Auto Review: The all-terrain limousine

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Sep. 22, 2011
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

When it comes to what we define as a “luxury vehicle” these days, our standards have become very high. We expect a substantial host of appropriate amenities, and while you can go back in history and see that sedans and coupes have had luxury versions for many, many years, the establishment of a luxury SUV standard is a comparatively recent development. Range Rover was one of the first makes to combine fine coachwork with outstanding off-road ability, but now just about everybody with an SUV line has a version that’s lavishly equipped for a luxury lifestyle. In some cases, the basic vehicle is just gussied up with better interior appointments, but with the Infiniti QX56, the entire vehicle is a first-class machine from stem to stern that happens to be tough enough to drive anywhere it will physically fit.

Built in Los Angeles and based on the Nissan Armada (which gets its basic underpinnings from the Nissan Titan pickup), the QX is powered by a robust 5.6-liter V8 with an output of 400 horsepower. This is mated to a smooth, sophisticated, seven-speed automatic transmission that in turn channels the power to a multi-mode 4WD system (a 2WD version is also available) that includes Auto/4, High/4, Low, and both Snow and Towing settings. This versatile drivetrain is not only strong (enough to tow 8,500 pounds), it is quiet and refined to the point where it doesn’t seem like it has truck-based origins at all.

This level of driving urbanity is embraced by the fully-independent suspension, which, in the case of our tester, included the optional Hydraulic Body Motion Control System that “enables the system to vary suspension travel independently on either side of the vehicle, thereby counteracting body lean and creating a luxurious, flat ride,” as explained by Infiniti. All I can say is the QX has no trouble with any terrain you encounter, and conquers everything from rocks to frost heaves with no harsh bottoming, rattles or fuss. The overall handling is surprisingly agile for such an enormous vehicle, and drives home the point that this is not just a glamorized truck, but rather a vehicle that through every aspect of its engineering reflects a desire to make it something truly deserving of its lofty price tag.

The cabin has the kind of room you would expect given the 121-inch wheelbase, including the power-operated, folding third row seats that are roomy enough for adults. Workmanship is exemplary inside and out, and the optional Technology Package included Intelligent Cruise Control and a host of other state-of-the-art safety and functional features that further contributed to a first-class experience.

Most surprising of all, we averaged 17 MPG in a week of mixed (and often stop-and-go, on trail and off) driving, which is quite efficient for such a capable velvet tank.

The 2011 Infiniti QX 4WD is EPA-rated 14 MPG city/20 highway and has a base price of $59,800. With options our sticker came to $72,560. www.infinitiusa.com


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