The Infiniti QX56 has been completely redesigned for 2011. Lower and wider than the outgoing truck, it's swoopier and far more eye-appealing than the previous QX SUV. The 2011 Infiniti QX56 comes in rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, with a five-mode all-wheel-drive system controlled by a wheel on the console.
The Infiniti QX56 competes with the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX 570, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Audi Q7, and Range Rover. Some would say that all of these full-size sport-utility vehicles are outdated concepts because of their size, weight and fuel economy, but Infiniti believes the segment, which has shrunk to a third of its former self, is important. Infiniti says there are still families who need seven or eight seats and 8500-pound towing capability, and we agree.
For 2011, QX56 has a completely new look, with a lot of the oddball design touches taken out. The rear of the roof no longer dips down at the third seat, a boon to third-row headroom. The rear side door handles are now on the same plane as the front door handles. The squared-off fenders have been rounded off, and the pillars are now blacked out instead of painted, to give the QX56 a more unified look from end to end. The front and rear bumpers are more fully integrated into the design, the tow hitch receiver is hidden behind the rear bumper, and the chrome strips on the bodyside are gone. And, yes, those are portholes in the front fenders, the right side decorative, the left side functional for engine air intake. The entire nose of the QX56 is far more rounded, and helps create a drag coefficient of 0.37, quite good for such a barn-sized truck.
The frame underneath is new, with new fully independent suspension calibrations, premium shock absorbers, automatic rear load-leveling, and an optional feature that no other truck in the class offers. It's a closed hydraulic circuit that connects all four suspension units and moves hydraulic pressure from front to back and side to side as the truck moves, keeping the body from leaning over in corners. In effect, the system replaces conventional sway bars. The body itself has thicker sills, a new steel tailgate ring, is some 26 percent stiffer, and uses a new generation of body mounts for quietness. The new body generates zero front and zero rear lift in the wind tunnel.
A 5.6-liter, 32-valve, double overhead-cam V8 engine, now fitted with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing and lift, produces 400 horsepower and 413 foot-pounds of torque, figures very close to the power and torque of the high-performance M56 sedan, and some 25 percent more power than the previous engine, with a 14-percent improvement in fuel economy.
The QX56 powertrain for 2011 features a new 7-speed double overdrive transmission to provide first-gear acceleration for the 5600-pound truck and its cargo or trailer, and good highway fuel economy at the same time. The 7-speed automatic transmission has adaptive shifting to match each driver's driving style, with manual shift override, including a sporty throttle-blip provided on manual downshifts.
Four-wheel-drive versions of the QX56 will have a selector switch on the console offering automatic, four-wheel-drive high, four-wheel-drive low, low lock, tow mode and snow mode. The auto mode moves engine torque back and forth between front and rear axles up to 100 percent rear, but no higher than 50 percent front.
The QX56 wheelbase has been shortened 2.1 inches to 121.1 inches for sharper handling, and the front and rear tracks are wider. Body width has increased by 1.1 inches, the length by 1.4-inches and the overall height lowered by a huge amount, 3.2 inches. With all the body, chassis and interior changes, the new QX56 is about the same weight as the old truck.
Like every modern luxury SUV, the 2011 QX56 line carries plenty of electronic technology onboard to make driving safer and more enjoyable. An industry first on this SUV is the use of a tire pressure inflation indicator system. When the driver is adding air to a tire at a service station, from an aftermarket compressor or an air tank, the system honks the horn and flashes the hazard flashers when correct tire inflation pressure is reached, thus eliminating the fill-and-check, fill-and-check ritual with a tire pressure gauge.
The 2011 Infiniti QX56 comes in two models, the rear-wheel-drive QX56 ($57,200) and the all-wheel-drive QX56 4WD ($60,300). (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Standard features include leather seating and trim, 8-way power seats, dual-zone climate control, a multi-function steering wheel, power windows, mirrors, and locks, cruise control, and four 12-volt power points. The hard-drive navigation system comes standard and includes XM NavWeather, XM NavTraffic, the Zagat Survey restaurant guide, and voice activation for navigation, audio and vehicle systems check. It also comes with a Bose 13-speaker AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3 sound system with XM satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, AUX plug, and iPod compatibility. The standard seating configuration is two front bucket seats, two second-row bucket seats with a second console, and a three-place folding rear seat, but if the customer needs seating for eight, a folding second-row bench seat is available at no extra cost.
Four option packages are available: the first is the eight-seat, no-cost option. The Theater Package ($2450) buys twin 7-inch screens mounted on the front-seat headrests, two sets of wireless headphones, and a 120-volt power outlet to power up gaming consoles or other entertainment equipment.
A Deluxe Touring Package ($5800) features 22-inch alloy wheels and tires, the new Hydraulic Body Motion Control System, semi-aniline leather seats with heating and cooling in the front row, heating in the second row, an upgraded HVAC system (and headlamp washers on 4WD models).
The Technology Package ($2850) adds Blind Spot Warning, Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, which will actively brake the car to prevent a collision, Intelligent Cruise Control, adaptive front lighting for cornering, pre-crash seat-belt tensioners, and Lane Departure Warning and Prevention. This latter system will actually steer the vehicle back onto its intended path if the driver lets it wander into the next lane and ignores the warning.
Safety equipment includes six airbags, front, side-impact and curtain, ABS brakes, traction control, yaw control. The optional all-wheel drive and the Technology Package further enhance safety as they can help the driver avoid an accident.