At a time when most automakers are trying to out-angle
one another, Infiniti decided to add a dose of curvy style to its most angular vehicle, the mega-sized QX56 SUV.
But this QX isn't anything like the outgoing model; it's all new from the ground up and it features way more luxury than before.
What is it?
A seven- or eight-passenger (depending on how you configure it) luxury SUV, it has the best of everything from Infiniti's parts bin.
It's essentially the same vehicle as the global market Nissan Patrol, but Infiniti says that the Patrol is actually based on the QX and not the other way around. And we believe them, since the QX doesn't feel like a UN convoy vehicle.
What's it up against?
Consider the QX's playmates to be the Land Rover Range Rover
HSE, Lexus LX 570
, Cadillac Escalade
and Mercedes-Benz GL450, among others.
Among these, only the Cadillac and QX can be ordered as rear-wheel-drive vehicles, an important note for sunbelters looking for space and towing ability but not added traction.
Several. First is the very new design of the QX56. Riding on an entirely new platform, the QX is a surprisingly advanced design for a big SUV. The benefit is a new stiffer frame that has greatly reduced NVH levels throughout.
A surround-around camera, which simulates a 360-degree camera suspended over the vehicle, it allows you to check your surroundings before backing. Active Cruise Control spaces you out from the car in front of you.
Finally, among notable updates, is the new 5.6-liter V8 with Direct Injection, Variable Valve Timing, and a seven-speed automatic transmission.
How does it look?
Wider, longer, lower. But not by more than two inches! Just minor nips and tucks to accommodate a new set of beefier underpinnings. A new, chromed-out grille leads the way with six chrome bars to set the stage for a new breed of cat. And that's the look we saw when observing the cats-eye look of the new headlight assembly. Below the grille is a laser sensor for the adaptive cruise control, and further back, a skidplate to protect the radiator.
The side view makes clever use of the negative space of a black A-pillar, making the new greenhouse appear longer than it really is. Stylized side-gills offer release of trapped hot air-from the engine room, and the truth in our book is that this is the one element of design on the QX that we actually have issues with. On one second we look, and say it works, and on the other hand see it and think that it doesn't.
On the D-pillar is a kink that out kinks BMW's Hofmeister Kink and goes it one further. Again, using dark shades, by way of tinted rear glass, it incorporates a look that actually works. Slightly bulged out wheel wells give way to a body-color set of running boards. Finally, optional 22-inch aluminum alloy wheels set off the larger than life exterior that reminds us of what we like about the QX.
And on the inside?
With more leather than a dominatrix's den, the interior of the QX is a sight to behold. Ours was "wheat" color, as Infiniti likes to call it, but it was an interior awash in luxury. A burled and leather-wrapped steering wheel starts things off and offers all the basic redundant buttons that a driver will likely encounter during a day behind the wheel. A two-toned dashboard features artfully patterned gauges with a scrolled background that adds a touch of delicate details to the overall package.
An eight-inch monitor is located front and center for navigation, around-view camera, audio, Bluetooth and climate control usage, and offers bright views in any kind of light. A by-now familiar control dial sits at the base of the screen for easy operation. The center console displays more burled walnut than one of CF Martin's guitars, and looks absolutely gorgeous doing so.
Generally speaking, materials are top notch. Only a few cheaper buttons and plastics stand out, but they're mostly hidden from view.
In the second row, our rear-wheel-drive model featured in-headrest video monitors for the Infiniti Theater package, which also includes a pair of wireless headphones. The second row captains seats tilt forward for easy access to the third row which is the "way back" that although adults can fit in, would be more at home for seating little people. The third row, incidentally powers forward in a 60-40 arrangement for increased cargo capacity.
With a household AC outlet, and separate climate controls, it's hard to see how anyone would want to get out of the middle row.
But does it go?
The 400-horsepower 5.6-liter direct injection V8 manages to put out 413 lb-f.t of torque, which is more than sufficient for a 5,590 lbs. goliath. Power gets to the rear axle through the seven-speed automatic transmission with manual sportshift function and downshifting with rev-matching (all-wheel-drive adds $3,100).
For extra durability while towing, both rear and all-wheel-drive variants feature a transmission oil cooler as standard. As much as we had to remember that this was a high riding, high center of gravity vehicle, we couldn't help ourselves playing with the downshift rev-matching feature of the seven-speed.
The QX is part of a shrinking field of body-on-frame vehicles. In the grand scheme of things though, nothing tows better. To that end, an auto-leveling rear suspension and class IV trailer hitch are standard. Looking at the suspension, the front and rear ends are double-wishbone arrangements. When you tick the box for the Hydraulic Body Motion Control System, the anti-sway bars are deleted in favor of the updated controls. Combined with the engine speed sensitive rack and pinion system, the result is a vehicle that is surprisingly firm and without wallow.
Driving around town and on the highway, we discovered a vehicle that offered great road visibility, a quiet drive, and plenty of power when necessary to get past lagging out of towners, and big rig tractor trailers. We didn't miss the fact that it was only rear wheel drive, and with its 67.5-inch wide track, it seemed to offer enough stability to instill confidence in any move we asked of it.
With 9.2-inches of ground clearance, it can hop over most obstructions that it encounters but we think most drivers would be well served to order the four-wheel-drive version instead. We found ourselves getting annoyed by the lane departure system's beeping whenever we approached a painted lane stripe. A push of the steering wheel-mounted button was all it took to disable it. The active cruise control's front mounted laser device would occasionally kick off a Valentine1 radar detector as we closed in on a car in front of us, an interesting quirk.
As powerful and smooth as the big Infiniti is, it only turns in a rather tough 14 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway with combined mileage of 16 mpg, about what we saw.
All things considered, that's not so bad.
Why you would buy it:
You'd like an SUV that out-luxuries Lexus.
Why you wouldn't:
You almost need to hook an auxiliary fuel tank trailer to that trailer hitch.
Leftlane's bottom line
Gorgeously appointed with luxurious interior trappings, and blinged out just enough to push the envelope of good taste, Infiniti's new QX56 is good as a rear-wheel-drive vehicle that can only get better with all-wheel-drive version.
The market for vehicles like this is dwindling, but for those who demand the ability to tow - or even bound down a rough unpaved road - the QX56 is king of the class.
2011 Infiniti QX56 RWD
base price, $56,700. As tested, $63,450.
Deluxe Touring Package, $5,800; Theater Package, $2,450; Destination, $950.