2008 Infiniti QX56 4×4Posted on September 4th, 2007
Infiniti’s full-size sport-utility vehicle comes with all the comforts of home, and a few extras.
By Nina Russin
Depending on one’s perspective, the QX56 is either the world’s biggest sport-utility vehicle, or the first full-portable luxury spa. Inside, seven passengers enjoy standard leather and wood grain trim, satellite radio, three zones of temperature control, a premium sound system, navigation display, rear backup camera and a power sunroof. The driver can program the power driver’s seat, steering wheel and side mirrors into memory, and adjust the pedals with a button on the instrument panel.
Heated front seats, steering wheel, and side mirrors are standard equipment. Passengers can download their music libraries into the 9.3 gigabyte hard drive, or plug their MP3 players into the flash slot. The audio system is Bluetooth compatible. An overhead storage console holds the garage opener and sunglasses; map pockets hold paperwork. There are four, twelve-volt power points and fourteen cupholders.
Exterior styling is distinctly upscale: a large chrome grille with standard bi-xenon headlamps, standard fog lamps and 20-inch chrome wheels. Standard running boards ease access and egress. Designers even chromed the standard roof rack and crossbars.
Underneath its veneer, the four-wheel drive QX is all business, with a chassis tough enough for rock-strewn trails. A part-time transfer case provides extremely low gears for navigating uneven terrain. Heavy-duty Dana front and rear axles are standard as are skid plates.
Ground clearance on the four-wheel drive model is 9.1-inches, with approach and departure angles of 26.2 and 22.7 degrees respectively. In other words, the QX can clear rocks and roots in the road and go up and down steep hills without bottoming out or smashing a bumper.
The four-wheel drive model tows up to 8,900 pounds when properly equipped. Body-on-frame construction makes the chassis extremely durable, and an automatic air suspension maintains uniform ground clearance and departure angle, compensating for the weight of the trailer.
North to red rock country
I tested the QX on the uphill grade between Phoenix and Sedona. The I-17 freeway climbs from an altitude of 1,500 feet to 5,000 in just over 100 miles. While the standard V8 engine has no shortage of horsepower, it’s also hauling a lot of weight. Curb weight is 6,000 pounds on the four-wheel drive model. Would the QX56 have enough power to pass other vehicles at speed, and how would the high curb weight impact the truck’s gas mileage?
The good news is that the engine and five-speed automatic transmission performed seamlessly. The 5.6-liter block produces up to 393 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 r.p.m., allowing the QX56 to accelerate hard off the line. The engine reaches ninety percent of peak torque below 2,500 r.p.m.: average highway cruising speeds. Not only was I able to weave through thick traffic with ease, I could pass vehicles on steep inclines without flooring the throttle. The drivetrain produces a buttery ride akin to much smaller vehicles.
The bad news is that the QX56 has an insatiable appetite for gasoline. Twenty bucks worth is a drop in its bottomless fuel tank. Average fuel economy for city and highway driving is about 14 miles-per-gallon.
Car-like ride and handling
The QX56 uses Nissan’s F-Alpha truck platform, which it shares with the full-sized Titan pickup and Armada sport-utility vehicle. The advantage of body-on-frame construction is durability. The rigid frame makes the vehicle flex less when it is hauling a heavy load of traversing extremely uneven terrain. The challenge to engineers is to make the work-truck platform ride and handle like a luxury car.
They did this by adapting many luxury car features, such as a double wishbone independent suspension, and rack-and-pinion speed-sensitive steering. Turning radius is about 41 feet, which isn’t bad for a vehicle that’s almost 17-1/2 feet long.
The rear camera backup system is invaluable. Guidance lines superimposed over the wide-angle image show the driver how much room is on either side of the vehicle. There is also an audible warning for objects to the rear. I was able to back into tight spaces at the motel in Sedona, giving myself a clear shot out.
The gate shift is easy to use. I tested the low gears on a steep decline from the Sedona airport down to the main road. It kept the speed at a manageable 25 miles-per hour without having to engage the brakes.
Large vented discs front and rear give the QX plenty of braking power. Pedal feel is even and linear. The truck can stop quickly when it has to: standard antilock brakes maintain directional control on wet or uneven roads.
Large stabilizer bars on both axles keep the truck flat in the corners. I’m not saying that the QX is a car to dynamite through the corkscrews at Laguna Seca (although the corner workers might find it entertaining). But it can certainly hold its own on winding canyon roads, such as the stretch of highway 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff.
Keyless ignition is standard equipment. It works just like a conventional ignition, except that the driver doesn’t have to put a key in the ignition slot to unlock and turn it.
Optional intelligent cruise control on the test car is a handy feature for commuters. The system uses laser sensors to determine the distance between the QX and the car in front of it, and maintains a preset following distance. The driver engages the system by pushing a button on the steering wheel. Separate controls set the speed and following distance.
The hardest thing about using intelligent cruise control is learning to trust it. While it will not brake the vehicle to a complete stop, it works well in urban highway traffic, where speeds may vary between thirty and seventy miles per hour.
Inside the truck, there’s a conspicuous lack of road and wind noise. The 12-speaker Bose audio system surrounds passengers with sound. Its long wheelbase and 79-inch height translate to exceptional head and legroom for second and third-row passengers. The test truck has the optional mobile entertainment system: an eight-inch power flip-down display, with wireless remote and two wireless headphones.
The navigational system operates via a mouse in the instrument panel. The three-dimensional map images are remarkably easy to read. The XM NavTraffic system displays color-coded images on the navigation screen so drivers can avoid congested areas. Redundant steering wheel audio controls allow the driver to make volume or channel changes without reaching for the touch screen.
As someone who routinely loads large boxes into vehicles, I can’t say enough good things about power liftgates. The one on the QX has a single control that opens and closes the door: simple is good. Two buttons in the cargo area fold the rear seats flat or raise them. There isn’t a lot of room with the third row seats in place, but folding them creates a cargo area big enough to hold a bicycle with the front wheel removed.
Folding the second-row seat flats is relatively easy. A strap on the outside of the seat cushion releases it to flip forward, and a lever on the seatback folds it flat.
Despite its height, the roof rack is fairly easy to reach, thanks to the standard running boards There are two rubberized steps in the rear as well, although the roof rack is too far forward for a smaller person to hand on to.
Standard safety and security features on the QX56 include antilock braking , vehicle dynamic control, side and side curtain airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Base price on the QX56 is $55,250. Estimated annual fuel cost is $3,052. The QX56 is not for the feint of wallet. But it is a luxurious ride. The QX56 is currently on display at Infiniti dealerships nationwide.
Likes: Exceptional performance for a full-sized sport-utility vehicles. Visibility around the truck is excellent, and the standard rear backup camera makes parking a breeze. The 5.6-liter V8 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission give the QX56 the power and performance of a passenger car.
Dislikes: Poor fuel economy.
Base price: $55,250
Price as tested: $58,810
Horsepower: 320Hp @ 5200 r.p.m.
Torque: 393 lbs.-ft. @ 3400 r.p.m.
0 to 60: N/A
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 12/17 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $815 destination charge.
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