By on April 18, 2011

You have your reasons. Gas prices might be high and headed higher, and car-based crossovers handle better, but you want your full-sized, full-lux, body-on-frame conventional SUV. GM and Ford, the segment’s traditional rulers, have had nothing new to offer in five years. But Infiniti has as much faith in the segment’s continued vitality as you do—why else would they have introduced an all-new QX56 for the 2011 model year?

With voluptuously rounded fenders and tight proportions, the QX56 adopts Infiniti’s current design language and appears smaller than it actually is (six inches longer and an inch wider than a Cadillac Escalade). And yet with a huge grille leading a domed hood that rises far above the headlamp clusters the SUV also has the powerful presence expected from this sort of vehicle. I personally find the new QX56’s exterior a major improvement over the previous one, far more attractive than the Lexus LX 570 (not a high hurdle to clear), more tasteful than the excessively chromed but otherwise excessively pedestrian Lincoln Navigator, and more current than the Cadillac Escalade. Still, I can see how some people might perceive the QX56’s exterior as bulbous and prefer the crisper lines of a Cadillac Escalade or Mercedes GL. And the Range Rover’s exterior is a classic that will never go out of style.

Opinions of the QX56’s interior should be less mixed. Like the exterior, it is fully up-to-date in a way that those of its closest competitors are not. Sweeping curves continue into the SUV’s cabin, which between its sensual styling and premium wood and leather is a very nice place to be. The door panels (including the door pulls) and the center console are luxuriously upholstered. Unlike in the Lincoln or Cadillac, there’s no sense of any pickup origins. One issue: sunlight sometimes reflects annoyingly off the chrome trim around the shifter. Among other things, this makes it hard to view the position of the small seat heating-and-cooling knobs buried at the base of the center stack. Hint: if you start feeling uncomfortably warm, the seat heater is on.

Any lingering doubts that the QX56 is a conventional SUV fall away with the considerable climb into the driver seat—the step-in height is nearly two feet. Shorter adults will be thankful for the standard running boards, though even these are well off the ground (fixed, in place, they don’t power down like those on domestic competitors). Once up there, the view over the hood is commanding. Huge mirrors aid rearward visibility. The standard “Around View Monitor” provides a top-down view of the entire perimeter of the vehicle, making it much easier, even fun, to maneuver in tight spaces. Once you try it, you’ll wish your car had it.

The QX56’s large front bucket seats feel very comfortable at first. As the miles accumulate, the cushions don’t seem as cosseting, but still better than most. The second row, which reclines, is notably roomy and comfortable. The third row, despite the packaging advantages of an independent rear suspension (IRS), is not. The seat’s very low to the floor, and there’s hardly more room back there than in a live-axled LX 570 or Escalade. Consider it kids-only for all but short stints.

Cargo volume similarly fails to receive an IRS refund. With just 16.6 cubic feet behind the third row and 95.1 with both rows folded to form a flat but upward-sloping floor, the figures are very conventional SUV. You can stuff another twenty cubes above the lower floor of a Buick Enclave crossover. The third-row seat power folds, but operates so slowly—and you must keep your finger on the button the whole time—that a manual seat would be preferable.

Though a foot longer than the Lexus, the Infiniti weighs about 150 pounds less—which still leaves 5,850. No matter, the 400-horsepower 5.6-liter VVT DOHC V8 backed by a manually-shiftable seven-speed automatic is well up to the task. Infiniti’s V8 might lack the character of Cadillac’s, but is nevertheless easy on the ears. Unlike with the Lexus, all-wheel-drive with a two-speed transfer case isn’t standard, but no doubt most QX56s will be ordered with it. Fuel economy about the burbs might top 14 MPG if you go easy on the gas. Towing capacity: 8,500 lbs. There are some benefits to a conventional SUV.

