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2011 Infiniti M 56 - Review

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SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyers Guide

By Bruce and Brad Hubbard
Auto Advisor Group

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2011 Infiniti M

Infiniti has made a name for itself in North America. Known by many as the “Japanese BMW” it's developed many of the most impressive performance and luxury vehicles ever to travel the roads of North America. The Nissan luxury brand first came to America in November of 1989 to compete with Acura and Lexus. Infiniti is an innovative company that delivers some of the most technologically advanced vehicles offered in the luxury market. Performance wise, Infiniti is a leader. In fact the Japanese buyer that wants performance buys from Infiniti and not Lexus.

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One of the most luxurious and advanced Infiniti vehicles for 2011 is the Infiniti M37/M56 model, which benefits from Infiniti's original show car "Essence." For 2011 the M37/M56 exterior has been enlarged and design improvements help to make it stand out. The curved features on the aluminum doors and side are a plus. They give the second generation a sporty look. On the rear, new taillights have been added. The platform is the same as that of the Nissan 370 Z and the Infiniti G37 and FX50.

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The wider stance of the all-new M56 is a styling plus. In addition, the wider stance improves its road manners. Handling and road holding are improved thanks to the front track being 1.4 inches wider and the rear track 0.8 inch wider. The wheelbase is unchanged and the new rear-suspension geometry delivers a quieter ride and additional handling stability.

The 2011 M56 is offered in rear wheel drive or all wheel drive configuration. The M56 has the 5.6 liter 32-valveV8, aluminum-alloy block and heads. Low-friction coated pistons with Double overhead-camshafts with 4 Valves per cylinder with microfinished camshafts. Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) optimizes opening of intake and exhaust valves. Improvements over the previous generation 4.5 liter have increased efficiency by ten percent. The new engine is 1.1 liters more than the previous engine developing 100 more horsepower. Like the Infiniti FX50 the all-new Infiniti M56 models use the VK engine architecture. VK was previously known as the ZH used in the Q45, FX45, M45, and numerous performance Nissan vehicles.

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2011 Infiniti M

The 420 hp @6000 rpm with 417 foot pounds of torque V8 make the M56 move like few can. Acceleration is amazing with the electronically controlled 7-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control. The operation is smooth. Gear changes are smooth delivering great torque throughout the entire rev range. Acceleration from zero to 60 is from 5 to 5.1 seconds depending on your skills as a driver.

For mountain we preferred the manual shift mode. With the optional Sport package you get the wonderful paddle shifters that make manual selection a breeze.

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Paddle shifters in the 2011 Infiniti M
It offers sequentially selected manual gearshifts and downshift rev matching. As I've stated in so many articles, I love manual shift mode for mountain driving, not just for the fun of the shifting but because it gives added control through the switchbacks and changes in road altitude. What's more, by using the shift mode I don't have to brake as frequently. The Infiniti Drive Mode Selector gives you the ability to choose between Standard, Sport, Snow or Eco modes and controls throttle responses and transmission shift points.
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My test vehicle was the M56 rear wheel drive model that had the optional Sport wheels and tires. The larger 20-inch, with 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels with 245/40R20 W-rated summer performance tires. The Infiniti M37 and M56 models all have a temporary spare. USE PHOTO JPEG VE 8R2784 The larger tires allow for better braking of the M56 models. The M56 I drove had the optional sport package braking system, which included aluminum 4-piston opposed front calipers with 14 inch ventilated disc. The rear brakes have 2 opposed rear calipers 13 inch ventilated disc. Stopping from 70 to zero is done in 166 feet.

Steering is absolutely superb thanks to the vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering.

I love the 4-wheel active steer system offered as an option. By actively turning all four wheels as you steer, 4-wheel Active Steer elevates handling and the very experience of each corner. The system adjusts steering angle and ratio to vehicle speed, creating a more responsive and fluid sense of control. With natural low-speed feel, responsive mid-speed turn-in, and precise high-speed stability, 4-wheel Active Steer makes cornering easy. I could feel it work.

The 4-wheel active steer system also improves maneuverability and stability while driving at both low and high speeds. In a system of this kind, all four wheels turn at the same time when the driver steers. The rear wheels cannot turn as far as the front wheels. Since a computer controls the rear wheels it determines how much the wheels can turn. Believe it or not at slow speed the rear wheels move at opposite direction of the front wheels. The system is ideal for parking maneuvers.

Honda and Mercedes have had similar systems but today it seems that Infiniti, BMW and Renault (on their Laguna) are the only car companies continuing to offer such a great system. Back, maybe 8 years ago, I bragged about the GMC and Chevy Delphi Steering system for trucks. It would allow a boater or trailering system to move like no other truck. Unfortunately GM pulled the system. Ford was about to add it but declined. No one could hook up to their boat trailer as fast as with the system. (BMW's system is called "Integral Active Steering" and it's available on their 5 and 7 Series models.

Active four-wheel drive systems have been proven to be superb. But, the low volume of sales is perhaps why so many manufacturers decided to stop producing this system. Not Infiniti. They have always been a leader in technology and will continue with this wonderful active four-wheel drive system.

The all-new Infiniti M offers exhilarating power from two-gasoline engines. Their exclusive VVEL technology continues to tune valve lift and timing to give quicker response and a broader torque curve while giving excellent fuel economy. The 3.7-liter V or the 5.6 –liter V8 Infiniti engines come with Direct Injection (DIG).

To help in stopping the Infiniti M, if a potential collision is unavoidable, the optional Intelligent Brake Assist system takes over. The system has a laser range finder, with Forward Collision Warning helping to alert the driver of a potential collision by providing a visual and audible warning. If the driver does not respond, Intelligent Brake Assist automatically engages the brakes to help reduce collision speed and impact, mitigating the consequences of the accident.

The Infiniti optional Blind Spot lane departure warning system and lane departure prevention system first sounds an audible warning and then if you drift out of your lane the land departure control uses brakes to help ease you back to your lane.

Infiniti offers adaptive cruise control on the M37/M56 that they call "Distance Control Technology." The system provides enhanced functionality of adding speed and distance intervals to standard cruise control. It helps you keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you: It slows when approaching a car in front of you and then when there's sufficient safe distance it accelerates to the preset speed as traffic flow increases. Distance control assist, Infiniti states is an industry-first, intuitively helps the driver release the throttle and subtly applies the brakes as needed in slowing traffic. I first used the system in a Corvette ten years ago and the improvements in software have made this system a real safety feature.

The front double wishbone suspension from the previous model has been adapted to the new M56. However, the rear suspension has been improved to deliver better handling. The lateral stiffness is one reason that the luxurious M56 can move through the best roads with ease.

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2011 Infiniti M
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The interior is exquisite and is class-leading on space. The leather appointed seats are wonderful, and the optional white ash silver-powdered wood trim infuses the interior of the new Infiniti M with a modern approach to Japanese artistry. At the LA Auto Show they displayed how the artist make the pieces that are so prominent in the Infiniti. The console, dash, and arm pieces are cut to bring out the unique characteristics and natural beauty of the grain. Pure silver powder is applied and then hand sanded and polished. To make sure the interior is gathering the best and cleanest air the Infiniti M models have an air-conditioning system called Forest A/C that neutralizes bad odors, modulates humidity complete with an oscillating breeze.