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2011 Infiniti QX56
One of the most improved vehicles of the year sheds its work clothes for a top hat and cane
By Malcolm Gunn

2011 Infiniti QX56Claiming ownership of a Cartier watch or a Mont Blanc pen might indicate your position of fiscal superiority, but brandishing a luxo-ute the size and strength of the Infiniti QX56 boldly announces to the world that you can afford the finer things in life.

It also indicates that you have the wherewithal to transport the family or your golf buddies and their gear over hill and dale in considerable comfort.

The 2011 edition of the big "Q" that's due out this summer employs some of the familiar styling themes that appear to be working well for other members of Nissan's up-level division (Nissan has its own version of the QX56 called the Armada).

It's part of a brilliant makeover that has turned a pricey and somewhat underpowered tall truck into a sleek, strong, sexy - but still pricey - all-weather tourer.

The organically crafted grille, bumper and hood are reminiscent of Infiniti's FX-series sedan ute and M- and G-series sedans. More importantly, the QX56's roofline no longer appears patched together from other models, but is now cleanly integrated with the rest of the bodywork. The only minor glitch in an otherwise agreeable design is a pair of chromed front fender portholes that really have no business being there.

2011 Infiniti QX56The taste police will have no issues with the QX's interior, especially the three rows of leather-covered seats (including a pair of pillowy front buckets) along with a smidgen of wood-like trim. There's room for up to seven coddled souls, or eight if you delete the second-row throne chairs in favour of a split-folding bench. The rearmost two rows can be folded flat to create one enormous cargo hold that could likely contain a condo's worth of furnishings or enough cracked lobster and chilled Pouilly-Fuiss to supply a serious garden party.

Along with stiffening the QX's ladder frame and in the interests of delivering a quieter and more controlled ride, Infiniti's engineers also bulked up the standard-issue 5.6-litre V8. As a result, the direct-injected engine (fuel is delivered directly into the combustion chambers for more accurate metering) produces more power with fewer emissions nasties and improved fuel economy. The engine now generates an immodest 400 horsepower, 25 per cent better than the previous QX. Similarly, the torque rating has increased to 413 pound-feet, up from 393, which will be useful when towing up to 3,865 kilograms of Airstream trailer or Bayliner boat.

2011 Infiniti QX56Controlling the QX's prodigious power and torque is the job of an all-new seven-speed automatic transmission. Along with providing rev-matching downshifts (that smoothes the transitions by blipping the throttle), the transmission also features a fluid warmer that helps reduce fuel consumption during start-up.

You could limit your driving to paved roads and perfect weather, but with the QX's standard four-wheel-drive you'll also be able to travel off road in grand style. The dual-range unit can direct up to 50 per cent of the torque to the front wheels when the rears start to slip.

Although the QX tips the scales at close to 2,750 kilograms that amount includes at least a tonne of convenience and safety content. Suffice to say, you can opt to be fully monitored front to back and side to side with various electric devices designed to protect you from a number of external threats or driver-initiated goof-ups.

Entering the QX's inner sanctum with pink slip in hand will leave you with little change from your $75,000 cheque, or leave you owing more if you attack the lengthy option sheet a bit too enthusiastically.

However, a burbling V8, the smell and feel of perforated cow hide engulfing your posterior and the too-numerous bells and whistles could ultimately win you over to the QX56 way of living large.

What you should know: 2011 Infiniti QX56

Type: Four-door full-size four-wheel-drive luxury sport utility vehicle
Engine (hp): 5.6-litre DOHC V8 (400)
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Market position: The QX slots in among similar large luxury sport utility vehicles that, due to their equally large pricetags, tend to lead pampered lives that are free from the rigors of off-road use for which they are quite capable.
Points: Major style improvement over first-generation design; Shocking power gain without fuel-consumption penalty; QX's high-tech accident-avoidance features now mandatory for vehicles in this class; Should give competing Lexus a run for its money; Base price expected to match 2010 model despite performance and content upgrades.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 16.0/11.2 (est.)
Base price (incl. destination): $75,000

By comparison

Mercedes-Benz GL-class
Base price: $71,000
Classy seven-passenger off-roader features optional turbo-diesel power.

Lexus LX 570
Base price: $91,650
Pricey, well-appointed luxo-ute comes with standard four-wheel-drive.

Lincoln Navigator
Base price: $74,850
Roomy wagon available in regular- and extended- length body styles.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted August 17, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM


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