First Drive: 2011 Infiniti QX56

A tire-pressure monitoring system, not surprisingly, is standard, but Infiniti takes this a step further by providing a way for QX56 owners to easily inflate either the standard 20-inch or the optional 22-inch tires to the correct pressure. Put an air hose onto the valve stem and start inflating. As the tire approaches the correct pressure, the turn signal indicator lights on the sideview mirrors blink. When the correct pressure is reached, the horn sounds once. If you overinflate the tires, the horn sounds three times quickly. The system works in reverse if the tire is overinflated; as you depress the valve stem to release excess air, the horn will sound when you have deflated the tires to the correct pressure.

Naturally, every conceivable safety device is standard, including air bags galore, stability control, lane departure warnings and corrections, and the like. Infiniti's very trick Around View Monitor camera system, which compiles an overhead view of the car onto a subscreen next to the rearview screen, is standard, and one can imagine that once you use that to assist with hooking up a trailer to the standard tow hitch (now hidden behind a tasteful bumper panel), you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Driving It
The Infiniti QX56 has a great powertrain. Off-the-line throttle response is satisfying, and freeway speeds are reached effortlessly. If you're cruising along at 70 mph and want to pass someone, hammer the throttle and the seven-speed transmission crisply and quickly downshifts several gears while the tachometer needle races to the 8000-rpm redline. Before you know it, you're at 95 mph. Braking performance seems adequate for the task of decelerating this three-ton beast, and the brake pedal has decent feel and feedback. Not so the steering, which feels artificial and a tad lifeless. It's reasonably precise, though, so you don't take long to figure out how to point the QX56 through corners with minimal steering correction. In a brief back-to-back drive between the new 2011 QX56 and the outgoing 2010 QX56, we gave the nod to the old model's steering, which was slightly more communicative and natural feeling.

Ride comfort is impressive on the 2011 QX56, though, especially on smooth pavement. There's only so much you can do to tamp down the dynamic forces of a vehicle this tall and with this center of gravity, but Infiniti does a pretty good job here: the QX56 doesn't suffer from undue pitching and bobbing, at least when equipped with the Hydraulic Body Motion Control System.

At freeway speeds, there's some wind noise coming over the roof rails (which are quite a bit more aerodynamic than on the last QX) and around the big sideview mirrors. The second-row seats aren't noisy, but they're not as hush-hush quiet as the back seat of a big luxury sedan, either. There's simply no way around the fact that the big, boxy QX56 is redirecting a lot of air around itself when it's on the move.

There's plenty here to appeal to the Real Housewives and Husbands of the various upmarket ZIP Codes who will be driving these suburban haulers. (Long Island is far and away the QX56's biggest single market, due to its affluence and, presumably, its large number of boats, horses, and other toys to be towed; the new QX has an 8500-lb tow rating.) Compared with the outgoing QX56, in this one, you have a vague perception of the narrower cabin. But, hey, a narrow, elegantly appointed fuselage just makes you feel like you're in a Lear jet, right?

This would be a more acceptable vehicle with a 250hp, 400fp diesel. In fact, anything that weighs more than 4000 lbs would have a better balance between performance and consumption if a diesel was required.

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