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2011 Infiniti QX56: No Longer Just For Oil Sheiks

Crossovers are all the rage these days.  What’s not to like?  Car-like handling, decent fuel economy, room for the kids?  One trend I’ve noticed in crossovers is the move towards limited visibility.  Beltlines have gotten so high that kids have trouble seeing out of the windows and backing up requires an extensive use of all three mirrors and a NASA satellite to see what lurks behind you.  And if you don’t have a back-up camera you can pretty much count on hitting something at some point in time.  Well, how refreshing the 2011 QX56 was to drive.  The QX56 isn’t a car-based crossover.  It is Infiniti’s truck-based answer to the Escalade.  Based on the Nissan Patrol, which has been a huge sales hit in the Middle East because of its rugged construction and reliability, the QX56 can shuttle you around in the same comforts as a cash-stuffed Saudi oil mogul.  With 20 MPG on the highway, you won’t need to personally know a sheik either.

Let’s take a look at the interior, which is hands down the strongest part of this new QX. When you sit down on the semi-aniline leather seats, you have a choice of heat or air conditioning for your rear end, heat for the rear captain’s chairs, and heat for the steering wheel.  If it is cold out you’re going to need it, since there isn’t a remote start option. The QX sports some outstanding thrones and the power tilt & telescope steering wheel helps to make sure anyone can be comfortable. Switches, knobs, and displays are all laid out logically to be simple and intuitive. I also were able to try out the Advanced Climate Control System with auto recirculation, Plasmacluster™ air purifier with Grape Polyphenol Filter. I guess it worked since I never had to touch anything to adjust the interior climate. It’s truly a ‘set and forget’ system. The navigation system is one of the best I have used with clear and concise graphics and an interface that doesn’t require a degree in neurology to input an address. The interior is library quiet at highway speeds and the sound of the 400 HP V8 and seven-speed transmission is never obtrusive or boomy. All three rows provide excellent legroom and the low beltline allows a nice view for kids. If they aren’t looking out the window they can watch their favorite movie on one of the two headrest mounted screens. A 120 volt outlet is also there in case they feel the need to play Wii. The third row folds flat into the floor by the way of an anemic motor. Speed up the folding seats and the interior is a grand slam.

The ’56’ in QX56 still stands for the displacement. The displacement may have stayed the same from the last QX but that is all. Horsepower has increased to 400 and torque grunt is at 410 lb-ft. Power is fed to a seven-speed transmission that fights engine RPMs from going over 3500 in an effort to stretch a gallon of gas. The QX also has direct injection, or DIG – Direct Injection Gasoline, which helps increase power and efficiency. The QX56 has an optional hydraulic body motion control system that stiffens the outside shock absorbers during turns to reduce lean. You won’t mistake the QX as a G37 in turns but it does help to give the driver a wee bit more confidence and keep apples from rolling around after grocery shopping. The QX can hussle to 60 MPH in 6.1 seconds. That would be a really impressive stat on a small, turbocharged sedan from Germany but the QX56 is 6,000 lbs of steel and leather and that is far more impressive. I observed an as advertised 14 MPG in the city. Infiniti says 20 MPG is achievable on the highway in both 2WD and 4WD form. If you try a few sprints while getting up to speed on a freeway ramp you can hear the QX56 say “num num num num” as the gas gauge drops. To be expected in a vehicle with this weight and a V8.

Styling & Design
The QX56 definitely has Infiniti characteristics but when they are used on a vehicle as large as the QX56 they can really cause some people to look away. Two people mentioned that it looked like a hammerhead shark. I guess that is an insult but the 2011 QX is a departure from the chrome behemoth of the last model. Gone is the obscene chrome wrapped around a Nissan Armada body with a jacked up price tag. As I mentioned earlier, the QX is based on the Nissan Patrol and shares a heritage of desert off road prowess to make any Jeep fan boy take note. The ride is surprisingly smooth given the 22-inch wheels and low profile rubber. The 22-inches of aluminum also do a nice job of filling up the wheels wells. One might need to tap into that home equity or 401K if you ever need new tires. The rear of the QX looks like it was borrowed from the Infiniti FX. I heard words like “obscene” and “ugly” about the rear but the design works well if you value rear visibility. HID headlights and LED taillights round out the corners. It’s another love it or hate it design but it really grew on me as I realized that the QX wasn’t trying to be an Escalade or a Navigator dipped in chrome.

