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2012 Infiniti M56 Overview
The M56 differs from its less-expensive M37 sibling primarily under the hood. Although similarly equipped with Infiniti’s VVEL (Variable Valve Event & Lift) system and a standard 7-speed automatic transmission with four shift modes (Standard, Sport, Snow and Eco), the M56 carries a 5.6-liter DOHC V8 with Direct Injection gasoline technology, designed to improve fuel economy and emissions. With standard rear-wheel drive and available intelligent all-wheel drive (in the M56x), the aluminum-alloy V8 provides the greatest power of the M series lineup, with 420 hp at 6,000 rpm and 417 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The rear-wheel-drive M56 earns fuel economy estimates of 16 mpg city/25 highway, while the M56x offers an almost identical 16/23. The larger V8 was criticized in 2011 for its added weight, which negatively impacted the car’s handling, and given the 330 horses that ride under the hood of the less-expensive M37, some have preferred the smaller engine and sharper handling of the M37 over the M56.
Outside, the M56 provides standard High Intensity Discharge (HID) bi-functional xenon headlights, front foglights and LED rear brake lights. The power tilt and slide moonroof includes a sliding sunshade, and the outside mirrors include heat and power-folding capability.
The other major distinguishing feature of the M56 is the standard inclusion of all of the Premium Package equipment (which is optional in the M37). This includes a hard-drive-based navigation system, XM NavTraffic and Weather, a 9.3GB Music Box hard drive to store music, a Bose 2-channel, 10-speaker Premium Audio system, AM/FM/CD/DVD with MP3 playback capability, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control. Audio and navigation systems can be controlled via standard voice recognition. Standard comfort features include a heated steering wheel and climate control (heat or cooling) for the front seats.
In addition to voice recognition, the M56 includes the Infiniti Controller knob, which offers another method of controlling the audio, climate-control and other features. Despite the additional technology, many appreciate the fact that the Infiniti has maintained independent buttons for the individual systems.
Last year’s M56 was lauded for its user-friendly (and bountiful) technology, combined with a feeling of being wrapped in luxury. Technology starts with entry into the car. The Infiniti Intelligent Key allows for keyless entry, use of the push-button ignition and remote power-opening of the windows. Individual keys can also be programmed to recall settings for the driver’s preferred seat position, mirrors and steering wheel settings, as well as retaining the last-used climate control, audio and navigation settings. The leather-appointed seats are adjustable in the front 10 ways, including lumbar support. Standard Japanese Ash wood trim adds to the feeling of luxury, and dual-zone automatic climate control adds to the comfort. The front armrest offers a two-level storage compartment equipped with a 12-volt power outlet, auxiliary input jacks and USB port. Standard Bluetooth equips the car for hands-free phone calls. A rear-view monitor activates when the M56 is shifted into reverse, displaying images from the rear of the car on the vehicle information system screen. Colorful guide lines offer direction to help steer clear of objects in the rear.
If the standard features are not enough, a number of options packages can amp up the luxury, safety and performance (all, of course, for a price that will make the price climb quickly). The new-for-2012 18-inch wheel package offers a tri-split 5-spoke aluminum alloy wheel design with all-season tires. The Deluxe Touring Package adds a power rear sunshade, changes the trim wood to White Ash with silver powder (yes, real silver powder, according to Infiniti). The leather seats are upgraded to semi-aniline, and the stereo is now a Bose Studio Surround system with 5.1-channel decoding and 16 speakers. The Forest Air system (considered a gimmick by some in last year’s M56) includes advanced filtration and humidity control, as well as the Breeze Mode designed to, as Infiniti puts it, “recreate the refreshing climate and natural breezes of a relaxing forest setting” by fluctuating the airflow from the upper and front air vents.
The sport package this year blends the former Sport and Sport Touring packages in the M56. Available only for the RWD M56, it rates larger (20-inch) tires (which unfortunately seemed to produce more road noise in 2011). The package also provides paddle shifters, sport brakes and a sport-tuned suspension, sport seats with greater bolstering, as well as the upgraded stereo, Forest Air system and rear sunshade found in the Deluxe Touring Package.
The technology package adds a number of safety features including a blind-spot warning system, lane-departure warning (and intervention) system, intelligent cruise control with distance control assist, as well as intelligent brake assist and forward collision warning. In addition, an adaptive front lighting system moves the headlights in the direction of a turn.
However, the M56 is not short on standard safety features, including dual-stage front airbags, driver and front-passenger side-impact airbags and roof-mounted side-impact curtain airbags for the front and rear outboard positions. If the airbags are deployed, the auto hazard warning system turns on the hazard lights automatically. Antilock brakes are equipped with electronic brakeforce distribution, vehicle dynamic control and traction control, and the standard 18-inch wheels are equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system. While the 2012 M56 has not yet been safety tested, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration did find the 2011 version of the Infiniti (both RWD and AWD) to rate 4 stars (out of 5) overall, with 4 stars for rollovers and frontal crashes. The 2011 earned a perfect score for side crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety included the M56 as a Top Safety Pick with the exception of the M56x, which only ranked Acceptable (second highest rating) for the rollover test. Since safety features have not been changed for 2012, one could expect the M56’s high safety ratings to continue this year.
While the 2012 M56 is surely set to provide luxury and power, the power and better handling of the less-expensive M37 may prove enough to sway consumers away from the higher sticker price of the M56, despite its V8 and longer standard list of interior features. And given the fact that the U.S. Department of Energy’s website (fueleconomy.gov) notes that the M series cars use premium gasoline, buyers may want to consider saving money up front, since they will have to put it in the tank along the way.