2012 Infiniti QX56 Expert Review:Autoblog
Ask any braniac elementary school student what happened to the dinosaurs, and they'll tell you they turned into birds. While the mechanics are a bit more complicated than a momma T-Rex hatching a brood of yellow finches, modern science would seem to agree with the concept. When we were in school, the common perception was that those massive lizards parted ways with terra firma courtesy of a jumbo-sized meteor smack. Our Earth Science books called it a mass extinction, and they accompanied the definition with helpful illustrations that depicted contemplative Brontosaurus and Triceratops herds looking off into the distance as a chunk of orange sky plummeted toward the horizon.
So you can't really blame us for thinking that the SUV would follow a similar natural path. When fuel prices shot up, many rejoiced at the thought of global body-on-frame extinction. This was the event some had been patiently waiting for since the high-riding people movers first supplanted the minivan as the family cruiser of choice. And while we've certainly seen weaker species succumb to the heat of pressure from more efficient breeds, the strong continue to soldier on, slowly adapting to a world grown hostile to anything big and thirsty. If you believe Infiniti, that's exactly what the 2011 QX56 has done – evolved.
Photos by Zach Bowman / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
Ask Infiniti why they bothered to build a third generation QX at all, and they'll politely tell you that the average buyer is one of the youngest and most affluent luxury vehicle consumers out there. The average guy or gal with a QX56 fob in their pocket is 45 years old – a full seven years younger than the national average for all luxury owners – and the luxury arm from Nissan says that its SUV is a sort of brand gateway drug that will have buyers returning to showrooms for years to come.
Instead of abandoning the dwindling large SUV segment altogether, the company has given its flagship QX56 a whole new set of bones. The truck is now based on the globe-crushing Nissan Patrol instead of the Nissan Armada platform, and as such, the dimensions have stayed fairly uniform every which way but up. The new generation bears a nearly identical track compared to the 2010 model, though the truck is three inches shorter thanks to a revised roof rack system. Even so, headroom remains unimpeded.
This isn't a segment that embraces shrinkage, so it's safe to assume that jaws won't drop when consumers discover that this big-boy SUV retains the same waist size. What is surprising is that Infiniti has let the truck's styling evolve into something that fits alongside its G and M siblings. The hard lines of the Armada DNA have been replaced with a calmer aesthetic thanks to a host of gentle curves and arches. Up front, the old blingtastic grille has been swept into a familial "double arch" design that's more cohesive with the rest of the vehicle. The QX56 still holds onto its low-mounted headlights from the last generation, though they've morphed into a much sleeker, form-fitting shape. In photos, the SUV may resemble everyone's favorite white whale, but the look is surprisingly cohesive in the flesh.
From the side, your eye is immediately drawn to those fender vents. The pieces are one part wince, one part engineered awesome, but all Pep Boys. At least the driver's side inlet is actually functional and operates as the intake point for the engine, but the passenger-side chrome is there simply for symmetry's sake. We're not quite sure what we would have preferred to show up in their place, but the vents look like an afterthought borrowed from the Buick parts bin.
If you believe Infiniti, the interior in the QX56 was inspired by the inside of an executive jet. We'd love to be able say whether or not that's a fair comparison, but honestly, we've never gotten within whiffing distance of a private aircraft's leather chairs. We can say that should you ever find yourself fortunate enough to be skimming the skies in a multimillion-dollar airliner, we hope the cabin is as nice as what you find in the new Infiniti bruiser. The front seats are a kind of infinitely-adjustable guilty pleasure. Even at this price point, manufacturers like Cadillac have no problem supplying you with leather-dipped versions of the same thrones found in lesser trucks, but the buckets in the Infiniti are as comfortable as can be.
Infiniti has all but banished hard plastics from the cabin in favor of plenty of leather and other soft touch goodies. The center stack is trimmed in the same plush hide as the seats, complete with excellent stitching. A smoked burlwood of some exotic origin fills the spaces between the vehicle controls, and a handful of chrome accents crop up in all the right places. You won't find any design-shockers on the dash, but everything is easy to access and the controls don't require a computer science degree to navigate.
One of the most useful features onboard is the company's Around View Monitor, a bit of tech that's been popping up in Infiniti models for the past couple of years. The system uses a total of five cameras to help you figure out exactly where the QX56 is in relation to objects around it. If it sounds like a useless piece of kit, we suggest hopping on down to your closest Infiniti dealership for a demonstration. It makes short work of parking lots, detritus-laden garages and towing a trailer in tight spaces.
