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Posted: August 08, 2012

Executive wheels: Infiniti’s jumbo-sized surprise

Great things can come in giant packages

Jeff Rundles

INFINITI QX56 4 WD

While everyone else is going small, I have found a reason in 2012 to like – make that love – big again.

When they delivered the Infiniti QX56, I was ready to dislike it. Infiniti is the luxury division of Nissan, and over the last few years, I found both Nissans and Infinitis lacking. The Infiniti QX56 has changed my mind – about bigness, and about Infiniti and Nissan generally. Yes, it’s big. Yes, the gas mileage is absurd. Yes, it's hard to park, especially downtown.

But man, it is one great vehicle.

The interior is among the most beautiful I have ever seen. My test-drive model had cream-colored leather seating and padded areas all around, accented by Tuscan burl wood trim on the doors, on the console and on the steering wheel.

Adjusting everything was easy, finding my favorite radio stations, including the included XM satellite, was a breeze, and I discovered over the course of a week that operating the climate control was also easy.

It was hot the week I drove the QX56 and it had, hands down, the best air conditioner ever – and that included, according to my son, cooling in the back – both the middle row and the third row seating. Also, the vehicle has heated seats up front and in the second row (in the options package) and the front seats also had the cooling option, which is very nice when the temps hover around 95.

It’s the driving, though, that really impresses. This vehicle features a 5.6-liter (thus the name QX56) V8 with 400 hp that can scream from a dead stop and accelerates with ease. It  handles like a race car: for such a big vehicle, the QX 56 is as nimble as any sedan I have ever driven and has an amazing turn ratio. I usually don’t like vehicles of this size as commuter cars, but I was eager every morning to get in it and take the 25 minutes as both a luxury experience and driving pleasure. I took the long way to work all week long.

I also took the QX56 up to Fort Collins on the weekend, and I can personally attest to its prowess as a road warrior. Interstates, county roads, state highways – it didn’t matter. You could easily drive this thing for days and look forward to it each and every time. Okay, so the gas mileage is very low – rated as 14 city/20 highway, and my experience was just about that – but the getting there is so much of a pleasure I didn’t care.

The QX56 is also loaded with a ton of technology, and I am not even sure I know what much of it actually did. The blind spot monitoring, the lane departure monitoring, distance control assist, intelligent cruise control (e.g automatic slowing when a car is in front of you),  intelligent brake assist with front collision warning – most of it part of a $3,000 Technology Package – all takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it offers an elevated sense of safety.

A note on the brakes: best ever. Period. Great gripping, great feel. The car beeps if you have to stop short for something in front of you, and thankfully that’s as far as I got into testing the front crash stuff.

The back liftgate is automatic, which is wonderful because I think I would have trouble reaching it to shut it. There isn’t a ton of room for storage behind the third seat – enough for a smaller grocery run – but the third row seats also fold down and up automatically.

Another option package, the Theater Package, $2,950, included two 7-inch television screens mounted in the back of the front seat headrests, two wireless headphones, a 120V outlet, and AV input jacks. I have experienced other such systems that took an advanced degree in electronics to operate, so it was a pleasure to see how easy this was. 

The base price on the 2012 QX56 is $61,800. Mine came with the two packages I mentioned earlier, plus a $4,100 Deluxe Touring Package that included Bose surround sound with 15 speakers, an advanced climate control system, different wood trim, nice “courtesy” lighting and headlight washers. A $2,300 tire and wheel package upgraded the standard 20-inch tires and wheels to 22 inches with nine-spoke aluminum alloy wheel. Cargo mats, nets and a first aid kit added another $200 for cargo mats, nets and a first aid kit.

The bottom line, with $990 in destination charges, is a whopping $75,340.  That's a lot, but I have driven more expensive SUVs – the Land Rover, for instance – that were nowhere near as nice or as powerful as this. So if you’re looking into the larger end of the spectrum, do yourself a favor and check out the QX56. If small is beautiful these days, then the Infiniti QX56 is wonderful. It’s worth the splurge.

RATING: FOUR WHEELS PLUS THE SPARE.

     

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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