2012 Infiniti M56X

Infiniti M56X:

Infiniti’s new M56X sedan is the rich man’s Park Avenue, full of luxury and comfortable ride, but also an absolute blast to drive.

Certainly it’s more spirited than many large luxury sedans, while looking as tame as, well, a Park Avenue. Yet there’s a growling 5.6-liter V8 under its hood that is just waiting to use its monster 420 horsepower.

Does a well-off retirement age executive type want to hear all that growl from his luxury sedan? Time will tell. But the M56X definitely growls with attitude when you jump on the accelerator and the V8 leaps to life. Shifts are pretty smooth via its 7-speed automatic, which offers a manual shift mode if the driver wants to control his or her own fate.

Otherwise you can rotate a dial on the console to pick any of four shift pattern settings, from Eco to Normal to Power, which holds the shifts so long sometimes that you’ll find yourself backing off the gas so it’ll downshift. Oh, plus there’s a Snow setting to help you accelerate more smoothly when the weather turns slippery, but we had no snow during my test.

A knob on the console allows you to adjust your shift points for the transmission.

Acceleration is excellent though and you’ll find yourself at legal highway speeds in a blink as you roar down a highway entry ramp. Yet in keeping with the M56’s luxury bent, the suspension does a fine job of smoothing the roads without abandoning reasonable road feel. So you feel well connected to the pavement.

Infiniti uses an independent double wishbone suspension in front and a multi-link suspension in back, both with serious stabilizer bars. The car’s lengthy 114.2-inch wheelbase and 18-inch all-season tires also do a fine job of controlling the ride and absorbing bumps.

Handling is good with a moderate steering effort and a fluid feel to the wheel. The M hunkers down in tight corners with no body lean and seems particularly well planted on wet streets, thanks to the all-wheel drive system it employs. That’s what the X stands for in its name.

Superior braking comes from front and rear vented disc brakes, naturally with traction and stability control systems standard.

Inside, the “Harbour Blue” (dark blue-gray) test car’s interior was a mix of gorgeous styling and over complexity.

The tester featured a black and dark brown dash and matching brown leather seats and door padding. But there’s also an impressive Japanese white ash trim with silver powder accents on the dash and doors that includes a satin metal trim. The same trim graces the console and center stack. This is luxury with a capital L, and is part of a $3,800 Deluxe Touring package that also includes a fancy Bose audio system, suede-like headliner, power sun shade and a Forest Air system to purify the cabin air.

Everything looked great, but there’s a downside – 37 buttons, two knobs for the radio and a control knob for various computer functions in the middle of flat stack that sticks out of the main dash.

The M56 has a ton of buttons on the dash.

Granted all the buttons are large and most were simple to figure out, but the sheer volume makes it somewhat difficult to use them while driving. Drivers should make major adjustments, save maybe heat and radio, before driving.

There are plenty of helpful features, certainly. The tilt/telescope steering wheel is powered and powers away from the driver once the ignition is off and the door opened. There’s that power sun shade in the rear window, automatic lights, a navigation system and back-up camera, a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, rain-sensing wipers and a HomeLink system too.

Seating is extremely comfortable with soft leather seating surfaces, moderate contouring and two memory settings for the driver’s seat. Both front seats offer three-speed heating and cooling too. Best of all, the steering wheel is heated and gets warm quickly. The only negative here is the button to activate the system is located low on the dash and requires you bend and lean forward to get at it, mainly a problem when the wheel gets too hot and you want to turn it off as you’re driving.

While the seats and wheel heat quickly, the climate control system takes a while to start blowing warm air. I found it sometimes took 5-7 minutes into a drive before warm air was circulating at sufficient force to take the chill off the cabin.

This is a roomy sedan though with the interior space for five adults. Plus there’s a large trunk in back for cargo when a trip is in order.

Gas mileage is what you’d expect from a V8 too. I got 17.3 mpg in about 50% highway driving while the EPA estimates you’ll get 16 mpg city and 23 highway. Premium fuel is preferred, but then you’re likely a premium type guy or gal.

But you’d expect that in such a luxury sport sedan with a base price of $61,600. Add in the big touring package and a few other goodies, plus delivery and the M56X settled at $66,925.

If that seems a bit much, there is a non all-wheel-drive model that starts at $59,100, but features the same engine and transmission. Once you’re at $60 grand though you’re about double the cost of an average vehicle sold these days, so one assumes you, or your company, can afford the finer things.

If you can, the M56X is a delight to drive. You just may have to study all those buttons for a few hours before you leave the parking lot.

Fast Stats: 2012 Infiniti M56X

Made in: Japan

Engine: 5.6-liter V8, 420 hp

Transmission: 7-speed automatic/manual shift mode

Weight: 4,224 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.2 in.

Cargo: 15.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 16/23

Base Price: $61,600

Dealer’s Price: $57,003

Major Options:

18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, $650

Deluxe Touring package (Japanese white ash trim w/silver powder accents, semi-analine leather seating, Bose digital 5.1-channel 16-speaker audio system, suede-like headliner, Forest Air system, soft double-stitched meter hood, power rear sunshade), $3,800

Delivery: $875

Test vehicle: $66,925

Sources: Infiniti, www.autos.yahoo.com

Photos: Courtesy of Infiniti

Hits: Excellent power, well controlled ride, fluid steering and all-wheel drive. Interior is stylish with wood trim, heated steering wheel, heated/cooled seats. Comfy for five adults too and four shift patterns to choose from.

Misses: Rich man’s Park Avenue – bland styling. Climate system is somewhat slow to heat up and heated wheel button is awkwardly placed. Too darned many dash buttons and notable engine growl may not be what its older buyers crave.

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