The redesigned QX56 made its debut earlier this year at the 2007 Detroit auto show as the flagship full-size luxury SUV in Infiniti's expanding lineup. Although the QX56's underpinnings have not changed since its arrival in 2005, Infiniti has significantly upgraded and cleaned up its interior. The new design results in a more open and organic front dash appearance and brings the overall look in line with other Inifiniti vehicles.
The QX56 is indeed a great-looking full-size SUV. I took the QX56 for a short 200-mile test drive and found it turning heads on the highway. For 2008, the front and rear fascias take on a full new look and the interior is significantly updated. Although the interior is improved over the previous generation, it still doesn't have me sold as top-notch for a luxury vehicle. The overall look is clean and simple, but sometimes simple can mean minimal. Details such as the trip-meter knob and the button setup for the sunroof could've been styled more nicely. Also the analog clock in the dash -- like that of its cousin, the G35 -- seems rather out of place considering the lack of luxury feel in the interior.
I was also dissatisfied with the XM interface, which failed my two-minute radio test. It took me longer than necessary to figure out how to find and flip through the radio presets. I never located the XM channel menu, either. As I was about to return the vehicle, I eventually did figure out how to change the XM channels one at a time.
Don't get me wrong. There are some wonderful things about the interior The nighttime dash lights emit a soothing purple and white glow. Even the lights on the door panel are a slight baby blue. The front- and second-row captain seats are heated, and a cossetting heated steering wheel is standard on all 4WD models.
The navigation also is easier to use than the radio. I was able to input my destination faster than learning how to flip through the radio preset stations. The nav utilizes XM NavTraffic that displays the flow of traffic on the highways. It also displays roadwork and traffic hazards, which is useful on congested L.A. highways. By time I leave my house and get in to the L.A area, traffic patterns change rapidly. This feature provides a fast and easy way to get updated traffic and accident warnings without having to rely on traditional news talk radio stations.
The QX56 has a 60/40 split third row seat with more than ample leg- and headroom for the average-size adult. The seats also fold flat at the touch of a button. This clever design easily outshines third-row concepts found in other SUVs.
The 2008 QX56 comes standard with a 5.6-liter DOHC V-8 that produces 320 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 393 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm. The engine offers more than enough power and torque to maneuver this beast on L.A. roads and highways. Its electronic drive-by-wire throttle is quicker than expected with little lag time. The power of this engine was evident as I climbed the Cajon Pass, which reaches an elevation of 4190 feet. The five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission is gentle and hardly noticeable during normal driving. I averaged 15 mpg for my 200-mile drive, which would hurt at the pump if the QX56 were a daily commuter for my 200-mile daily drive. It cost $48 dollars to halfway fill the tank.
The QX56 is built on the proven fully boxed high-strength steel F-Alpha frame, with Dana front and rear axles to provide more strength to handle on- and off-road duty. The ride is supported by a four-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars. This combination made it feel sporty most of the time with little boatlike floating, though that feeling did come through on wavy roads. The QX56 held its ground on big flowing curves and stuck to tight roundabouts.
The QX is offered in two- and four-wheel drive. Although I didn't have a chance to test its 4WD capability off-road, it did pass my brief off-the-curb test. I climbed an average size curb just to see how it would handle. Tires, suspension, and easy throttle response glided over the six-inch curb with little work.
Other improvements for 2008 include new front foglights, new roofrack, standard 20x8J chromed aluminum-alloy wheels and heavy-duty P275/60R20 Michelin tires, and two new exterior colors -- Lakeshore Slate and Serengeti Sand. The interior also comes in two new colors, with new trim and wood designs. The Burr-Brown audio system with 9.5-gigabyte Music Box hard-drive and compact flash slot for playing MP3 files is standard.
The 2008 QX56 is a great-looking SUV with significant improvements over its predecessor. The exterior is beefy with refinement, though the interior is just a step under the luxury appeal. In the end, it's the terrific power and handling that easily make up the difference. The 4WD QX56's suggested MSRP starts out at $55,350 or you can get the 2WD with the same engine and same five-speed automatic transmission for around $52,250.