Handling isn’t one of them. While the QX56 certainly handles with much more balance and composure than the Lexus or Lincoln, its chassis is not as entertaining as the Cadillac’s (though it might post better numbers) and is most definitely an outlier in the Infiniti showroom. The QX56’s steering and handling aren’t nearly as tight or precise as those of an FX50, much less Infinitis that check in well south of 4,500 pounds. Even with the Deluxe Touring Package’s hydraulically cross-linked shocks there’s a fair amount of lean in hard turns. Typical of large SUVs (though the Cadillac does better), the QX56 bobbles and shudders a bit over uneven pavement. It feels every bit as large and heavy as it is.

Equipped with AWD and the Deluxe Touring Package (which requires the dual screen entertainment system), the QX56 lists for an even $71,000. While certainly not cheap, a similarly outfitted LX 570 lists for $14,360 more. Adjusting for the Lexus’s additional features using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and comparing invoice prices (Lexus dealers enjoy broader margins) only reduces this difference by half. Compared to the Cadillac Escalade the Infiniti’s advantage is over $14,000 even after such adjustments. The Lincoln Navigator is a little less expensive than the Infiniti, but there’s a reason for this.

Stylish curves and Infiniti brand notwithstanding, the QX56 remains very much a large conventional SUV. If you’re into cars, it’s not going to change your mind about the class even if it does perform somewhat better than others. But if you want a large conventional SUV, the Infiniti seems the one to get, offering the most up-to-date styling, an outstanding interior, a powerful V8, and competent handling at a relatively low price.

Bill French of Suburban Infiniti in Novi, MI, provided the vehicle. He can be reached at 248-427-4712.

Michael Karesh operatesTrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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78 Comments on “Review: 2011 Infiniti QX56...”

  • avatar

    That’s a fancy interior. How’s the MMI?

    Edit: this or the slade?

  • avatar

    I never understood this huge-SUV car segment… They cannot possibly drive well. Buy an eighteen wheel truck instead if you have cargo needs!

  • avatar

    I can’t get past the ugly exterior.  The Infiniti design motif just does not work for me.  Or this truck.

    • 0 avatar

      I actually like the current Infiniti design motive when it is applied to one of their cars – but not so much when it is carried over on to both their FX and QX SUVs.  It just doesn’t work for me.

    • 0 avatar

      As noted in the review, I realized that many people find the QX ugly, but I find it far more attractive than the Lexus.

      What part of the exterior do people most dislike? The front end? I’ll grant that the way the hood bulges up over the headlights might seem odd.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ll go with the front end and the ridiculous fender vents, which look like they’re straight outta Pep Boys. Beautiful interior, though…Infiniti’s really improving in this area. 

  • avatar

    What a hideous eyesore.

  • avatar
    Paul W

    In China people love these. People are talking/dreaming about QXs like they’d been around forever, but I mean, when did Infiniti get to China – 3 years ago?

  • avatar

    Yep that is one huge, butt ugly, over sized, truck thing. The only good thing about high gas prices is this type a vehicle will soon be dead. But so will anything with a V8 or any kind of towing capacity.

    • 0 avatar

      Somebody who can dump 70g’s on a SUV is gonna sweat $4/gallon?
      Seems unlikely to me.

      • 0 avatar

        You are right. People with money do not care about gas mileage, especially when they have three or four cars in the driveway. One to pull the boat, one to get the sport driving bug scratched, one to commute to work economically, and one to carry two couples in class to dinner.

        I did not care for this vehicle, other than its gorgeous interior. The driving experience was just too isolated and unnerving.

  • avatar

    The Lincoln and the Cadillac were both introduced in 2007, making them 4 years old, not 5.  The 6,000 lb Lexus LX is actually more comparable to the Infiniti QX, than the Cadillac or the Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar

      The Lincoln and the Cadillac were both introduced in the 2006 calendar year for the 2007 model year. The Cadillac even arrived early, in the spring of 2006. This being April, 2011, it’s been close to five years.

      Why isn’t the QX comparable to the Cadillac or Lincoln? Dimensionally it’s much closer to them than to the LX.

  • avatar

    Buy a Town & Country or Grand Caravan instead. This thing? Pure waste and awfully ugly. D.O.A.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    It’s a whale.

