2004 Infiniti QX56
Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

by Paul Williams

Palm Springs, California – When Nissan introduced its full-size Titan pickup last year, company executives said to watch for the release of additional vehicles on the same platform. Shortly after, they introduced the Nissan Armada seven-passenger SUV. Now, the Infiniti QX56 makes its debut: a large, luxury SUV to compete with the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.

Proportionally, Canadians don’t buy as many vehicles in this segment as they do in the U.S. Nissan Canada executive Ian Forsyth readily admits this, but explains, “It’s still important for us to have a presence in this market. We’re only looking to sell 500 QX56s here this year. We think about 40% of buyers will already own an Infiniti, and the rest will be from other brands.”

2004 Infiniti QX56

2004 Infiniti QX56
Photos: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

This SUV does not continue Infiniti’s dynamic and signature design from the FX35, FX45 and G35 sedan, as it borrows freely from the exterior panels used for the Titan and Armada. It does use the familiar Infiniti grille treatment, however, as well as cranking up the luxury within, and external pizzazz..

The Canadian version of the QX56, expected to cost approximately $75,000, will be available in only one form: fully loaded. That means it arrives with all-wheel drive, xenon headlights, DVD entertainment and navigation system, full (and expensive-looking) leather interior, 16-ounce carpeting, Bose sound, genuine wood and aluminum interior accents, 5.6-litre V8 engine making 315-horsepower and 390 lb-ft. torque, five-speed automatic transmission and 18″ chrome wheels.

The QX56 also arrives with a rear camera to aid when reversing, a power-operated rear liftgate, power adjustable pedals and intelligent cruise control. Chrome exterior accents (door handles, grille, and mirrors) complement the wheels.

2004 Infiniti QX56
Photo: Infiniti. Click image to enlarge

The list of standard features is very long. Basically, Infiniti has included just about everything it has in the QX56. Unlike the Armada, which shares the Titan’s instrument cluster, the QX56 has a unique dashboard and switchgear, closer to those found in the FX twins and the G35. It also uses an additional 32-kilograms of sound insulation, compared with the Armada.

The standard seating configuration accommodates the driver and six passengers. It includes fold-flat second-row (heated) captain’s chairs and a fold-flat third-row bench seat. The legroom for front-seat occupants and second-row occupants is the same, so there’s lots of room back there. Side-curtain airbags extend from the A-pillar all the way to the back. Vehicle Dynamic Control (electronic stability control) with rollover sensors is also standard.

In normal driving, the QX56 sends 100% of power to the rear wheels, but it can shift up to 50% of power to the front wheels if conditions warrant. Active brake limited slip complements the AWD system by distributing traction laterally when required. A low-range setting can be selected.

Infiniti QX56

Infiniti QX56

Infiniti QX56
Photos: Infiniti. Click image to enlarge

The big QX56 has a towing capacity up to 8,800 lbs. It’s built on a fully boxed steel frame, that, even with extra damping, continues to allow some road vibration and road noise into the cabin, and weighs in at 2,454 kg (5,400 lbs). Responding to criticism that the earlier Infiniti QX4 was too small, the company has ensured they won’t repeat that experience.

On the road the QX56 is surprisingly easy to drive, and although it’s a large vehicle, manoeuvrability and control on the highway is not a problem. However, parking and driving in tight spaces will require special care, and entering some enclosed parking lots due to height restrictions may be an issue.

At the end of the day, the QX56 is what it is: a variation and embellishment of the Titan pickup (which, don’t get me wrong, is a well-regarded vehicle, but one designed for a different market). That explains its lack of separate visual identity, and the commonality of components.

Although significant efforts have been made to make the QX56 an Infiniti, some interior detailing does fall a bit short of the mark. The ceiling mounted consoles, switches and storage containers, for instance, are plain and unrefined. The glove compartment seems cheap for this class of vehicle.

On the other hand, there’s no doubting its rugged capability, comprehensive equipment, spacious cabin and formidable presence.

Buyers for the QX56 are typically expected to be men, for whom this will be one of several vehicles they own. Fuel consumption will be high, but Infiniti market research indicates that the vehicle’s purchase price and cost of operation will not be a factor for intended buyers.

The QX56 is built in Canton, Mississippi, and is the first Infiniti model built outside Japan. The QX56 goes on sale in March.

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