Infiniti has made significant improvements to the steering, handling, ride and noise levels.
In 2003 Infiniti got into the SUV game with full force, releasing the FX35 and FX45, which to many were game changers in the luxury SUV market. Sure, Infiniti had previously offered the aging QX4, which was little more than a dressed-up Pathfinder (reviewed here), but the FX was totally different. It looked like nothing else on the road, sounded like a sports car, and handled a lot like one too. It was the sports SUV to have, and its strong sales propelled Infiniti into serious contender territory in the SUV world. That success is what spawned the release of the JX35 in 2012, Infiniti’s first seven-seat SUV. Renamed for 2014, I grabbed the keys to a 2016 Infiniti QX60 AWD for a week, with every option box ticked off.
The QX60, shares its underpinnings with the current Nissan Pathfinder, yet looks a lot like a toned down version of the pricier and sportier QX70 (formerly the FX35/45). From a styling perspective, the QX60 rides the fine line between looking great and blending in. Unlike its bigger brother, the QX70, it’s not exactly the type of SUV that makes you stop and look. If you do happen to take a good look at it, you’ll find a very tasteful and elegant SUV with good proportions, flowing lines, Infiniti’s signature corporate grill (refreshed for this model year), and top-notch finishings. My particular test vehicle came in a gorgeous Hermosa Blue and riding on stately looking 20” wheels. The color is a perfect complement to the SUV’s styling. New for 2016 are LED daytime running lights, which modernize the front fascia and maintain the upscale appearance.
If the exterior of the QX60 looks upscale, it’s really only a hint of what’s inside. My tester’s interior came in the optional Wheat leather with Graphite Weave trim. The option requires you to select the $5,000 Premium Package, but it really does make the QX60 something special. The interior in my tester is absolutely gorgeous and is without a doubt one of the nicest you’ll find at this price point. Efforts have been made to ensure that every surface you touch is finished in soft leather and there are no hard edges or squared corners – every shape is organic and flows into the next. The centre console and centre stack are finished in beautiful high-gloss lacquer maple wood and it all looks and feels very luxurious.
The leather seats are quilted in the centre and feature silver piping, which adds a lot to the overall feeling of luxuriousness. The fit and finish of everything inside the QX60 is outstanding and after driving many SUVs at this price point I came away thoroughly impressed. The interior may be beautiful, but functionality has not been forgotten either. The sliding and folding second-row seats allow easy access to the spacious third row. All of the rear seats fold flat when it’s time to move some serious cargo. Up front there is lots of storage space to keep things organized, and most controls are easy to reach and intuitive.
The one exception to all of this is the navigation controls put smack dab in the center of the dash. Given that the system doesn’t allow inputs while driving, I’d much rather have more frequent-use controls such as climate or audio in that prime space. One other feature that I’ve found extremely annoying during my time with the QX60 is the door locks. Like most cars, the doors automatically lock when you put the car into drive. Fine, but when you park, shut the car off and set the emergency brake the doors should unlock right? Wrong, in the QX60 they remain locked, you must find the small button on the door panel before you can exit the vehicle. I will never get used to that, although I am sure it could be programmed differently if you took the time to figure it out.
Of course, being a fully-loaded example, my QX60 has just about every gadget you could imagine packed into it. The QX60 starts at a reasonable $47,400, and my tester came out to a palatable $62,300. Notable features include heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, Bose surround sound, twin 7” DVD screens in the back and much more. One thing I rather liked is that both of the rear screens can be setup to play different DVDs, with the audio directed to wireless headphones, allowing the front passengers to continue to listen to the Bose stereo, a great way to keep everyone in the vehicle perfectly content on those extended road trips. One thing to note is that all of these options are broken out into only four rather pricey packages, so there is limited ability to pick and choose what you really want to pay for in your QX60.
In addition to the long list of comfort features, the QX60 offers all of the leading edge safety and driving aids to make your drive as stress free as possible. Of course, front and rear cameras are equipped, as is an 360-view camera which makes city parking a breeze. Beyond the typical blind spot warning system, the QX60 actually offers blind spot intervention which not only warns you of the car in your blind spot, but helps you re-center the vehicle in your lane. There’s also a predictive collision warning, pedestrian detection and emergency braking systems. I am not yet ready to hand over control to the electronic nannies, but if having some of the best safety technology available today at your disposal interests you, the QX60 should definitely be on your shopping list.
Since you still have to drive this crossover yourself, Infiniti has made an effort to retain the inspiring performance that they’ve been known for in this large family hauler. To be honest, I went into this with low expectations as I’d recently tested a Pathfinder and came away underwhelmed with its driving dynamics. However, I was surprised to almost immediately find that Infiniti has made significant improvements to the steering, handling, ride and noise levels in the QX60. The steering feels tight, responsive and well connected to the road. Body roll is minimal and the QX60 truly does go in the direction you point it with minimal drama, which makes for an SUV that’s actually engaging to drive from a handling perspective – well done Infiniti.
Where the positive driving experience starts to fall apart is with the drivetrain. The 3.5L V6, which has received many compliments over the years, is finally starting to show its age. 265 horsepower isn’t what it used to be, especially when mated to a CVT transmission. The combination has left the QX60 feeling quite sluggish, especially in high speed passing situations. What the pair do a fairly good job of is cruising around at a leisurely pace. If not pushed the CVT stays out of the way, and the V6’s torque helps make low speed maneuvers more. The CVT also helps keep the RPMs nice and low while cruising, which helps with fuel economy.
Still, try as that CVT might, fuel economy is wasn’t quite as brag-worthy as I expected. Despite my light foot, the best I could muster out of the QX60 during my week of rush hour commuting was a mediocre 12.7L/100km on premium 91-octane fuel. That’s very respectable for a seven-seater AWD crossover, but if I am going to live with a CVT I need more reason than that. A colleague beat my average for the week in a 5.3L V8 Chevy Tahoe.
Driving the 2016 Infiniti QX60 AWD around for a week, I couldn’t help but notice a great amount of them on the road around me. Clearly these are selling well, and I completely understand why. It’s a good compromise between an $80,000+ flashy luxury SUV and a more affordable practical family hauler. It offers all the features, gadgets and high-end toys that you’d find on a much more expensive vehicle, yet boasts nimble driving dynamics like a mid-sizer. On top of that, its Intelligent AWD will get you through winter’s worst, tow 5000 lbs, and swallow whatever cargo you ask of it. It’s a compelling value for a family looking for something with a little more luxury than the typical choices without breaking the bank.