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When traditionalists shop for large luxury sedans, many focus on time-tested offerings from Germany. These days, however, Japanese companies like INFINITI produce vehicles that compete with European counterparts on performance and unexpectedly luxurious touches at similar price points.
Starting at $63,700, the 2013 INFINITI M56x is an all-wheel drive version of the rear-wheel drive M56. It sends 420 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque from a 5.6-liter V8 through a seven-speed automatic transmission to all four 18-inch wheels. The M56x also features the INFINITI Drive Mode Selector, which allows drivers to select throttle and shift points for normal or sporting modes, and to optimize economy or performance in foul weather.
Performance, handling and a great exhaust note have been INFINITI strong suits for the last few years, and this is no exception. There's plenty of grin-inducing torque to be found and -- perhaps more importantly -- plenty of braking power to stop the large sedan.
Despite weighing 200 pounds more than its rear-wheel drive sibling, the M56x has crisp handling, due no doubt to the front double-wishbone and rear multilink suspension. Should you want an even more dynamic handling experience, spring for an optional Sport Package that offers a sport-tuned suspension.
Exterior styling -- a long, sleek nose and a sloping roofline -- catches the eye. The interior is spacious and modern. Leather covers most surfaces, including the headliner, and Japanese Ash accents the dash and center console. The front seats are fully climate-controlled and adjustable in 10 directions.
Tech-savvy buyers will appreciate the standard Bluetooth hands-free system and a navigation system with an eight-inch color touchscreen. Tall passengers won't mind riding in the back seat, which has ample legroom; also spacious is the trunk, with 14.9 square feet of cargo room.
While the M56x may only come in one trim, the standard offerings are generous. Luxuries like climate-controlled seats, a heated steering wheel and a suede-like roof liner give the car a feeling of luxury one expects only at higher price points. Other standard features include: Bluetooth; a navigation system with instant weather updates; and a 10-speaker Bose sound system. Available options include: 20-inch wheels, a collision warning system and a sport-tuned suspension for a more dynamic driving experience.
The xDrivei is more fuel efficient than the M56x, but the options are expensive
The interior luxury is class-leading, but be prepared to pay dearly for options
One of the best all-wheel drive systems on the market
Maybe the best rear seat of the bunch, all-wheel drive version is cheaper than the INFINITI but far less powerful.