Infiniti is charged with showing off the finest technology and finishes that Nissan can muster. That extends to performance as well--and when the Infiniti QX56 switched platforms and country of origin, Nissan took the opportunity to upgrade the sport-ute's powertrain and handling, adding refinement where it sorely needed it.
The full-size SUV rumbles to life as soon as its pushbutton starter is pressed. The current powerplant shares the same 5.6 liters of V-8 displacement as the old American-made version--only here, the NASCAR-tinged exhaust rumble's been swapped out for a lush, muscular engine note that's altogether more powerful and more suitable for a luxury vehicle. In its current trim, the QX56 makes a prodigious 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, and makes the most of it by coupling it to a seven-speed automatic with almost imperceptible shifts. It's a strong, silent type of powertrain that pushes the QX56 to 60 mph in about seven seconds, according to Infiniti's estimates.
While the transmission has more gears and the engine less friction, fuel economy hasn't gone up all that much. It's EPA-rated at 14/20 mpg--better than before, okay for full-size SUVs, not so stellar in the grander scheme of things, even among luxury utes.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. 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.
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.