The Verdict
The QX56 is an all-new SUV in a segment that has been written off by other OEMs as uncool or not Earth friendly. Some people still have a need for a three-row SUV with 8,500 lbs of towing capacity while others just want a vehicle that has separate zip codes for each seat. The QX56 isn’t a “me too” SUV to compete with Detroit Iron. It simply raises the bar and gives consumers another option to consider if they are in the market for a Lexus, Range Rover, Escalade, or Navigator. The QX56 has the freshest interior in the segment and a V8 powertrain that has no compromises. The QX56 is one vehicle to check out if you’re in the market and want the latest and greatest features and comforts. Infiniti has a winner with this QX56 and I was sad to see it go as I realized I was driving a vehicle with a legacy that has garnered the respect of off roaders and oil sheiks and everyone in between for more than 50 years.

Alphabet Soup
The QX has more technology than the campus of MIT. The amount of acronyms will require you to have a cheat sheet handy at all times:

ICCIntelligent Cruise Control – A laser scans traffic ahead of the vehicle and can adapt the speed to match the speed of traffic in the front of it
LDWLane Departure Warning – sounds an audible warning when you start to drift out of your lane
LDPLane Departure Prevention – A camera is mounted in the windshield and watches the paint stripes on the road so if the driver veers out of the lane, the brakes can be applied in order to nudge the vehicle back into the proper lane
DCADistance Control Assist – Helps keep a preset distance between you and the vehicle in front of you
IBAIntelligent Brake Assist – This available active safety feature continuously monitors and analyzes closing speeds to a vehicle ahead or to a stationary obstacle. If the driver does not adequately respond to the Forward Collision Warning and a collision cannot be avoided, IBA will automatically engage the brakes to help reduce collision speed and impact, thus mitigating the consequences of the accident
FCWForward Collision Warning – Using a laser rangefinder, this available feature helps alert the driver of an imminent collision by providing a visual and an audible warning
BSWBlind Spot Warning – helps alert the driver to a vehicle detected in the blind spot area
FPC Seat BeltFront Pre-Crash Seatbelt – The seatbelt tightens when the vehicles senses a possible collision to bring the occupant to a safer position
AFSAdaptive Front Lighting – The headlights swivel as the steering wheel is turned to help see around curves
HIDHigh Intensity Discharge – HID headlights are the blue/purple headlights normally seen on luxury vehicles
LEDLight Emitting Diode – These fancy lights illuminate faster than regular light bulbs and have a nice decorative look to them
DIGDirect Injection Gasoline – Fuel is injected directly into the cylinder at a very high pressure increasing power, fuel economy and reducing emissions
ACCSAdvanced Climate Control System – Auto recirculation for stinky air, Plasmacluster™ air purifier and Grape Polyphenol Filter which basically means you can drive behind a garbage truck in 100 degree heat and not smell it
VVELVariable Valve Event & Lift – A rocker arm and two types of links open the intake-valves by transferring the rotational movement of a drive shaft with an eccentric cam to the output cam. The movement of the output cam is varied by rotating the control shaft within the DC motor and changing the fulcrums of the links. This makes a continuous adjustment of the valve lift amount possible. This results in more efficient airflow to the cylinder, significantly improved responsiveness, optimizing the balance between power and environmental performance. Yeah, whatever.
CVTCSContinuously Variable Valve Timing Control System – Independent control of the intake and exhaust valves
ASCAdaptive Shift Logic – Transmission shift schedules adapt to how you drive
ABLSActive Brake Limited Slip – Uses the ABS to mimic a limited slip differential
HSAHill Start Assist – When at a stop it holds the brakes until the accelerator pedal is pressed
AVMAround View Monitor – Four cameras around the vehicle form one stitched together image to give you a ‘top down’ view around the vehicle
AHRActive Head Rest – Headrest can move forward in an accident to reduce neck injuries
EBDElectronic Brake Distribution – The vehicle automatically varies the amount of force applied to each of a vehicle’s brakes, based on road conditions, speed, loading, etc.
BABrake Assist – Brakes automatically develops maximum brake boost in order to mitigate a drivers tendency to brake without enough force

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