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Review: 2012 Infiniti QX56

Kamil Kaluski February 21, 2012 Infiniti Reviews 36 Comments

Full-size SUVs seem almost forgotten these days; they become unpopular as quickly as they became popular. In their defense these vehicles, originated by the Suburban, have a lot going for them. The recently updated QX56 is Infiniti’s luxury entry into this market, positioned above Nissan’s Armada. Before looking at it dismissively, any potential buyer owes it to themselves to drive one, if for no other reason then to raise the bar by which other such vehicles should be judged.


Most people I spoke with did not care for the exterior appearance of the QX, to put it lightly, and that’s understandable. Infiniti tried to use the design language from their smaller vehicles on this behemoth. In their defense it is easy to design small cute cars because anything relatively small tends to be cuter. With that said there are number of handsome trucks on the market and at the very least Infiniti could have done away without the tacky side vents.

Everything changes once you sit inside however. The interior is downright luxurious, on par with any old fancy European brand. Yes, there are some minor ergonomic issues but in the days of infotainments, radar guided this, satellite that, and heated-and-ventilated everything, no new car is perfect. The seats, both front and rear captain’s chairs (second row bench is available) and very comfortable and perfect for long trips. Unlike some minivans, where the second row seats look comfy but in reality are scaled-down versions of front seats, the second row of the QX offers first-class accommodations.

The real surprise comes once the car starts moving. Ride comfort is one of the best I have seen; all road imperfections and potholes are all absorbed nicely. Despite the comfortable ride the handling is surprisingly good, especially considering the size of this vehicle. It is inherently difficult to design such suspension system for a high payload vehicle as the driving characteristics change drastically depending on the load. Credit here goes to Infiniti’s Hydraulic Body Motion Control system which was originally developed for the Nissan Patrol, on which the QX56 is based.

The system ditches the typical sway bars in favor of a hydraulic system. The system uses two accumulators (front and rear) to distribute fluid between left and right sides. The fluid goes to the cylinders located atop of each shock and magically (I failed to understand the nitty gritty details of it) and distributes the weight side-to-side. In the rear it works in conjunction with coil springs AND airbags which are used for load leveling. Tricky, but the results are clear: excellent handling (for such big vehicle), excellent passenger comfort, 1600lb payload, 850lb maximum trailer tongue weight, and 8500lb towing capacity. For a detailed look at the QX56 suspension head over , where Dan Edmunds does a detailed walk around.

Other notes:

  • The top-view camera system is great, a tremendous help with parking or navigating narrow passages.
  • Skip on the light-color interior as it comes with light color carpeting which looks great when clean but it will never stay that way.
  • The running boards are too narrow to be useful and you end up scraping your pant leg.
  • Great audio system, especially for such a big vehicle.
  • The infotainment system is easy to use but a little slow, especially when inputting a destination. The QX did not recognize my old iPod but I’m not holding that against it as about half of all new cars I drive don’t.
  • The power-folding third row seat is painfully slow in its operation.
  • The second-row seat however folds and tumbles quickly to allow access to that third row.
  • Unlike in any cross-over, third-row passengers actually have a decent amount of legroom, not unlike in a minivan.
  • Tons of cup-holders, storage areas, bins, etc.
  • I counted four 12v receptacles but there may have been more. The 120vAC receptacle is handy, all cars should have them.
  • The side mirrors are power-folding and can be folded at any speed, probably for reduction in aerodynamic drag and therefore more available passing power.  🙂
  • The engine is very powerful, so much so that I don’t think that I even had the need to floor it at any time.
  • The seven-speed transmission never seemed to be in the wrong gear.
  • I averaged about 14mpg in mixed driving.

In the end I was more impressed with the QX56 than I thought that I would be. The opulent interior and the fantastic chassis made me feel as if I was driving something much smaller and nibbler. I would go so far as to say this is maybe the best road-trip vehicle yet. At over $70,000 it is isn’t cheap, until compared to the Escalade and Land Cruiser. Considering that the QX is much newer than of those vehicles and offers better ride and handling, it would be my pick. Anyone considering a full-size luxury SUV shouldn’t dismiss the QX; it really is an excellent vehicle.  

  • Devin

    The exterior looks sort of like a cake that is having icing problems.

