2011 Infiniti QX56
Could we award a second place?

WE LIKE: Surprisingly fast, and able to haul six adults around in total comfort.
WE DON'T LIKE: Ugly nose, sucks gas pumps dry

For SUV of the Year giggles, I decided to bring along a copy of Keith Bradsher's High and Mighty, the hard-hitting, near-hysterical screed detailing just how totally terrible the SUV is. Interesting, only two vehicles in our test meet Bradsher's five-point definition of what makes an SUV an SUV: It must have available all- or four-wheel drive, an enclosed rear cargo area, high ground clearance, and a truck-based ladder frame, and be marketed toward urbanites and suburbanites. The qualifying vehicles are the Lexus GX 460 and Infiniti QX56, and it's fair to say we loved the new QX, in spite of Bradsher's warnings.

We don't give an award for second place, and that's too bad for the big Infiniti. We fell in love with the fact that the QX56 could cool down six sweaty adults in the mid-August Southern California heat in a big hurry with its hefty A/C. Moreover, when we went to dinner and eventually home to the hotel, the sublimely luxurious and deeply comfortable Infiniti was the staff schlepper of choice. As Lassa noted, "This is perhaps the best SUV in its segment."

But it's not perfect. However hard we tried, no one could get past the bulbous grotesqueness of the QX's nose. In fact, from the A-pillar forward, the whole crew panned the looks. That said, from the A-pillar back, the QX56 is nicely tailored and quite handsome. We do need to mention that the QX56 is essentially a highly polished version of the not-for-sale-here Nissan Patrol, a truly ungainly vehicle. So in that regard, Infiniti did a decent-though not great-job with the new sheetmetal.

Still, the maker did a better than decent job with this big brute's road manners. Aside from wandering all over the place (if you leave the lane-departure-warning beep on, you will feel like burning her down to her halfshafts), the ride is compliant if not cushy. The handling is about what you'd expect from a three-ton cetacean, but the electronics do an admirable job of keeping this boat upright and in line. Meanwhile, the mountainous thrust from the QX's namesake 5.6-liter V-8 made for the second-quickest car of the test. Not bad; not bad at all. - Jonny Lieberman

2011 Infiniti QX56
Base price $57,565-$60,665
Price as tested $72,475
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 5.6L/400-hp/413-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 5934 lb (52/48%)
Wheelbase 121.1 in
Length x width x height 208.3 x 79.9 x 75.6 in
0-60 mph 6.1 sec
Quarter mile 14.8 sec @ 93.9 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 130 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.71 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.4 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 12.2 mpg
MT Observed Fuel econ 14/20 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.20 lb/mile
INTERIOR/Functionality *****
A better Escalade for the few who care.