The QX60 Hybrid is Infiniti's first four-cylinder hybrid and, at the moment, the brand's only four-cylinder anything in the U.S. In front-drive form, the supercharged hybrid crossover is more efficient in the city than any other Infiniti SUV is on the highway. Until the QX30 compact crossover arrives in a couple years with a turbocharged four-cylinder under the hood, the QX60 Hybrid is a rolling statement that the Japanese luxury automaker offers at least one efficient SUV. The best-selling Lexus RX makes available a six-cylinder hybrid in the QX60's price range, but with only two rows of seating. That leaves the seven-passenger Infiniti to challenge the three-row Acura MDX and Buick Enclave, neither of which offers a hybrid. Ninety percent of all QX60 buyers go with the V-6, which left us wondering: How does performance of the QX60 Hybrid compare at the track?

Eschewing the 265-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 for the hybrid gets you a powertrain with 250 combined hp from a supercharged 2.5-liter I-4 and a 15-kW electric motor. On the road, the 2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid never feels like a slug. In fact, through 60 mph, the hybrid more than keeps up with the V-6 model (the JX35 became the QX60 for 2014). Compared to an all-wheel-drive 2013 Infiniti JX35 V-6, our all-wheel-drive 2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid is stronger from 0-30 mph (2.9 seconds to the JX35's 3.2 seconds), and just slightly to 60 mph (8.0 seconds to the JX35's 8.2 seconds). That 8.0-second time compares favorably to a 2013 Buick Enclave AWD (8.5 seconds) but not to the lighter 2014 Acura MDX AWD (6.4 seconds).

The QX60 Hybrid's 4.3-second 45-65 mph acceleration ties the Enclave, but is half a second slower than the JX35 V-6 and a full second slower than the MDX. For better throttle response in passing situations, QX60 drivers need only turn the Drive Mode Selector from Eco or Standard to Sport. Refreshingly, Infiniti's adaptive vehicle settings are controlled with a rotary knob, which means that if you prefer Eco or Sport on a daily basis, you don't have to redo your settings every time you get in the vehicle. At least in our test crossover, after hitting the engine on/off button to turn off the engine, there was a bit of a delay before the engine actually shut off. It's not clear whether this was unique to our test crossover, but we also found it difficult to get the QX60 Hybrid's engine to shut off completely in situations that may be easier for hybrids that don't weigh an as-tested 4736 pounds or carry as many as seven people.

If three-row seating is a must-have feature and a more practical, less expensive minivan is out of the question, the QX60 Hybrid could justify its $3000 premium over equivalent QX60 V-6s on gas savings alone, depending on how long you plan to have it. Using the EPA's Fuel Cost & Savings calculator, the hybrid model could pay back its owner the $3000 premium in five to six years, depending on factors including how much city driving you do as well as how many miles you drive a year.

On the outside, the crossover's hybrid identification is limited to subtle badges, meaning it isn't the vehicle for those who want to scream about their greenness while driving to soccer practice. The all-wheel-drive QX60 Hybrid is EPA-rated at 25/28 mpg city/highway, with the all-wheel-drive QX60 V-6 at 19/25 mpg. One of the hybrid's biggest benefits over the regular V-6 model is overall driving range: The hybrid will go almost 100 miles farther before it runs out of regular gas (the V-6 takes premium) in combined city/highway driving. One important caveat, though -- hybrids can be more sensitive to changes in driving style than non-hybrids, potentially affecting real-world mileage.

Around town, the QX60 Hybrid's steering is a bit on the heavy side, but there's always the Eco setting if that's not to your liking. Our test crossover was completely loaded, with its $60,780 MSRP including 20-inch wheels, a 15-speaker Bose sound system, a front moonroof with a rear panoramic moonroof, an entertainment package including two 7-inch monitors integrated into the back of the front-seat headrests, and plenty more. We found the ride with the 20-inch wheels and 235/55R20 all-season tires just fine, though the standard 18s (and 235/65R18 tires) may yield a softer ride. The QX60 Hybrid completed our figure-eight course in 28.8 seconds at 0.57 g (average), just ahead of the JX35 V-6's 29.3 seconds at 0.56 g (average), but behind the Enclave's 28.4 seconds at 0.55 g (average) and the more athletic MDX's 26.6 seconds at 0.67 g (average). With the QX60 Hybrid, the bottom line is that while you'll never forget you're driving a big crossover, it never rolls excessively or feels unwieldy. The Infiniti QX60 hasn't been fully tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rates the QX60 Hybrid five stars overall -- with four stars for the front crash and rollover tests and five stars for the side crash test.

Inside, the QX60 Hybrid has identical interior space to the V-6 model, with the exception of an under-floor storage area in the cargo area that's slightly reduced in size due to the lithium-ion battery that's hiding under the third-row seats. That third-row seat is, as you'd expect, not especially big, but the second-row seats can be moved forward. In a recent Big Test comparison that included the Nissan Pathfinder -- the QX60's mechanically related sibling -- we noted something that could just as easily apply to the Infiniti: "The second row floor is so high, I feel like I'm sitting in a second-grade classroom."

It's tough to write about the Infiniti QX60 without mentioning the Nissan Pathfinder, since the two CUVs share two powertrains and a basic instrument cluster layout. Though the Nissan lacks the Infiniti's bold rear quarter window, many of the same options are offered, albeit with a badge that doesn't command the status of the higher-priced, luxury-branded crossover. There aren't many choices for luxury crossover buyers willing to pay for a hybrid, whether the purpose is to avoid gas station visits or to lower emissions without sacrificing big-SUV space. If you can stomach the thought of going for a mainstream brand, in the $50,000 range, Toyota offers an all-wheel-drive Highlander Hybrid that uses a V-6 for a 280 combined hp rating and an EPA-rated 27/28 mpg. (The QX60 Hybrid gets an EPA-rated 25-26/28 mpg with a choice of front- and all-wheel drive.)

Still set on the QX60 Hybrid? Consider buying instead of leasing. In a three-year lease, you'd have to drive an awfully long distance to make up the $3000 price premium over the V-6, and if you want a hybrid SUV to do something good for the environment, we wonder how much sense it makes to replace leased vehicles every three to four years. We like the QX60 Hybrid, but there's still room for improvement. It's a decent niche option for those who insist on three rows of seating, and if mainstream brands such as Toyota and Nissan don't cross your radar, there's nothing like it.


2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid AWD
BASE PRICE $47,495
PRICE AS TESTED $60,780
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.5L/230-hp/243-lb-ft supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 20-hp/29-lb-ft electric motor, 250 hp and 243 lb-ft comb
TRANSMISSION Cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4736 lb (54/46%)
WHEELBASE 114.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 196.4 x 77.2 x 68.6 in
0-60 MPH 8.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.3 sec @ 85.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 113 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.74 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.8 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 25/28/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 135/120 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.74 lb/mile