Believe it or not, people are still buying full-size luxury SUVs, even in this age of increased "green" concerns and our dismal economy. Although full-size luxury SUV sales peaked at nearly 300,000 units in 2006, the market has settled into a 100,000-unit rhythm in the United States, which Infiniti expects to continue for the life cycle of its all-new, second-generation QX56 that goes on sale in July 2010.
Infiniti has never been a big player in this category, but the outgoing, first-generation QX56 provided Nissan's luxury division with steady sales right up to the end of its run. Infiniti, naturally, expects the new QX56 to continue that success, especially since its buyers represent the highest demographic group of all Infiniti models. In other words, these people can afford a $70K luxury SUV, and they can afford to fuel it. "The bling-bling buyers have left the segment," asserts Ben Poore, VP of Infiniti Americas. "Who's left are families who want and need the QX's utility. They have three or four kids, they're pulling boats." And a not-insignificant number of them are paying cash, he tells us. Recession? What recession?
The QX56's major competitors in the full-size luxury SUV market include the Cadillac Escalade, the Mercedes-Benz GL450, and the Lexus LX570. Unlike the outgoing Infiniti QX56, which was built on the same platform as the Nissan Armada and the Nissan Titan pickup, the new 2011 Infiniti QX56 is based on the Nissan Patrol that is sold in the Middle East and other markets, but not the USA. Like the Escalade and the LX570, the Infiniti is a traditional body-on-frame SUV, whereas the Mercedes GL is built on a unibody platform.
Not a "Bling Truck"
In a clear slam at the Cadillac Escalade, Poore says of his QX56, "We are not a bling truck. Our styling [intent] was to be more like a Lear jet. When you step inside, it will take your breath away. If our dealers are a good gauge, and often they are, this is very good for us. A dealer recently told me, 'this is a game changer.' "
The front styling of the Infiniti QX56 is certainly bold, if not beautiful, and it's recognizable as a modern Infiniti product. Infiniti stylists point out its double-arch grille, its wave-like hood, and its LED taillights as being specific brand characteristics. The swoopy shapes we've come to expect from modern Infiniti vehicles continue on the bodysides and inside the cabin.
Speaking of which, the Lear jet analogy isn't completely a stretch. The 2011 Infiniti QX56 interior is awash in the sort of creamy, soft-touch, carefully wrapped leather and precisely molded plastics and glossy wood trim that you might indeed find inside an executive jet. It's nice. People will feel good when they climb aboard, even if they don't lose their breath.
Everything inside the Infiniti cabin is writ large: the seats, the consoles, the door handles, the center stack of instruments, the knobs and buttons and switches: nothing here is diminutive, as you might imagine, but all these disparate elements are brought together into a surprisingly cohesive whole. Get into the cabin of a Cadillac Escalade after driving the new QX56, and its shapes, its forms, its surfaces, and its textures will suffer by comparison.