There’s no getting away from it I’m afraid, this Infiniti QX56 is absolutely massive. So much so, that I nicknamed the QX ‘The Whale’ during my time with it. Though the old QX was hardly a lightweight, the new car is significantly longer, wider – and noticebly heavier. Thankfully, there’s more power under the huge bonnet to help counteract the exterior bulk. Though 395bhp from such a large engine isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the 5.6-litre V8 produces more than enough grunt to propel the big beast – Sounds quite meaty too!
Whereas the rest of the Infiniti range shares only its basic underpinnings and engines with lesser Nissans, the QX56 is unashamedly a Nissan Patrol in a new suit. Mechanically, the cars are identical – they’re built alongside each other in Nissan’s Shatai Kyushu factory in Japan which was created specifically to make the company’s big SUVs.
But being based on our 2010 4×4 of the year, the Patrol is no bad thing – gone is the slightly creaky and bouncy Patrol of old and in its place is a model that’s full to the gunnels of trick electronic gadgetry to keep the thing moving in a forwards direction over whatever terrain you please. However, you wouldn’t subject the Infiniti to such uncouth behaviour. Though it has all the trick electronics, the QX is more suited to spending its time firmly on tarmac.
The Whale is a remarkably comfortable place to spend time for those up front and the five – or six, depending on specification – friends and family you’ve brought along for the ride. I initially thought that the 395bhp power figure might be a bit lacking in an SUV that weighs 2653kg, but to be honest, once underway I had no such concerns. The seven-speed gearbox shifts calmly and smoothly through the ratios in drive – there is a supposed manual override option, but unless you’re crawling along a rocky wadi bed, it’s worth letting the ‘box get on with the job itself.
Naturally for such a tall and heavy machine, there’s a bit of body roll should you get a little over-eager behind the wheel, but the Hydraulic Body Control Motion System – inspired by the suspension found on WRC cars – does keep things remarkably in order. Personally, I find the pitching and rolling of something like the pre adaptive damping air-sprung Range Rover a bit unnerving, and in comparison the QX feels limo-flat even through high-speed corners. I found I breached the grip limits of the tyres on the 22-inch alloys before the chassis got troubled.
However, all is not completely rosy from behind the wheel. Infiniti has bestowed the QX with a host of active safety features which amongst other things attempt to stop the SUV from wandering across lanes, keep a safe distance from the car in front and generally try to keep you out of trouble. But in reality, all they do is frustrate you massively whilst you’re tootling along.
The Forward Collision Warning system for example is a little bit too eager in its application. Rather than alert you with a flashing and audible warning on the dash should you get too close to the car in front as is the case on similar systems fitted by other car manufacturers, the Infiniti’s system actively takes control of the throttle pedal and pushes it back against your foot. It’s an extremely unnerving feeling, especially considering how close cars bunch up on the highways in our part of the world, and you’ll soon find yourself reaching down with your left hand to switch the system off.
Understandably from a safety point of view, the QX56 resets all the electronics to be active whenever you start up the ignition. However, I got into the habit of turning everything off before I started any journey. A little bit more finesse in the application of the systems would make more sense as it would give QX56 drivers the required safety buffer zone when driving around.
These gripes aside, the QX56 remains an entirely pleasant way to go about your business. The cabin is extremely well finished with swathes of leather – complete with Infiniti stitching on the seats – wood and all-manner of niceties brightening things up. The 3D sat-nav is easy to use and the Around View top-down parking system makes parking The Whale a little bit easier in tight mall car parks.
If you’re after a big, luxurious barge for you and your large family, then the QX56 proves to be a great package. It’s certainly a much more complete alternative to big American SUVs, but as an out-and-out driving machine the likes of the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport provide a much better alternative, though not quite as practical if you have a big brood.