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Full-size SUVs seem almost forgotten these days; they become unpopular as quickly as they became popular. In their defense these vehicles, originated by the Suburban, have a lot going for them. The recently updated QX56 is Infiniti’s luxury entry into this market, positioned above Nissan’s Armada. Before looking at it dismissively, any potential buyer owes it to themselves to drive one, if for no other reason then to raise the bar by which other such vehicles should be judged.
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Most people I spoke with did not care for the exterior appearance of the QX, to put it lightly, and that’s understandable. Infiniti tried to use the design language from their smaller vehicles on this behemoth. In their defense it is easy to design small cute cars because anything relatively small tends to be cuter. With that said there are number of handsome trucks on the market and at the very least Infiniti could have done away without the tacky side vents.
Everything changes once you sit inside however. The interior is downright luxurious, on par with any old fancy European brand. Yes, there are some minor ergonomic issues but in the days of infotainments, radar guided this, satellite that, and heated-and-ventilated everything, no new car is perfect. The seats, both front and rear captain’s chairs (second row bench is available) and very comfortable and perfect for long trips. Unlike some minivans, where the second row seats look comfy but in reality are scaled-down versions of front seats, the second row of the QX offers first-class accommodations.
The real surprise comes once the car starts moving. Ride comfort is one of the best I have seen; all road imperfections and potholes are all absorbed nicely. Despite the comfortable ride the handling is surprisingly good, especially considering the size of this vehicle. It is inherently difficult to design such suspension system for a high payload vehicle as the driving characteristics change drastically depending on the load. Credit here goes to Infiniti’s Hydraulic Body Motion Control system which was originally developed for the Nissan Patrol, on which the QX56 is based.
The system ditches the typical sway bars in favor of a hydraulic system. The system uses two accumulators (front and rear) to distribute fluid between left and right sides. The fluid goes to the cylinders located atop of each shock and magically (I failed to understand the nitty gritty details of it) and distributes the weight side-to-side. In the rear it works in conjunction with coil springs AND airbags which are used for load leveling. Tricky, but the results are clear: excellent handling (for such big vehicle), excellent passenger comfort, 1600lb payload, 850lb maximum trailer tongue weight, and 8500lb towing capacity. For a detailed look at the QX56 suspension head over insideline.com, where Dan Edmunds does a detailed walk around.
- The top-view camera system is great, a tremendous help with parking or navigating narrow passages.
- Skip on the light-color interior as it comes with light color carpeting which looks great when clean but it will never stay that way.
- The running boards are too narrow to be useful and you end up scraping your pant leg.
- Great audio system, especially for such a big vehicle.
- The infotainment system is easy to use but a little slow, especially when inputting a destination. The QX did not recognize my old iPod but I’m not holding that against it as about half of all new cars I drive don’t.
- The power-folding third row seat is painfully slow in its operation.
- The second-row seat however folds and tumbles quickly to allow access to that third row.
- Unlike in any cross-over, third-row passengers actually have a decent amount of legroom, not unlike in a minivan.
- Tons of cup-holders, storage areas, bins, etc.
- I counted four 12v receptacles but there may have been more. The 120vAC receptacle is handy, all cars should have them.
- The side mirrors are power-folding and can be folded at any speed, probably for reduction in aerodynamic drag and therefore more available passing power. 🙂
- The engine is very powerful, so much so that I don’t think that I even had the need to floor it at any time.
- The seven-speed transmission never seemed to be in the wrong gear.
- I averaged about 14mpg in mixed driving.
In the end I was more impressed with the QX56 than I thought that I would be. The opulent interior and the fantastic chassis made me feel as if I was driving something much smaller and nibbler. I would go so far as to say this is maybe the best road-trip vehicle yet. At over $70,000 it is isn’t cheap, until compared to the Escalade and Land Cruiser. Considering that the QX is much newer than of those vehicles and offers better ride and handling, it would be my pick. Anyone considering a full-size luxury SUV shouldn’t dismiss the QX; it really is an excellent vehicle.
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