The Truth About Cars » body on frame http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:00:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » body on frame http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Say “Audi 5000″ to your Tow Vehicle! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-say-audi-5000-to-your-tow-vehicle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-say-audi-5000-to-your-tow-vehicle/#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 12:17:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=518609

TTAC commentator Trend-Shifter writes:

I have a 1984 Audi 5000S Avant that is used as the wife’s car and our traveling/towing vehicle. Here is my dilemma…

  1. The air conditioning works as designed in 1984 (still using R12) but it is not to the standards of a modern “Merican” car. It is only comfortable at freeway speeds and without too much sunlight in that expansive greenhouse. The wife complains loudly all summer!
  2. The engine is only 110 horsepower. So when the air is turned on it dramatically impacts drivability. If I pull any kind of grade I need to turn the air off as not to impact drivers behind me.
  3. Right now I tow my jet ski with the car. It pulls it great at any speed as long as the air condition is off. (Refer to item 2, Wifey is not happy when the air is off!)
  4. I also have an 18 ft boat that I will need to tow in 2~3 years as my Grandsons get of age.

So based on the fact that the Audi 5000 Avant will not pull the boat, I think my best plan is to replace the Audi 5000 Avant in the next two years to fix all the problems I identified rather than modify the air conditioning or the engine.

I have looked at various SUV’s for towing. I want just real RWD, not some wannabe FWD disguised as AWD. The big ole freighter SUV’s are really expensive, not good at high speeds, and suck a lot of fuel. So I started to lean towards a 2006~2009 Cadillac SRX with the Northstar V8. (engine issues resolved in 2005) I think a 2000~2010 low mileage (under 40,000 miles) Lincoln Town Car is the best choice for all my problems. (Can’t handle the Grand Marquis & Crown Vic styling)

The Lincoln Town Car is RWD, has a V8, sits lower, cuts the wind, is very reliable, and gets decent mileage compared to other RWD frame SUVs. A set of plus wheels, Michelin Pilot Sports, and a transmission cooler should complete the package.

Does this sound crazy –OR- crazy as a fox (I mean Panther). If you agree, what years are the best?

Audi 5000 pair

BTW… My other car is also an Audi 5000. It is an 1987 Audi Quattro. (I drive it 110 miles round trip everyday to work on the Deeeetroit freeways) So the RWD Lincoln can sit in the garage on those snowy days.

Sajeev answers:

I’m impressed with your Audi 5000 collection (sorry I couldn’t do a Vellum Venom remotely) but I had no clue der avant was a tow vehicle! Good to hear this rig is saying Audi 5000 to THAT job! And your wife has the patience of a Saint to put up with situations that inhospitable for 110 horsepower. But I digress…

“The Lincoln Town Car is RWD, has a V8, sits lower, cuts the wind, is very reliable, and gets decent mileage compared to other RWD frame SUVs.”

I found this quote interesting, as I should also find it appealing. So you need a tow vehicle for bulky things, but you want one with a design aesthetic as your 5000. Longer, lower and wider than an ordinary truck?  More fuel-efficient too, right? So why not?

This is a fool’s errand. You WANT a bigger and taller nose/face when towing to punch a bigger hole in the air for your trailer! A Panther can do the job adequately, but it will struggle more because the boat will make it its bitch. I’d recommend a full-sized conversion van to maximize the size of the hole punched for that 18ft boat.

Not that you NEED a conversion van to punch an adequate hole for a boat that small, but why the hell not?  SUVs and real pick-em-up trucks lack the aero of a van, are overpriced, and vans are so frickin’ great for road trips. Keep the 5000 Avant for your wife’s normal commute, buy a nicely depreciated custom van for towing.

A 1994-2003 Dodge Ram Van, 1996-present Chevy Express Van and the 1992-present Ford Econoline are the proper successors to your Audi 5000 tow vehicle.  Find one with a towing package and the options you’d like.  I’d go with a mid-90s Econoline for it’s most Bauhausian Styling to appeal to your Audi-conscious style, get it with the torquey (but thrifty!) 4.9L big six, modernize/upgrade the brakes/wheels/transmission cooler for light towing duty and lose the conversion van paint job for a stark, Germanic gun metal gray. Yummy.

A perfect machine for one’s Piston Slap pragmatism and one’s Audi 5000-worthy Vellum Venom demands.