    • Scandinavian Flick

      I always thought of it as the automotive equivalent of a cleft lip. It looks painful, but it was actually born that way…

    • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

      SUV's parked and melting, it's not dark
      All the sweet, cream icing, flowing down…
      Someone left the QX out in the rain
      I don't think that I can take it
      'cause it took so long to fake it
      And I'll never drive that SUV again
      Oh, no!

  • Having never driven one, I cannot speak to its comfort or handling. Its appearance has thus far kept me at a distance. Honestly, it's almost like ugliness is becoming a virtue in large import SUVs. Have you seen the new 4-Runner? Older generations are downright handsome. The new one… might actually have eclipsed the QX as the ugliest SUV in the world. It looks like someone started with a Jeep Commander and added FJ styling cues while blackout drunk.

    • Devin

      I kinda like the new 4Runner, it looks like it was designed by an angry man with a chainsaw.

    • Maymar

      I can at least look at the 4Runner as being purposeful in its ugliness – it's at least boxy like many 4Runners before it. The QX is just weird.

  • PotbellyJoe

    In this segment i would look at all of the vehicles and go, "Well, if i wanted understated, there's always the Land Cruiser." Now I can't even say that. The Luxury Utes' time is over, for the most part. Now we are getting the Luxury Crossovers. Don't ask me which is worse. The Luxury Ute had a very isolating charm to it, and many were still pretty capable off road. The Land Rover, the Land Cruiser, this Nissan Patrol abomination, etc. all have the underpinnings of semi-serious off-road vehicles, despite the fact that their off-road experiences will all involve the vehicle being in Reverse and landscaping.

    • I was surprised to learn that there is very little difference between the QX and the current Patrol.

      <img src="; />

  • pj134

    <img src="; width=500>
    Size and styling.

  • <img src=";

    • pj134

      I like the way you think…


      <img src="; width="500/">

  • salguod

    Ugly, pricey, thirsty and less interior room (I bet) than my Saturn Outlook. Don't see the point.

    • You'd lose. Ton of interior space, more than any other SUV I can thing of.

      • pj134

        Actually, according to their spec lists, to the third row the Acadia has 24.1 feet while the QX56 has 16.6. To the second row, the Acadia has 68.9 to the QX56's 49.6 and with both rows down the Acadia has 116.9 to the QX56's 95.1. Not an impressive showing considering it is ~8 inches longer and about an inch wider. It probably has a few inches on the Acadia as well, but GMC doesn't indicate if measurements are with roof racks.

        Source: …

        • Right, that's with seats folded. I was thinking in terms of seat space and passenger comfort.

          Those measurements can very, for instance the seats in one car may fold differently than in the other, yielding different amount of cargo space. I'd say that the QX was designed with passenger comfort in mind… which may impact its cargo space. I'm not defending it, just saying.

          • pj134

            Well, on that account they are very similar. The only real difference I can see is that they sacrificed the middle row's legroom for the third row to have about the same amount of space.

            Front Head Room 40.4 in
            Front Hip Room 57.8 in
            Front Leg Room 41.3 in
            Front Shoulder Room 61.9 in
            Second Head Room 39.3 in
            Second Hip Room 57.9 in
            Second Leg Room 36.9 in
            Second Shoulder Room 61.1 in
            Third Head Room 38.4 in
            Third Hip Room 48.3 in
            Third Leg Room 33.2 in
            Third Shoulder Room 57.8 in

            Headroom (inches)
            1st row 39.9
            2nd row 40.0
            3rd row 36.8

            Legroom (inches)
            1st row 39.6
            2nd row 41.0
            3rd row 28.8

            Shoulder room (inches)
            1st row 63.8
            2nd row 63.5
            3rd row 60.5

            Hip room (inches)
            1st row 59.2
            2nd row 58.4
            3rd row 48.8

  • So, what, I am a high-level exec with 3 kids, and need a SUV for my wife to take the kids to, uh, probably polo practice?

    • And you tow a boat to the lake house in the mountains on a weekends. And you may also have a Boxster for track days with the guys.

      • Cayman.

        • I'll tell that to guy who's Spec Boxster I'll reviewing this spring. 🙂

          • Haha. Please do.

    • Don't BS us, you'd have a suburban with a driver before this.

