2012 INFINITI QX56 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 3, 2012

Infiniti's civilized the full-sized SUV about as well as Land Rover has--but does the world still need big utes like this one?

Maybe it's a narrow demographic, but the 2012 Infiniti QX56 has it nailed. It's for buyers who need seats for eight and can tell high-spec off-road hardware at a glance--but can also appreciate the fine turn of a Nakashima table.

The QX56 is Infiniti's big SUV, but it's not the same vehicle as the one that used to be built in Mississippi. It's now a version of a home-market Nissan Patrol, and it looks it, particularly from the side, where there's a quintessential Japanese-ute charm. It's tall, and looks a little more narrow than it did in its last edition, while the upkick at its rear end and the swells around its fenders at least try to relate to Infiniti's smaller SUVs, the EX and FX. On the downside, the front end is very tall, and the fender vents look out of place, though one of them actually pipes cooler air into the engine bay. The QX's interior is artful, with burled wood and metallic trim applied to a gracefully styled dash with some decidedly masculine lines.

Under the hood, there's just one drivetrain configuration with the QX56. It starts with a 5.6-liter V-8 that produces 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, funneled through a seven-speed automatic that blips the throttle to smooth out downshifts, just as the gearbox on the G37 sports coupe does. Infiniti promises a 0-60 mph time of about seven seconds, and gas mileage, while still low, is a big improvement on the last QX, at 14/20 mpg. The QX's independent suspension does a fine job of controlling its ride quality, even up to the 22-inch wheels that are available on the most expensive versions. There’s an automatic leveling setup on the rear end for towing duty (the QX will drag 8,500 pounds behind it), as well as available Hydraulic Body Motion Control, which uses a closed air-pressure loop to damp out body lean in tight corners. It's slightly different in feel, but to our wallets, not distinctly more comfortable, and not worth the thousands of extra dollars. The QX's steering feel is light--maybe too much so for our tastes--but its brakes are big and powerful.

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For traction, Infiniti upgrades the rear-drive QX56 to full-time four-wheel drive with a real low drive ratio. Torque is biased to the rear, but can be split 50:50 between the front and rear axles when wheels start slipping. It’s fairly simple and effective—more so with the QX’s standard hill-start-assist electronics.

The QX is noticeably shorter than in the past, by about 3 inches. It's still quite spacious, with big front chairs that don't lack for room in any direction except where knees meet the center console. Ventilated front seats are an option. In the second row, where the leather seats can be heated, there's plenty of room for two adults, though three would be possible for short trips. Second-row bucket seats are available, and we prefer them. The QX's third-row bench is for small children only. Behind it, there's enough space for moderate shopping duty, but the third-row seat can be powered down to expand cargo space to 95 cubic feet. A lower liftover height and a power tailgate make loading and unloading easier than before, too.

The QX56 isn't quite the tech orgy you’ll find inside a Lincoln MKT or a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, but Infiniti's big SUV does come standard with the usual power features; navigation with a hard drive for maps and music; DVD audio and satellite radio; 20-inch wheels; a moonroof; a power tailgate; Bluetooth with audio streaming; pushbutton start; USB connectivity for audio players; and leather trim. At a base price under $60,000, its chief competition lies in the GL-Class and Navigator, while the much more pricey Range Rover and Escalade are thousands more--and they don't include the sublime Infiniti ownership experience.

 


 

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2012 INFINITI QX56

Styling

The QX56 has the silhouette of an old-school Japanese SUV, but the richly finished interior of a modern luxury car.

One name, two SUVs--there's nothing in common with the old Infiniti QX56 in today's luxury sport-utility vehicle, and for the record, we're much more in sync with the current look, though it has some notable flaws.

There's some old-school, mid-1980s charm in the QX56's shape. The proportions remind us of the Monteros and Troopers from that era, and it's not much of a surprise to learn the QX shares its running gear with the modern-day version of the Nissan Patrol, another long-running SUV with a faintly retro tall-wagon look. On the QX56, the proportions hit the right note, with glass and metal in good balance, and ride height underscoring the fact that this is no crossover vehicle. The kicked-up D-pillar? We like, same as with the subtly swelled fenders and the raised-inset tailgate.