And for you Best and Brightest peeps who thought I’d take the Panther Love bait: I never did, son!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

 

 

 

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Pre-Production Review: 2014 Toyota 4Runner (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/pre-production-review-2014-toyota-4runner-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/pre-production-review-2014-toyota-4runner-with-video/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 18:01:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=516081 2014 Toyota 4Runner Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I would normally start a car review with an item of trivia or history about the vehicle under review, or about the segment in general. This time I’m going to start by talking about the elephant in the room: the 2014 4Runner SR5/Trail front end. Yikes! I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when the attractive new 2014 Tundra pulled away revealing the 2014 4Runner, I was reminded of a woman I worked with in 1998. Drawn in by the promise of eternal good looks, she had her eyebrows surgically removed and lines tattooed on her face. The only problem was the tattoo artist (accidentally?) gave her a permanently surprised “eyebrows”. Oops. Perhaps the 4Runner also regrets going under the knife and that’s why the fog lamp slits make it look like it’s crying. What say the best and brightest? Click through the jump and sound off in the comment section.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Toyota

Exterior

Are you relieved by this picture? I was. Things change if you’re willing to pony up $41,365 for the Limited model which adds chrome to break up the frowning grille and deletes whatever is going on around the SR5/Trail foglights. While I still think the headlamps are a little odd, the 4Runner Limited’s nose is attractive overall but it makes me ask: why do you have to pay more for the good-looking nose. Never mind, I answered my own question.

Aside from the new schnozz and some clear tail lamp lenses, little has changed for the Toyota’s mid-sized go-anywhere SUV. That means the 4Runner’s body still sits on a frame. That also means the 4Runner, Nissan Xterra and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited are the only mid-sized non-luxury body on frame SUVs left in America. (And I’m not sure I’d even call the smallish Wrangler a mid-size SUV.) Since I currently own two GMT360 SUVs, I “get” the BOF argument in many ways. Aside from the SR5′s nose, which is still giving me nightmares, there is something decidedly attractive about the proportions and profile of a body on frame rock crawler. Of course I can’t go further without mentioning the 4Runner’s modern nemesis: the decidedly unibody Jeep Grand Cherokee. The big Jeep isn’t just the current darling of the press, TTAC included, it’s also one of the most attractive SUVs for sale right now.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Interior

2014 brings a gentle refresh to the interior consisting of a new steering wheel, radio head units, gauge cluster, seat fabrics and plastic color choices. The new steering wheel is essentially shared with the 2014 Tundra and features a thick rim, well places sport grips, soft leather and well placed radio buttons. While Toyota claims that the front seats are unchanged from 2013, they seemed softer and more comfortable than the 2013 model made available for comparison. This could be down to the new fabric choices, but I think some foam was changed as well.

Ergonomics in the 4Runner have always been secondary to the off-road mission, and because little substance has changed for 2014 that remains. Window switches have gained an Auto feature but are still in an awkward and high place on the door, possibly to keep then out of the water should you stall in a stream. Radio knobs and switches and the 4WD shift level all require a decent reach for the average driver. Unlike the Grand Cherokee you can still get a 7-seat version of the 4Runner in SR5 and Limited trim, Trail remains 5-seat only. The extra two seats are an interesting option because the Nissan Xterra and Grand Cherokee, the only two rugged off-roaders left, are strict 5-seaters.

Toyota re-jiggered the features lists and the Trail model now gets heated SofTex faux leather seats with an 8-way power frame for the driver and 4-way power for the front passenger. You also get an integrated 120V inverter, auto-dimming mirror and programmable homelink transmitter. This placed the Trail model firmly between the SR5 and Limited in the lineup.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Like the new Tundra, the 4Runner gets Toyota’s latest infotainment head units. All models come standard with the 6.1-inch touchscreen unit with iDevice/USB integration with voice commands, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth speakerphone integration and smartphone apps. Toyota has “changed their Entune” lately and made the service free, however you need to sign up for an online account to make things work. SR5/Trail  Premium and Limited models add navigation software and improved voice commands with text messaging support to the same screen. Limited models upgrade the speakers from 8 Toyota branded blasters to 15 with JBL logos. If you want the detailed look, check out the video.

