– Immense road presence
– Living-room cabin space
– Decent all-round performance
– Takes hours to park properly
– Too long for hard off-roading
– Heavy fuel consumption
The Infiniti QX56 is huge. It is so enormous that the Titanic is like a rubber-ducky next to it. It is so gigantic that it can crush the Burj Dubai like a matchstick. But enough about its size. Let’s talk about what else it offers.
The QX is simply an upgraded version of the Nissan Armada, and this is obvious even to the most casual observer. However, the QX gets a unique rear-end design with LED tail-lights as well as a special in-your-face front-end complete with horizontal blades in the grille to mow down Civics and Corollas. Did we mention it is also very big?
The main advantage of all that mass is its effect on cabin space. Calling it spacious is an understatement. Let’s just say it makes the Chevy Tahoe seem like a cramped subcompact. Space is immense for the first two rows of seats, with the two second-row chairs boasting the most legroom out of the three rows of seating. And the third row has the most legroom we’ve ever come across in a three-row 4WD, fit for adults almost as tall as six feet. All seats are leather-stitched and wide-bodied, with power controls for the front ones. The second-row seats easily flip forward to provide not-so-strenuous access to the third row. There is still enough space in the luggage area to fit two suitcases, but the flat space created by folding down the third row is enough to park a Mini in there. There are tons of storage spaces and cup-holders spread about the cabin. There are big covered bins between the front seats and another between the second-row seats, but they are filled up with accessories for the entertainment system.
The thumping entertainment system is a blast, as it should be for a luxury vehicle. There is a ceiling-mounted DVD screen for the rear passengers, with wireless headsets and what not. The DVD player is stuffed into the centre-console storage bin. There is also a screen on the dashboard, although there is no standard navigation system. Rather, it is used as a visual aid for switching radio stations and for setting electronic features, all through buttons on the dash. The stereo has wheel-mounted buttons too, while the automatic a/c uses knobs. The a/c is very good once it is given time to cool things down in this glass palace, with vents all over the vehicle, although we didn’t find any rear-seat a/c controls.
The QX has all the other usual expected features, such as power windows, power mirrors, sunroof, front and side-curtain airbags, xenon headlights, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, lots of wood trims, soft-touch dashboard and door panels, roof rails and more. We especially liked the automatic rear tailgate and the rear camera which is viewed on the dash screen. It is loaded with features, although there are no new innovations here. Our Nissan-supplied one-year-old test vehicle has had a hard life, as evidenced by worn parts on the door steps, external scratches, a broken a/c vent, and even a missing wheel centre-cap. But overall build quality is still good.
The QX is perfect for cruising open highways, with room to stretch out both inside the car and on the road. The big 5.6-litre V8 engine, good for 320 hp at 5200 rpm and 532 Nm of torque at 3400 rpm, is good enough to briskly move this 2613 kg vehicle in most occasions. There is decent low-end push and strong high-end response, but best acceleration occurs in rear-wheel-drive mode with the traction control off and a bit of forced wheelspin. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 8.3 seconds on our summer afternoon run with these conditions, while in four-wheel-drive mode, it takes as long as 9 seconds. The five-speed automatic remained perfectly smooth in all cases, whether we were sprinting or cruising. And thanks to all-independent suspension, the ride is smooth in all but the bumpiest roads, with surprisingly low road howl and wind noise for such a huge brick. Even more surprising was our less-than-expected fuel consumption, which averaged 18.1 litres per 100 km, but that is probably due to the 75% of our drive being a 250 km road-trip.
Driving primarily in the city would’ve resulted in worse fuel economy, but not as worse as trying to park this monster. In some parking spaces, we had to leave it at an angle after somehow slipping in, just like those inconsiderate people we usually like to hate. There were also occasions were it took ages to get the truck out of a tight space. Thankfully, the excellent reverse-camera option and parking sensors saved us a lot of time, because simply using the mirrors and small rear window doesn’t offer as much visibility as we’d like.
Steering feel is expectedly dead but its softness makes manoeuvring easy. Corners reveal moderate body roll, but zig-zag movements makes the leaning more prominent. However, the QX has surprising body control for its size, as there is no boat-like rocking after sharp turns, unlike what we found in the wobbly Tahoe Z71 and our last Hummer tester. All new models get standard 275/60 tyres on 20-inch chrome rims for 2008, but our 2007 came with 265/70 tyres on 18-inch chrome wheels. Grip is good enough at moderate speeds, but it is easy to reach its limits on roundabouts, at which point there is mild understeer. The ABS-assisted four-wheel-disc brakes do fine, although pedal feel is a bit too light. The stability control system cuts power when things go overboard, while leaving the transfer case in all-wheel-drive mode helps get that extra bit of traction when things get slippery on tarmac.
Yes, the big QX, which will hardly ever see sand, benefits from a transfer case. It includes 2WD, automatic 4WD, 4-high and 4-low settings. That makes it a more complete package than the Caddy Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator in our book. It is another story that the QX is not ideal for hard off-roading, considering its low-mounted side-steps and long wheelbase mean it will get stuck on top of most dunes like a beached whale. However, it does rather well on soft sand and inclines thanks to its immense torque, so it is possible to enjoy some desert driving simply by being careful of sharp changes in slope. If this heavyweight does get stuck deep, pulling it out will probably require a tank.
The QX56 has the road presence of any other big luxury truck, but with the space and performance to surpass many rivals. It offers no new technology to marvel at, and its reasonable price reflects this fact. We are guessing a lot of people who want a truck this big will simply go for a loaded Armada, although the rarity of our QX was enough for a handful of people to turn and look at it while it was parked. For some upscale buyers, that matters a lot.