Ask someone to name a $70,000 luxury SUV and many will suggest the Cadillac Escalade. While the Cadillac has been the most ostentatious entry in the premium full-size class for years, the Infiniti QX56 is a surprisingly good entry, we found out over the course of 30,000 miles in a long-term test.
Take, for example, the Infiniti QX56, a sport/utility that has become one of the brand's top-selling items, behind the G sedan and coupe cars, but ahead of far more affordable entries like the EX and FX SUVs, not to mention the M sedan. After 30,000 miles of road trips, stop-and-go traffic, and parking lots seemingly made for vehicles half the QX56's size, it's clear: Those who actually cross-shop the Cadillac with the Infiniti will have a tough decision
"Our QX has to be one of the most maneuverable full-size SUVs around," commented associate online editor Nate Martinez. "It truly drives like a midsize SUV. The steering is very light (an odd feeling for such a hefty machine), yet it's highly responsive, and makes for a surprisingly fun drive."
At the heart of our 4WD 2011 Infiniti QX56 is a direct-injection 5.6-liter V-8 producing 400 horses that gives up nothing compared with the Caddy's 6.2. After selecting a Nissan Versa worth of options, our $71,850 QX56 was very well-equipped, with power-folding third-row seats, second-row seats that fold at the touch of a button, a rear-seat entertainment system, huge 22-inch forged-alloy wheels, and HID headlights that turn into corners. We're not forgetting about Infiniti's full arsenal of electronic aids that attempt to keep the Nissan Patrol-based SUV out of trouble. The Infiniti left the factory with blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning systems. On a vehicle as large and powerful as the QX56, the tech proved helpful, while those who don't like the nannies can always turn them off.
One electronic aid that was almost universally appreciated was the Around View monitor with front and rear sonar sensors. Thanks to cameras underneath each rearview mirror, in the front grille, and near the rear license-plate area, the QX56 was fully covered. In an SUV as long and wide as this Infiniti, the tech no doubt helped prevent a number of low-speed encounters with parking lot columns everywhere--just ask associate online editor Benson Kong.
"Although I wouldn't call the QX56 nimble, it continues to captivate me with the amount of grace it displays in tight quarters. I recently found myself in a parking structure that should be restricted to small cars. The concrete labyrinth has all sorts of narrow bends and constricted barriers that told me I wasn't in an ideal place for full-size SUVs. Thanks to the easy steering and considerable visibility (hurray for Around View Monitor and big-box body with giant windows), our long-termer was able to glide down several stories while dodging opposing traffic," Kong noted. "Usually, there's a sense of oafishness that accompanies a 79.9-inch-wide vehicle, but the QX56 ain't bad at all."
The same assessment applies to styling. The Infiniti has softer curves than a Cadillac Escalade but more presence than a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. While two staffers who initially dismissed the Infiniti's exterior design eventually came to like it, no one supported the QX56's execution of side vents. Or the SUV's driving range. Without an increased range--through a larger fuel tank, better V-8 mileage, or another powertrain option--the QX56 will never reach the volume levels of the Mercedes and Cadillac.
Owning the QX56 was a mostly trouble-free experience. Aside from a driver's auto-up window repair and two recalls covered at the same service visit, there were no surprises. The real surprise will be the realization of former Escalade owners that the Infiniti QX56 is pretty damn good.
From the Logbook
"On the way home, it rained cats and dogs, and the QX's impressive lane-departure-warning system allowed me to navigate the freeway even when the low evening light and wet pavement obscured the lane lines. My eyes couldn't see the stripes, but the Infiniti's lens could. Brilliant."
"I continue to be amazed at how easily and comfortably this 6000-pound compilation of metal, plastic, and other materials moves about the road. I've really grown to like the effortless-yet-accurate steering as well."
"When the Big One hits L.A., this is the car I want to be in, as long as someone else is buying the premium gas. It's so powerful. With the seats folded down, there's room to sleep comfortably in the back of it, and there are two DVD screens for entertainment, plus nine cupholders and four bottle holders."
| Our Vehicle |
| Base Price || $60,750 |
| Options || Deluxe Touring Package ($5800: 22-in forged wheels, Hydraulic Body Motion Control, heated/cooled front & heated 2nd-row seats), Technology Package ($2850: Adaptive cruise, blind-spot & lane-departure warning, front Pre-Crash Seat Belts, Adaptive Front Lighting), Theatre Package ($2450: Dual 7-in rear-seat entertainment) |
| Price as tested || $71,850 |
| Total mileage || 30,045 mi |
| Avg fuel economy || 15.3 mpg |
| Problem areas || None |
| Maintenance cost || $686 |
| Normal-wear cost || $0 |
| 3-year residual value* || $37,520 |
| Recalls || Stability-control system reprogram, A/V system reprogram |
| *Automotive Lease Guide data |