Drivetrain

Anyone hoping for a resurrected V8 4Runner needs to head to the Jeep dealer, engineers I spoke with indicated the V8 will never return. Unless you need to tow with your mid-sized SUV (like I do) this isn’t much of a problem since the V8 model existed primarily to bolster the 4Runner’s towing numbers and consume more fuel. Instead, the same 270HP 4.0L V6 as last year soldiers on cranking out a respectable 278 lb-ft of torque across a broad RPM range. For off-road duty the V6 is perfect as it’s lighter than the V8 and with the right gearing you don’t need more power. About that gearing. Toyota continues to use their old 5-speed auto in the 4Runner and that’s my only beef. The 5-speed unit has a fairly tall 1st gear with an overall effective gear ratio of 12:1, notably higher than something like a Wrangler. SR5 and Trail models feature a 2-speed transfer case bumping that to 31:1, still taller than the Wrangler’s insane 73.3:1 ratio. If you opt for the Limited model the 2-speed transfer case is replaced with a Torsen center differential for full-time four wheel drive with better on-road manners.

Keeping with the 4Runner’s mud-coated mission, the rear axle is still solid, features a mechanical locker and skid plates are still standard. The Trail model still uses an open front differential, but like the Jeep Patriot uses the ABS brakes to imitate a limited slip unit. Toyota claims this keeps weight down and improves grip on certain surfaces. Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select, active traction control and crawl speed controls continue for 2014. It’s worth noting here that the Wrangler still has a solid front axle.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Out on the road the 4Runner’s manners are defined by the high profile (70-series) rubber and body-on-frame design. Toss the 4Runner into a corner and the high profile tires cause a “delay” in responsiveness that you don’t find in modern CUVs with their 35-series rubber. In terms of grip, the wise 265/70R17 tires on SR5 and Trail models help the 4Runner stay competitive with mainstream crossovers. The Limited model gets reduced grip but improved turn in and feel with its 245/60R20 rubber. Going lower profile but reducing width at the same time seems like an odd choice, but it helps the heavier Limited model with full-time AWD get the same 17/22/19 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) as the part-time SR5/Trail models.

Soft springs and trail tuned dampers mean the SR5 tips, dives and rolls like a traditional SUV, which makes sense as it is a traditional SUV. These road manners have caused a number of reviewers out there to call the 4Runner “conflicted,” “confused” or “compromised.” Clearly these guys don’t live in the country and have never been off-road. The 4Runner is quite possibly the last utility vehicle with a singular mission: retain off-road ability.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Yes, Toyota continues to add creature comforts, and I’m sure they will sell plenty of the RWD Limited model in suburbia, but at its heart the 4Runner is an off-road SUV. This is quite different from the Jeep Grand Cherokee which has been on a constant march toward the mainstream. (Albeit with an eye toward off-roading.) This is obvious when you look at Jeep’s switch to fully independent air suspension, constant size increases, a plethora of engine options and curb weight gone out of control. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Grand Cherokee, but if you want to climb rocks, it’s not the best choice. Meanwhile, Toyota has in many ways re-focused on off-roading. The 4Runner offers a myriad of off-road software aids and the retention of a mechanically locking solid rear axle and rugged frame. In this light, keeping the old drivetrain makes sense: it’s tried and true and there are plenty of aftermarket accessories designed with it in mind.

The 4Runner may be a go-anywhere SUV, but it’s not a tow-anything SUV. The V6 and 5-speed combo limit the 4Runner to 4,700lbs, down from the 7,300lbs the defunct V8 model could shift. That’s thousands of pounds less than the Grand Cherokee and even 300lbs less than the Ford Explorer crossover. However, even this can be seen as a refocusing on the 4Runner’s core mission. As I’ve noted before, nobody seems to tow with their mid-size SUV except me, and off-roaders prefer the lower weight and better balance of the V6 for true off-road duty.

With Toyota canning the slow selling FJ Cruiser at some point soon, the 4Runner will soldier on as one of the last rugged SUVs. For a model that helped ignite the SUV/CUV explosion, it’s refreshing that the 4Runner has stayed true to its roots: providing a daily driver capable off-road machine. The Wrangler Unlimited is a better rock crawler with solid axles front and rear, better approach/departure/breakover angles, better ground clearance and a lower range gearbox, but the Wrangler is too off-road dedicated for the school run. If you’re one of the few that drops the kids off and heads over to the off-road park on your way to Costco, the 4Runner is for you. If you’re the majority of SUV shoppers, there are more “conflicted” “compromised” options out there that will fit your lifestyle better. Jeep will be happy to sell you one.

