A brief history

At the 2009 LA Motor Show, Nissan showed off its most luxurious US-bound sedan, the Infiniti M56.

Back in the late '80s, every Japanese car maker worth its salt set up a luxury brand to take on Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the US of A — Toyota came up with Lexus, Honda begat Acura, Nissan birthed Infiniti and, before the bubble burst, even tiny Mazda planned to launch a range of Amanti-badged vehicles.

For a brief period Nissan Australia brought in a few examples of its range-topping Infiniti Q45, but it never quite found its feet like Lexus' LS400. With the Infiniti brand being slowly introduced to Europeans in 2008, hopes were high that it would make its way here too, but the early optimism soon foundered.

If you're especially keen on the Infiniti M your only option, for the time being, is finding one through an approved grey import RAWS dealer — a right-hand drive version of the M is sold in Japan as the Nissan Fuga.

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The essence of elegance

For 2010 Infiniti has given its M car a much-needed update, including a luxury make-over for the interior, a host of new driver technology, new engines and a new interface for its cabin tech.

Body work on the new Infiniti brings it in line with the brand's current design language, giving the front fenders a more defined line along the top and making the flow from rear fenders to the back of the roofline more curvaceous. With the emphasis on performance, the rear seats are not particularly spacious, suggesting that the M isn't intended as a chauffeur-driven car.

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Sporty people everywhere

In the US, the M can be had in both rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive formats. A sport package is available for rear-wheel-drive models that gives the M a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch wheels, sport brakes and Infiniti's four-wheel active steer technology. The M's shock absorbers use two pistons for better damping.

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V8 or V6?

The V8 model, dubbed the M56, uses a 5.6-litre direct injection V8 that gets better power and economy than the outgoing 4.5-litre V8. The 5.6-litre V8 produces 313kW of power and 542Nm of torque. An M37 is also available using Nissan's 3.7-litre V6 — a less sporty version of the engine used in the 370Z.

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Driver tech

Driver assistance technology includes adaptive cruise control, around-view camera, lane departure warning and blind spot detection. Infiniti also makes lane departure prevention and blind spot prevention available. Both technologies cause the car to resist crossing a lane line by braking the offside wheels a little; the driver can override these features quite easily.

The car also features something called Eco-pedal, a technology that pushes back on the accelerator a little if you drive with a heavy foot; likewise Eco-pedal can easily be turned off.

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Finite driving

The M56 comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A knob on the console controls the new Infiniti Drive feature that lets you choose from four performance modes: snow, eco, normal and sport. These settings remap the performance characteristics of engine and transmission.

Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET

Cabin tech

The M56 uses the current package of Infiniti cabin tech, including a hard drive-based navigation system with traffic, on-board music storage and iPod integration. The interface knob has been changed substantially, though, losing its directional buttons in favour of joystick operation. The look is more elegant, but we still prefer the functionality of the former setup.

Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET

Shoulder pads

The Touring package for the M56 includes a 16-speaker Bose 5.1 surround audio system, with speakers mounted on the shoulders of the seat backs.

Via CNET US

Photo by: Josh Miller/CNET
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