The QX56 is an eight-passenger craft thanks, in part, to a second row comprised of two buckets and a console instead of the standard bench. Infiniti managed to stretch the second-row leg room to a hefty 41 inches, besting its closest competitor, the Mercedes-Benz GL450, by a full inch and a half. Even with Kareem Abdul Jabar in the pilot's seat, there's plenty of room in the second row for the long-legged. For 2011, the SUV also boasts a slick new power folding seat on the passenger side. Push a button and the unit collapses to make ingress and egress a snap for passengers in the third row.
Speaking of the way-back seats, Infiniti has worked in a new power mechanism that can fold the third row flat to make room for additional cargo. The unit isn't exactly lightening quick, but it beats the pants off of fiddling with tethers, levers and locks. The third row also comes equipped with a power reclining feature that goes a long way toward making the seats more habitable for well-fed adults. We still wouldn't want to spend more than an hour back there, but the space should be more than enough for kids up to tween age.
All in all, the interior is well executed no matter where you're sitting. Though, we aren't entirely without gripe. We would've enjoyed more user-friendly steering wheel controls, as the cruise is operated by no less than five buttons and toggles, and the slew of switchgear is somewhat overwhelming as you're driving along at speed. Likewise, Infiniti has chosen to nestle the adjustments for the side-view mirrors near the driver's left knee instead of on the door panel. We found ourselves rocking back and forth like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman as we tried to find a visibility sweet-spot.
Get past the side-view mirror woes and into traffic, and it quickly becomes clear just how much work went into bringing the third-generation QX56 to life. By moving to the truck to the Nissan Patrol platform, the company managed to slim the curb weight by a healthy 161 pounds. Couple that to a 5.6-liter, direct-injection V8 with 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, and the new SUV has no problem getting out of its own way.
Infiniti says that other than the displacement, the engine shares nothing with the lump in the 2010 QX. Despite the additional 80 horsepower and 20 lb-ft, the new powerplant serves up 14 percent better fuel economy, according to the EPA. That means drivers can expect close to 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway – not entirely impressive, but you then again, you can't tow 8,500 pounds with a Toyota Prius.
Those fuel-economy numbers are partially due to the fact that Infiniti threw an extra three gears into the QX transmission, resulting in an all-new seven-speed unit that keeps the big V8 breathing easy at highway speeds. The 2011 model also boasts a revised four-wheel drive system. Under normal driving conditions, all of the engine's power is directed toward the rear wheels, though up to 50 percent of the grunt can be ushered to the front as necessary. The driver can still lock the system in a 50/50 split via a four-high button, and four-low will still pull you through the really nasty stuff should you ever venture off of your pea-gravel driveway.
Abandoning the Armada platform in favor of Patrol guts had another benefit for Infiniti engineers: stiffness. The company boasts that the new high-rider has less body roll than most luxury sedans thanks in part to a 26 percent increase in torsional rigidity in both the body and frame. Less flex is good, even if you never plan on shuffling the big QX56 through a slalom. Those buyers willing to lay down the extra $5,800 for the Deluxe Touring Package will also enjoy what Infiniti calls the Hydraulic Body Motion Control System – essentially two fluid reservoirs front and rear that send liquid from one side to another to reduce roll and vibration. Trust us when we say it makes a huge difference on how the SUV behaves on the road.
The numbers all talk a pretty good talk, and for the most part, their sum means that the QX56 drives more like a big sedan than a lumbering brute. Power from that reworked V8 is more than ample, and when you give the truck the spurs, it responds with capable speed and a flurry of seamless shifts. Thanks in part to its lower overall height, stability feels greatly improved over the old Armada-based QX, and you find yourself carrying more speed through tight corners than should be possible. We would have liked to have seen more communicative steering in a vehicle of this size, though – the steering wheel offers next to no feedback and was overly sensitive, resulting in lane wandering of the worst variety. Likewise, the brakes, while plenty powerful, are controlled by a less-than-confidence-inspiring pedal. We don't expect racecar characteristics here, but a little firmness never hurts.
For our money, if the luxury SUV genus is to survive for our posterity, it might as well look like the QX56. For 2011, the truck's engineers have managed to give the creation the camouflage it needs to survive in a world dominated by new breeds of crossover, all while keeping the base price identical to the 2010 model – the new Q starts at $56,700 for the two-wheel drive model. It's more comfortable, more controllable, more efficient and more powerful than its ancestors. There may come a day when the QX mutates from the body-on-frame beast we have come to know and love into a more svelte unibody design, but we hope we aren't around to see it.
