New Comer: 2011 Infiniti QX56
Long Island is Infiniti's biggest market for its QX56 sport/utility, which tells you something about the truck's image. It speaks to that old-money, East Coast market where the Escalade is too showy and where, for many, the Land Rover line is too show-offy. Yet, while Long Island's take rate for the four-wheel-drive option is nearly 100 percent, overall the split is 60-percent 4WD/40-percent RWD, indicating that a good number of these are going to "smile" states, including showier places than Long Island.
That there's a second-generation, 2011 Infiniti QX56 at all is a minor automotive miracle. After the double-whammy of the 2008 oil shock and the Great Recession, the large body-on-frame SUV market was all but given up for dead. We expected a few iconic survivors, like the Chevrolet Suburban and the Land Rover line, the latter assuming correctly that Wall Street investment brokers would quickly start to get their bonuses back. Infiniti, on the other hand, figures the full-size SUV market (which includes unibody models) has stabilized at 105,000 per year. That's well off from 2006's peak of 291,000 units.
So as the latest entry in this increasingly exclusive segment, the QX56 leaps ahead of much of its competition in terms of refinement. It's still no more a competitor for Land Rovers that actually rove land. The QX's All-Mode 4WD features automatic, four-high and four-low settings and can distribute up to 50 percent of available torque to the front wheels on demand. Hill Start Assist is included. Considering its standard 20-inch and optional 22-inch wheels and tires, the QX56 still is designed for snow-covered roads in the Hamptons, not the Rubicon.
The new model's breakthrough instead comes in the form of something called Body Motion Control. The technology gives the 2011 QX56 the most refined ride among V-8 powered body-on-frame sport/utilities. Body Motion Control, part of a $5800 package that replaces the 20-inch wheels with 22s, throws out anti-roll bars for a dual-pipe cross-link with hydraulic fluid to counteract body roll. It works as advertised in this big, heavy (even after losing 161 pounds in 4WD trim) SUV. Any reasonable driver will run out of confidence in the truck's lateral grip before Body Motion Control gives up its flat cornering. More important, the system controls the four-wheel independent suspension to minimize head toss, dive, and squat. Even in the context of this increasingly exclusive segment, being the best body-on-frame model doesn't cover those pricier, three-row unibody competitors from Mercedes and Audi.
Its exterior design is more aerodynamic and distinctive than its boxier, body-on-frame competitors, like the Lexus LX 570 and Lincoln Navigator; and a new gas direct-injection 5.6-liter DOHC V-8, based on the FX50's 5.0, makes 80 more horses than the old 5.6. With a seven-speed automatic, city fuel mileage is up 2 mpg. Whether you get RWD or 4WD, that's still just 14 mpg. And even the new engine has a lot of inertia to overcome up to about 40 mph. Like all such large SUVs, launches don't exactly trigger nosebleeds.
Steering is pretty numb and almost pinky-light. With its advanced electronic gizmos and plush spaciousness (Infiniti claims best-in-class second-row legroom), this is an SUV designed for passengers, not drivers. Lane-departure warning keeps the driver alert, though as the QX56's tall, wide body and swoopy FX-like hood, tends to trigger the audible alarm way too often on narrow lanes.
If you tow something heavy, though, the QX56 might be the ticket. It's rated 8500 pounds, whether you choose 4WD or RWD.
Nissan has phased out the Armada on which the old model was based and moved QX production to Japan alongside its Nissan Patrol platform sibling. It's a business plan that could overcome any disappointment in the segment's health. Incremental sales and a high profit margin should be all the new Infiniti QX56 needs.
|2011 Infiniti Qx56|
|Base price range||$57,650-$60,750|
|Layout||Front engine, RWD/4WD, 6- or 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||5.6L/400-hp/413-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|Length x width x height||208.3 x 79.9 x 75.8 in|
|Curb weight||5600-5850 lb (mfr)|
|Max payload capacity||1650-1700 lb|
|Max towing capacity||8500 lb|
|0-60 mph||6.1 sec|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||14/20 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.20 lb/mile (est)|
|On sale in U.S.||Currently|