 

Toyota provided the 4Runner for a few hours at the Tundra launch event. Food and flights were covered by Toyota.

 

2014 Toyota 4Runner Exterior 2014 Toyota 4Runner Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota 4Runner Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota 4Runner Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota 4Runner Interior 2014 Toyota 4Runner Interior-001 2014 Toyota 4Runner Interior-002 2014 Toyota 4Runner Interior-003 2014 Toyota 4Runner Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota 4Runner Interior-005

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Capsule Review: 2014 Toyota 4Runner – Derek Goes Off-Roading, Eats Dirt, Learns About The Value Of Body-On-Frame Construction http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/capsule-review-2013-toyota-4runner-derek-goes-off-roading-eats-dirt-learns-about-the-value-of-body-on-frame-construction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/capsule-review-2013-toyota-4runner-derek-goes-off-roading-eats-dirt-learns-about-the-value-of-body-on-frame-construction/#comments Wed, 21 Aug 2013 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498194 _MG_2760

I grew up as a city kid, but my parents made sure I had every opportunity to experience the great outdoors. Most of the time I elected to skip those opportunities. Although I enjoyed attending a rustic summer camp where we slept in tents and warded off raccoon and skunks each night, I did not take well to camping, coming back with over 300 mosquito bites. Fishing was too slow of an activity to capture my attention, but sport shooting was the opposite. After that, I never once picked up an Xbox controller, finding Halo and Call of Duty to be unsatisfying facsimiles for sending rounds downrange. A pity that it took me nearly 25 years to actually go off-roading; I may have never bothered with sports cars in the first place.

_MG_3005

For my father, off-roading involved sliding his Inline 6-powered right-hand drive Chevrolet Nova around the unpaved country roads of his native Barbados. Insofar as the Nova was sufficient to all real-world tasks, the purchase of an SUV seemed an unnecessary and useless extravagance. That didn’t stop many people we knew from buying SUVs, and the Toyota 4Runner was especially popular. As car-based crossovers became more popular, however, sales of the body-on-frame old soldier dried up. From the peak of 114,212 in 2004. sales declined sharply, failing to break the 50,000 unit mark in 2012.

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It’s not hard to see why after a few minutes behind the wheel of the current model. The notion of an authentic body-on-frame SUV may be romantic to some, but consumers have voted with their wallets and chosen crossovers for a reason. They feel very similar to unibody cars, but with the higher driving position that comes with an SUV. The 4Runner is a stark reminder of what consumers have decided to leave behind.

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The 270 horsepower/278 lb-ft 4.0L V6, shared with the FJ Cruiser and Tundra, is matched with an outdated 5-speed gearbox that feels inadequate for motivating the 4500-lb 4Runner. In a straight line, the 4Runner feels solid enough, but touch the brakes and there’s enough nose-diving to perturb anyone unfamiliar with the dynamics of an old-school BOF SUV (*ahem*). Wind noise at speed made itself noticeable. The cabin is newish but it already looks dated. The Entune infotainment system on the SR5 (base) trim level being tested was slower to respond than an anemic DMV employee. Despite EPA estimates of 17/22 mpg, fuel economy ranged between 13-15 mpg on my test loops covering Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.

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Pulling in to the staging area, I turned to my drive partner, Road & Track’s Zach Bowman, and asked him why anyone would consider buying this thing when there are so many better choices on the market. My query was answered as soon as we got to the off-road course Toyota had set up for us.

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Zach is a frequent visitor to the off-road parks near his hometown of Knoxville, Tennesse, while I had never set foot (or tire) on anything more rugged than a gravel driveway. With Zach in the passenger seat, I was quickly brought up to speed on the finer points of driving off-road, namely, that you can never go too slowly.

The first stage of the off-road course involved traversing a series of logs – a task that seemed simple enough, if taken at a slow deliberate pace. I decided that the proceeding at a virtual crawl wasn’t exciting enough, and decided to speed things up a little bit. As a result, I was met with one of the most gut-twisting *BANGS* I’ve ever heard while behind the wheel of anything, while my face flushed a deeper crimson than the paint that adorned our tester.

