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2011 Infiniti QX56 Performance

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Infiniti ditches one truck platform for another, and trades up to a larger V-8 engine in this new edition of the QX56. Somehow, it finds better fuel economy and much friendlier road manners.

The V-8 you’ll find by flipping open the QX56’s hood is not the same as before. It’s still 5.6 liters of displacement, but that old thundery truck unit has been heaved in favor of the powerplant you’ll also find in the 2011 Infiniti M56 sedan. It’s all you’ll ever need in an SUV without AMG or M initials, with 400 horsepower on tap, 413 pound-feet of twist underfoot, and a willing cohort in the seven-speed automatic that will match downshifts for smoothness while also conspiring to shoot the QX to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. The automatic shifts more smoothly too, actually encouraging you to use the manual-shift mode, and the sounds emanating from the front end strike fewer harsh, raspy notes, if any.

The 2011 QX56’s pervasive luxury feel extends to its powertrain and suspension, but we wish the steering would butch it up a little.

If that’s not fast enough for an SUV, we’re all going to have to reconsider how much oil we use for other things like grocery bags, life-saving drugs, and home heating. The QX does manage a 14/20 mpg EPA fuel economy rating—nothing stellar or class-leading, but a 10-percent improvement from the old drivetrain.

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.

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.

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