Pros: Powerful V8 engine; lovely interior detail; impressive electronic safety assists; surprisingly manageable road manners.
Cons: Poor fuel economy; can be difficult to maneuver in tight spots.
What's New: Moving Object Detection (MOD) is added to the standard Around View monitor. Other changes to the 2013 Infiniti XQ56 include auto-dimming outside mirrors and an upgrade remote control for the available Theatre Package.
If your next full-size SUV needs to be substantial yet subtle, the 2013 Infiniti QX56 probably won't strike your fancy. Its proportions are massive, augmented by styling that seems to exaggerate every line, curve and seam. Although its silhouette still appears as boxy and upright as the first generation to wear the QX badge, Infiniti has seen fit to apply a liberal helping of bulging fender flares, bulbous corners and wide chrome accents outlining the grille, windows and side vents. The entire package is set off by a massive set of 9-spoke alloy wheels that, when rolling, look like giant fan blades ready to slice into anything that draws near. Newly redesigned in 2011, the QX56 jettisons the Titan pickup-truck platform that spawned the original QX in favor of a more modern Nissan full-size SUV platform sourced from models sold outside the United States.
The QX56's platform serves it and its passengers well, providing a modern suspension and ample space for the long legged in all three rows. Fold down the second and third-row seats, and the QX reveals a plentiful cargo bay to hide luggage, sports gear or the latest acquisitions from Best Buy.
Comfort & Utility
If you want to see what separates a luxury SUV from an ordinary SUV, take a look inside the Infiniti QX56. The available semi-aniline leather (part of the Deluxe Touring package) feels as buttery soft as it looks, and the seats have a lovely stitch pattern that adds depth and richness to the interior. The dash carries Infiniti's signature style, with vast stretches of real wood trim, a two-tone dash pad and a simple, clean instrument layout with a large LCD navigation screen as its focal point.
The QX56's seating is supremely supportive in the first and second rows, and even the 60/40 power folding third-row seats, while not spacious, are suitable for adults. Here's one important note: The QX56's second-row seats are twin captain's chairs separated by a wide console. If you need three-row seating, you'll need to check off the 60/40 split bench seat option, which can be had at no extra charge. Heated second-row seats show up when equipped with the Theatre Package.
What impresses us most about the QX56's interior is how much stuff Infiniti has designated as standard equipment. With a base price starting at around $60,000, the QX56 includes a 13-speaker Bose audio system; Intelligent Key keyless entry and push-button start; a power sunroof; a power rear liftgate; HID headlamps; 10-way power driver's and 8-way power passenger's seat with two-way power lumbar support; a heated steering wheel; power tilting and telescoping steering wheel; voice-activated hard-drive navigation; Bluetooth; front and rear sonar parking aids; and the Around View 360-degree monitor.
The options list is short, broken into packages such as the Deluxe Touring package (Hydraulic Body Motion Control, climate-controlled front seats, upgraded Bose surround-sound system, Advanced Climate Control and headlamp washers), the Theatre package (dual 7-inch LCD screens, wireless headsets, heated second-row seats, remote tip-up second-row seats) and the Technology package, described below.
The most impressive technology features for the QX56 can be found in the available Technology package. The package includes Intelligent Cruise Control, which keeps a safe distance between you and traffic ahead; Lane Departure Warning and Lane Departure Prevention, two systems that alert you when you drift out of your lane and will gently move the car back if you fail to respond; and Distance Control Assist, which alerts the driver to slow down by pulsing the throttle and applying the brakes.
The Around-View monitor uses cameras located in the side mirrors, front grille and rear hatch to create 360-degree and bird's-eye views of the scene outside the car, a great aid when parking or pulling out from a blind curve. The system also includes Moving Object Detection (MOD) that can detect moving objects within the top view (when in Park) or both front and rear when backing up or starting off.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The QX56 is powered by a 5.6-liter V8 that makes an impressive 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. That's a lot of power at this price point, bested only by the Cadillac Escalade, which has 403-hp and 417 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission, the QX56's V8 is marvelously smooth and powerful, capable of producing some delightfully quick passing and merging speeds, not to mention flat-out acceleration from a dead stop.
Models equipped with Infiniti's All-Mode Four-Wheel Drive include a driver-selectable Auto/4HI/4LO computer-controlled transfer case. Left in Auto mode, the system will detect wheel slippage and route power to the wheels with the best traction.
The QX56's fuel economy isn't anything to write home about. Nevertheless, it's better than almost all of its rivals, save the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid. The EPA rates the QX56 at 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway for both 2WD and 4WD models. The QX56 is rated to tow up to 8,500 lb.
The 2013 Infiniti QX56 comes with a full roster of safety gear including 4-wheel ABS; electronic traction and stability control; and an available Hydraulic Body Motion Control system that uses sensors to pressurize individual shocks, minimizing body roll and lean. Inside, the QX provides front, front side impact and 3-row side curtain airbags. The Technology package also includes many electronic safety measures to help avoid accidents, keep the vehicle in its lane and alert the driver to vehicles in the QX's blind spot.
As big SUVs go, this is one of the better-handling ones. Unlike the Lexus LX570, the QX doesn't feel large and ponderous. Its steering effort is light and direct, with good feedback in fast curves. The optional Hydraulic Body Motion Control system helps the QX56 avoid that tippy feeling commonly found in large vehicles with a high center of gravity. As for acceleration, the 5.6-liter V8 turns in an A-plus performance, responding instantly to throttle input and delivering a sweet, low rumble that is music to a V8 lover's ears.
Other Cars to Consider
Lexus LX570: There's no contest here. The QX56 is superior in ride, comfort, handling, power, towing and fuel economy. The Lexus might have a few point advantages in resale, but that's about all we can think of.
Cadillac Escalade: The Escalade offers two body lengths, the longer of which has a larger cargo hold than the QX56. Cadillac also offers a hybrid model.
Mercedes-Benz GL: The GL isn't as large as the QX56, and it drives a bit better. Plus, you can opt for a V6 or diesel engine. But a comparably equipped GL costs more than the QX56, and we find the GL's interior a bit conservative.
If you're going to do it, do it right. Since there's no difference in fuel economy, go for the 4WD over the 2WD model. If you want heated second-row seats, you have to tack on the Theatre package. The Technology package is helpful for those who think they might need the added assistance, but it's not a must-have.