The 2011 Infiniti QX56 is a completely redesigned and power-loaded edition of Nissan’s largest SUV, which originated in 1997 as a re-badged midsize Nissan Pathfinder.

The new QX56 is longer, wider, and lower than the previous model. Its only powertrain teams a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 engine with a 7-speed automatic transmission.

The seven-passenger (or eight passenger with an optional second-row bench seat) is available in a single trim level with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive that can be left engaged on dry pavement. It also includes a low-range gear for off-roading.

The Weekly Drive

For the past seven years, I’ve test-driven more than two dozen vehicles during a 400-mile round trip from Sacramento to the Monterey Peninsula. High speed highway stretches along Interstate 5, winding, country state routes along highway 101 and the small, sometimes two-lane routes along routes 152 and 156, are all featured. Combined, it’s an ideal test drive arena.

The problem I’ve encountered and don’t like much is testing vans, large SUVs or trucks on the trip, particularly when it’s a solo voyage. What’s the point of powering through a solo trip in a family sized car like the QX56 that averaged 15.2 mpg? It’s just not right.

Nevertheless, the new Infiniti QX56 is a luxury SUV loaded down with a near-endless list of technological wonders and an interior design that includes optional leather seats and finely styled Burl trim. It’s no doubt a comfortable beast, and any journey in the SUV could only be more enjoyable if there’s company.

My weekly test vehicle was the four-wheel drive option with vast standard equipment and every available option package. Some equipment is great for the driver, like the navigation system with real-time traffic and weather information, rear-obstacle detection, and a surround-view camera that shows the entire circumference of the vehicle on the navigation screen. The theater package option includes a dual-screen DVD entertainment system, wireless headphones and a wireless remote control all great for second and third-row occupants.

Despite its luxury, the Infiniti QX56 can also be a workhorse. The only kinds of driving I haven’t done with test vehicles are towing and off-roading. The Infiniti QX56 had optional 22-inch tires and with its 5.6-liter, 32-valve V8, it has a towing capacity of 8,500 pounds.

Likes:

Wood and leather steering wheel. It’s classically beautiful, and it’s heated.

Easy second and third-row access. Power buttons and pull levers are superior.

Comfortable seats and tremendous headroom and legroom, with the exception of a more restrictive third row.

Interior design, particularly the pattern and placement of the Burl trim is stunning.

Blind spot warning. It’s oversensitive as is the lane departure warning and other safety features in the technology package. Yet, they’re innovative and  have good “big picture” purposes.

Dislikes:

The QX56 weighs about 7,300 pounds and thus it takes quite a while longer than expected to stop — even though its stopping test at 123 feet isn’t bad.

It’s big and powerful and has 22-inch tires, and it gets 14 mpg in city driving. That’s hard to justify. And yet there are vehicles in the same class with worse mpg averages.

The three option packages add up to more than $9,000

Facts & Figures: 2011 Infiniti QX56

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, unavailable.
Airbags: Front, rear and third row head airbags; dual front and dual rear with head protection chambers side-mounted airbags.
Antilock brakes: Standard.
First aid kit: Not available.
Fuel economy: 14 mpg (city), 20 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: not tested.
Horsepower: 400
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $59,800.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.infinitiUSA.com
Price As tested: $72,475.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 4 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Corrosion, 7 years, unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“For our money, if the luxury SUV genus is to survive for our posterity, it might as well look like the QX56.” —- Autoblog.com.

“The QX is a deal compared to the Escalade, the GL550, and the Lexus GX460, and you’re getting more truck for your money than before.” —- Car and Driver.

“There’s plenty here to appeal to the Real Housewives and Husbands of the various upmarket ZIP Codes who will be driving these suburban haulers.” —- Automobile Magazine.

What The Wife Says:

“Unlike some SUVs with step ups that just seem to get in the way, the step-in the Infiniti QX56 seems right.”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Driving in comfort, for sure. Easy everything for adults and kids, you bet. The Infiniti QX56 is the size of a small, luxurious apartment, but very high closing costs and very high utility bills.”

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