Where the details miss their target, unfortunately, is up front. The grille and headlights draw all the attention up front, giving the QX56 a very tall forehead. The vents look straight out of a blister pack from an auto-parts chain, though one of them actually functions to bring cool air under the hood. These flaws get muted by darker paint colors--maybe they'd body-color the vents if you asked nicely?

Slide in and savor the QX’s cabin to seal the deal. This look and feel fits in perfectly with the grace and finesse of the M56 sedan. Finely finished wood burls and swirls around the analog clock, audio controls, and steering wheel on some versions; the hazelnut leather in our test vehicle matched it perfectly. Infiniti’s designers have balanced the shapes and textures on the dash in a subtly masculine way, from the hockey-stick angles of the dash center to the aluminum strip implanted into the shift lever like the stitching on a 22nd-century baseball. We’ve seen lots of clear, finely detailed gauges—and the ones on this Infiniti are some of our favorites. This cockpit’s as radiant as that in the Mercedes-Benz GL, more refined than the one in the Escalade—and closer than ever to the cabin in the excellent Range Rover.
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2012 INFINITI QX56

Performance

Steering feel could be tauter; otherwise, the Infiniti QX56 drives with a pervasive luxury feel.

When it switched to a new platform and a new country of origin, the Infiniti QX56 also swapped out its bulky, somewhat low-rent feel for road manners much more in line with what Infiniti wants the brand to represent.

Some of the changes seem invisible, until you push the start button and the big SUV stirs to life. Its old 5.6-liter V-8 was a NASCAR-style rumbler, with plenty of thrust and exhaust noise to go with it. With the same displacement, the 2012 QX56 has even more horsepower--400 hp at last count, and 413 pound-feet of torque--and more of the strong, silent acceleration that luxury buyers usually seek out. The seven-speed automatic paired to it matches that smoothness with its own imperceptible shifts, and together, they press the QX56 to 60 mph in about seven seconds.

The addition of more gears and a more efficient engine drives up gas mileage numbers to 14/20 mpg--not stellar by absolute standards, but good for big SUVs, especially luxury utes.

For traction, Infiniti upgrades the rear-drive QX56 to full-time four-wheel drive with a real low drive ratio. Torque is biased to the rear, but can be split 50:50 between the front and rear axles when wheels start slipping. It’s fairly simple and effective—more so with the QX’s standard hill-start-assist electronics.

Since the QX56 shares some of its rugged underpinnings with the military-grade Nissan Patrol, it’s no surprise the Infiniti has off-roading in its genetic makeup. That’s not to overlook its considerable on-road talent; the independent suspension does a fine job of muting road imperfections, whether it’s shod with the base 20-inch or the brash, sexy 22-inch wheels fitted on our test machine. There’s an automatic leveling setup on the rear end for towing duty (the QX will drag 8,500 pounds behind it), as well as available Hydraulic Body Motion Control, which uses a closed air-pressure loop to damp out body lean in tight corners.

The real, though faint, difference between the suspensions didn’t get much more pronounced with larger wheels, so normally we’d advise skipping the Deluxe Touring Package and the hydraulic suspension—but since it’s added with the 22-inch wheels and other features, it’s between you and your wallet. Steering feel is too light for our tastes, but the QX’s brakes are big and powerful.

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2012 INFINITI QX56

Comfort & Quality

The QX56 does a fine job toting up to seven passengers, as long as you're up front with adults.

The QX56 is a completely different vehicle from the one Infiniti built prior to the 2011 model year, and the differences in interior space and comfort are noticeable. It's a bit shorter and lower than before, and the refinement's a magnitude better than the prior version, too.

The latest version is about three inches shorter than the one that was built in Nissan's plant in Tennessee, but it's hard to tell a dramatic difference inside between that QX and this one, which hails from Japan. The new SUV has the same caliber of front-seat room; the seats are big and plush and power-driven, and the only place you'll feel impinged upon is at the knees, where you'll make contact with a softly padded center console. There's no reason to steer around the optional ventilated seats--they add months of comfort for Southern drivers.