    • 0 avatar

      A whale covered in chrome.
      I could probably get used to the overall design given some time, but there are some details– like the air intakes on the fenders, and the rounded, bulbous snout– that make it difficult to love, and appear rather gimmicky.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a RHINO.  In fact, Transformers 3 should have a robot Rhino turn into the QX56.

      This thing is so ridiculously ugly, I’m trying not to puke Pene ala Vodka all over my keyboard.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the Navigator and Escalade outsold this monstrosity 5:1.

  • avatar

    I like this vehicle just for the contrary statement it makes to the ever more numerous Toyota Pious owners, and apparently also the sanctimonious commenters on this blog.
    Didn’t like the styling at first either, but now that I’m seeing it ‘in the flesh’ more and more (they seem to be selling surprisingly well here in the ATL ‘burbs) it’s growing on me.
    BTW: It always crack me up how readers here bitch about fuel consumption when it’s about SUVs.  Big BMW or Mercedes cars also use more than a Smart would, but get a pass because…?  Who needs a V8 Brabus tuned autobahn monster in the US?  Posers, that’s who.

    • 0 avatar

      A Hammer was a cheap way to tweak tree-huggers, too. BTW, old Merc SUV was pretty nice off-road, and the current Jeep GC takes its bones to a good effect.

    • 0 avatar

      BTW: It always crack me up how readers here bitch about fuel consumption when it’s about SUVs.
      Ever been stuck in the far left lane behind a banker’s wife in one of these movable apartments? There is something viscerally retarded about these well-furnished short-buses that strikes a fury in us that sedan/coupe/sports cars do not.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with large SUV’s and pickup trucks is that often they are driven around suburbs of major cities with one occupant while their cargo, towing capacity and passenger capacity never get used.  I’m not opposed to large vehicles as they do have a proper place and pourpose.  This type of vehicle is fine for hauling your boat to the lake with 5+ of your best friends, a solo commute, not so much.  Unfortunately many in America still seem to think vehicles like this are “safer” and have asinie needs to “sit up high” for a perceived better view of the road.  The result is ever more wasteful consumption of our limited and diminishing energy resources.  This vehicle, in addition to the competition is why N. America needs European style gasoline taxes.  You should have to pay doubly for being this wasteful and obscene.

      • 0 avatar

        Asinine as it may be you can see that sitting higher has its priority.

        People like the capability. It’s really quite silly to call the QX and its ilk wasteful and obscene just because there’s cars you like more. It’s a nice car and precious as gas is there’s much more obscene going on than trucks on the road that are bigger than you.

      • 0 avatar

        What N. America needs is putting people who want higher taxes into their proper place. And that place is not in power.

  • avatar

    Big, ugly, over-priced, gas-guzzling SUV. A timely review to be sure.

  • avatar

    It appears they had a lot of ugly in inventory and needed some place to put it.

  • avatar

    What a remarkable vehicle!
    It makes quite a fashion and cultural statement, but I am not certain which fashion or culture. At first glance it looks like some kind of Asian mini-train driven by the newly rich. It appears to me to be bloated, corpulent and sickly like a diabetic Suburban. It may have been designed with a giant manatee’s proportions in mind. It looks elephantine, as in The Elephant Man.

    Here we see it in a dark color. Imagine it in a bright color. Like a sandy gold tan. Maybe it will be available in a light lavendar gray so it could actually appear like a rotting beached sea creature.

    Then there is that interior. It has a creepy yet familiar appearance to it, like a VIP room for a Shanghei men’s club with silent young female models with zombie smiles. The leather seats look like they were exhumed from a Pullman car. I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen leather fringe dangling across the bottom of them.

    Nasty. Creepy. Foreign. And what – 10 mpg? I thought the GMC Terrain was about as train-ish and ugly as one could go, but Infiniti demonstrates that if you took a Terrain and crossed it with Jabba the Hut in a Speedo, it could capture the Asian mafia market and the hearts of pimps across the entire Hong Kong metropolis.

    • 0 avatar

      Elephant seal.
      Thats it.
      It looks like an Antartic Elephant seal.

