Infiniti’s QX56 rides high; low-set G37 rolls fast |

Infiniti’s QX56 rides high; low-set G37 rolls fast

Andy Stonehouse
Summit Daily Auto Writer
2011 Infiniti QX56

As Nissan’s answer to the United Arab Emirates-friendly and impressively expensive Toyota Land Cruiser, there’s a wealth of largesse, luxury and tech in the enormous and all-new Infiniti QX56 – flagship SUV of Nissan’s luxury brand.

But as witnessed earlier this summer on a dirt rally track out on the high plains, the QX is no creampuff. It’s as real as it gets off road, with suspension that can eat up two-foot-deep holes and power aplenty to get you high in the air off jumps, Bo and Luke Duke style.

You won’t be doing any of this, of course (except the few oddballs who do actually put their $70K baby to full use) but the potential is completely there, especially good for those sand-dune-surfing sultans and such.

Up until this year, QX56 had a Japanese Suburban-Escalade thing going on, as it was essentially a tarted-up and buffed out version of the equally behemoth but relatively austere Nissan Armada.

For 2011, QX was entirely rebuilt from the ground up, given some curves that are as round as a bowler hat and injected with an extra-heavy dose of both raw thrust and luxurious comfort detail.

The engine kicks out an even 400 horsepower and 413 lb.-ft. of torque, the vehicle rides on optional 22-inch wheels and there’s several acres of leathery goodness inside for you and six passengers. The dark burl wood trim and blindingly bright chrome highlights only add to the gloss.

Design-wise, it’s a significant stylistic departure from the old model, with some curious bits (the Buick-styled vents above the front wheels) and an oddly organic, rounded feel, despite being equal parts Godzilla and Lexus-inspired super-cruiser.

And it’s eerily easy to drive, despite packing 5,850 pounds of metal stretching 208 inches long and almost 76 inches in height (it’s a little longer and wider but actually 3 inches shorter than before). Those 22s provide a buttery smooth ride on both pavement and gravel, but you need little more than a pinky to steer, versus other behemoth vehicles’ wrestling matches.

Get it off the pavement and it has (or certainly seems to have) all the unstoppable adaptability of an Army-spec Humvee, with the bumps attenuated by an optional hydraulic motion control system. I wouldn’t put it to serious rock-crawling and stream-fording use, but it’s the most gigantic and luxurious backcountry experience I’ve ever had, feeling about three times as large as a Range Rover. Run it on the highway and you’ll get about 18.5 mpg, using premium gas, too.

The improved four-way “Around View” parking cameras ensure easy maneuvering, while optional blind spot and lane departure monitors, an advanced rearview camera and the laser-activated predictive cruise control all add to a safer motoring experience – though you could still back over a Nissan Versa and not really notice.

Getting aboard the QX is indeed a verifiable stretch, so the running boards are quite helpful, as are the A-pillar handles. Plant yourself inside and the buttery leather of the seats almost consumes you like quicksand, though your optionally heated and cooled throne offers you a commanding view of the road – so high you’ll look down at Ford F-250 trucks as you pass them. Second-row passengers get equally huge seats and a wood-topped center console; third row is also as large as most cars’ front seats, yet still provides 16.6 cubic feet of storage with the seats up.

I can also confidently say that while nearly $20,000 cheaper than the top-of-the-line Cadillac Escalade, the QX’s interior is about a thousand times nicer. From the finely pattered electro-luminescent patterns on the instrument to the broad, Jaguar XJ-styled dash-to-door curve, it’s all very pretty but not Lexus-button-overwhelming.

To that end, the ubiquitous Nissan super-knob on the console can be used to tackle most of your creature comfort needs, with a couple of extra buttons at the ready (one to remotely drop the rear seatbacks for better visibility, for instance).

Navigation has been upgraded, though my passenger and I were frequently startled by loud but oddly non-specific weather alerts (15 miles where, exactly?); live traffic info was spot-on and the 13-speaker Bose audio system was absolutely deafening.

While the QX will appeal to a small but specific audience seeking the biggest and best, Infiniti’s ever-evolving G line of sporty coupes and sedans continues to improve and offer some options for folks in that market.

The G37 (now powered by a 330-horsepower 3.7-liter V6) is, for all purposes, a slightly more driver- and passenger-friendly version of the ultra-sporty Nissan 370Z. There are two small seats in the back, firmly divided by a plastic panel, great for solving regional disputes between your kids, and a modicum of accessible storage space, versus the Spartan confines of the Z. We managed to get one full-sized piece of airline luggage and two 12-packs of bottled beer in the trunk, but not much else.

Your choice of a coupe or a sedan is critical: What it achieves in overall two-doored sexiness, you might lose in practicality if you really do ever have to load and unload passengers from those tiny rear seats.

Overall, it’s quite amazing how much the G has morphed in just a few years; take a look online to see its remarkably different 1991 cousin, or even the much taller G of a few years ago.

At present, it’s sleek and sweet, with an earnest mixture of sports car bits (the paddle shifters to more easily harness the boosted horsepower, channeled through a seven-speed transmission, plus the moderately tight, sports-oriented leather seating) and luxury touches (aluminum interior trim, an 11-speaker Bose audio system and that analog clock on the dash).

G certainly cruises along at a healthy and athletic pace, with the intensity (and frequently butt-kicking rigidity) of the Z softened up a bit for more pleasant long-distance driving.

My test vehicle had the optional Sport package, providing improved brakes, 19-inch wheels, a limited slip differential and sport-tuned suspension, all of which heightened the G’s response but did not make it a crippling experience. Though getting in and out of the automobile is a different story, as there is a certain indelicate stretch and drop into those low, sporty seats.

And with plenty of rear glass, it may also be one of the hottest vehicles I’ve ever experienced when left in the sun for an afternoon, even with a white leather interior.

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