Infiniti QX56

Infiniti turns up the heat in the full-size luxury SUV category with its 2011 redesign of the QX56. Lavish trappings, a hearty V8 and remarkably stable handling highlight the features that move the 2011 Infiniti QX to the top tier of big, high-end SUVs. Although Infiniti upped engine output by 25 percent and increased fuel economy by more than 14 percent, it only bumped up the base price of the RWD version by about 2 percent. Seems like a fair trade-off of cost versus benefit.

Beyond a couple of available option packages, the only showroom choice a buyer need make is between the $58,150 RWD version, like my test QX, or the $61,250 AWD model.
There is no disputing the luxuriousness of the QX. Plop your backside into any of the captain's chairs in the first two rows and you might as well be lounging in your family room. This is particularly true of the second-row setting with its reclining seat backs and generous center console. The third-row split bench seat folds flat automatically with the push of a button. Leather covers the seating surfaces and wood accents provide a rich contrast throughout the cabin. The power-operated tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is heated and has redundant controls for the 13-speaker Bose-enhanced audio system with its CD player, auxiliary input jack and iPod integration.

Passengers enjoy scads of stretching-out space. Legroom in the second-row seats is a generous 41 inches. With the third-row seat in place, there is 16.6 cubic-feet of luggage room. Folding the second- and third-row seats down expands carrying space to 112 cubic feet. Accessing the cargo area is made effortless thanks to the power-operated liftgate. If the power liftgate seems to you an unnecessary extravagance, tell that to someone, arms full of packages, who can open the liftgate with the push of a button on the key fob.

Providing the QX's go is a 5.6-liter V8. This is, in essence, a refined version of the same V8 that produced 320 horsepower for the 2010 QX56. Some tinkering with the valve timing and other technology enhancing has boosted the peak horsepower number to 400 in the latest QX. There is also a modest increase in torque from 393 to 413 foot-pounds. QX can tug up to 8,500 pounds behind it. Transferring engine production to the rubber, a seven-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission replaces the five-speed automatic from last year.

Capable of making the 0-to-60 sprint in less than seven seconds, the redesigned QX56 still manages to eek out better fuel economy than the less powerful QX it replaces. The EPA estimates its mileage at 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. This compared to the 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway EPA numbers from last year.

Double wishbone setups front and rear comprise the key components for the self-leveling four-wheel independent suspension. This is a large SUV -- 5,600 pounds -- and it feels large from the driver's seat. However, it maneuvers rather gracefully with a ride that is both civilized and pleasant. If you step up and buy the optional $6,950 Deluxe Touring Package that my test QX had, it includes the Hydraulic Motion Control System that automatically reduces body lean by cross connecting the dampers on opposite sides. They operate in tandem to help keep the vehicle level when cornering.

The standard wheel/tire size is 20 inches, but also included in the Deluxe Touring Package are 22-inch wheels. When adding or subtracting air from any QX tire, a tire gauge isn't required to determine when the recommended pressure is reached. As the tire approaches that pressure, the hazard lights begin blinking and then the horn sounds to signal when you attain the recommended pressure.

Four-wheel antilock brakes with stability control, traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assist are all standard, as are six interior airbags. A $2,850 Technology Package is available and features a host of cutting-edge safety systems, such as lane-departure warning, lane-departure prevention, distance control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning and front pre-crash seat belts.

The full range of luxury passenger amenities is included in the base price. Full power accessories, rain-sensing windshield wipers, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated power-folding outboard mirrors, Bluetooth phone connectivity, voice-activated navigation system, heated front seats, front-rear parking sensors, a top-view camera that provides a 360-degree view around the vehicle, and keyless ignition are all standard.
Cabin upgrades included in the already mentioned Deluxe Touring Package are climate-controlled front seats, heated second-row seats, remote tip-up second-row seat for easy third-row entry, and upgraded leather.

By all outward appearances, the QX56 is a monster. Big, bulky and intimidating, it fills the rearview mirror of any vehicle in front of it. All of this size, however, belies the refinement found inside. And that's what the QX is really about: pampering its occupants. Performance and utility aside, QX is about the passenger experience. Finding a better place to be for a multi-state driving slog than this cabin's first two rows of seats would be a serious challenge. Sure a Prius delivers better fuel economy; but when creature comforts trump all else, the 2011 Infiniti QX56 is tough to beat.

by Russ Heaps - MyCarData