The Truth About Cars » M56 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 07 Oct 2015 22:18:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » M56 Review: 2012 Infiniti M35h Hybrid Wed, 14 Sep 2011 18:15:50 +0000 Let’s face it, hybrids are boring. They are slow, complicated, come with hard tires and soft suspensions, sloppy handling, and they look weird. We’ve heard the story before: this hybrid is different. First Lexus gave us the GS and RX hybrids claiming V8 performance with V6 fuel economy, but the result was more like V6 […]

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Let’s face it, hybrids are boring. They are slow, complicated, come with hard tires and soft suspensions, sloppy handling, and they look weird. We’ve heard the story before: this hybrid is different. First Lexus gave us the GS and RX hybrids claiming V8 performance with V6 fuel economy, but the result was more like V6 performance with V6 economy, not really a great sales pitch. Still, hybrids sell well and with Infiniti marching towards mainstream luxury success they “need” a hybrid. Of course, with Infiniti aiming to be the “Japanese BMW”, performance is obviously a prime concern, so the claim from Infiniti that the M35h will deliver “V8 performance and four-cylinder economy” was expected. But is it another case of leather clad disappointment? Let’s find out.

Not too long ago Infiniti dropped off a new M56x at my doorstep, at that time I didn’t much care for the styling, commenting: “Every time I approached the car I felt as if an enormous box-fish was going to devour me.” While the Infiniti M still looks hungry to me, seeing more of them on the road has perhaps warmed me up to the design and I find the form more attractive than before. As we often point out on TTAC, style is terribly subjective and subject to our own personal leanings, so take my opinion with a grain of salt if you like the look. My informal lunch group’s opinions were mixed with some loving the flowing curves and some preferring sharp creases in their sheet metal alá Cadillac and Mercedes.

Inside the M35h (and much like the M56x) there is little to find fault with. But there is also little to identify this M as the hybrid that saves the world and your testosterone. The only change to the well put together cabin for hybrid duty is the charge/power gauge in the cluster replacing the engine temperature gauge found on other M models. The center stack, nav system and trim are all the same (with the hybrid specific software teaks of course) and there are no blue back-lit hybrid badges, EV mode buttons, or displays with growing leaves to be found. This is the sleeper hybrid if there ever was one.

The lack of hybrid bling does not mean the M35h lacks tech, quite the contrary. The M35h gets the same suite of standard and optional gadgets as the base M37, not a bad list to pull from. The 7-inch standard infotainment screen does everything but navigation, iPod and USB integration with Bluetooth speakerphone is standard as is the 6-speaker Infiniti auto system with a single in dash CD player and XM satellite radio. Opting for the $3,350 “premium package” gets you Infiniti’s easy to use navigation system with a high-resolution 8-inch display, Bose 5.1 channel surround sound system with speakers in the seat backs, voice controlled functions, heated steering wheel and cooled front thrones and active cabin nose canceling.

Should you desire the latest in driving nannies, Infiniti is happy to oblige with radar cruise control, collision warning and prevention, lane departure warning and prevention and an accelerator pedal that fights back. The accelerator pedal is perhaps the nanny that people will find the most fault with, especially if you are an aggressive driver. The feature can of course be turned off, but if dialed up to full-on German-au-pair, it will fight you hard, forcing the pedal back at you if you’re driving uneconomically or if it thinks you are getting too close to a car, or if it feels like it needs to stop the car NOW. While I dislike the thought of a car that drives for me, honestly at least half the drivers on the road need this pedal stat. Not that we condone distracted driving, but if you needed to, this car could help you accomplish the feat more safely.

The hybrid system is where the M35h departs from the regular M or the hither-to-normal hybrid. Until recently if you bought a hybrid in North America, you had one of three systems. Honda’s weak-sauce Integrated Motor Assist system just puts a motor between the engine and transmission and is essentially a start/stop system with some extra oomph. GM/BMW/Mercedes developed a crazy-expensive and crazy-complex 2-mode hybrid system which seems to be dying a slow death in the market [Ed: until CAFE rescued the investment]. And lastly we have the original true hybrid system, the Toyota/Ford system which uses a planetary gearbox to allow the engine, motor or both to drive the vehicle. Infiniti took a different approach to “hybridification” by removing the torque converter from a regular 7-speed automatic transmission and in its place stuffing a slim electric motor with two clutch packs (similar to the Hyundai/Kia hybrid system). These clutch packs are what make the Infiniti system innovative and different from the Honda IMA system.