  • <img src=";
    IMG from movieties.com

  • Scandinavian Flick

    That honestly looks like it has more than "minor ergonomic issues." The front seats look like a leather-clad park bench. I've parked my posterior on many seats that look like that, and they are not comfortable at all. A vehicle needs to have more bolstering than that. Otherwise, it becomes painful for the lower back simply to keep your keister planted in a driving position.

    • I have lower back problems because I used to load trucks for a living and therefore I am sensitive to the issue. The lumbar support was good, adjustable from nothing to "too much" and movable up and down. In terms of bolstering… on a 3-ton SUV? Not really needed. I didn't feel myself ever sliding off the seat… and I was comfortable over a 3-hour drive.

      Look, I have no reason to BS you, if there were serious issues I'd say so. Head over to my old website and read the BMW 328i review. And I like(d) BMWs!!!

  • Jim-Bob

    The biggest nightmare, besides fueling it's thirst, is that suspension. It's a brilliant thing when it all works according to it's design but I will bet that in a few years these things will be cheap to buy broken because of the huge repair costs. Then someone will start selling a kit that makes it work like a normal dumb suspension that does away with the hydraulics, electronics and air bags. By that time though, gas might be knocking on the door of $6 a gallon and a broken, old, extra-large luxury SUV will be worth little more than the price of 6,000lbs of scrap metal as no working class person in their right mind would want to spend the kind of money it will take to run it.

    • Did you ever own an old Range Rover? 🙂

      Look at the suspension in more detail, the shocks are almost conventional and it still uses coil springs on all four corners.
      I've had factory airbags on my BMW and they were surprisingly issue-free. Now Mercedes, the old S-class, now that's a $2000 retrofit kit.

      • Jim-Bob

        Nope, but I was thinking of the Range Rover (and the Lincoln MK VII and VIII when I wrote that!). I'm a complex man who has simple tastes in cars. I like stuff that is conventional and proven that will last forever in a warm, road salt free environment. I'd take a Lada over a Ferrari, a Sentra over an Infiniti, etc. Luxury to me is knowing that I don't have potentially expensive problems down the road. Image is in the eye of the beholder and I am not at all impressed by brand names, fancy cars or upscale clothing. What impresses me is people with technical skills and people who are decent human beings. Don't get me wrong, I like looking at technologically advanced vehicles. They let me know what is possible. I just don't actually want to own them unless they are cheap to run.

        • You'll fit in very well in here. Most of us are the same, heck I drive a Honda.

          That said, it's nice to see how others live and many of us would love an old Range Rover or a Mark VIII…. because they're cool!

  • tiberiusẅisë

    Looking at that thing is the best argument for slumming it in a Suburban or Expedition.

  • I still run screaming from any "SUV" with light beige carpets; the practicality equivalent of water-soluble wellington boots.

    A great review, and this is undoubtedly an excellent vehicle in comparison to others of its type. It's just a shame that "its type" should need to exsist in the first place.

  • pj134

    Yeah, I worked as a lot kid for a Saturn dealership and washed our cars and some of the Nissan's for the dealership on the same lot. From experience, they were nearly exactly the same except for Armadas being larger on the outside. Barely fit in my wash bay. Although, Grand Caravans have at least as much space as either of them and are smaller so I would bias toward them if I needed space.

    • salguod

      Oh yeah, had an Odyssey before the Outlook, much roomier. We tow a moderately sized pop up trailer, so when it was time to move on I wanted more towing capacity. The Outlook will tow 5,200 to the Ody's 3,500 – much better.

      I do miss the space of that van, though.

  • Maymar

    I've got the chance to check one out at work, and it's pretty well put together, decent level of tech, but I can't get over that exterior.

  • Buickboy92

    What an amazing truck! I LOVE IT! 🙂

  • LadyJ

    Being a new owner of the QX56, it's more than what I expected with having 2 year old twins who require car seats that are quite bulky. It drives a lot smoother than you'd expect, and the room is phenomenal. I was previously driving a Buick Enclave and it was well worth the upgrade. The outside is pretty unattractive however aren't all POWERFUL objects (lol). I personally like the way it sits high, I've pulled up to Huge (height wise) pick up trucks and felt like "I'M THE AIR TOO BUDDY -HA" . It's a great vehicle for soccer moms if you don't care for the mini van look. I don't think it suits men at all… My personal thought. I'm 5'6 female and this SUV makes me feel like I own the road in a cute way