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“And that,” Zach said between laughs, “is why you want a body-on-frame off-roader.” I started blankly. “If this was anything else, you would have creased the unibody.” Needless to say, I approached the rest of the course as if my own newborn child was perched on the roof of the car. And it was still great fun.It turns out that driving at 3-5 mph can be a blast, as long as there’s no pavement involved. Zach was kind enough to act as a spotter and photographer along the way, and encouraged me to do the course in 2WD mode (the reason being that getting stuck in 2WD can be solved by switching to 4WD. Getting stuck in 4WD involves being towed out) just for kicks. Somehow, I survived.

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Knowing only slightly more about off-road driving as a result of my adventure, I would like to say that the 4Runner is about as capable as anything else you can buy once the pavement turns to mud (or deep water, which we traversed, Africa-style, but without a snorkel). But my opinion is worth about as much as my opinion on automotive design or PRS guitars, which is to say, not much at all.

I can tell you that for everything else, the 4Runner may not be the best tool for the job. It’s not very comfortable, it won’t meet most buyers expectations for interior quality or creature comforts and its on pavement-performance leaves quite a bit to be desired. But for better or worse, it does everything that a Highlander cannot or will not do – namely, go off-road and perform to a reasonable standard on-road. Evidently, there are tens of thousands of buyers looking for just that kind of capability. And now that the FJ Cruiser is apparently disappearing for 2014 (per Toyota’s fleet website), the list of choices facing those people just got a little shorter.

Thanks to Zach Bowman of Road & Track for the photos. Toyota provided flight, meals and accommodations for this event. Your author provided the unnecessary wear and tear on the vehicles. 

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Review: 2012 Infiniti QX56 Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/review-2012-infiniti-qx56-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/review-2012-infiniti-qx56-take-two/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2012 21:58:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=425908 If you thought high gas prices and a questionable economy meant the era of big SUVs was over, you’d be wrong; 2011 saw large SUV sales in the US grow 3.7% with a 7.4% growth in the luxury SUV segment. If you are one of those people with six-figure salaries and snow-filled school runs, the Cadillac Escalade is probably on your short list. But what about the person who isn’t ready to look “gangsta” while dropping Jimmy Jr. off at softball practice? Infiniti might just have the answer: the all-new, all-enormous QX56. Michael Karesh snagged a QX56 from a dealer back in March 2011, and in December Infiniti tossed me the keys to a 7-seat QX to see what the behemoth is like to live with for a week.

The luxury SUV formula is simple (and almost universally applied); take a mass-market SUV, add bling, softer leather, and wood trim (real or fake, take your pick). The Cadillac Escalade is the best known example. The Caddy borrows so heavily from the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon that it’s hard to tell them apart unless you’re looking at them head-on.  Toyota/Lexus uses the same formula to make the LX570 out of the Toyota Land Cruiser.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, Nissan/Infiniti may have been listening. While Infiniti’s last generation QX was a tarted up Nissan Armada, this time around the QX is a re-badged Nissan Patrol. Same story different names you say? Not quite, the Patrol has never been sold in America, and in all likelihood never will be. You see, the Patrol is not some budget Nissan, it’s Nissan’s flagship SUV in markets where Infiniti doesn’t exist. This sounds strange to the average American buyer, however it is perfectly normal (in many markets) for a single brand to compete in the budget-compact market and the full-size luxury niche at the same time.

Outside, the QX looks big. Really big. Infiniti attempted to put the QX on a visual diet by adding the Infiniti signature grille and “bubbly” hood treatment. The nip/tuck works to some extent and made me believe the QX56 is smaller than the competition, until I parked between an Escalade and GL550. At over 208-inches long and 80-inches wide, the QX56 is 6-inches longer and more than an inch wider than the Escalade (if want an SUV that rivals river-barges, Cadillac’s Escalade ESV is 229-inchs long). The QX is so large that while on the freeway I came too close to a pair of Smart Fortwos and accidentally pulled them into orbit. While I find the quarter-panel “portholes” an awkward styling job, the rest of the slab-sided QX is more attractive in my mind than the sedate LX570, the angular GL or the Escalade.

The super-size theme continues inside with wide, flat-bottomed front seats, a large center console between the front and second row seats (in the 7-seat QX) and large expanses of real wood trim. Anyone who owns or has driven a late model year Infiniti will feel immediately at home inside the QX as Infinit’s interior design department still chants the “same sausage, different sizes” mantra, and I’m OK with that. Parts quality inside the QX is extremely high with all the major touch points lacking the plastic feel the Cadillac is burdened with. Still, budgets are a way of life and back in 2010 when I reviewed the redesigned M56, I loved the “knurled” rings around the speedo and tach, the QX borrows the style but not the 3-D plastic bits opting instead for a painted-on faux knurl. Other than the painted gauge bling, the QX’s cabin is  easily on par with Mercedes’ GL and Lexus’s LX.

