Conquer the road in the enormous QX56 |

Conquer the road in the enormous QX56

ANDY STONEHOUSEspecial to the daily
Special to the DailyThe 2004 Infiniti QX56.

After having the Infiniti QX56 at our home for a few days, occasionally blocking out the sun with its gracious behemoth proportions, my wife offered an interesting hypothesis. The vehicle, the upscale rendition of Nissan’s gargantuan Armada SUV, might find a nice role as a late-night luxury party taxi for hire. And that’s not a bad idea: With loads of leather, a DVD entertainment system in the back and an abundance of premium appointments, the QX56 might be the ultimate clubbing machine.

Wrapped up in a huge package that has all the vertical swagger of a Hummer H2, the QX still remains grounded (if a $55,000 SUV can really be considered grounded), off-road ready and nicely refined, with comfortable seating for seven.A vehicle which holds its own when compared to other luxury model competitors, the QX56 is still burdened a bit by its own ungainliness. The rear-view camera (whose screen pops up in the DVD-operated navigation system on the dash) allows for easier moorings, er, parking.

But simply driving and maneuvering the big Infiniti can be a somewhat daunting prospect. Despite a huge 5.6 liter V8, cranking out 315 horsepower, the QX’s 5600 pound curb weight makes it just a tad power deficient on steep climbs – running up the Silverthorne hill on Interstate 70 we had to drop it down a gear to harness all of the energy.The ride is buttery smooth, considering the 123-inch wheelbase and some six and half feet of width and height, not to mention 18-inch wheels ablaze with shining chrome alloy. But it’s challenge to hold the sucker on the road when you’re hauling along at 75 mph and hit corners, not to mention actually trying to come to a stop. Massive four-wheel disc brakes do their best but there’s a lot of QX56 to try to bring under control.

Infiniti’s chrome-heavy makeover results in a shiny grille, a blinding array of xenon headlamps and Kleenex box-sized halogen fog lamps, plus the large bumper-mounted module for the laser-controlled Intelligent Cruise Control system. That high-tech system, beginning to show up on different autos, worked well enough – the radar senses vehicle position ahead of you and will automatically slow or speed the Infiniti to match, even when passing – but left what seemed to be large gaps, despite three different distance settings.There’s a power-assisted automatic tailgate with three points of operational access (press the keyfob, hit a switch on the dash or tap a switch in the rear to open the gate).

Third-row seating accommodates three smallish passengers; two fully reclinable captains chairs in the first and second row will give you and your riders a nice spot to enjoy the ride. Those in the back can also use the remote control and wireless headphones to silently appreciate the DVD entertainment system; conversely, you can run the sound through the very powerful 10-speaker Bose stereo. All seating is leather and very comfortable; the first and second row seats are heated.Two large leather-topped console boxes are situated between the first and second row seats (the front one holds the DVD deck). The rear box can be removed if, as I chose to do during a long jaunt, you’d like to literally stretch out on the carpeted floor of the QX56 for a nap. I told you this was one big vehicle.

The navigation system is easy to interface and also offers as-you-drive info about fuel consumption (we got 17.8 miles per gallon as an average). The dual-zone heat and air system required a bit of education to operate, as each dial also contained secondary dials for fan speed and temperature. A beautiful analog Infiniti clock rounds out the up-front picture.Like the Armada, there’s 10 cupholders and two bottle holders, offering ample room for your passengers’ beverages. The second and third row seats fold flat (as does the front passenger seat), providing 97 cubic feet of storage. I’m guessing that your average QX56 owner will not spend a lot of time hauling bags of manure, but there’s still loads of space at the ready.Venture off the paved road and Infiniti’s four-wheel drive system is rough and rugged enough to absorb the worst of the backcountry. Again, I don’t see this happening much, but it’s ready when you need it.

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