The 2014 Infiniti QX60 has a job to do: It's meant to haul up to seven people and all their goods around affluent suburbs and, with all-wheel drive, through snowstorms and the occasional muddy lacrosse field. It's a far more pleasant vehicle to drive than the huge, hulking, truck-based QX80, but between a long, tall body and the standard continuously-variable transmission (CVT), it's just not a driver's car.
New 2014, the QX60 offers a choice of two powertrains. The standard engine is a 265-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 248 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with the latest iteration of Nissan's CVT. On the road, this engine provides adequate but not very enthusiastic performance.
This powertrain does offer drivers a choice of four different drive modes: Eco, Standard, Sport, and Snow. Eco is best avoided unless you're on long, flat stretches of road, since we found the pedal feel--it pushes back if you try to accelerate too hard--annoying. The Sport mode, unusually, remaps the CVT so its behavior mimics a conventional six-speed automatic--at the cost of slightly higher fuel consumption--with defined shift points and a linear relationship between engine speed and road speed.
The second powertrain, new this year, is a hybrid. It uses a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a single 15-kilowatt electric motor, with clutches on either side of the motor, driving through an adapted version of the same CVT. Added together, the engine and motor together produce about 250 horsepower.
But unlike hybrids from Toyota or Ford, the QX60 Hybrid can't move away from stops using only electric power. There's no smooth, engine-less acceleration away from stop lights. Instead, it's a mild hybrid system that adds supplemental torque when more power is needed, restarts the engine after stops, and recharges a small lithium-ion battery pack under regenerative braking.
Both powertrains can be ordered with the standard front-wheel drive, or optional all-wheel drive. In AWD QX60 models, the system prioritizes drive to the front wheels until it senses wheel slip or other traction problems--when it can shift up to half the torque to the rear wheels. In other words, the QX60 is not equipped for off-road rock climbing, but it will be a very practical vehicle for muddy horse paddocks and snowy weather. The hybrid system boosts gas mileage from either 20 or 21 mpg combined for the V-6 version to 26 mpg combined with either drive configuration.
The Infiniti QX60 is mostly quiet to ride in, partly because the CVT keeps engine speeds as low as possible for fuel efficiency. When it's asked for full power, the engine noise gets somewhat louder, but Infiniti has added the expected swathes of luxury noise insulation, so it never gets particularly unpleasant. Towing capacity is up to 3,500 pounds for the V-6 version, assuming the accessory trailer hitch has been fitted (for a fairly reasonable $370)--though Infiniti says only a fifth of owners will ever tow anything.
Roadholding is adequate, though the electric power steering doesn't transmit a lot of road feel, and the vehicles length becomes most apparent when trying to place the QX60 in narrower streets or, if absolutely necessary, parallel parking it. But that really doesn't matter; it's a big, capacious crossover and that's why people buy it. In the end, the QX60 performs fine for its mission as family transport.