Photos by Zach Bowman / Copyright ©2009 Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Newly redesigned luxury SUV seats eight.
The Infiniti QX56, referred to by its makers as being like a private jet, is more like a hotel room on wheels than a truck. You can control the lighting, set the thermostats front and rear, move the furniture around, and choose your entertainment.
Fit, finish, tolerances and materials are at the top of the class. The first- and second-row bucket seats are some of the thickest, most comfortable we've ever tried. Underway, the QX56 is quiet, plush, luxurious, and very easy to drive. It comes loaded with equipment, including a vast array of electronic entertainment and information available to its family users.
The Infiniti QX56 offers seven or eight seats and 8500-pound towing capability. It comes in rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, with a five-mode all-wheel-drive system controlled by a wheel on the console.
The Infiniti QX56 was totally redesigned for 2011 and is unchanged for the 2012 model year. The QX56 is lower and wider and more stylish than the pre-2011 models. The Infiniti QX56 competes with the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX 570, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Audi Q7, and Range Rover.
The 2011 redesign eliminated a lot of the oddball design touches that characterized the original QX. It's much more aerodynamic than before, and third-row headroom was increased. The frame underneath was all-new for 2011 also, with a new fully independent suspension, automatic rear load-leveling, and an available active suspension.
A 5.6-liter V8 benefits from 32 valves and double overhead-camshafts with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing and lift to generate 400 horsepower and 413 foot-pounds of torque.
The QX56 powertrain also features a 7-speed transmission designed for first-gear acceleration for the 5600-pound truck and its cargo or trailer, while the top two gears are both overdrive for good highway fuel economy. The 7-speed automatic transmission has adaptive shifting to match each driver's driving style, with manual shift override, including a sporty throttle-blip provided on manual downshifts.
Four-wheel-drive versions of the QX56 have a selector switch on the console offering automatic, four-wheel-drive high, four-wheel-drive low, low lock, tow mode and snow modes. The auto mode moves engine torque back and forth between front and rear axles up to 100 percent rear, but no higher than 50 percent front.
Compared to 2010 and older models, this latest QX56 is 2.1 inches shorter in wheelbase (at 121.1 inches) for sharper handling, and the front and rear tracks are wider. Body width has increased by 1.1 inches, and length by 1.4-inches while overall height has been lowered by a huge 3.2 inches. Yet despite all the body, chassis and interior changes, the 2012 QX56 is about the same weight as the old truck.
Like every modern luxury SUV, the 2012 QX56 carries plenty of electronic technology onboard to make driving safer and more enjoyable. A tire pressure inflation indicator system honks the horn and flashes the hazard flashers when correct tire inflation pressure is reached, thus eliminating the fill-and-check, fill-and-check ritual with a tire pressure gauge. This may surprise you if you forget it has this feature the first time you add air at a service station.
After such a major overhaul for 2011, changes to the 2012 Infiniti QX56 are modest. Perhaps the most significant change is the new Blind Spot Intervention (BSI) technology, an industry first according to Infiniti, that goes a step beyond Blind Spot Warning systems by using selective braking to steer the 2012 QX56 back into the center of its own lane should the driver stray into the path of a vehicle approaching in an adjacent lane. Other changes for 2012 are confined to the content of various option packages.
The 2012 Infiniti QX56 comes in two models, the rear-wheel-drive QX56 ($59,200) and the all-wheel-drive QX56 4WD ($62,300). (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
The 2012 QX56 comes standard with leather seating and trim; multi-adjustable power seats, tri-zone climate control; a multi-function steering wheel; power windows, mirrors, and locks; cruise control; and four 12-volt power points. The hard-drive navigation system comes standard and includes XM NavWeather, XM NavTraffic, the Zagat Survey restaurant guide, and voice activation for navigation, audio and vehicle systems check. It also comes with a Bose 13-speaker AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3 sound system with XM satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, auxiliary and USB connections, and iPod compatibility. The standard seating configuration is two front bucket seats, two second-row bucket seats with a second console, and a three-place folding rear seat, but if the customer needs seating for eight, a folding second-row bench seat is available (at no extra cost, providing you order the Theater Package).
