Just as before, the QX remains Infiniti’s biggest SUV, but this time around the company has focused on better handling, added refinement and improved fuel economy. Just when you thought that large luxury SUVs were destined to be as extinct as the dinosaurs that power these thirsty beasts, Infiniti has plugged the segment into life support with its redesigned 2011 Infiniti QX56.
Unlike the previous-generation model, which was related to the U.S.-built Nissan Armada pickup truck, the new QX56 is based on the Japan-built Nissan Patrol, a dedicated all-wheel-drive utility vehicle that is the company’s answer to the Toyota Land Cruiser. The shift in platforms for the U.S. means a larger, better passenger cabin as well as a lengthy list of new technology. One interesting feature is the optional Hydraulic Body Motion Control system, which uses interconnected shock absorbers to combat body roll as well as brake dive and acceleration squat.
Under the hood is a 5.6-liter V8. Though it’s basically the same engine as before, the adoption of direct injection and variable valve timing and lift brings its output up to 400 horsepower, a healthy rise over last year’s 320 hp. Also new is a seven-speed automatic transmission (replacing a five-speed automatic), which helps increase fuel economy by an impressive 14 percent.
There are some areas of contention, however, the most notable being the 2011 Infiniti QX56′s bloated exterior styling. Also, the standard 20-inch tires compromise the QX’s ride quality and also make this very capable platform unsuitable for off-road use. Light-duty all-terrain off-roading (gravel roads and snow) is about as much as the big Infiniti can handle, as it lacks a locking rear differential and suitable tires. It’s also worth mentioning that the third-row seats are suitable for smaller passengers only.
Major improvements can be found throughout the cabin, which looks more like a private jet than an SUV. Top-notch materials and craftsmanship define the QX’s luxury status, along with plenty of technological features that almost make the driver redundant. The QX still offers three rows of seating and is also noteworthy in terms of cargo capacity, as it’s able to accommodate more than its competitors.
For most consumers the new QX56 stacks up fairly well. The Cadillac Escalade stands as the Infiniti’s main rival, with similar appointments and capabilities. The Lincoln Navigator is roomier but underpowered. Also worth consideration is the Mercedes GL550 for its prestige and polish. And if you want something with off-roading chops, we’d steer you to the all-conquering Lexus LX 570 and Land Rover Range Rover. But with its impressive feature content, secure handling and potent V8, the 2011 Infiniti QX56 represents a solid choice as a luxurious hauler of people and cargo.