2011 Infiniti M56x
2011 Infiniti M56x. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

Photo Gallery:
2011 Infiniti M

Over the last few years, Infiniti has been playing with its drawing pens in all the right places. Once stodgy and forgettable, the brand’s styling has morphed into strong yet organic lines. This all comes together in the redesigned 2011 M sedan, the company’s flagship line, a slippery, sinewy model that looks like it’s splitting the air when it moves.

My tester was the M56x, with a 5.6-litre V8 under its hood, and all-wheel drive powering its wheels. It’s a lovely car inside and out, but it suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, trying too hard to straddle the line between sporty and sedate. It’s not thrilling enough when tossed into the corners to be a sports sedan, at least not in the sense of what Audi or BMW sends out in the segment, and its harsh ride, the result of its sportiness, really isn’t what I would have expected in a luxury car. It’s still generally nice to drive overall, but Infiniti needs to determine exactly where to position this particular model.

2011 Infiniti M56x
2011 Infiniti M56x
2011 Infiniti M56x. Click image to enlarge

The M56 starts at $66,200 in rear-wheel drive. My all-wheel tester started the cash register ringing at $68,700, while the range-topping M56 Sport model is $73,400. It’s also available as the M37, with 3.7-litre V6, in the same three configurations and running from $52,400 to $63,400.

My car was further optioned with the Deluxe Touring & Tech Package, at $5,100, which added a number of luxury features, including a Bose surround sound stereo, power rear sunshade, soft “semi-aniline” leather seats, and real wood trim infused with metal, which looks oddly fake, but is really pretty nevertheless. The “tech” part of the package adds several of Infiniti’s newest electronic features, some good, some annoying: intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, blind spot warning, blind spot intervention, “Forest Air” conditioning and the new Eco Pedal.

The new 5.6-litre V8 replaces the previous 4.5-litre V8 found in the 2010 M45. That model made 325 horsepower and 336 lb-ft of torque; the new version is a considerable step up, to 420 horses and 417 lb-ft of torque. Various engine refinements, and a switch from a five-speed automatic to one with seven cogs, also results in better fuel economy. The M45 was rated at 15.1 L/100 km (19 mpg) in the city, and 10.2 (28) on the highway. In contrast, the M56 is tagged at 13.4 (21) and 8.5 (33). In combined driving, I averaged 11.5 L/100 km (25 mpg).

2011 Infiniti M56x
2011 Infiniti M56x. Click image to enlarge

There are certainly no complaints about engine performance. The 5.6-litre V8, a version of which is also used in the new 2011 QX56, delivers smooth, linear power all the way up the throttle, and the seven-speed transmission shifts gears very smoothly, consistently keeping the engine in its sweet spot. There is a manual mode, but only at the shifter: steering wheel-mounted paddles are found solely on the Sport trim line. The steering is nicely weighted, but the car doesn’t dance around corners as a sports sedan should. While it never feels unsettled, it’s stodgy, which might partly be due to the extra 54 kilograms of weight that the all-wheel system adds. The ride is sports-car-firm, but there’s not enough agility to back it up. The electronic stability control is also too eager to show off what it can do, shutting me down far earlier than I would have expected on dry roads.

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