Option packages must be stacked in an order dictated by Infiniti. Any QX56 can be ordered with the Theater Package ($2,950), which buys twin 7-inch screens mounted on the front-seat headrests, two sets of wireless headphones, auxiliary audio/video input jacks, and a 120-volt power outlet to power up gaming consoles or other entertainment equipment; plus heated second-row seats with remote tip-up control.
If you choose the Theater Package, you can further upgrade to the Tire and Wheel Package ($2,300), which consists of 275/55R22 tires on 22-inch 9-spoke forged alloy wheels.
With those two boxes ticked, you can add the Deluxe Touring Package ($4,500), featuring Bose 5.1 Cabin Surround audio with 15 speakers, Hydraulic Body Motion Control, semi-aniline leather seats with heating and cooling in the front row, an upgraded HVAC system, Mocha Burl interior trim, and headlamp washers.
Only on top of all the above can you add the Technology Package ($3,000), with Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, which will actively brake the car to prevent a collision; Intelligent Cruise Control; adaptive front lighting for cornering; pre-crash seat-belt tensioners; Lane Departure Warning and Prevention; and Blind Spot Warning and Intervention. These last two will actually steer the vehicle back onto its intended path if the driver lets it wander into the next lane and ignores the warning.
Safety equipment includes six airbags, front, side-impact and curtain, ABS brakes, traction control, yaw control. The optional all-wheel drive and the Technology Package further enhance safety as they can help the driver avoid an accident.
The Infiniti QX56 exterior was a clean-sheet-of-paper redesign for 2011, and continues unchanged for 2012.
It looks far cleaner than any previous QX56 body, with a more rounded and unified appearance and fewer things that look added on, like squared-off fender flares and chrome strips. The entire nose has been rounded off and each element integrated into a unified whole that looks better and works better in the wind tunnel and on the showroom floor. The dipped rear roof section on pre-2011 models has been abandoned in favor of a flat roof, the pillars have been blacked out, and the door handles chromed and lined up. Twenty-inch wheels and tires fill the wheel wells, and 22-inchers are optional.
The Infiniti QX56 interior was completely redesigned for 2011.
Extra-thick seats provide exceptional comfort; and the instrument panel, center stack and console are designed to be both user-friendly and to look and feel upscale and luxurious. It seems like the entire cockpit has been built around the 8-inch central screen display, and the center console cascades down from it in a beautiful, organized fashion. The electroluminescent gauges are softly lit, easy to read, and housed in a swoopy escutcheon very much like the one in the new Infiniti M sedan, a piece that adds to the driving pleasure.
Huge second-row seats boast the longest legroom measurement in the class at 41 inches, and can be had with optional heaters. A unique feature of the QX56 interior is the remote-controlled second-row flip-fold seats, operated from the key fob, a feature that lets families load from back to front with a minimum of hassle with the seats.
The third-row seats also power-fold forward to increase the cargo area, and the third-row seats also recline up to 20 degrees.
The Around View monitoring system with front and rear sonar enables the driver to see all the way around the vehicle before moving off, to make sure that there are no people or objects in jeopardy, and that there is room to maneuver.
Underway, the QX56 responds to its 5.6-liter V8 engine. Full-throttle acceleration with two aboard and no cargo is solid if not spectacular, as this engine is tuned for low-end torque, load-hauling and trailer-towing, not high-rpm wailing. It sounds powerful, and it is, but this truck weighs almost 5900 pounds at the curb.
The ride is supremely cushy and quiet, but the body's movements over the suspension are well controlled and there is very little body roll or wallow, even in fast corners, owing to the hydraulic body motion control system. The steering ratio and power assist are perfect for a long, tall, heavy vehicle like this one.
The brakes are powerful and progressive even when soaking wet (we drove nearly the entire day in a raging thunderstorm). The Intelligent Braking System uses sonar ranging to stop the QX56 all by itself as it approaches another stopped vehicle, which is a bit disconcerting at first, but once you get used to it, it's a nice thing to have in stop-and-go traffic, and it's part of the Technology Package.
The Infiniti QX56 is an excellent choice among luxury SUVs starting. The QX comes loaded with features and does everything well except sip gasoline. Smooth, quiet and powerful, it's delightful underway, and the technology that's available will find approval from driver and passengers.
Jim McCraw filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Louisville, Kentucky.
Infiniti QX56 ($59,200); QX56 4WD ($62,300).
Options As Tested
Theater package ($2,950), Technology package ($3,000), Deluxe Touring package ($4,500).
Infiniti QX56 4WD ($62,300).
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