Suwannee Democrat

Z_CNHI News Service

December 3, 2013

Infinity M56 brings athleticism to luxury sedan market

The new Infiniti M class has a lot going for it in the hotly contested midsize luxury sedan market. The M56 is quick and powerful, sporty and roomy, filled with technological marvel and comfortable seating for five.

Its biggest challenge is to overcome class leading sedans from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and it seems to be finding its niche.

Parent company Nissan hopes their M class of premium sedans, introduced in 2011, will offer an alternative to move buyers into their showrooms. Sales figures are encouraging.

For consumers looking for raw power the M56, with V8 engine and 420 horsepower, delivers an exceptional ride through a seven-speed automatic transmission. The sprint from 0 to 60 mph is reached in just 5.3 seconds.

Infiniti M series cars are available in three trim levels - the M37 with choice of two six-cylinder engines, M35h hybrid, and the V8 powered M56 - ranging in base price from $48,000 to $63,000. Option packages tend to drive the price north. The test car I drove for a week was priced just below $70,000.

When it comes to comparing interiors with the European imports, the Infiniti holds a solid lead with a mammoth center console filled with high tech gear and surrounded with Japanese Ash wood trim and silver powder accents. It is opulent.

Leather front upholstered seats are climate controlled, contoured for comfort and controlled with directional power and lumbar support. There is a heated steering wheel for cooler days, a Forest Air system for purification, suede headliner and a power rear sunscreen.

Aside from the amenities, the real story with the M56 is about its power. Behind the wheel, there is a distinctive athleticism built in with every turn, braking and steering maneuver.

Gearing is precise, and its only fault was a brief hesitation before locating the correct downshift gear at certain speeds. Most of the time during a week of testing the M56, the demand for power was met with precision response with a smooth ride.

Actual highway fuel economy was 10 percent better than the EPA estimate of 18 miles per gallon of premium fuel.

The tester also included a performance tire-and-wheel package including 20-inch aluminum alloys, all season tires and sport brakes. While the $1,600 option does a good job of mimicking the BMW firm suspension, not everyone will care for the rougher ride on the M56.

There is plenty to like about the M56. My favorites include an impressive dashboard layout that shows ingenuity with the driver in mind, comfortable seating, road manners and the sheer power that comes with 417 pound-feet of torque.

On the flip side, there are a few nits to pick. The M56 console includes wasted space for an ash tray and cigarette lighter when valuable space could be useful in other ways.  Some of the redundant steering wheel control buttons - including radio volume - are tiny and hard to locate and operate without looking away from the road.

Other power buttons, including the sunscreen toggle switch, are located to the left and under the steering wheel and are difficult to access. I'd suggest relocating them to the center console in place of the aforementioned ash tray.

Overall, the Infiniti M56 is a credible luxury sedan worthy of a test drive at your local dealer.

Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@ptd.net

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