The 2010 Infiniti QX56: Infinitely Large
Chicxulub. A place the vast majority of Canadians have never heard of, and even fewer can pronounce, it just might be the single most important place on earth. Located just off the shore of the Yucatan peninsula and discovered in the late 1970’s by Glen Penfield, the Chicxulub crater spans 180 kilometres in diameter; the site of the largest event in earth’s history. Crashing to the earth 65 million years ago, the second largest meteor ever to come to earth (the first created the moon, according to some sources) caused the death of nearly every living thing on this rock we call home.
Imagine the irony then, that millions of years later it would be those same dinosaurs’s rotting remains (or lack thereof) causing the extinction of another breed: the full size SUV. During the ongoing fossil fuel crisis, thousands of car buyers turned to alternative fuels and smaller vehicles to get around, abandoning their Explorers, Suburbans and Durangos en masse in favour of Prius’ and Yarii. And yet, for a select few, the full size sports utility vehicle has never died.
And by select, I mean select. Full size SUVs live on as the long-wheelbase luxury sedan of the 21st century; Escalades and LX570s boldly laying claim to parking spaces once occupied by XJ12Ls and big Mercedes sedans. A revolution that started with the Range Rover of the same era as Mr. Penfield’s pondering of a relatively pronounced circular ridge, the luxury SUV has weathered the storm of fuel crisis’ and recessions and come out looking like this: big.
Really, really frikkin big. That’s the impression you get from Infiniti’s latest grandiose luxury SUV, the QX56. Completely refreshed for 2010 and based upon the internationally renowned Nissan Patrol, the new QX56 doesn’t try to hide its impressive girth. Although just 1.4 inches longer and 1.1 inches wider than the previous model, the new QX looks larger than it is by virtue of its upright bodywork and imposing fascia. The expanses of metal and glass are positively enormous, and the illusion is furthered by the tall, off-road ready Patrol underpinnings. But, once you get past the caricature of a car that faces you, it impresses with superb quality of assembly. The panel fitments are tight and uniform throughout and the paint, although somewhat soft, is incredibly smooth. The side vents are a little kitschy, but the running boards might be some of the best in the business, both stylish and useful.
Inside, however, there’s no indelicacy to overcome. Sure, it’s absolutely cavernous, but its size is more than matched by its amazing attention to detail. Things like the rippled leather trimming found on the interior door panels scream luxury and feel great under the fingertip. The wood trim, used in good proportion throughout the interior, is finished to a perfect luster but not before Infiniti’s designers infuse the grain with incredibly fine silver dust. The effect isn’t immediately noticeable, but imbues the wood with a depth that you simply don’t see very often any more. The leather around the centre console, on the armrests, and seats all feels bottomlessly soft, and has one of the nicest and finest textures you’re liable to find this side of a Bentley or Rolls.
Of course, being an honest to goodness Japanese luxury vehicle (assembled in Kyushu), it’s got enough technology in it to put the Space Shuttle Discovery to shame. Borrowing on the Patrol’s longstanding reputation for robustness and off-road capacity, the QX56 employs an off-road control system not unlike the famous Terrain Response system offered by Land Rover. With modes for rock, snow, sand and dirt, the system adapts the transfer case, stability control, and other systems to suit the terrain being traversed, not unlike the systems used by other manufacturers. However, what’s not unlike other manufacturers’ systems is the Hydraulic Body Motion Control System. Developed for the Middle Eastern markets that dominate Patrol sales charts, the system uses hydraulic cylinders within the four wheel independent suspension system to counteract the effects of centrifugal force. Applying positive pressure to the cylinders on the outboard side around a corner, the system acts as a sort of dynamic, ultra-stiff sway bar without impacting the ride.
And if you think it’s merely some form of technological mumbo jumbo designed to sell you on Infiniti’s hulking mass, well… you’d be right. But it also works. Stupendously. Effectively providing a ride that doesn’t compromise handling for comfort, the QX56 is a ridiculously comfortable way to cover ground. The seven speed gearbox ensures that the lively V8 makes the best use of its 400 horsepower, while increasing fuel economy by 10% over the previous model. Although not the perfect tool for inner city commuting, the all-around camera system does make parallel parking as easy as it’s ever going to get in a vehicle this size, and the body motion control system and responsive engine to make it feel more spritely than its size would belie. But it’s out of the highway that the QX really comes into its own. With a high seating position and big windows, it possesses the same commanding view that buyers crave, and the smooth ride and big engine give it a fantastically lazy feel. Pair that with the big captain’s chairs and massive cabin, and driving the QX56 can end up feeling like you’re piloting your living room down Highway 99, which can be nice in its own right.
And that’s pretty much the epicenter of the QX56’s existence. Sure, the greenies will decry its abysmal fuel economy, and the enthusiasts will crucify its gargantuan size, but the reality is this: when it comes to comfort, they don’t get much better than this. Although not quite possessing of the class and style of Range Rover’s products, the QX is unsurpassed in size, capacity, and comfort, and there’s an unquestionable place in the market for just such a vehicle. So maybe it’s not quite so ironic. After all, some living organisms survived that big meteor and evolved into us homo sapiens, so who says the full size SUV can’t do the same?
|Test drive report|
|Test model||2010 Infiniti QX56|
|Trim level||56 7 passengers|
|Price as tested||CA$81,000|
|Warranty (basic)||4 years/100,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||6 years/110,000 km|
|Fuel economy (city/highway/observed)||17.3 / 11.8 / 16.4 L/100km|
|Competitive models||Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX, Lincoln Navigator|