Second-row seating is almost as ample, but three adults across won't be as comfortable in the standard configuration as they will if the owner opted for the no-charge bench seat. The buckets are nicer, though, and get a center console almost as useful as the deep bin between the front seats. The second-row seats also offer heating, and a new tip-forward setup is meant to make clambering into the third-row seat a little easier. In the end, that third-row seat just isn't useful for adults, but three children will be able to jump into it and find plenty of room for themselves and their backpacks.

Behind the third-row seat, there’s as much cargo room as you’d find in the trunk of a Ford Fusion. With the power-folding third-row seat down, Infiniti counts 95.1 cubic feet of storage space. Loading is simple enough, since the QX56 sits at least 2 inches lower than the previous model, and the power tailgate relieves lightweights and shorties from having to jump and hang on for closure.
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2012 INFINITI QX56

Safety

SUVs usually perform well in crash tests, but there's no official data for the Infiniti QX56 just yet.

Neither of the major crash-test agencies has yet tested the Infiniti QX56, but we're giving it a high score because of its heft and size, and because of the overwhelming amount of safety technology that's standard or optional for the 2012 model year.

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has tested the QX56 for crash safety. Still, the QX has all the mandatory and expected safety features. There are dual front, side, and curtain airbags; stability control and anti-lock brakes; tire-pressure monitors; and active headrests.

Additionally, Infiniti fits a set of cameras to the SUV's body and renders them together on the navigation screen--it's not just a rearview camera, it's a 180-degree view of potential obstacles.

Infiniti offers some of the latest safety technology as options on the QX56 as well. Buyers can opt for adaptive cruise control with Distance Control Assist, which slows it down when the system detects obstacles ahead. A blind-spot warning system and a lane departure warning system are available, as is a lane-departure prevention system that gently nudges the QX back into a lane when sensors think you’re wandering off the mark. Think twice before you buy these, though--we think they create too much audible and haptic interference for skilled drivers.

Visibility gets a little dicey at the rear quarters, especially if you’re carrying a full complement of people, but the QX56’s big mirrors and drop-away fenders help in parking and cruising with confidence.

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2012 INFINITI QX56

Features

We'd pass on the high-tech driving assistants, but the rest of the Infiniti QX56's luxury features are tempting.

Somewhat shy of the tech orgy you'll find inside a Lincoln MKT or even a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Infiniti QX56 nonetheless is one of the plushest trucks we've driven in the past year, with standard features and options to match its pricetag.

Every QX56 comes with power windows, locks and mirrors; 20-inch wheels; a power tailgate; a moonroof; pushbutton start; leather seating; navigation with a hard drive for map and music storage; DVD audio and satellite radio; Bluetooth with audio streaming; and USB connectivity for audio players.

Option packages add on more upscale features, the kind you'll also find in the Escalade and Range Rover. A hydraulic suspension is available; so are ventilated front seats, and heated second-row seats; 22-inch wheels; and easy-folding second-row seats for access to the third row.

There's also a Theater Package, which includes dual LCD displays for the back seat, alone with remote controls, wireless headphones, and auxiliary inputs for gaming systems. A Technology Package groups features like blind-spot monitors with adaptive headlights, and a three-zone automatic climate control system.

Lastly, you can opt to swap the second-row chairs for a three-seat bench at no cost. Savor the second-row seats and the huge console before deciding you’ll need the extra seat more.

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2012 INFINITI QX56

Fuel Economy

Diesel and hybrid options might help the numbers, but in its class, the Infiniti QX56's gas mileage isn't bad.

Fuel economy isn't the strong suit of big SUVs, and here, the Infiniti QX56 falls into line.

The QX is rated at 14/20 mpg by the EPA, whether you opt for the rear-drive model or the four-wheel-drive edition. While those aren't stellar numbers, they are far better than Nissan's own Armada SUV and better than many other big luxury SUVs.

Infiniti has no plans for hybrid or diesel QX utes here in the U.S.

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April 28, 2015
2012 INFINITI QX56 4WD 4-Door 8-passenger

Full size SUV

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The QX56 is by far the most spacious in premium SUV's. The ride quality is good but can be a bit better compared to Lexus. Fuel economy 2012 onwards is quite a bit better compared to older models. Overall well... + More »
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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