Starting at the front of the car and working your way back, you first find a Nissan 3.5L V6 engine running on the Atkinson cycle (like most hybrids) putting out 302HP and 258lb-ft of twist. After the engine sits a dry clutch pack that allows the engine to start and run while decoupled from the electric motor. Next up we have a 360V AC motor that’s good for 67HP and 199lb-ft directly coupled to the Nissan 7-speed automatic transmission. Located inside the rear of the transmission is a wet clutch pack that allows the engine and motor to be connected with one another to charge the batteries with the vehicle stationary (it also slips to help make gear changes smoother). Decoupling the V6 reduces mechanical losses boosting the electric drive efficiency; this is an area where Honda’s system suffers. Behind the rear seats a 1.4kW lithium-ion battery, wedged where you’d put the 5th bag of golf clubs (Infiniti says a quartet of golfers can still be accommodated and they kindly print a diagram in the trunk to tell you how to manage it). And the final  change is a tall 2.6:1 final drive ratio allowing the V6 to spin leisurely on the freeway (1,600RPM at 60MPH).

Hybrid systems like Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive combine the motor and engine numbers in a way that is not simple addition (google is you must know why), however Infiniti’s system is easy to figure: the peak number is achieved where the HP and torque curves of the engine and motor meet, making the M35h good for a combined 360HP at 6,500RPM and approximately 410lb-ft at 5200RPM. Note: Our combined torque number is an estimate as Infniti does not officially list a combined rating; the “online” 457lb-ft numbers floating around are not accurate according to Infiniti because when the V6’s 258lb-ft peak does not align with the motor’s 199lb-ft peak.

The high torque of the electric motor from very low RPMs make the M35h far faster than the numbers on paper would imply, we easily recorded 5.2 second runs to 60MPH with our lowest taking only 5.03 seconds. The low 1.9 second sprint to 30MPH (the M56 takes 2.3) is perhaps the most telling number because by the time the spedo crested 100 the M35h had lost its lead on the V8 powered M56 clocking a 13.5 second ¼ mile at 103MPH (vs 13.4 at 106 for the V8). Part of the reason the performance is so good is the weight gain, at only 276lbs heavier than the M37, the M35h manages to be 99-lbs heavier than the M56 and slips in just below the AWD M56x on the scales. (The Lexus GS450h is only five pounds heavier.) Stoplight racers be warned however, that after a few 0-60 runs the battery and motor heat up enough that the control circuitry puts the kibosh on at least a portion of the electric assist and by the 6th back-to-back 0-60 run our times had risen to 6.2 seconds.

If you drive the M35h on a normal commute and not a track day, the EPA claims you’ll achieve 27MPG city, 32 highway and 29 combined. In our 7 days and 820 miles with the M35h we averaged a quite respectable 29.1MPG (excluding our track adventures, photo shoots, etc) in our mixed driving of mostly California freeway and rural mountain highway. Our numbers were no doubt buoyed by moderate traffic and a general inability to exceed 72MPH on the highways in the SF Bay Area. Infiniti claims the system will allow you to drive electric only up to 62MPH but in reality there didn’t seem to be much of an upper limit for the EV functionality provided you were gentle on the go-pedal. This is also a key area where the M35h differs from a Prius, to drive at 65MPH, the Prius has to use the engine because of the design of the transmission, the M35h on the other hand just disconnects the engine from the equation. While on a level highway with the cruise control set to 67MPH the hybrid system would switch in and out of electric only mode fairly often with my daily commute spending some 19% of the time in “EV mode” (22% for the lifetime of the car) as figured by the trip computer.

Since the M37 delivered some 22MPG on the same commute, the efficiency gain is noticeable. Thankfully hypermiling skills were not required to achieve our test numbers, but perhaps more strangely a daily jaunt testing all the hypermiling skills from Prius forums didn’t appreciably bump the numbers either. Since Infiniti opted to keep the grippy all-season tires from the non-hybrid M, and thanks to the nearly perfect weight balance, it was possible to test the economy figures on some of my favorite mountain roads. When driven this way the economy certainly drops like a rock (17MPG for that trip), which may sound bad, but put in perspective the lighter G37 convertible scored 11MPG on the same route.

What’s the M35h’s competition? By my estimation it competes most directly with the Lexus GS450h, a sedan that is not long for this world. Since the 2013 GS450h has yet to be announced officially, a comparison to the current hybrid GS is all I can offer. In this match up the GS offers a suitably swish cabin that has aged well but is a definite step behind the M35h’s silver-dist rubbed goodness (the 2013 GS I was able to preview at Pebble Beach has a competitive cabin, but is not a substantial step above the M35h). The GS is also significantly behind the M when it comes to fuel sipping delivering only 22/25/23 (city/highway/combined) EPA numbers, a substantial 26% lower than the 27/32/29MPG numbers Infiniti scored. If that weren’t enough of a shot across the bow of the company known for their hybrid tech, the M also wears a 20% smaller CO2 footprint, if you care about that sort of thing. Driving pleasure in the GS is limited by the CVT that is the heart of the Lexus Hybrid Sybergy Drive system, but that may be balanced out by the M35’s less polished transitions between gasoline and electric power.

