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Infiniti enters jumbo-size SUV market

July 16, 2004|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

The new Infiniti QX56 has all the content and more than enough of the gusto needed to play in the rarified atmosphere of the well-heeled off-roader.

With the vast number of sport-utility vehicles available for purchase, it would seem as though the QX56 is just another player in an overcrowded category. Look more closely and you'll find that pickings are slim in the $50,000 (or thereabouts) XL-sized luxury-utility group: the Hummer H2; Lincoln Navigator; GMC Yukon Denali XL; Toyota Land Cruiser; and Cadillac Escalade. A half-dozen vehicles doesn't sound overcrowded to us, leaving plenty of room for the QX56 to flourish.

A mid-model-year arrival at Nissan's upscale division showrooms, the QX56 is the second all-new Infiniti of its type, joining the smaller FX35/FX45 duo introduced last year. However, the more car-like FX (based on the Nissan Murano) has little in common with its QX cousin. The former is more at home in urban settings, while the latter (which is truck-based) is ready to tackle just about any wilderness imaginable.

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The QX56 is the replacement for the mid-size QX4, which owed its platform as well as its propulsion system to the Nissan Pathfinder. This time around, it's the larger Pathfinder Armada (based on the Titan pickup) that provides the Infiniti's template. Both the QX56 and the Armada fall into the jumbo-ute category in terms of overall proportions, rugged body-on-frame chassis and similar 2.5-ton curb weights. They also allow you to take up to seven friends along for the ride, thanks to three rows of seats.

If you don't have any friends but lots of cargo, flatten all but the first row and fill the cavernous stowage area to your heart's desire.

Viewed from the side, the Armada's genetics are evident, but the QX56 presents its own unique face to the world, highlighted by a massive chrome grille and bold fascia fitted with a serious set of fog lamps. The tail has also been given its own apart-from-the-crowd styling touches.

Inside the leather-trimmed cabin is wood garnish and a touch of brushed aluminum surrounding the center control stack. Standard equipment includes multi-zone climate control, power-adjustable foot pedals and 10-way power driver's seat (with memory), a DVD-based navigation system, 10-speaker Bose sound system (with six-disc CD changer) and power rear liftgate.

The QX56 actually gets its name from the standard 5.6-liter DOHC V-8 that punches out 315 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm. It's essentially the same motor that powers the Pathfinder Armada, but with 10 more horses available to your right foot.

You also get a five-speed automatic transmission, regardless of whether you select the two- or four-wheel-drive model (an extra $3,000).

Other functional/mechanical goodies include an auto-leveling rear suspension, stability and traction control, park-assist sensors, 18-inch chrome wheels, tire-pressure-monitoring system and side-impact/side-curtain air bags.

Among the few available options are a rear-seat entertainment system, second-row bench seat to replace the captain's chairs (thus maxing out the passenger capacity at eight), power sunroof, rear-view monitor and a satellite radio.

Given its content, carrying capacity and prodigious power, the dressed-to-impress QX56 is for buyers who value maximum utility, comfort and a degree of exclusivity above all else. It makes a big splash in a small pond of pricey fish.

Copyright 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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