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Electronic flaws mar Infiniti M56 X luxury sedan


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Electronic flaws mar Infiniti M56 X luxury sedan



The 2011 Infiniti M56 X AWD luxury sedan (TWO STARS out of four stars) raises the design of Nissan's luxury brand to a new level, but the car suffers from a number of poorly executed features.

There's very little room for error when you compete with sophisticated sport sedans like the Audi A6, BMW 550i, Cadillac STS, Lexus GS and Lincoln MKS. The M56 X's striking looks and welcoming interior are first rate, but there's plenty of room for improvement in its handling, audio and phone systems.

The well-equipped M56 X I tested boasted a 420-horsepower V8, all-wheel drive and a suite of advanced safety systems.

Phone, handling flaws tarnish shine

This is why people have revolutions, I thought.

A news report about home foreclosures and high unemployment had just followed a commercial rhapsodizing over the silver that Infiniti grinds into dust to make the wood trim in its new M luxury sedan sparkle.

As quick as Marie Antoinette could say "Let them eat cake," my mind's eye saw peasants storming a palace and raising a guillotine to a soundtrack of my friend Larry Kirwan's band Black 47 playing "Bankers and gangsters ... locked together in default harmony."

Decadence sells better in fat times than lean. 2010 is a year to talk about value, not gush, "Ooh. Shiny."

Despite a long list of advanced features, a number of glitches combine to leave the new 2011 Infiniti M56 X luxury sedan trailing competitors like the BMW 550i, Lexus GS 460 and Mercedes-Benz E550.

The M56 X is the V8-powered all-wheel drive member of Infiniti's M midsize luxury sedan family. Prices for the M56 X start at $60,050.

Prices for a rear-drive M56 start at $57,550. Both M56 models feature a 420-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 and seven-speed automatic transmission.

The M series also includes the M37, which has a 330-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission.

Prices start at $46,250 for a rear-drive M37 and $48,400 for an all-wheel drive M37 X.

I tested a very well-equipped M56 X that cost $66,850. All prices exclude destination charges.

The M56 X's prime competitors include all-wheel drive luxury sedans like the Audi A6 4.2 Quattro, Cadillac STS V8 AWD, Lincoln MKS AWD and Mercedes-Benz E550 4Matic.

The Infiniti has more power than those models. Its EPA rating of 16 m.p.g. city, 23 m.p.g. on the highway and 18 m.p.g. combined trails only the 350-horsepower all-wheel drive Lincoln MKS.

The Infiniti's 103.6-cubic-foot passenger compartment also tops all the M's competitors except the roomy Lincoln. The Audi, Lincoln and Mercedes have more cargo space than the Infiniti's 14.9-cubic-foot trunk.

The M's shape borrows from the FX SUV that is Infiniti's most recognizable model. The sedan's long hood, trapezoidal grille and muscular front fenders all recall the FX. Scalloped sides and an upturned rear deck complete a lovely, organic shape.

The high trunk deck limits rear visibility enough that Infiniti made a backup camera standard on all M's, however. The limited field of vision also creates substantial blind spots. The optional blind-spot alert system should be standard, too.

The struts on the trunk are inadequate, not strong enough to open the lid.

In addition to the blind-spot alert and a sensor to warn you when you wander out of your lane, an optional feature is intended to help the M avoid those dangers automatically. It applies the brakes to redirect the car into its lane if you cross the line without indicating a lane change, or if there's an oncoming vehicle in your blind spot.

The system was less effective at redirecting the Infiniti into its lane than other systems I have tested.

Aside from the ground silver sprinkled over Japanese ash wood trim, the interior design is refined, and I have to admit the silver looks terrific.

The car I tested had optional aniline leather upholstery that complemented soft, attractive materials that cover every surface. The front and rear seats provide plenty of room and comfort.

The hands-free system for phone calls is nearly useless. Audio quality was very poor for the people I called. The system failed to recognize names from my phonebook. Nor did it pause iPod and CD play for phone calls.

The optional 16-speaker Bose audio system sounds terrific, but the control for iPods is less effective than what many competitors offer.

The M56 X is heavy. Its 4,224-pound curb weight tops all the competitors I've named except the larger STS and MKS. The M carries 57% of its weight over the front axle, a far cry from the ideal 50/50 balance of the best sport sedans.

The nose-heavy layout and weight affect the car's acceleration and handling, making the M56 X feel less nimble than its competitors. In addition, steering effort rises sharply in fast turns, further reducing responsiveness.

The Infiniti M56 luxury sedan. (INFINITI)


Infiniti M56 X AWD

All-wheel drive five-passenger midsize sport sedan

Price as tested: $66,850 (excluding destination charges)

Rating: ** (out of four stars)

Reasons to buy: Styling, power, interior look and feel

Shortcomings: Phone and iPod compatibility, rear visibility, handling

2011 Infiniti M56 at a glance

Vehicle type: Rear- or all-wheel drive five-passenger luxury midsize sedan

Engine: 420-horsepower 5.6-liter direct-injection DOHC 32-valve V8

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Price range: $57,550-$60,050 (excluding destination charges)

Key features

Antilock brakes; electronic brake force distribution; emergency brake assist; stability control; front-seat side air bags; curtain air bags; front active head rests; power sunroof; high-intensity headlights; 18-inch alloy wheels; power windows, locks and sideview mirrors; rain-sensing windshield wipers; 10-way power heated and ventilated front seats with lumbar support; pushbutton start; memory for driver's settings; power tilt and telescoping steering wheel; heated steering wheel; navigation system with 8-inch touch screen display; backup camera; USB music connector; Bluetooth hands-free phone system; dual-zone climate control.

Options on test vehicle: Active cruise control; adjustable accelerator pedal feel; blind-spot warning and intervention systems; lane departure warning and intervention systems; front collision alert; adaptive front lighting; 16-speaker Bose audio; air filtration and perfume system; aniline leather seating; white ash wood trim with silver accents; power rear sunshade.

Competitive EPA fuel economy ratings

(Automatic transmission models)

Infiniti M56 X AWD: 16 m.p.g. city/23 m.p.g. highway/18 m.p.g. combined. Premium fuel.

Audi A6 4.2 Quattro: 16 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway/18 m.p.g. combined. Premium fuel.

Cadillac STS V8 AWD: 15 m.p.g. city/22 m.p.g. highway/17 m.p.g. combined. Regular fuel.

Lexus GS 460: 17 m.p.g. city/24 m.p.g. highway/20 m.p.g. combined. Premium fuel.

Lincoln MKS AWD: 17 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway/20 m.p.g. combined. Regular fuel.

2011 Infiniti M56 X

All-wheel drive five-seat luxury sedan

Base price: $60,050 (excluding destination charges)

As tested: $66,850

Safety equipment: Antilock brakes; electronic brake force distribution; emergency brake assist; stability control; front-seat side air bags; curtain air bags; front active head rests.

Specifications as tested

Engine: 5.6-liter direct-injection DOHC 32-valve V8

Power: 420 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m.; 417 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 r.p.m.

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 16 m.p.g. city/23 m.p.g. highway

Wheelbase: 114.2 inches

Length: 194.7 inches

Width: 72.6 inches

Height: 59.6 inches

Curb weight: 4,224 pounds

Where assembled: Tochigi, Japan

Comparative base prices

(not including destination charges)

(Automatic transmission models)

Audi A6 4.2 Prestige Quattro: $59,150

BMW 550i: $59,700

Cadillac STS V8 AWD: $70,335

Lexus GS 460: $54,070



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