With a base price undercutting Lexus by $5,250 and offering more interior room, a real transmisison and improved economy I’d take the M35h over the GS450 any day. Unfortunately like most hybrid cars the M35h has less of a value proposition when compared to its own non-hybrid brethren. The M37 which is cheaper, delivers 8/10ths the speed, 8/10ths the fuel economy and perhaps 11/10ths the luxury feel due to the sometimes quirky nature of the hybrid clutch packs the M35h uses. At the end of the day the M35h is far from a leather clad disappointment like other luxury hybrids, but as long as the M37 is available for sale, I just don’t see the M35h enjoying a place in my garage.

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad. For out Facebook peeps, here’s what you wanted to know: Jason M: Smugness level is similar to a Prius, 1/2 the economy but 2X the car. Andy A: No paddle shifters. Clay C. I tried, but BlendTech doesn’t carry a car-sized blender. Phillip W: We never reached battery depletion levels, try as we might. This is easier in Toyota hybrids because putting the car in N disconnects the generator, the M will still connect the generator whenever it feels like it, N or not. Mirko R: Yes. Marc C: Mileage depends greatly on how you drive, we did however average 29.1 which is the combined EPA number in mixed driving, moderate speeds, moderate acceleration. Sergio P: No idea what the batteries will sell for, my dealer didn’t know either. J S: Not quite sure why Autoblog thought it was more refined than the Lexus system. Infiniti’s solution is perhaps more interesting, and it is newer, but it isn’t as smooth. Given the choice, I’d take the Infiniti.

Infiniti provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas.

Specifications as tested
0-30: 1.9 Seconds
0-60: 5.0 Seconds
¼ Mile: 13.5 Seconds @ 103MPH
Average Fuel Economy: 29.1 MPH
Miles Driven: 820


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Review: 2011 Infiniti M56x Mon, 16 Aug 2010 18:28:22 +0000 Infiniti was born out of international politics. When the Japanese government caved to US demands that exports from Japan be limited, Honda decided that it would be more profitable to sell high-profit (read: more expensive) variants of the Accord branded as an Acura Legend than an equal number of Civics. Soon Toyota was rumored to […]

The post Review: 2011 Infiniti M56x appeared first on The Truth About Cars.


Infiniti was born out of international politics. When the Japanese government caved to US demands that exports from Japan be limited, Honda decided that it would be more profitable to sell high-profit (read: more expensive) variants of the Accord branded as an Acura Legend than an equal number of Civics. Soon Toyota was rumored to be plotting to do one better with their F1 project and Nissan knew they couldn’t be late to the party. Japan’s third brand’s solution was the 1990 Q45, which looked like a Ford Crown Victoria in drag. Sadly its replacement in 1997 wasn’t much better and the total re-design in 2002 was too little, too late. In the end Nissan canned the Q-ship deciding to make the Infiniti M battle the medium to large imports solo.

The 2011 M56x wears all-new sheet metal, but shares the same basic platform with essentially all Infiniti models except the QX, and that’s not a bad thing. The G37 is often praised for its handling and the FX50 is probably the fastest cross-trainer money can buy. Beating under the hood is the new 5.6L VK56VD Nissan V8. Equipped with direct injection and variable valve timing and variable valve lift, this big V8 puts out a respectable 420HP and 417ft-lbs of torque.

It has been said in the past at TTAC that auto reviewers are not graduates of design academies and I am no different. While I may not be qualified to comment on the aesthetics of the M56x, I have to say it doesn’t appeal to me. Every time I approached the car I felt as if an enormous boxfish was going to devour me. “Polarizing” is the best word to use to describe the styling; passengers either loved it or hated it with a passion. Styling aside, the exterior exudes quality: the panel gaps are all perfect, there are plenty of shiny chrome parts to make you feel special and thankfully there is no hint of Crown Victoria to be found.

On the inside the M56 provides much the same experience. All the components are premium in appearance and feel from the pleather dash to the illuminated door sills. Infiniti’s latest commercials boast about the pure silver dust that is rubbed into the wood trim before being epoxy coated. Seriously, silver dust? Aside from bragging rights, I’m not sure pixie dust will turn Infiniti into a mainstream luxury competitor overnight. Much like the outside, style is the in the eye of the beholder when it comes to the interior. One thing is for sure, the shape of the dashboard lends a somewhat claustrophobic feeling to the driving position. Besides being large and in-your-face, the bizzare waterfall of wood has another problem: poor ergonomics. The buttons and knobs are oddly sized, strangely located and since the console sits only a few inches away, I found myself just avoiding the entire stack.

