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With its conventional suspension system, there is no way to change the ride quality for different driving conditions. As such, its firmness became evident as we drove over rougher surfaces. This is one area where the M56x doesn't quite measure up to the luxury competition, as it didn't mask out bumps and pits in the road as well as it should.
Similarly, the rear seat doesn't offer the legroom that its luxury competitors do. The M56x has a very nice cabin, and we had no problems with the quality of the interior materials, especially the silver-flecked wood trim. But the rear seat space felt a bit compact, more comparable to a BMW 5-series than a 7-series. Until Infiniti makes a stretched M, the brand will lack a true flagship sedan.
The car's occupants benefit from Infiniti's excellent cabin tech package. We've always liked Infiniti's navigation and audio control system, which combines a multidirectional knob with touch-screen action. For the new M56x, Infiniti refined that knob, making it look more at home in a luxury interior without losing any of the functionality.
The hard-drive-based navigation system's rich maps show 3D renderings of a few landmark buildings in some downtown areas. The points-of-interest database includes Zagat-ratings for restaurants, although its interface is terrible. To find restaurants in the San Francisco area, we had to scroll past every region that began with a letter before S. The system should just show a list of every nearby Zagat-rated restaurant.
The system overlays traffic information on its maps, showing trouble spots, and dynamically routes around them. Route guidance proved very usable, with explicit graphics showing turns and voice prompts that pronounce the names of streets.
As our M56x had the Deluxe Touring package, it came with a unique Infiniti touch, speakers on the seat shoulders. The Bose-branded audio system in the car uses 16 speakers, with four in the front seat shoulder positions and another six in the front doors. That leaves two on each rear door, plus a center fill and a subwoofer. Of course, a system like this supports 5.1 surround sound, and we enjoyed its immersive experience.
The sound quality was rich and nicely detailed, with a good balance between bass, mid, and high frequency response. Its main fault was some minor door rattle during bass notes.
The stereo gets audio from a good selection of sources, including a USB for iPod integration or USB drives, and Bluetooth streaming audio. Infiniti finally removed the Compact Flash card it used in the earlier generation of this car. You can also use the CD/DVD player to rip music to the onboard hard drive, which has 9.3GB available for music.
The M56x gets a new feature called Forest Air, a nice little trick that varies the air-conditioning fan speed. The intent of this feature is to create the sensation of a forest breeze rather than the steady wind produced by standard air-conditioning systems. With Forest Air set in its fast mode, the fan deviation happened too quickly for us to notice much of a difference, but in its low-speed mode, it worked as advertised, adding a nice atmospheric effect to the cabin.
Infiniti also advanced the Bluetooth phone system it includes in the M56x, adding a voice command dial by name feature. We had mixed results using the system. First, the voice command structure is a little strained, requiring us first to say "phone," then say "handset phone book" before getting to the point where we could tell it to call a specific name. While parked, the system worked fine; however, when we were driving, we had a hard time getting it to understand names on a paired phone.
The 2011 Infiniti earns its highest score for cabin tech, as the car not only comes with a solid cabin tech suite, but it also pioneers some driver-assistance features not seen before. The Forest Air feature of the climate control is also a nice touch. The exterior and interior design, down to the cabin tech interface, is also quite good. Infiniti has established its own design language that uniquely identifies the car. As for performance tech, we like the seven-speed automatic transmission, and the Eco drive mode is very intriguing. But the engine isn't particularly advanced, primarily relying on big displacement for power.
|Model||2011 Infiniti M56x|
|Power train||5.6-liter V-8|
|EPA fuel economy||16 mpg city/23 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||17.6 mpg|
|Navigation||Hard drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible CD/DVD player|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, USB drive, auxiliary input, Bluetooth streaming audio, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Bose 16 speaker 5.1 surround system|
|Driver aids||Rearview camera, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, adaptive cruise control, distance control|
|Price as tested||$68,260|