|2011 Infiniti QX56
|2011 Infiniti QX56
By Twain Mein
- Amazingly nimble handling with surprising lack of body lean
- Huge interior and more rear legroom than flying business class on Jet Blue
- Powerful engine with excellent acceleration
- Beautiful interior with incredibly comfortable seats
- The traction of all-mode 4-wheel drive
- A twin-turbo V8 that has more than enough muscle to haul your Airstream trailer and gets respectable MPG
- Controversial exterior styling
- Ultra-wide chassis almost requires a “wide load” sign on the rear bumper
- Cargo room behind third row is disappointingly small
The 2011 Infiniti QX56 is obscenely huge—across many dimensions. The 4WD version we tested tips the scales at 5,850 pounds or three tons with me on board. It’s also got a mammoth 5.6 liter engine that burps out 400 horsepower and 413 lb-feet of torque. Harnessing this engine is a seven-speed transmission which helps it to eek out an surprisingly efficient 14/20 mpg rating. The rig also roles on dubs; 275/50 series tires wrap 22 inch rims – yes, 22 inchers! In fact, at 208 inches long and nearly 80 inches wide, this behemoth is actually longer and wider than the Cadillac Escalade and positively dwarfs our 2006 Toyota Highlander. Infiniti keeps the jiggle to a minimum, though, by using hydraulic shocks to compensate for its mass providing surprisingly svelte handling.
The base price for the QX56 is $59,800 but ours was optioned to the hilt. Included with 4WD, this was equipped with:
- Theater package – Dual rear DVD monitors and headphones.
- Technology package – Intelligent cruise control, blind spot warning, lane departure warning/prevention, distance control assist, intelligent brake assist and forward collision warning, front pre-crash seatbelts, adaptive front lighting system.
- Deluxe Touring package – aforementioned 22 inch wheels with 275/50 tires, hydraulic body motion control system, front seat coolers/heaters, heated second row seats, remote tip-up second row seats, and illuminated kick plates.
As equipped, the SUV totaled $72,475.
The exterior styling is controversial. The front end, with its beady eyes, three side gills, and gaping mouth recall a whale shark. The massive flanks are sculpted and seem to prune some of the weight. The wheels are stunning, however, in total, it is no beauty queen. On the inside, the interior is spacious and the view out is outstanding. And despite its mass, there were no real blind spots.
Climbing aboard this massive SUV wasn’t exactly graceful. You have to step up over or on the kick plates. Once in, you are ensconced with beautiful leather seats and pleasing wood-grain trim. Fire up the engine with the starter button, and the 5.6 liter V-8 comes to life. With 400 horsepower, light wheelspin is surprisingly evident. At highway speeds, the SUV is positively vault-like with virtually no wind or road noise. Yet the torquey engine (413 foot-pounds) effortlessly slings you from 60 to 80 mph with zero drama. It’s incredible to blow by cars in this huge beast.
This was one of the most well-made cars I’ve ever had the opportunity to drive. Incredibly, the doors, while huge, were easy to close. The seats and dash had a tension of leather that felt like quality. The dash and controls exuded quality and weren’t overly shiny. Very impressive.
Interior comfort and ergonomics
The interior is truly this SUV’s strong suit. The front seats were among the most comfortable I’ve ever been in while the rear seats offered huge leg room and similar comfort to the front. Even the third row offered acceptable head room and leg room for my six foot height.
While my kids adored the dual rear DVD screens and sat silently watching while en route to the weekend soccer game, I was impressed with the Nav systems updates on the rainy and windy conditions that enveloped us. The easy-to-use infotainment system warned us of high wind warnings and local flooding. Pretty cool.
Later during the test period, after a run in the rain, I came back to the Infiniti and cranked up the heated steering wheel and heated seats; it was true luxury have these features to warm up. Additionally, the one-touch buttons which tumbled the rear seats forward, were impressive and would be helpful for getting kids in the way back should the situation occur.
The third row seats, however, were a bit disappointing. Unlike the “rapid release” second row seats, the third row had to be electronically moved up or down. And while they provided a lot of adjustment, it took a while to fold them flat. I am surprised there wasn’t an option to manually flop them forward. The third row seats intrude significantly on cargo space when upright. I was surprised how little room there was behind them once upright (just 16.6 cubic feet). This said, with the third row folded, there is plenty of space for gear (49.6 cubic feet), and with both rows folded, there is an impressive 95 cubic feet of storage.
Performance and Handling
The Infiniti weighs nearly six thousand pounds – three tons! Yet the hydraulic suspension system provided an incredibly flat ride that inspired confidence. The steering was impressive as well and provided good feedback. The acceleration was effortless (0-60 in around 6.5 seconds) and the handling inspired confidence. Even in heavy winds, the huge shape somehow seemed immune to crosswinds. Unfortunately, the huge width of this SUV was a bit intimidating; the lane warning beeps would squawk repeatedly in routine city traffic as cars coming along the sides would scoot by.
At the base price of $60,000, the Infiniti isn’t cheap. At $72,500 as tested, it is pretty expensive. However, for an upscale SUV, the Infiniti offers a remarkable amount of creature comforts, performance, and luxury while still returning a respectable 16mpg combined gas mileage. Even the 13.8 mpg that we averaged was remarkable considering its size and weight and my lead-footed driving. Ride-wise, the Infiniti rode smoother and felt more powerful than a Toyota Land Cruiser, likely its main competition.
This is a remarkable SUV. Despite its huge size, it offers exceptional handling, excellent acceleration, and an incredible amount of creature comforts. While not the prettiest on the outside, its performance and interior comforts deserve a serious look for those in the market for a luxury SUV.
|The official website of Infiniti – www.infinitiusa.com|