Behind the wheel one has to constantly remember that the M56 is a luxury car, not a sports car. Perhaps it is the extreme styling that lends to this confusion. When I’m piloting an E550 I don’t feel the need to push the car, but not so in the M56. This is a problem, because when pushed in the corners, the M56x feels oddly lethargic compared to the regular M56. The AWD system certainly makes the steering a hair more numb and the whole experience feels “heavy” compared to the M56. When it comes time to merge, the AWD fortunately exacts only a small toll on performance.  With my GTech accelerometer based performance meter, the M56 scoots from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds, which is not far off the 5.2 seconds I clocked in a similarly equipped two wheel drive M56 back-to-back (no rollout). Despite not being as sharp as the M56, I will have to break with auto-journalist tradition and say that I actually prefer the AWD M56x to its RWD brother. The ability to accelerate effortlessly on any road condition is my personal definition of luxury with sporting pretentions. Aside from the .2 seconds the M56x gives up to 60, highway fuel economy takes a 2MPG hit and your pocket book will be $2,500 lighter.

Electronic gadgets are really what take the M56 from a me-too luxury competitor to something for geeks to lust for. Starting on the inside drivers are treated to all the usual features you expect in a mid-size luxury barge along with “Forest Air” which varies fan speed and which vent the air comes out of to simulate a breeze, an air quality management system with a “plasmacluster” ion generator, Bose active noise cancellation, and surround sound speakers imbedded in the front seat backs. Most of these gadgets worked as advertised with the possible exception of the noise cancelling system. I had passengers press cover the microphones with their fingers and nobody could tell a difference in noise levels (the M is already very quiet), I wish Infiniti would have invested the money they spent on the noise cancellation system in their front seats. The lumbar support is positioned in an odd position and is not height adjustable making the seat somewhat uncomfortable for long car trips.

Nannies in luxury cars are nothing new. Most luxury brands offer reminders to stay in your lane, mind your blind spot, or tell you when to stop and have a cup of coffee. Infiniti takes the nanny state to the next level with prevention systems rather than just warning systems.  Lane Departure Prevention not only monitors your position in your lane and tells you when you cross the line, but if will actually apply the brakes on one side of the car to keep you in your lane. Similarly the Blind Spot Avoidance system will act yet more drastically to keep you from sideswiping that motorcycle in your blind spot. While the Lane Departure system’s intervention is a gentle tug, the Blind Spot system is more of a shove back in your lane.

Infiniti offers the prerequisite radar cruise control, but with another socialist twist: a pedal that fights back. The radar cruise control with Intelligent Brake Assist system will essentially brake for you [to a complete stop] in many situations. The easiest way to describe it is like this: you are following a car on a surface street, the car begins to slow for a red light, if the M56 sees that you are closing on the car in front of you it will begin pushing the accelerator pedal up at you to indicate your need to act, if you lift off the accelerator and you are close enough to the car in front, the M56 will automatically apply the braked taking you all the way to a complete stop. Having your car stop completely for you in a normal traffic situation is a very strange feeling, but once you get used to it, it does become second nature.

Rounding out the nannie list is the ECO Pedal, if green motoring is your thing, you wouldn’t buy a sedan with a 5.6L V8, but if you ever feel guilty, just twist the transmission mode knob to ECO and the pedal will fight back if you drive in an uneconomical manner.

The M56 is quite possibly the closest you can get to a car that drives itself. “I” drove for about 20 miles on I-280 essentially hand-and-foot free; sure the car drove like a drunk, but never the less it stayed in its own lane and didn’t hit anything. Impressive. Here is another moment where I must break from the main-line auto review pack: I loved the electronic nannies. Maybe I have some unrequited control fetish waiting to be released, but I think a car that nags me to be a better driver is the best thing since fuzzy handcuffs. Infinti: when you have a car that will completely steer and park itself, sign me up.

Bottom line: The M56x Infiniti loaned us tipped the scales at $66,850 which sounds expensive, but when you option up the E550 or 550i to similar equipment levels, the M56 offers an almost $9,000 advantage and delivering an interior that is superior to the Mercedes and sporting pretensions similar to the new softer 5-series. Compared to the A6 4.2, the Infiniti brings more power and features to the table for a similar price tag, along with an interior that is just about as good. If Infiniti could market them a better brand image, then the M might just be a better buy than an LS460. At the end of the day while I applaud Infiniti for creating a car that gives the major players a run for their money, the styling is enough for me to say “no thanks.” On the other hand, at least half of the people I ran into love the style, if the looks work for you, you can’t go wrong by putting one in your garage.

Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review.

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