Thumbs Up: A true sport sedan with plenty of room for four adults.
Thumbs Down: Creaky plastic console is out of place at this price point.
Buy This Car If: You’re in the market for a sport sedan that doubles as a grand tourer.
Like Rodney Dangerfield, the Infiniti M56 can’t get any respect. When some one throws down the term “sport sedan,” Infiniti’s flagship sedan gets picked only after the BMW 5-Series, the Audi A6 and the Cadillac CTS-V are all gone. Worse, many buyers never even think about cross-shopping the Infiniti product, because you don’t see many M56 sedans on the road.
That’s a shame, because the M56 really is a standout in a crowded field. It’s biggest weak point, as pointed out in our review of the 2011 Infiniti M56 Sport, is that it’s up against some very strong competition in the mid-size sport sedan segment. In addition to the cars referenced above, there’s an all-new Lexus GS F-Sport that promises to deliver both exceptional ride quality and handling (although we’ll reserve judgement until we get a chance to drive it).
The other thing that works against the Infiniti is the strength of the Japanese yen versus the dollar. Without going into a lecture on global economics, we’ll sum it up by saying that products built in Japan are getting expensive, and margins for Japanese automakers aren’t what they used to be. The Infiniti M56 starts at around $60,000, but can easily top the $70k barrier when you pile on the options. That kind of money buys you a wide variety of competitive sport sedans, including some with more prestigious badges.
Still, Infiniti has always catered to those who prefer to fly a bit under the radar. The M56 Sport isn’t flashy, and none of your neighbors will know that you’ve got a 420 horsepower sport sedan capable of sprinting from 0-60 mph in just over five seconds parked in your driveway. Take them for a ride, and they’ll likely be amazed at the M56’s capabilities when the road gets twisty.
The M56’s styling isn’t derivative of anything else on the road, although it does carry on with now-familiar Infiniti styling traits. The curving front fenders sweep back to join the A-pillars, giving the car a muscular stance. Out back the trunk lid is short, giving the car an almost coupe-like appearance. In fact, viewed from the side it’s impossible not to notice the long hood and short rear deck, reminiscent of Nissan’s original 240Z sports coupe. We doubt that styling trait is accidental, and the M56 probably sells well to former Z car owners who need more room for a growing family, yet won’t go the minivan route.
The interior is up to Infiniti’s usual standard of design excellence, and the materials used are high quality. The dash blends interior colored trim with dark Japanese Ash wood and a non-reflective black vinyl, offset by aluminum surrounding the infotainment and HVAC controls. As we’ve said in the past, Infiniti’s navigation and infotainment systems are among the best in the industry; they’re intuitive to programs and laid out in a very logical manner. Controls fall to hand, and everything is where you expect it to be; while this sounds pretty basic, it always amazes us how many manufacturers get this wrong in interior design. If the Infiniti has a weak point on the inside, it’s this: there was a fair amount of creaking from the center console in corners and over bumps, and that’s simply out of place in a car with the M56’s asking price.
We’re fans of Infiniti’s instrumentation, and the M56 is no exception. Gauges are large and easy to read across a variety of lighting conditions, and the central information display delivers what you need to know without being distracting. The display faces offer up an interesting textured background, and the dial trim resembles that of a high-end wrist watch. Even the hood above the instruments, covered in stitched black vinyl on Sport Package-equipped cars, is sculpted to define both the tachometer and the speedometer.
Front sport seats offer a just-right blend of long-distance comfort and lateral support for spirited driving. Covered in ventilated leather, the seats are both heated and cooled for driver and passenger comfort. Driver and front passenger get an inflatable lumbar support, too, ensuring that long days behind the wheel are as tolerable as possible.
Rear seats are designed for two passengers, but offer up the ability to carry a third for short distances. Outboard seats get wrapped in ventilated leather, too, and even provide a reasonable amount of side bolstering. Oddly enough, the rear seat backs don’t fold forward to accommodate oversized cargo, but the M56 does offer up ample trunk room for most items.
Under the hood is a 5.6-liter V-8, good for 420 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, mated to a seven speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. As you’d guess, that’s enough horsepower to provide spirited acceleration, as long as the somewhat intrusive stability control system doesn’t step in to cancel the party. Get the power to the ground, and the big sedan will dash from 0-60 mph in a tick over five seconds, while delivering an EPA estimated 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. We saw an indicated 18.5 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving, but admit to leaving the car in “Sport” mode for much of our time behind the wheel. Drivers wanting the best fuel economy can also select from “Standard” and “Eco” transmission modes, and there’s even a “Snow” mode for inclement weather. While most M56’s (like our Infiniti supplied tester) come in rear-drive, all-wheel-drive is an available option.
If driver aids are important to you, the M56 is available with a surprising amount of safety features in the optional Technology Package. There’s blind spot monitoring, a back up camera, adaptive cruise control with collision alert and even intelligent brake assist. Driver who use Eco mode can even get coaching from the accelerator pedal, which provides feedback in the form of added resistance to encourage fuel efficient driving.
On the road, the best compliment we can pay the M56 is that it drives smaller than it is. The car communicates well to the driver, and even quick side-to-side transitions don’t seem to rattle the M56’s composure. Steering feel is decent, but the sport-brake-pad equipped brakes can be somewhat difficult to modulate. They require a bit of heat before hitting the ideal operating temperature, which requires the driver to vary pedal pressure to obtain smooth stops. That said, the M56 is capable of braking just as well as it accelerates and corners. If you’re looking for a sport sedan that will deliver usable performance off the showroom floor, the Infiniti M56 is worth a test drive.
Base price on our 2012 Infiniti M56 was $60,095, including a destination charge of $895. Options included the $5,650 Sport Package (20-inch wheels with summer performance tires, sport-tuned suspension, sport brakes, 4-wheel active steer, steering-column-mounted paddle shifters, sport seats, aluminum pedals, stitched instrument hood, sport steering wheel, unique front fascia, 16-speaker Bose audio system, Forest Air system with Plasmacluster purifier, powered rear sunshade), the $3,050 Technology Package (adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, intelligent brake assist, forward collision warning, blind spot detection and intervention, Eco accelerator pedal feedback, adaptive headlights) and the $375 R Spec high friction brake pads, for a total sticker price of $69,165.
For comparison, a similarly equipped BMW 550i would sticker at $77,795, while a comparable (but less powerful) 2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport would list for $60,800.