Under the QX’s bulbous hood beats but one engine option: the lightly re-worked 5.6-liter direct-injection V8 VK56VD. While the V8 is shared with the M56 sedan, exhaust differences reduce the output by 20HP and 4lb-ft to 400HP at 5,850RPM and 413lb-ft at 4,000RPM. Despite the downgrade in twist, the new engine is more powerful than all of the competition except the Escalade’s 403-horsepower, 417lb-ft 6.2-liter pushrod V8. Despite being down on displacement versus the Caddy, Infiniti’s direct-injection and variable valve timing tech help the QX’s V8 not only deliver its peak torque earlier than the Caddy’s 6.2L V8, but it doesn’t run out of breath as easily either.

As a result of the advantageous torque curve, high horsepower and a well matched 7-speed transmission, the QX56 recorded a faster 0-60 time than the 2011 Infiniti G37 convertible we tested recently. The QX boasts an 8,500lb towing capacity (slightly higher than Escalde), and in a back-to-back test with a friend’s 2011 Caddy and the same trailer, the QX felt far more composed going up steep grades with a 5,000lb trailer. The fast acceleration times and improved towing feel are largely due to the 7-speed automatic which spent less time hunting than GM’s 6-speed. Overall, the QX transmission’s shifts are fast and crisp like other Infiniti products (with rev-matched down-shifts), however the unit is programmed to be up-shift happy for fuel economy reasons. Fear not piston heads; romping the go peal will still trump the EPA. All 400 ponies are routed to the tarmac via the rear wheels or an optional all-time four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case. Sadly the terrain selection dial (ala Land Rover) from the Nissan Patrol didn’t make it into the QX.

Out on the road, the QX’s 121-inch wheelbase (5-inches longer than Escalade), independent rear suspension and standard 60-series rubber help the QX deliver a fairly compliant ride. Upgrading to the 22-inch wheel package drops the aspect ratio on the tires to 50 but improves the look of the vehicle whiel taking a slight toll on harshness over rough pavement. If handling is a priority for you, look beyond the 22-inch low profile tires and shop the   300lb lighter Mercedes-Benz GL550 or a crossover. Compared to the LX570, the QX delivers better grip than the Lexus, but slots firmly between the base Escalade and the Escalade with GM’s Magnetic Ride Control. Does any of this matter? I say no. Let’s face it – as long as a large SUV handles as well as a 1980s minivan it has succeeded in my book.

While Green Peace will never give a thumbs-up to any full-size SUV, the 5,850lb QX56 manages to win the award for the most fuel efficient “full-size non-hybrid SUV,” delivering 14 city MPG and 20 highway MPG. (The Escalde and GL450 both scrape the bottom at 13 MPG city/18 MPG highway.) During our 640-mile week with the QX56, we averaged a respectable 15.2MPGs in mixed driving and a daily commute over a 2,200ft mountain pass and our best highway mileage of 22MPG was achieved during a 48-mile run on level highway.

 

Lately Infiniti has been taking nanny state to the next level with “prevention systems” rather than just “warning systems.” As much as I may dislike systems that take control at any time (as opposed to systems that take control when you are inattentive), when you are driving a living room sized vehicle aroundm it’s probably a good idea for the nannies to kick in early. Sure, the Lexus LX has a pre-collision system and the Mercedes GL can be had with lane departure warning, but the QX takes electronic prevention to a whole new level. “Lane Departure Prevention” not only tells you when you cross the line without signalling, it will actually use the brakes to “steer” you back in your lane. Similarly, “Blind Spot Avoidance” will act (more drastically) to keep you from side-swiping that motorcycle or Smart car in your blind spot. While the Lane Departure system’s intervention is a gentle tug, the Blind Spot system is more of a shove back in your lane. I can hear HAL now: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Most luxury brands offer radar cruise control as an option, but Infinit’s packs a socialist twist: an accelerator pedal that fights back. The radar cruise control with “Intelligent Brake Assist” will brake for you [even to a complete stop] in many situations. The easiest way to describe the behavior is this: you are following a car on a surface street, the car begins to slow for a red light, if the QX56 sees that you are closing on the car in front of you it will begin pushing the accelerator pedal up at you to indicate your need to act, if you lift off the accelerator and you are close enough to the car in front, the QX will automatically apply the brakes taking you all the way to a complete stop. Once stopped the car will hold the brakes for a few seconds, then beep indicating your need to touch the brake pedal and then release it’s death grip on your stoppers. I will leave the debate over this making QX drivers depend too much on technology to our readers.

