2011 Infiniti M56S - Click above for high-res image gallery
What is an Infiniti? That's a pretty harsh question to be asking 20 years after the brand's debut, but sadly, it's pertinent. To be fair, the possible answers to this question got much narrower in 2003 when Infiniti introduced a legitimate BMW 3 Series competitor, the G35 (now G37). The situation further clarified that same year when the "Bionic Cheetah," known to the rest of us as the FX showed its (then) quite handsome face. But it was the 2005 introduction of the second generation M sedan that announced most loudly Infiniti's luxury-performance aspirations: to kick BMW in the back of the pants.
When it debuted, the M (specifically M45S) was a better sporting sedan than the BMW 545i. It had more power, it arguably handled better, and the heavily larded-on high-tech gizmos were worlds more user-friendly than BMW's first-generation iDrive (two minutes to tune in a radio station sucks). Only problem was father time, who simply wasn't kind to the ultimately frumpy looking M. While the rest of the world's sporting, mid-size sedans evolved into better, sharper, faster machines (see the astonishingly good Mercedes-Benz E-Class), the Infiniti M languished on the vine. A good car? Yes, for sure, but by its less-than-notable refresh in 2008, the M had became an also-ran. All it really had going for it was a lower price than the competition, which isn't exactly a strong selling point in such a cachet-conscious segment.
Recently, Infiniti invited the U.S. motoring press down to mostly-sunny San Diego to meet and drive its new 2011 M cars. Lo and behold, we think we may now know what an Infiniti is.