Test Drive: Infiniti QX56

Fuel prices stung the large SUV sales, but there is still a significant notch in the market for the all-weather, luxury people haulers with the ability to pull a trailer.

For pure comfort, it?s hard to beat the Infiniti QX56 with its smooth, quiet ride and posh interior. ?Inside there?s room for the starting lineup of a six-man football team and two coaches when equipped with the rear bench seats.? If cargo capacity is needed, flop the two rows of seats down and there?s room enough for a Boy Scout troop?s camping equipment in the 97.1 cubic feet of cargo space and on the heavy-duty luggage rack.

Outside the stylish QX56 looks big and it is big with distinctive muscular stance attached to the road with standard 20-inch tires and alloy wheels.

Powered by a 320-hp, 5.6-liter V-8 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission, the QX-56 is available with a choice of standard rear-wheel drive or the optional four-wheel drive.? One of the best reasons for buying this brute is towing capacity, which is rated at 8,900 pounds for the 4WD and 9,000 with the 2WD configuration.

To support the load capabilities, the QX has an automatic load-leveling rear suspension along with massive four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with a four-wheel anti lock system.? It also has tire pressure monitoring, brake assist and electronic brake force distribution as standard equipment.? However, we thought stability control with the anti-trailer sway system should have been offered, too.

As big and bulky as the QX appears, we were pleasantly surprised by the performance and handling characteristics.? Combined with all the driver aids and a tight 41-foot turning radius, the QX was more agile than expected in parking lots when competing for spots close to the front door.? When it was time to back out, the rear view monitor and sonar systems were priceless. ?The quick 7.3-second acceleration time made merging on to the freeways easy.? The down side, of course, was fuel economy, which the EPA pegs at 12 mpg city at 17 mpg highway.? We averaged 16.1 mpg during our time behind the wheel.

Built on a heavy-duty body on frame platform, the QX has a sophisticated double-wishbone suspension on all four wheels.?? We were pleased by the smooth, quiet ride quality too; ?it was almost like riding in a luxury sedan, except we were sitting up much higher. ?The tall stature was great for visibility, but it requires climbing up into the cabin, and reinforces how helpful running boards can be.

The big Infiniti is only available in one premium trim that includes a high level of features to make the driver?sjob easier.? The extensive standard equipment list includes driver aids like the heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, rear sonar, driver?s memory seat, Infiniti Intelligent Key system, power rear liftgate and Xenon headlights.? The well-designed Infiniti hard drive navigation system with XM NavTraffic with real-time traffic information and rear view monitor is a nice piece of standard equipment.

Passengers can appreciate the heated leather seating (first two rows), moonroof, running boards, and Bluetooth communications.? Our 4WD test vehicle had a base price of $60,015 including the destination charge. ?The two-wheel drive is $3,100 less.? Available options include a technology package with intelligent cruise control and front sonar system — $1,150 and the DVD based rear-seat entertainment system — $1,700.

On the surface, the Infiniti QX may not be the most environmentally friendly vehicle on the road, but it is when you are carrying a large group.? In addition, it makes a great tow vehicle for those big trailers.

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