First Drive: 2011 Infiniti QX56

Room for the Whole Family!
The 2011 Infiniti QX56 is equipped as standard with three rows of seats, including two second-row captains chairs flanking a huge center console. A second-row bench that increases seating capacity to eight is a no-cost option. The comically big second-row console accommodates the headsets to the optional DVD entertainment system as well as a Wii console, as Infiniti points out, because goodness knows that the children of QX56 owners can't leave home without that. The console is so big, in fact, that an ill-behaved child of a QX56 owner could be stuffed into it, not that we recommend that usage. There aren't any seatbelts in there, after all.

Seriously, though, there's plenty of room in here, even though the 2011 QX56 is marginally shorter and narrower than its predecessor. The first-row and second-row captain's chairs are high and mighty thrones, and the third row's three positions, if not capacious, are sufficient for three pre-teens. Even when you're full-up with seven or eight passengers, there's 16.6 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the third-row seat.

Same powertrain as the M56 sport sedan
The one and only powertrain is the same brand-new, 5.6-liter V-8 that recently debuted in the M56 luxury sport sedan, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission (the outgoing QX has a five-speed). For the QX56, it sends 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. With the optional all-wheel-drive system, up to 50 percent of torque can go to the front wheels if the dash setting is set to "auto." Set it to "4 high" and the torque will be locked into a 50:50 split. There's also a low range for, in theory, off-roading, but it's more likely to be used when you're pulling your boat trailer up a ramp.

Chassis Highlighted by Hydraulic Body Motion Control System, Unique Tire Pressure Monitor
A new suspension technology called Hydraulic Body Motion Control System, part of the $5800 Deluxe Touring Package, seeks to maintain ride quality by using hydraulic fluid in the suspension dampers in place of traditional anti-roll bars. Each side of the vehicle has a fluid accumulator that sends fluid to the front and rear dampers. Each damper has upper and lower chambers. The upper chambers of the right-side dampers are linked to the lower chambers of the left-side chambers, and vice-versa. If the vehicle's body leans onto the right-side dampers, fluid pressure is lowered in their lower chambers and raised in the upper chambers of the left-side dampers. This counteracting force resists the body's tendency to lean and provokes less head toss among second-row and third-row passengers. In practice, we did find this to assist ride comfort when we sat in the second-row seat of a QX56 while it was being driven briskly on a hilly, twisting road.

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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