Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 Infiniti QX56 AWD First Impressions Review

2011 Infiniti QX56
By contributing editor David Colman

  • Feels invulnerable
  • Tour bus front seats
  • Swallows bikes
  • Mismatched door-to-dash trim
  • Hard rear seats
  • Middling fuel mileage
  • Rearview mirror adjustment button inaccessible when seated
The QX56 comes alive when the sun sets. With its brilliant directional headlights scanning the countryside, its 3/4 overhead navigation tableau reeling off street names as you pass them, and the dual movie screens of the optional ($2,450) rear “Theater Package” blasting pixels into the dark, this Infiniti is the wonder of the digital age. While it’s not much to look at from outside, this boxy, heavy SUV gains all its momentum inside, where a palatial interior cocoons up to 8 occupants with Air Force One attention to detail. The BarcaLounger-sized front seats allow you to survey a jungle-like swath of Mocha Burl trim covering the outer rim of the steering wheel, the center stack of the dash, and the front quarters of all 4 doors. The driver’s seat adjusts in 8 ways, the passenger’s in 6.
Leather-appointed seating
You’ll be well advised to use the running board when stepping into this lofty cabin, because the QX sits 9.2 inches tall on its optional, Deluxe Touring Package ($5,800), 22 inch tires. The extra loot for this pricey package not only brings you 9-spoke, forged alloy rims and Monster Truck sized (275/50R22) Bridgestone Dueler H/T tires, but also aniline leather heated front and rear seats, advanced climate control, easy-tilt and fold second row seats, and an hydraulic motion dampener to counteract ride pitchiness. The easy-tilt back seats are a notable blessing.
While you’re examining the option sheet, you might also want to select the $2,850 Technology Package. This grouping is useful if you lane wander on the freeway, or have trouble judging distance-to-crash when parking. The Techno Package offers Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Departure Prevention, Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent (read radar-based) Cruise Control, plus those wonderful headlights that change direction when you do. The Techno Package performs unobtrusively. Congratulations to Infiniti for providing valuable safety assists without intruding unduly on your driving experience. Best of all, you can disable some of these features at will, and re-enable them when needed. Tall glass windows make for excellent vision, so you won’t need LDW in normal driving. But when towing a trailer (the QX can pull a whopping 8,500 pounds), you’ll want to enable LDW as a helpful preventative measure.
Electronically controlled 7-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control (ASC)
Due to its 5,590 pound weight, this behemoth needs lots of horsepower and torque. The 5.6 liter V8 fills that bill with 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. Though it lacks steering wheel paddles, the 7-speed automatic gearbox offers manual override for up and downshifts, plus rev-matching for downshifts, via a console-mounted stickshift with manual gate. Around town and when towing, the QX struggles to achieve 14 MPG, but cruises comfortably at 20 MPG on the open road. And long distance cruising is definitely the métier of this big Infiniti. Pile the kids in back, let them have at the twin DVD players, and they’ll be anesthetized for hours. Meanwhile the adults up front can luxuriate in comfort while benefiting from all the stress reduction provided by that automatic watchdog, the Technology Package. For such a transcendental driving experience, $72,475 seems a reasonable price to pay.

Infiniti QX56 comfort controls2011 Infiniti QX56 - Infiniti Controller
ENGINE: 5.6 liter DOHC 32 Valve V8
HORSEPOWER: 400 hp @ 5,800 rpm
TORQUE: 413 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Electronically controlled 7-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control (ASC)
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