2011 Infiniti QX56
2011 Infiniti QX56. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by Paul Williams

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2011 Infiniti QX56

Driving along in the 2011 Infiniti QX56, you are literally head and shoulders above most surrounding traffic. This luxury SUV is about as big as they get, with room for up to eight occupants and power enough to tow your 8,500-pound boat or trailer.

Under the hood you’ll find a new 5.6-litre V8 engine making 400-horsepower (up 25 per cent over the 2010 model) and 413 pound-feet of torque. With a 10 per cent improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing model, the QX56’s $73,000 base price is unchanged from 2010, and includes a full array of safety and luxury features (see Autos’s 2011 Infiniti QX56 First Drive report for details). However, $8,000 more buys some desirable extras in the form of an optional Technology Package.

The most obvious component of the Technology Package is the set of nine-spoke, 22 x 8-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Standard rims are 20-inch, but the bigger rims certainly don’t look excessive on the QX56.

Another Technology Package feature is Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC), new to Infiniti, which reduces body lean while turning. This system uses hydraulic cylinders located at the shock absorbers to adjust roll stiffness by transferring fluid between the left and right sides of the vehicle during normal driving.

2011 Infiniti QX56
2011 Infiniti QX56. Click image to enlarge

Inside, and in addition to the standard heated/ventilated front seats, navigation system and integrated video displays behind each front seat, the Technology Package supplies an advanced climate control system with “Plasmacluster” air filtration that ionizes and de-ionizes the cabin. Basically, the system cleans the air in the cabin, removing odours and reducing allergens to produce a fresh-smelling environment for QX56 occupants.

Intelligent Cruise Control is another benefit of checking the Technology Package box. On a recent weekend road trip, I used this feature regularly and found it useful. The idea is that you set the cruise control at your desired speed (which can be precisely set in one-km/h increments), and your vehicle will maintain its speed until it encounters a slower vehicle in its path. At that point, the QX56 will match the forward vehicle’s speed until you change lanes, whereupon it resumes its pre-set speed.

2011 Infiniti QX56
2011 Infiniti QX56
2011 Infiniti QX56
2011 Infiniti QX56. Click image to enlarge

An additional convenience is the ability to choose from three distances by which you will follow the slower vehicle, although the system defaults to the longest distance each time “cruise” is activated. Furthermore, if you encounter a stopped or very slow moving vehicle ahead and you don’t change lanes or brake, Forward Collision Warning will sound and the brakes will be applied as vigorously as required to bring the QX56 down from speed.

While driving in such a formidable vehicle, attention is required to keep it within the lane markings (a lane on an Ontario highway ranges from 3.7 – 3.85 metres; the QX56 is 2.03 m, compared with 1.8 m for a Nissan Rogue, for example). The QX56 Technology Package includes Lane Departure Warning and Lane Departure Prevention which assist in this regard. Wander over a lane marking and a warning sounds, accompanied by feedback in the steering wheel.

Blind spots, too, are an issue with large SUVs, and helpfully, the QX56 Tech Package features a Blind Spot Warning in the form of a yellow light that flashes at the base of each A-pillar when a vehicle is approaching from behind and to the side. This is technology that manages to be effective but not distracting.

Additional Technology Package features include front pre-crash seat belts, adaptive front lighting with auto-levelling headlights (the lights react to approaching curves and grades, swivelling and pivoting as required), and vehicle speed variable assist power steering.

Beyond the Technology Package, a notable feature of the QX56 is its high-quality seating. The driver’s seat, for example, is a model of excellent design and functionality, enabling the driver to spend many hours behind the wheel without becoming tired or sore. Likewise, the ride is comfortable and smooth for such a large vehicle.

2011 Infiniti QX56
2011 Infiniti QX56. Click image to enlarge

On the negative side, with all the good technology to be found in the QX56, the location of the mirror control is poorly chosen. Hidden down by the driver’s left knee, the control requires a significant reach to operate, and when you’re bent forward adjusting the mirrors, you are out of position and thus can’t properly see them. The control should be located higher up, perhaps as an extension of the armrest or on the centre console, obviating the need to make multiple adjustments when setting the mirrors.

Finally, a vehicle such as this, with its outsize proportions and presence, deserves a name to match its stature. Nissan’s big pickup truck has a terrific name in the “Titan;” its sibling SUV (like the Titan, riding on the same platform as the QX56) is the formidable-sounding “Armada.” These names carry some heft, effectively communicating the vehicle’s character and purpose. Granted, Infiniti uses numbers throughout the range. But in this case, they could call it the QX56… what? Herculea? Brontora? Megalith? Something other than mere alphanumerics, I reckon.

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