2012 Infiniti QX56 Performance

8.0
Performance

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.

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

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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