The QX56 shares its 8-inch navigation/infotainment system with the rest of the Infiniti lineup and as such provides excellent Bluetooth and iPod/iPhone integration. While the software has not been significantly improved since the former QX, it is fairly competitive with the Lexus and Cadillac systems. With an intuitive interface that combines physical buttons on the dash and steering wheel as well as a touch screen, navigating through your music device or the nav system is easy and can be done primarily via the steering wheel. While the Infiniti system allows voice control of the navigation system and Bluetooth phone dialing, it unfortunately still lacks voice command of your Apple music device ala Ford’s SYNC or Kia’s UVO. The large screen is also used by Infiniti’s “Around Monitor” system which takes images from four different cameras around the car and digitally manipulates the image to give you a bird’s eye view of your surroundings. While this feature is nifty in a mid-size luxury sedan, it’s a matter of wheel-life-or-death on large SUVs and thankfully it is standard on all QX models.

So how much does one of these babies set you back? Logically, full-size SUVs have full-size price tags and the QX56 is no exception. The 2012 Infiniti QX56 starts at $58,700 for the rear wheel drive QX and $61,800 for the four-wheel drive model. Aside from the all-wheel motivation, the $3,100 also buys the driver a windshield de-icer and a 260lb increase in curb weight. Strangely enough the 4WD system does not come standard with a reduction in fuel economy with 2WD and 4WD models scoring the same in the EPA tests (your mileage may vary of course). Our tester was a fully-loaded AWD model retailing for $75,140. Our options list included: the $2,950 “Theater Package” with dual 7-inch headrest monitors for the second row, wireless headphones, second row power-folding heated seats and a built-in 120V AC inverter; the $4,100 “Deluxe Touring Package” with heated and cooled front seats, semi-aniline leather, dynamic body roll control, climate control with air quality management, a Plasmacluster air purifier and burl wood trim; and the $3,000 “Technology Package” which includes all the safety nannies we covered earlier. While $75K sounds steep, the QX56 is actually a “bargain” in the luxo-hauler class. Similarly equipped, the Mercedes GL550 will set you back $89,818, the Cadillac Escalade Platinum  $82,035 and the Lexus X570 will ding you $89,356. It should be noted that despite the Cadillac of price tags, the Escalade lacks many of the advanced active safety features of the QX.

As much as I might like to think of myself as a mild-greenie, I have always had a strangely large place in my heart for large vehicles. You know you like ‘em big too. However politically incorrect it may be to drive a large SUV, and keeping the fact that few people really “need” a full-size SUV, the QX56 is a solid entry in this niche and 2011 sales bear this out with the QX outselling the Lexus LX570 fourfold. Indeed the QX outsells all but the Escalade, and for good reason, with a fresh new look, upscale interior and more electronic doodads than the competition for a lower price point, the QX56 should be at the top of your super-sized list.

 

Statistics
0-30: 2.161 seconds
0-60: 5.61 seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.27 seconds @ 97 MPH

Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior Front, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior Front, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior Front 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior Front 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior Rear, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes I2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior Rear Side 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior Side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Engine, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Engine, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior Grille, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Headlamps, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Portholes, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior, Infotainment / Nagivation Screen, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Gauges, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Gauges, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX Audio Controls, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX Cargo Area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX Cargo Area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX Cargo Area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side. Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side. Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side. Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX 56 Exterior, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side. Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side. Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side.Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side. Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Exterior, Side. Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Wheels, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior. Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Dashboard 2, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Dashboard 1, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Second Row, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Middle Row, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Third Row, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Seating - View from cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Seating, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Seating 2, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Seating, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Front Door, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior Center Stack, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior AWD Mode Selector, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior AWD Mode Selector, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Interior, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Instrument Cluster (gauges), Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Instrument Cluster (gauges), Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 Instrument Cluster (gauges), Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Infiniti QX56 All-Around-View, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes infiniti_qx56_thumb ]]>
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