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2002 Infiniti QX4 Preview

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If it's "badge-engineered," is it a bad deal?

That's the question when it comes to vehicles such as the 2002 Infiniti QX4, a mid-size luxury SUV that's fundamentally a Nissan Pathfinder, albeit equipped with much more standard stuff, including Xenon high-intensity headlights, automatic climate control, nicer trim and a ritzier brand name.

Other automakers badge-engineer, too: the Cadillac Escalade SUV is basically a GMC Yukon Denali with a different grille and few tweaks here and there. Ford's Explorer does double duty in disguise as the more upscale but nearly identical Mercury Mountaineer. And so on. It's easier and cheaper for these automakers to add content to a pre-existing vehicle, then rebadge it as a "new model" than it is to actually design and build a truly new model.

But is it a good deal for you?

The answer depends on what you're looking for. Buy the '02 QX4, which runs $34,150 for the 2WD version to $35,550 for the loaded 4WD version, and you get all the bells and whistles included, plus the ability to select a few things you can't even order on the less prestigious, more blue-collar Pathfinder, such as Intelligent Cruise Control and a DVD (or VHS) entertainment system. You'll also get better treatment at the Infiniti dealer because you're a "luxury" buyer. And though the two SUVs are fundamentally identical in terms of their basic body shells, engines, and so on, the Infiniti version offers a substantially better warranty  -- four years/60,000 miles -- than the benighted Nissan at just three years/36,000 miles. All of these advantages are yours for about $4000 more than the closest comparably equipped Pathfinder, the $31,499 LE 4x4.

Brutal competition

The QX4 competes against other mid-size premium and near-luxury SUVs as the Ford Explorer Limited and Eddie Bauer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Freelander, Mitsubishi Montero Sport Limited, and the GMC Envoy. Of these, only the Freelander is significantly cheaper -- just $24,975 for the base S model to $31,575 for the better-equipped HSE -- and the only one that's as readily identifiable as a luxury/high-end model. However, the Freelander has a smaller 2.5-liter V-6 rated at just 175 hp, which is 65 less than the Infiniti's standard 3.5 V-6, and overall it’s a smaller, less well-appointed vehicle.

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