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Compared with sporting and agile cars such as the Infiniti G37 and FX50, the 2010 Infiniti QX56 is an odd throwback, a journey into yesteryear before the first hybrids strode the earth. Built on a truck frame, it rides like a railway car. The engine, big enough to pull the near 3 tons of the QX56 around, plus an extra 9,000 pounds towed from the rear bumper, burns gas at a visible rate. And the QX56 is big, so big that we wanted to put traffic cones around it every time we parked. The ride height is on par with public transportation.
We parked the QX56 next to the Scion xB, to get a sense of the size of the vehicle.
The underlying vehicle is the same as the Nissan Armada, with typical badge engineering changes to the grille. Being an Infiniti, the interior gets a luxury treatment, with plenty of leather and wood insets. Infiniti also gives the QX56 its latest cabin tech package, a suite of gadgets we've liked in other Infiniti cars. But these gadgets don't make as smooth a transition into the QX56; iPod integration was lost somewhere along the way, and the cabin tech controller was placed in an awkward position.
The cavernous interior of the QX56 includes three rows of seating, although our review vehicle came with captain's chairs in the second row, allowing total seating for six. Luxury accessibility comes in the form of a power-operated rear gate, and power-folding third-row seats. With the second- and third-row seats down, a huge amount of space is available for furniture, bicycles, and probably Liechtenstein.
An SUV like the QX56 plus an engine big enough to move it around should equal lousy gas mileage, and it does. The QX56 only makes 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway, according to the EPA. During our testing, we achieved 14.8 mpg for mixed freeway and city driving. The 28-gallon gas tank gives it some range, but filling it up will take some time.
This information screen is not something you want to look at too often.
During city driving with the QX56, we found it responded well to hypermiling pulse-and-glide techniques. Once up to speed, the QX56 coasted very well, its 5,705 pounds adding a lot to its inertia. A dedicated effort to pulse-and-glide the QX56 might get it better fuel economy, but we aren't particularly hopeful.
Although its 5.6-liter V-8 uses aluminum block construction and a double overhead cam, that engine is not as sophisticated as Infiniti's VQ series engines, like the V-6 the company puts in the G37, which uses direct injection and variable-valve timing for better efficiency. The QX56's V-8 cranks out 320 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque.
That high torque number means the QX56 accelerates promptly, and can handle towing heavy loads. In fact, we were impressed by the vehicles drivability, its power steering making it easy to turn the 20 inch wheels. Around the narrow and crowded streets of San Francisco, we had to be vigilant, as the vehicles size allowed little room for error. But the car is easy to control.
The automatic transmission has only five gears, contributing to the poor fuel economy. There is no manual mode for this transmission, but Infiniti includes four low ranges, useful for towing. Another aspect that helps its towing performance is the body on frame construction. But that type of construction also leads to the rough ride, where every pothole and bump is felt in the cabin. In an attempt to regain the luxury to which the Infiniti brand aspires, the shocks have some softness. Unfortunately, those shocks led to so much oscillation when driving at speed the car felt like it was riding over ocean swells.
When backing up, a rearview camera comes on, its view filling the car's LCD. This camera has simple, static overlay lines, giving an idea of the distance to objects, but as with many other aspects of the QX56, it falls behind other Infiniti vehicles in its sophistication. Given the size of this SUV, we would really have liked to see the kind of surround-camera system available on the Infiniti EX35.
Infiniti makes the rearview camera standard on the QX56.
One option we didn't expect was adaptive cruise control, an advanced feature befitting Infiniti. Using controls on the steering wheel, it let us set our speed and following distance. As we came up on slower traffic, the QX56 matched its speed to the car ahead, and it wasn't fooled by cars in other lanes.
Infiniti offers a solid suite of cabin electronics in its other models, including a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and iPod support. Some of this equipment makes its way into the QX56, but not all of it. It lacks the iPod integration, but, strangely, includes a slot for Compact Flash cards. Other audio sources include an MP3-compatible single-CD player, satellite radio, and 9.3 gigabytes of space on the navigation system's hard drive. This last source, called the Jukebox, turns the car into an iPod, letting you rip CDs to it, then browse through the music library by artist, album, and genre.
It may lack iPod integration, but the car's hard drive holds plenty of music.
Music plays through a 12-speaker Bose system, which sounds pretty good. It's not a superhigh-quality system, but it is better than average. With a subwoofer and speakers for the third-row seat, this system sounded best when used to play a DVD over the car's rear-entertainment system. This optional system includes an 8- inch ceiling-mounted monitor and a DVD player in the console. The DVD player includes RCA and composite video jacks, making it possible to plug in a video game or other device. But the console lacks a pass-through, so any cables will get pinched by the console lid.
The electronics include a Bluetooth phone system with an onscreen keypad and controls mounted on the steering wheel for voice command. We had no trouble pairing it to an iPhone, and the call quality was good. This system's main drawback, and where it falls behind competitors, is its phonebook. There are only 40 contact slots, and to copy over contacts from a paired phone, you have to push them over. Some phones, such as the iPhone, don't support pushing contacts.
Live traffic information is a useful part of this navigation system.
The last cabin tech feature, the navigation system, is hard-drive-based. We like that part, but the maps look more primitive than those in other navigation-equipped Infinitis, as if they were copied over from an earlier generation system. The resolution is rough, although we do like that it includes 2D and 3D maps. In 3D mode, the system renders certain landmark buildings in urban areas, for example, showing the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. The maps also show traffic data, including specific incidents and flow information for major arteries.
When entering a destination, the system automatically routes round traffic problems, an important feature that makes the traffic data much more useful. We like the route guidance from this system, as it includes easy-to-read graphics showing upcoming turns and reads out the names of streets on the route.
The interface for entering destinations and controlling other cabin tech functions uses a big knob studded with directional buttons, similar to that found in other Infiniti vehicles. This is one of our favorite interfaces for cabin tech, as it's very easy to make onscreen selections quickly and accurately. But where other Infiniti cars have the knob mounted horizontally, this one sits vertically on the front of the stack. With this placement, it isn't as easy to use. There is certainly enough space within the QX56 to include a horizontal panel for the control knob.
For people with large families and the need to tow boats or other recreational equipment, the 2010 Infiniti QX56 offers potential, but its luxury doesn't quite live up to the Infiniti brand. Most of the tech in the QX56 seems a little behind the curve. Although it uses an independent suspension, the body-on-frame construction leads to rough ride quality. The engine isn't particularly advanced compared with other Infiniti power plants, and the transmission's lack of a sixth gear is a surprise, as six-speed automatics have become common. There are some good features in the cabin tech, especially the hard-drive-based navigation system, but the electronics fall short of Infiniti offerings in other cars in a few key areas. The cabin tech interface also lacks the good ergonomics found in other Infiniti models. The vehicle does look distinct, with a nice exterior design, and it will certainly number among the larger things on the road.
|Model||2010 Infiniti QX56|
|EPA fuel economy||12 mpg city/18 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||14.8 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard hard-drive-based system with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||Standard MP3 compatible single CD player, optional console-mounted DVD player for rear entertainment system|
|MP3 player support||n/a|
|Other digital audio||9.3 gigabytes hard-drive storage, compact flash slot, satellite radio, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||Bose 12-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, rear view camera, sonar distance warning|
|Price as tested||$59,765|