I’ve written a few reviews recently that upon reflection seem to suggest that I can find fault with just about anything. Not true. I expect a lot out of cars, though, and there is a slim handful that I don’t expect to be better. The Infiniti M56x is one of those cars.
I haven’t thought much about Infiniti in the past. For a generation now, Nissan’s luxury brand hasn’t done a whole lot to impress me. The original Q45 was a great automobile, but its styling and silly ad campaign meant that it took a back seat to the more conservative, and equally smashing Lexus LS400. With the benefit of a little distance between the Lexus and the Infiniti, I think it would’ve had more traction here.
In the intervening years, all of Infiniti’s products have been just rehashed, gussied-up versions of Nissan’s product line. The flagship Q45 went from a boldly styled, technologically innovative automobile to an also-ran that looked like it was styled for Buick owners with bigger savings accounts.
I felt differently when the M line of products launched, though. The 2003 M45 was still a rehash, but it was completely new in the States with no corresponding Nissan product. Based on the Y34-series Nissan Gloria, the M45 got a cool reception when it was introduced here, but in my opinion, it was exactly what was missing in the product mix in the United States: a true full-size, rear-drive, V-8 powered luxury car with at least some sporting aspirations. It was slab-sided and chiseled in a forest of bean-shaped, non-descript automobiles, and it always looked right.
The second generation, launched in 2005, was a disappointment to me. While it still offered V-8 performance (along with the V-6 powered M35), its styling was completely neutral. It won a lot of accolades, but it just looked like every other car on the road.
2011 marks the third generation of the M line, and with the M56x, it looks like Infiniti is back on top. Where the second generation’s styling was dull and forgettable, the M56x is an aggressive, stylish automobile that shares more with the styling of a lot of exclusive luxury brands than it does with Lexus. In a lot of ways, the M56x’s styling far outdistances itself from the competition from Jaguar.
Conventional wisdom says “you can’t see styling from the driver’s seat,” but in this case, you can. The M56x’s most obvious styling attributes are the bulging front fenders, which rise up into view from the passenger cabin, like the fenders on a rally car. Park it in the lot at Whole Foods and there’s no mistaking it amongst a sea of uninspired design.
You can have all the design in the world and still have a disappointing car, though. That’s not the case with this car. At its heart is a 420hp, 5.6-liter V-8, matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Push the start button and this engine absolutely roars to life. On acceleration, it’s almost NASCAR-like in its engine note inside the cabin. It’s not loud or annoying, mind you. The car’s Active Noise Control system takes care of that by filtering out any droning noise from the exhaust at lower RPM. But there’s no mistaking that you’re fooling with 420hp every time you touch the gas pedal.
The transmission is adjustable via a driving mode selector knob on the console, marked with Sport, ECO and Snow modes, along with the Standard mode which is only indicated by a dot. In standard, you get the best of both worlds, with firm shifts, but regulated to offer a good compromise in fuel economy. Select Sport mode, though, and the transmission holds gears forever, and shifts with authority. You won’t like ECO mode, even if you’re intent on saving the planet. Fuel economy is marginally increased, but you get into seventh gear a lot sooner than you’d like to in a car this fun to drive.
I used the Snow mode twice in this weather cycle we’re in, that seems to dump a foot of fresh snow on New England at least once a week. It works, but it’s largely inconsequential thanks to the all-wheel drive system that’s indicated by the “x” in the car’s name badge. The system works perfectly, even with the “all-season” tires, but it would be an absolute titan with a decent set of snow tires.
Inside, the cabin is luxurious, but not pretentiously so. Our tested vehicle featured a $3,800 Deluxe Touring Package with “White ash silver powdered” wood trim, which made me think of the Smoke Silver that BMW used to use on its R90S motorcycle in the 1970s. The package also included Bose’s Studio Surround stereo system (with speakers mounted in the seats, right where your shoulders are). It also has something called “Forest Air” which apparently circulates air the way you’d experience a breeze in the forest. It also includes the following: “Plasmacutter™ Air Purifier and Grape Polyphenol Filter.” Okaaaay…whatever.
Another three grand on top of the lofty $60,950 price tag nets a Technology Package that includes a whole lot of equipment that I can barely discuss, let alone review: Intelligent Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Distance Control Assist, Intelligent Brake Assist, Blind Spot Warning System, etc. For $3,000, I wish I could convince you to spend some quality time at one of the greatest driving schools in the country, and learn how to manage 420hp, instead of allowing the car to take control for you.
But that’s really my only complaint. On its own, the Infinity M56x is a fabulous automobile that I’d certainly love to spend time in every single day. I can’t think of a car in this segment that works quite this well. Sixty grand might seem like a lot of cake, but compared against its rivals, the pricetag is worth every penny.