Does the world need a better Cadillac Escalade? That's the question we'll ask ourselves for the next 12 months as we run around the country in our newest long-termer, the 2011 Infiniti QX56. While the latest and largest from Infiniti didn't win our SUV of the Year calipers, it did well enough in the competition for us to hound Infiniti into giving us one for a year. In other words, we like it.

But do we need it? Turn the dial back about 18 months to the days of $5/gallon gas here in Southern California, and the idea of a vehicle with an observed fuel economy of 12.2 mpg would have been obscene. But now, in 2011, with gas prices lower and stabilized, such figures register as only borderline obscene. Which is a fancy way of saying obnoxious but still somehow tolerable, like Snooki.

That said, we like the new QX56 much better than "Jersey Shore." We like it much better than the last-generation QX56, too.

Part of the reason is that unlike the previous car, which was based on the Nissan Armada/Titan platform, the new QX shares almost everything with the mighty Patrol, a legitimate desert warrior of a four-wheeler that's beloved in India, Australia, and Iran. Another reason we dig the new QX is its kitchen sink-ness. As in, it has everything.

At some point, you need to ask yourself how you have survived all these years without second-row footwell courtesy lights. We're not sure, and we're equally unsure how we made it this long without EBD, VDC, TCS, TPMS, VSS, HID, DSW, LDW, LDP, DCA, IBA, FCW, AAFS, or ACCS, to name most of the acronyms our QX56 shipped with. And the around-view monitor is still the coolest trick at the party.

One thing we can live without are its looks. From the A-pillars forward, the QX56 just looks bad. As associate Web editor Kirill Ougarov points out, this Infiniti, "looks ungainly from just about every angle. The worst touch are the fender vents, which look like they were picked out of the JC Whitney catalog." Harsh, but quite true. As an experiment I stared at the QX's schnoz for 10 minutes, looking for an attractive angle. There weren't any.

But the big lug's inherent athleticism really surprised us. Executive editor Edward Loh comments, "Steering is unexpectedly responsive, a lot lighter and faster than I'm used to in vehicles this size." Even though it weighs in at 3 tons, it hits 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Credit the 5.6-liter 400-horse V-8.

We see a year of luxurious and comfortable road trips in the QX's immediate future. Thank the maker that we can write off the gas.


Our Vehicle
Base price $59,800
Price as tested $71,850
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 5.6L/400-hp/413-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist, f/r) 5971 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 14.7 sec @ 94.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 122 ft
Lateral accel 0.74 g (avg)
MT figure eight 28.6 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy econ 14/20 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.20 lb/mile
Total mileage 6431 miles
Average fuel economy 12.2 mpg