Friday, November 18, 2011

Big QX56 evolves with more power, same luxury

Sacramento, California – The Infiniti QX56 luxury sport-utility vehicle and I have a history.

I’ve test-driven numerous versions of this SUV, alternating between joy over its numerous comfort/convenience perks and concern over its ugly fuel mileage.

Fast-forward to the present day: Things haven’t changed much. I still like the myriad amenities the QX56 has to offer, but it still drinks gas at an alarming rate – 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.

In fairness, that’s an improvement over the 13/18 ratings of just a few years ago. And the current generation’s fuel mileage is an improvement sparking an engine that is bigger and more powerful than it used to be. More about that in a second.

Let’s start with the basics: It’s big, like it always has been.

The QX56 – restyled for 2011 and carried over pretty much as is for 2012 -- will seat up to eight in comfort, seemingly with plenty of room to install a dance floor and a mirror ball. Take my word for it, this is not the vehicle to take into the tunnel of a tight parking garage.

Splashed across the dash is a blizzard of comfort/convenience controls – all easy to see and use. Within easy reach: climate control, audio entertainment and just about everything else to keep one comfortable and entertained.

You can get the QX56 in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions. Mine was the latter, more-expensive model, starting at just shy of $62,000. No, luxury does not come cheap these days.

The power plant is a 5.6-liter V-8 with 400 horsepower. To put that in perspective, the 2004 QX56 I tested (the one with inferior fuel mileage compared with the current version) was a 5.6-liter V-8 making 315 horsepower.

Yeah, I’d say the engineers did their work in the power-per-gallon department. And with 400 horsepower, it’s like they wanted to give the big QX56 all the power it needed to get the job done. On that score, my tester did precisely that … all with relatively little noise bouncing back into the cockpit.

Please note that the QX56 has an on-the-fly road-warning system that lets you know if you’re about to crash into another car while making a lane change … or if you seem to be drifting out of your lane. The problem is that the system is so sensitive that it barks annoying beeps for even the slightest variations within a lane. Maybe the system overcompensates for the QX56’s bulk, guessing that the driver is about to take off an exterior mirror with a six-inch drift within a lane. Annoying? Yes. Turn it off? Affirmative.

Still, I don’t want to let a few beeps spoil a good ride.

If you have plentiful cash to spend, care little about the high price of gasoline and need a big, luxurious SUV to carry around a lot of people and cargo, the QX56 should make you happy for many a mile.

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