Infiniti QX56, a luxury land barge that coddles, but also hauls and pulls a load
Published: March 10, 2011
|Doubtful that even a few years ago many folks would have thought they’d consider a luxury vehicle made in Mississippi, but times change. |
Nissan built a new plant in Canton, Miss., to build its large sport-utility trucks and so both its Nissan Armada and now the luxury-brand Infiniti QX56 are created there. Both look huge, like land barges on the scale of Ford’s former Excursion.
But looks can be deceiving. While I was besieged by comments about the heft and girth of the QX during my test drive, I had to caution friends and neighbors that this wasn’t the largest ute on the road. It just looks that way.
In fact, the QX56 is a full 14 inches shorter than a GMC Yukon Denali XL or it’s twin, Chevrolet’s Suburban. Really! It’s an inch shorter in height too, but is 0.8 inches wider. That’s a small victory for those finger pointers wagging at the QX’s girth. Yet the QX is 219 pounds lighter than the Denali XL AWD.
This is actually much more a competitor for the GMC Yukon Denali, being roughly six inches longer than GM’s most upscale ute in this size segment. Yet all other dimensions and weights are nearly identical between the QX and Yukon Denali.
|Infiniti wins the luxury battle, but the two again are nearly identical on power. The QX boasts 400 horses from its 5.6-liter V8, while the Denali touts 403 hp from its 6.2-liter V8. The towing edge, if that’s what you intend for your giant luxo-ute, goes to the Infiniti at 8,500 pounds vs. 8,100 for the Denali. For the record, a standard Yukon or Chevy Tahoe features a 320-horse 5.3-liter V8. |
Overall the power and usefulness seem better in the Infiniti, plus coupled with the truck’s ultra-smooth shifting 7-speed automatic transmission makes this feel considerably more luxurious than the GM utes.
Ride is great in the QX too, its independent suspension eating up rough roads. Railroad crossings are barely a bother and folks inside are basically coddled as they are cradled to their destinations. Aiding that are giant 22-inch H-rated tires underneath, part of a $5,800 luxury package that also includes a hydraulic body motion control system. (Think how much it’ll cost to replace those giant tires a few years down the road too!)
Handling is typical big truck, with such a soft feel to the wheel that the QX56 can sometimes wander in its lane as you are lulled into a less attentive state inside. That would be more of a problem if not for lane-departure warning systems (part of an $2,850 option package) that both beep annoyingly at you if you even approach a lane marker, and even partially apply the brakes as you wander from your lane to give you time to correct the situation.
I found the constant beeping, from keeping the wide beast corralled, annoying. So I ended up turning the systems off. They are primarily aimed at dozing drivers on longer trips, so if I was cruising across the Dakotas, I’d probably leave the warning system on.
A more intriguing system, also part of the option package, is Distance Control Assist, which works similarly to a system I experienced on a Volvo a couple years ago. DCA notices (via sonar, like intelligent cruise control) if you’re gaining too quickly on a vehicle ahead that is stopped or nearly so. It immediately slows the car, often braking hard, to help the driver avoid an accident. This could be helpful in stop-and-go traffic, although it kicked in on me one time when a vehicle in front of me was slow to turn right onto a side street. I was about to move over to avoid the car, but the QX braked heavily just at that instant.
This ute was full of electronic safety devices, but most helpful are the blind-spot warning system and rear backup camera, the first helping you avoid an accident, the other avoiding parking lot dents and dings. I like the Infiniti blind-spot system as a small light blinks adjacent to the side mirrors, but inside the car, when a vehicle sneaks into the blind spot. It’s a much more visible spot than on the mirrors, where many of these systems seem to be located. Plus with the system indoors, there’s no chance of a fogged or iced window or mirror obstructing your view of the light.
Infiniti’s backup camera offers the rear view, but also an overhead bird’s-eye view of your truck as you back up, intriguing and even more useful than just the backward view.
Braking is strong in the QX with four-wheel discs, a stability control program, traction control and that hydraulic body motion control program that helps this big box be less impacted by strong winds or tight cornering.
Gas mileage isn’t great. I got 15.5 mpg while the EPA rates this 400-horse box at 14 mpg city and 20 highway. By way of comparison, the Denali is rated 13 mpg city and 18 highway.
|Inside, you can be sure this meets all luxury needs and wants from creamy looking and feeling leather seats to mocha burl trim on the dash, console and steering wheel. I’d lose the wood on the wheel and stick with leather. Even with the heated steering wheel turned on that wood is nippy on cold mornings. |
The dark currant red test truck also added a $2,450 theater package with dual 7-inch monitors on the back of the front headrests, along with two wireless headphones a wireless remote and 120-volt power outlet, plus auxiliary input jacks). Add to that a power hatch, power third row seats that you can power down for more storage and adjust the rear seat angle for comfort, and two quick-release buttons on the console to quickly lower and spring the second row seats forward so third-row folks can crawl out.
There’s all the usual luxury stuff too, like satellite radio, a super sound system, sliding visors, heated and cooled front seats and heated second row seats, foot well lights in the second row and headlight washers, all part of that $5,800 option package. Naturally the interior is especially comfortable. Seats are fairly flat, but well cushioned, and it’s super quiet inside. Additionally, it’s easy for adults to crawl into the third row, although those seats are real hard.
Sadly, climbing aboard or departing the vehicle is tough. The step-up is huge, but there’s a foot rail or running board. Problem is, some designer decided to partially recess it (no doubt for looks), so it’s hard to get a full foot on the rail as you climb out, especially if you’re wearing boots. That’s really tough for older riders and even some younger ones complained. Add in some moisture on a rainy day and you have the recipe for someone falling.
Pricing? Well, the Infiniti is just barely more than the GMC Yukon Denali, starting at $59,800 compared to $58,900 for the Denali. Yet with all the bells, whistles, sensors and such the test ute hit a monster $72,560. That’s skewing way toward the luxury end.
You could buy a nice mid-size ute for 60% of that, so you only need to go this big if you need to haul more folks and tow a big trailer too, and if you need to be coddled and cushioned with a load of luxury extras.
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