -- the car's nanny-like weather alerts quickly start to sound a lot like Chicken Little.

I've driven variations of the Infiniti M in three different locations -- LA, Detroit and the Pacific Northwest -- and each time the various vehicles issued some type of audible weather warning. In Motown it was a flood warning on a sunny summer day. In the PNW it was something to do with thunderstorms, and recently in LA it was because of high winds -- mild Santa Anas one day, and a stiff sea breeze the next.

I obsessively stay on top of the weather, and appreciate that the M56 can give me current conditions, warnings and forecasts -- not only for my area but across the country. But the audible weather reports get tiring and, fortunately, they can be easily turned off.

Bob Dylan famously sang "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." And if you own an Infiniti, you don't even need a Brick Tamland. Though using Brick's voice in the M would be a big improvement.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

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2011 Infiniti M56: Intelligent Cruise Control

January 27, 2011


Infiniti wasn't kidding when it called its adaptive cruise control "Intelligent." Take a careful look at the information available in this photo and then hit the jump.

Yup, I've got the cruise set to 74 mph and the car is only going 10 mph. That's because the M's Intelligent Cruise Control will slow the car to a complete stop in traffic. It's an awesome technology.

Yes, other manufacturers have offered this feature for several years as well, but this is the first time I've experimented with it in heavy traffic. In the M, the system will slow the car to a stop when traffic dictates, turn itself off with an audible beep and then release the brake when the gap in front builds to a pre-set distance. With the M creeping along, all the driver has to do is tap the "resume" button and the car will begin following traffic like it was before -- all the way up to the pre-set speed.

Naturally, it takes some time to learn the system's nuances, weaknesses and drawbacks. And I still covered the brake pedal while learning its capabilities, but that proved largely unnecessary. Infiniti says it's good to .5g deceleration, so while it might not prevent a crash in a worst-case scenario, it will still mitigate one.

Here's the bottom line: I drove about 16 miles in bumper-to-bumper traffic and another 40 or so in heavy, high-speed traffic. Didn't touch the pedals once.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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2011 Infiniti M56: Warning, Warning! High Surf?

January 20, 2011


Here's the sort of information the M56 insists I need to know. The interuption, which it speaks aloud over the audio system, inevitably comes right in the middle of some critical piece of the podcast I'm listening to.

Although I wasn't able to capture the warnings as they flashed across the nav screen, they occur virtually every time I drive the car. There's a running log which can be dug up in the infotainment submenus (see photo), but no intuitve means to turn them off.

And a high surf warning? Really? I don't need a high surf warning unless ther's going to be world-changing event. And I live in Southern California.

I'll dig around in the manual and see if there's a way to disable this function soon enough. In the mean time, uh...watch out for high surf.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

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Past Long-Term Road Tests