      That’s rather ironic, isn’t it? Basing a massive SUV on a creature in an endangered part of the world, becoming more endangered by massive SUV like this one?

      Maybe Infiniti will come out with a sports car which has an appearance based on the Dodo.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the bloated.
      These humongous SUV’s aren’t really my cup of tea anyway, but given the choice, this one would be way down the list because design wise – inside and out – it looks like its had a really bad reaction to a bee sting.

    • 0 avatar

      Not seeing the resemblance to the Terrain.

    • 0 avatar

      I could see a bit of elephant seal, but to me it’s more manatee.  I suppose you could pick any sea mammal with a bit of a derpy forehead.

  • avatar

    This one vehicle demonstrates just about everything that is wrong with the automotive industry and its understanding of the market. That it is a Japanese brand just adds a touch of irony.

    • 0 avatar

      “This one vehicle demonstrates just about everything that is wrong with the automotive industry and its understanding of the market.”

      Perhaps, but it still sells.

      This vehicle punches every button on the well-to-do urban/suburbanite’s console — high seating position, imposing bulk, a luxurious and isolating interior, stout V8 engine and enough seating and cargo space to fulfill those hauling tasks that might never happen but heck, let’s just keep it around just in case.

      Folks buying this vehicle have enough disposable income that gas prices become a non-issue.  These people also wouldn’t be caught dead in a “lesser” vehicle, even if it was far more practical for their needs.

      Personally, I see these vehicles as the wannabe successors of the Grosser Mercedes 600, only without any of the genuine quality, detail and beauty put into that fine vehicle.

  • avatar

    Is this car based on the Nissan Patrol?  These cars make sense if you desire luxury in harsh climates and must traverse rough terrain.

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    All things aside, this truck appears to have a usable set of instruments in the dash. They would’ve nailed it if not for the goofy teardrop perimeter. Oh well.
    At least they tried, unlike most other new vehicles where it looks like the engineers asked their kids to design the instrument/warning light cluster.

  • avatar

    Michael, I’m sure you are a great guy and a real stand-up one, too.
    And I think your other site is quite a valuable thing and I’m glad you are out there saving people’s asses the way you do. God bless you for that. 

    * I have disagreed with your design evaluations wildly in the past.
    * Also have totally disagreed with design crits in reviews, as most people can see, remember, and sense their own gut reactions.
    * Also, I have violently objected to anyone but a working Designer (graphic, industrial, whatever) or Prof doing any crits.
    * You have always seemed more of an Actuary by profession, with not a lot of design training or experience.

    All that being said, cool as I’m sure you are,

    You have just lost your Man Card as far as I’m concerned.

    -for not completely savaging this design and leaving it a charred, calcified, megalodon fossil hulk in your terrible wake of great vengeance and furious anger.

    And for not doing that, for making a part of your review warmed-over pablum, you honestly come off almost at worst as a Shill for Nissan/Infiniti, or at best as another John H. Davis-school clone of vanilla pudding.  
    [reprogram the Staples “Easy Button” with John saying “This car is GRRREAT!” as the standard ‘Motor Week’ review]

    So PLEASE TTAC, quit babying the automakers like this!!!

    Would ‘El Farago’ have EVER let that cross-eyed rhino-wildebeest bastard elephant-man of a design off with anything less than a megalithic, solid-brass, Hon. Rev. Dr. MLK Jr. Boulevard-sized, pimp-slap??!!?

    -No; No he goddamn would not.

    Color me disgusted.

    • 0 avatar

      Not a lot of thought training or experience.

      Won’t you Pen a counterpoint? Or just disagree, wildly

    • 0 avatar

      I knew 90% of the commenters here hate this design, but I write them as I see them. Compared to the LX 570 I reviewed a few weeks ago, I continue to feel this is an attractive vehicle. My ideal design? Certainly not. But relative to others in the class I feel it compares well.

      I’ve never claimed to be cool. 

      I’ve also never sought to verify my manhood through my automotive tastes. Three children seem enough for this purpose.

