2011 Infiniti M56S
2011 Infiniti M56S. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Haney Louka

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2011 Infiniti M

Even though Nissan’s luxury division has long since dropped its flagship Q45 model, the spirit of the car that launched the Infiniti brand back in 1989 is still very much with us in the new M56S.

The original Q was a driver’s luxury car; a model that helped to establish Infiniti as a Japanese alternative to BMW. It was firm and responsive and lacked the luxury frou-frou that adorned the rival Lexus LS 400. It was also chock-full of technology for its day, although it would be embarrassed by many of today’s economy cars in that department.

So the original Q was a hit with me, but I was 15 at the time; hardly a member of Infiniti’s affluent target market. Buyers in the segment gravitated towards the more lux Lexus and the Q quickly faded into the background. Subsequent generations lost their focus as Infiniti tried to figure out what it would take to increase sales and brand recognition, but little could be done to save the Q.

2011 Infiniti M56S
2011 Infiniti M56S. Click image to enlarge

Fortunately, as the final nails were being hammered into the Q’s coffin, the competent second-generation M35 and M45 sedans were making names for themselves as legitimate competitors to established mid-lux models like the Lexus GS and BMW 5 Series. They possessed the performance and luxury buyers in this segment wanted, with forgettable styling being perhaps the only major count against them.

Now a new generation of M greets us for 2011, with more of everything – performance, luxury, and technology – with styling that is sure to grab the attention of those who dismissed it last time around.

Starting at $52,400, the M37 is $3,100 less than the 2010 M35X, which included all-wheel drive as standard. Step up to the AWD M37X, and that starting price becomes $54,900, which is still a few hundred dollars less than the outgoing car, an impressive accomplishment considering how much more car the 37 represents.

While the M37’s 3.7-litre V6 gets a 27-horse bump over the outgoing 3.5-litre unit, the big news is found under the hood of our V8 tester: as its name suggests, the M56’s eight-pot mill now has a 1.1-litre advantage over its M45 predecessor and generates 420 hp and 417 lb.-ft. of torque, substantial gains of 95 horses and 81 lb-ft respectively.

2011 Infiniti M56S
2011 Infiniti M56S. Click image to enlarge

The M56, at $66,200, comes with an exhaustive list of features, including 18-inch alloys, ten-speaker audio, a hard-drive based navigation system, heated and cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, xenon headlights, and leather upholstery.

Our tester was the $73,400 M56S which adds a brake upgrade, 20-inch wheels, four-wheel active steering, Bose surround audio system with 14 speakers (four of which flank the front seat headrests), sport seats, power adjustment for the tilt and telescoping wheel, shift paddles for the seven-speed automatic, adaptive front lighting, power rear sunshade, front distance control with collision warning, blind-spot intervention, and lane-departure prevention.

Both the blind-spot and lane-departure systems actively work to keep you in your lane by applying the brakes on the side of the car that’s opposite the direction of errant travel. For the blind spot system, it starts with a light mounted near the rear-view mirror. If the driver ignores this and signals to change lanes, an audible warning is activated. Intervention only engages if the driver begins to follow through with the lane change.

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