2011 Infiniti QX56 — Review
This 2011 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2013.
By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos
"Luxury" has been a dirty word, especially in the sport-utility market, for the past several years. People who are having a tough time simply making ends meet aren't interested in buying a vehicle that costs more than their house. Consequently, sales of these blinged-out beasts have plummeted.
That's why it's so surprising that Infiniti's new QX56 has enjoyed triple-digit sales increases in 2010. Does this mean Americans are flush again? No, but it does speak volumes about the impressive changes Infiniti has made to its full-size sport ute. Built on a new chassis offering the latest technology and devoid of pretentiousness, the QX56 is more suited to its primary mission than ever before: ferrying well-heeled families to and from the vacation house, mall and yacht club.
Option packages include the Theater Package, with dual 7-inch monitors for the middle seats, wireless headphones and a 120-volt outlet; the Deluxe Touring Package, with 22-inch wheels, semi-aniline leather seating, limited front- and middle-seat heating and cooling, headlight washers and a hydraulic body motion system; and the Technology Package, featuring intelligent cruise and lane-departure controls, blind-spot warning, brake assist, adaptive lighting and pre-tensioning front seat belts.
Rear-wheel-biased all-wheel drive is standard, with a 4WD version optional and expected to provide 60 percent of all QX sales.
Under the Hood
Power comes from the same all-new 5.6-liter V8 engine used in the likewise all-new Infiniti M sedan, but tuned for more torque. Rated at 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, the direct-injection gasoline V8 gives a hair faster acceleration than last year's QX and notably better fuel economy of 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway. This combination of power and economy catapults the QX to the front of the luxury full-size SUV class.
Transmission duties are handled by a 7-speed automatic with manual shifting via a center console stick. A driving-mode knob quickly configures the QX for snow, towing or starting out on hills. The standard driveline is labeled 2WD but is actually all-wheel drive; it normally drives the rear wheels but automatically shuttles half of the engine's power to the front wheels should the rears slip. Even better, optioned with the 4WD system, the QX can be locked in 4High or 4Low, a godsend for sloppy weather or muddy roads.
A useful gimmick is Infiniti's Tire Pressure Inflation Indicator. When you are inflating a tire the system flashes the hazard lights and honks the horn to indicate the correct pressure has been reached — no tire gauge needed.
There's little need to note the expected navigation, iPod storage, heated steering wheel and other luxury givens, but we should mention that the second-row seats tip up via remote control from the driver's seat, and that the third-row seating is power folding, from the cargo area, and power reclining up to 27 degrees. The tri-zone climate control works through side outlets — not the overhead center console — for more even cooling. A 13-speaker Bose sound system is standard. It features a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for music and is Bluetooth-enabled. The aforementioned Theater Package with its ability to screen multiple media simultaneously is the only audiovisual option. No other is needed, really.
Passenger room is generous in the front and second rows, while the third row is configured mainly for children to preserve both second-row legroom and behind-the-third-row storage.
On the Road
Power is good or better; the big QX gobbles up hills and needs no excuses in traffic. Handling is nicely controlled and the ride is nominally plush but pays the expected vanity price for the stylishly tall wheels. The steering is not as accurate or linear as some, but braking is strong and the manual control over the shifting is nice in hill country.
A full suite of optional electronic aids reassures on the open road and helps in handling the QX's tall and wide footprint in tighter quarters. A 360-degree monitoring system provides views to the remote reaches of the QX, while a blind-spot warning system employs radar to identify threats lurking in the rear quarters.
Above all, the QX is about providing luxurious transportation for four, with room for more on occasion plus plenty of gear. In fact, it excels at this.
Right for You?
Moving down the option list continues the theme, at least for a while. With the most popular QX56 4WD starting at $59,800, the Theater Package costing $2,450, Deluxe Touring $5,800 and Technology $2,850, a fully loaded QX tips the dealer's financial scales just below $71,000, a lofty price, but commensurate with the QX's front-of-the-class positioning.
(As part of an automaker-sponsored press event, Infiniti provided MSN with travel and accommodations tofacilitate this report.)
Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson's credits include local racing championships, three technicalengine books and hundreds of freelance articles.