      In general, my reviews are perceived as overly critical, not the opposite. I don’t go over the top in my critiques (when they’re not heavily edited by someone else) but they are often critical nonetheless.

      • 0 avatar

        Like a lot of Infiniti’s designs, they do tend to be rather in your face at first. Remember when the 1st generation FX came out? The 2nd gen was just as in your face, if not more. Thing is they do tend to grow on you, and one thing is sure and for certain, they stand out from the crowd. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    • 0 avatar

      Did you really need to go so far as to personally insult Mike’s manhood?  Really?  It’s a car review, dude.  Chill out and grow up.  I’m not sure what is more pathetic:  Your initial transparent compliments, or how you come across as some design expert that people should not cross.

  • avatar

    Like most other modern vehicles, I’m sure I’d love driving this rig if I could just get past it’s looks. It’s eagle eye camera would be great for towing my equipment trailer down the togging trails, forwards and backwards. I wouldn’t need to worry about overloading on mulch or 3/4″ minus with the 8500 Lb tow rating. If it didn’t look so much like a dead, bloated, dehorned rhinoceros…
    this, on the other hand, I like:

  • avatar

    A left tackle in the NFL might look okay driving this.

  • avatar

    VanillaDude’s response was hilarious and accurate. This thing is hideous.  There is not a good angle on it and the fender vents are inexcusable.  I don’t care how nice the interior is, I could never buy one of these over an Escalade (assuming I was in the market for a ridiculous vehicle like this in the first place) because I would be embarrassed to be seen in this thing. It makes the previous-gen QX56 look like a paragon of classy, restrained styling

  • avatar

    I remember a few years ago when this old saw was making the rounds: You are a yuppie if your SUV is higher off the ground than your plumber’s pickup. This is the sort of vehicle that got that started.

  • avatar

    “Waaaaah! A big expensive vehicle, that people I’m jealous of (the wealthy) can have and not me! *sniffle* Guess I better summon some self righteous rage about resources and higher taxes so people can be forced only into vehicles I can afford/approve of. My indignation ought to be enough to conceal my jealousy.”

    Just offering you a peak into the subconscious of all the SUV haters out there. Here’s a newsflash for those of you clamoring for more fuel taxes: MOTORIST WHO OWN INEFFICIENT VEHICLES ALREADY PAY MORE IN TAXES. Just because they don’t have to pay so much in taxes that they compromise their freedom to buy what they want as opposed to what YOU want doesn’t mean they need to be higher. Let me part with some words of wisdom, that once absorbed, will ease your self righteous rage.

    Life’s not fair.
    Get over yourself. 

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin L. Copple

      Right on, brother!  I’m going to save a copy of this on my desktop and use it for inspiration when I see the annoying, whining “I want to tell other people what not to drive” pablum.

    • 0 avatar


      I’m not a personal fan of these mega-beasts, in fact I think they are one of the dumbest uses of one’s personal financial resources.   But given a choice between SUV-driving narcissists who pay their own way, and eco-fascists who want to control my life, I will take the narcissists any day.

    • 0 avatar

      I get it. So class envy is the reason I don’t like these big honkin’ leviathans? Not that I can afford one but choose to drive something a bit more drivable if not a bit more efficient? There are many reasons I don’t like SUVs; jealousy isn’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar


      911 turbo isn’t any more efficient, and can only sit 2.

    • 0 avatar

      Dude, I drive a BMW, and believe me, I am not in the least bit jealous of someone driving a glorified schoolbus.  Nauseous?  Yes.  Jealous?  No.

      So why don’t I like them:

      1) As tacky as a pinky ring.
      2) I can’t see around the blasted things.
      3) They accomplish [their] passenger safety by using *my* passenger windows as a crush zone. 
      4) Slow, ungainly, vehicles.

  • avatar

    Reminds me of an old “Simpsons” episode…

    Can you name the truck with four wheel drive, 
    smells like a steak and seats thirty-five.. 

    Canyonero! Canyonero! 

  • avatar

    This is a neat car. Would be even cooler with a diesel and more torque. It looks way better than it’s competitors and its very manly. So is Michael.

