September 23, 2006 By Kevin C. Limjoco

Infiniti QX56 4×2 

 

A couple of years ago when the Infiniti 56 stormed in to the large SUV scene replacing the forgettable QX4, it elevated luxury and performance standards in the segment. The strategy of sprucing up key Nissan models has become acceptable to us because Infiniti really improves the vehicles beyond the mere cosmetic. The QX56 4×2 we have here, for example, is such a case once again. It is a slightly more economical and marginally better handling current model over the 4×4 version. The QX-series is based on the Nissan Pathfinder Armada. Both are enormous SUVs that if they were as long as a Suburban, would be the largest land whales short of an RV, measuring 206.9” from nose to tail, with a 123.2” wheelbase.

There’s plenty of room for seven adults, even perhaps more, but you do want to maintain peace and order in the cabin. The seats looked great but were very flat, wide and lacked lateral support; I would have preferred a more contoured and ergonomically correct design. Not surprisingly, the corporate Infiniti mantra is ‘massive precision.’ There are several ways to measure whether Infiniti has lived up to that target. Once you take in the very spacious and well appointed interior, which has common family traits throughout the range that include the customary analog clock in the center dashboard, the dimension of the QX56 somehow diminish to something more manageable. The combination of rear sonar sensor and a reverse camera, whose image, with color guides, is displayed in the full color center 6.3” LCD screen, aid maneuverability at slow speeds, especially when in reverse!

The sensation of size may have diminished ever so slightly behind the wheel, but you never forget how huge this SUV is even on US roads. One of the new updates is the cruise control system similar to that offered on Mercedes-Benzes that maintains a preset distance from the car in front and will brake and accelerate accordingly. The system works very well and is very easy to tailor from the steering wheel. The QX56 would be a real handful in the Philippines because of its generous dimensions and ride height, which has a clearance of 11”. You just might run over a street vendor the moment you peer at the center screen displaying to-the-second functions like individual tire pressure, fuel economy, range, etc. The interior noise at a steady 130km/h was very minimal, almost as quiet as a Lexus LX470 but better than the Toyota Land Cruiser V8, thanks in part to extra insulation over the Armada. With a mighty 315bhp from the dohc 32valve 5.6 liter V8 and 390 pound-feet of torque (the Armada makes 305bhp and 385 lb.ft) propelling the land frigate with its five-speed automatic, the QX56 is actually pretty swift and even agile with an accompanying roar from both the engine bay and rear exhaust.

Steering is reasonably precise, in fact the best so far in its class. The all-wheel independent double wishbone suspension does not have adaptable air damping, but the rear does have auto load leveling. The rigid, fully boxed ladder chassis combined with the excellent steering, 12.6” vented discs all around with ABS, and the traditional suspension soaked up all road imperfections with total nonchalance and complete composure. At over 160km/h the QX56 still remained very stable, even nimble, but compromised fuel consumption heavily with a best of 19mph for highway mileage.

 

For about $10,000 less than a 4×2 Nissan Armada, the Infiniti QX56 offers upgraded design details like the very prominent chrome grille, HID headlights and LED rear-light clusters, 10-speaker 265watt 6CD Bose system with MP3 and Bluetooth, luxurious interior with ‘Sojourner’ leather, aluminum accents and real wood trim, power lift gate, navigational system, moon roof and the odd split roof rack. It’s an instantly intimidating vehicle that you find out is a gentle giant after all, albeit a very thirsty one. The overall design theme is a bit controversial though; many have not warmed to it. There is also still too much cheap plastic abound, though thankfully the gauges are well-placed, a bit busy but easy to read.

Infiniti’s betting it can attract 15,000 ‘accomplished’ customers, the type of folks that marketing manager Ed Baldwin says ‘want everything.’ They’ll certainly get a lot with the QX56: a daunting road presence with plenty of power, space, and creature comforts. This is clearly a vehicle for the US landscape more than anywhere else.

 

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