    For anyone above who says it’s ridiculous for anyone to own one for reasons of size/underutilization/economy/etc…etc…may you all be forced to drive a beige Camry electronically limited to 65MPH for the rest of your lives. There’s no logical reason to ever drive anything else.

  • avatar

    Why did they redesign this before the Titan?  Are they killing off the Titan?

  • avatar

    Though Infiniti wouldn’t even dream about offering this beast here in Europe, I personally kind of like it. The blunt styling of the thing suits this type of vehicle well IMO. It may look like a rhino, but then it IS a rhino, so why try and pose like something else. That said, I could do without the faux-vents and the curvy creases in the hatch.

    I’d certainly have one over those has beens that have not been for a long time (Sclade, Navigator) and I would also prefer it over the LX570, which makes no sense to me at all except when it’s in the middle east, called Toyota Landcruiser and flogged over some dunes. The RR is a different car IMO. I’m sure some ballers cross-shop a RR with the Sclade/Navigator and some expats in Bangladesh cross-shop a RR with an LX570/Landcruiser but generally I think it appeals to a different crowd.

    I think for what it is, this QX is pretty good, but I’ll take an FX50 please…Bionic cheetah.

  • avatar

    $70K for that thing!?? With less than 100 ft^3 of cargo room, despite being that big and bulbous!
    At least the LX570 can get you out of some nasty spots, as long as you don’t mind grinding the fancy bits off to reveal the Land Cruiser underneath.
    I wonder if there are some people out there, who actually consider exterior bulk, all else equal, to be a positive attribute.
    Full disclosure: I have never understood the fascination some people seem to have with the various Nissans and Infinitys of the last decade. Every time I have driven one, it has been nothing but a big disappointment. Noisy, heavy, unrefined, clumsily handling; every last one of them, save perhaps the (admittedly impressive) GTR, which I have never driven.

  • avatar

    Hint: if you start feeling uncomfortably warm, the seat heater is on.
    Alternatively, if you feel like you just peed yourself, the seat heater is on!
    It’s ugly, but I think if they shortened the grill to blend with the headlights, got rid of the tack-on fender vents, and found room to smoothly incorporate the taillights – rather than having them jut out from the sheet metal – it would probably look pretty good.

  • avatar

    What a preposterous vehicle.

  • avatar

    A form of gluttony.

  • avatar

    That it is a Japanese brand just adds a touch of irony.

    You have a short memory regarding Japan. They love big and have been making some of the biggest crap ever since they could make it. There are too many folks who think everything Japanese is all cutsie, green and is as gentle as a woman’s laxitive. Nonsense.

    There is a long line of bloated inefficient vehicles sucking the Earth’s life sources coming from the same place as the popular neutered Prius. Japan makes gas guzzlers and not just for the US market either.
    Either that or you have a severe bias against your own country. After reading your previous postings here, I can’t tell.

  • avatar

    I just wish that they had more ground clearance.

    That way, I could just pass them by driving under them in my un-manly yet positively-gas-slurping-when-driving-as-intended Boxster.

  • avatar

    Great looking interior and has all the bells and whistles one could want. It has plenty of power, as well. My biggest problem with this vehicle is that the steering and ride feel is so isolated, it was unnerving. Felt almost unsafe, the steering was so numb. I might as well have been a passenger, there was so little information transmitted back to the driver.

  • avatar

    The previous QX was a dollied up Armada. It compared very adequately against the dollied up products offered by both Ford and GM. The new QX is quite a step-up from the previous in a lot of ways. Maybe the RR competes.

  • avatar

    This SUV is not only fun to drive, it is luxurious and has all the latest features anyone would want. The ONLY drawback is the gas mileage, it stinks. I previously owned the last 2010 model and I have to say the 3rd row seat in it was much better, adults could actually sit comfortably and the new 2011 model, not so much. It is a really small third row seat. Family of four can fit comfortably in style and luxury, my kids love the captains chairs and having their own screens in the headrest. Overall, great ride and you can’t beat Infiniti brand, I am on my fourth Infiniti and no problems at all :-)

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