2011 Infiniti QX56 Review

2011 Infiniti QX56 - New and Improved for 2011 is an understament.


Vehicle Tested
2011 Infiniti QX56 4WD
Base Price: $59,800
At-Tested Price: $69,550
Built in Japan.

Technology Package
Deluxe Touring Package
Theater Package

Engine: 5.6-Liter V8
Seven-Speed Automatic

Drive Wheels: Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive

Infiniti completely redesigns its large SUV for 2011, giving is more power, freshened styling, and additional features. Still called QX56, the new vehicle is longer, lower and wider than the model it replaces. QX56 seats up to eight passengers and competes with vehicles like the Audi Q7, Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover Range Rover, Lexus LX 570, Lincoln Navigator and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.

A single trim level is offered with either rear- or full-time four-wheel drive. Sole powertrain is a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 and seven-speed automatic. Maximum towing capacity is 8500 pounds.

Two seating configurations are offered. Seven-passenger models come with twin front- and second-row bucket seats and a third-row bench. Eight-passenger models swap out the second-row buckets and center console for a three-place folding bench seat. The 3rd-row bench is split 60/40 and includes
power folding.

Standard safety features include antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, hill-ascent control, front-seat active head restraints, front- and rear-obstacle-detection system, surround view camera, tire-pressure monitor and dual-front, front-side and curtain-side airbags. Available as part of a technology package are lane-departure warning, lane-departure prevention, blind-spot alert, forward collision warning and front pre-crash seat belts.

The lone model lists for $56,700 in rear-drive form. Adding full-time four-wheel drive boosts the price by $3100 but also adds a two-speed transfer case and wiper deicer. All models come standard with air conditioning with tri-zone automatic climate controls, navigation system with voice recognition and traffic information, heated power tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front bucket seats with lumbar adjustment, ten-way power driver seat, eight-way power passenger seat, memory system, wood interior trim, heated power mirrors with tilt-down back-up aid and turn signals, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, keyless access and starting, sunroof, Bose AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with hard drive, digital-media player connection, satellite radio, Bluetooth cell-phone link, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirrors, automatic day/night rearview mirror, trip computer, outside-temperature indicator, rain-sensing variable-intermittent wipers, rear defogger, power liftgate, intermittent rear wiper/washer, automatic headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, HID headlights, rear privacy glass, fog lights, roof rails, running boards, class IV tow-hitch receiver, seven-wire harness, full-size spare tire, 275/60HR20 tires and alloy wheels.

Key options include dual-screen DVD-based rear-seat entertainment system and a Deluxe Touring package that includes upgraded leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, second-row heated seats with power tip-up, upgraded wood interior trim, upgraded interior air filter, hydraulic body motion control system and 275/50HR22 tires.

The QX56 has a destination charge of $950. With the new model, production moves from the United States to Japan.

Get Up and Go  To call the QX56's 5.6-liter V8 powerful would be an understatement. Though conservatively rated at just "400" horsepower, it will push this 5500-pound behemoth from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. That's substantially quicker than a Cadillac Escalade or Audi Q7.

More impressive than the 0 to 60 time is the way the QX jumps off the line at stoplights and immediately provides additional passing power. It's as if the engine is directly connected to a driver's brain and instantly responds to right-foot requests.

The seven-speed automatic has a lot to do with the satisfying driving experience as well. It upshifts with buttery smoothness and downshifts promptly when more power is needed.

Like many competitors, the QX56 has an off-road-ready four-wheel drive system. There's a two-speed transfer case and plenty of electronic wizardry that takes the guess-work out of off-road slogging. That said, the full-time system is hardly noticed on dry pavement and comes with no EPA fuel economy penalty.

Speaking of fuel economy, the QX56 is EPA rated at 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. That's on Infiniti-recommended premium-grade fuel. Believe it or not, those are best-in-class fuel economy numbers. Most competitors average 12-14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway.

Real-world suburban commuting is likely to yield between 15-18 mpg. Straight highway commuting bumps that average to about 19. Like all large SUVs, urban commuting will likely net out at a dismal 12-14 mpg.

On the Road  Though quite large, the new QX56 doesn't bound or wallow as you might expect. The suspension is quite composed and responsive. It soaks up large bumps well and quickly quells extraneous body motions. This is particularly true when equipped with the available hydraulic body motion control system and 22-inch tires. Still, the base suspension does a better than average job of providing a smooth and drama free drive.

Where the body control motion system really distances itself from the base suspension is on twisty roads. It works hard to keep body roll to a minimum and the 22-inch tires have a much crisper turn-in feeling. Combined, the two make the QX almost feel nimble.

All models have good straight-line stability and quick and responsive brakes.

The new QX56 is quiet possibly the quietest SUV in the class. That's saying a lot; remember it is competing against Audi, Cadillac and Lexus. Wind noise is but a whisper and there's little tire rumble, even on rough roads. The engine cruises silently and produces a muted but refined growl in hard acceleration.

Behind the Wheel  Infiniti designers and engineers made huge strides inside, giving the 2011 model an interior that's handsome and functional. Materials are top notch and assembly quality is among the best around.

Driver's face large and exquisitely crafted gauges that are easy to read at a glance. The center stack features a plethora of buttons and knobs, but most are clearly marked and conveniently positioned. Operation of the radio and climate control systems are fairly conventional as is the voice-activated navigation system. That's a bonus as some vehicles in this class employ confusing trackball or thumbwheel control systems. One distraction was a constant reminder from the information system that there was a weather alert in the area.

Front seats are comfortable and supportive. There's ample head and leg room and nicely padded armrests that make for ideal long-haul comfort. Though the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, the pedals aren't adjustable and that's unfortunate as shorter drivers will find themselves searching for a comfortable seating position,

Visibility is just average as there are thick roof pillars that cause a lot of blind spots. Thankfully the surround view camera provides an exceptional view around the perimeter of the vehicle to ease parking in tight spots. Step in is high and can be daunting for those of shorter stature.

The second-row bucket seats are as comfortable as the front buckets, and that's saying a lot. You can opt for a three-person bench if you need eight-passenger capacity. The seats tip and fold easily--by either pushing buttons from the driver's seat or lifting a latch on the backrest--for access to the third row.

The third-row seats are quite typical for the class, meaning they are on the small side and not well suited to long-distance adult comfort. Interestingly, they are positioned very low to the floor, leaving a lot of head room but a knees-up riding position.

There's enough room behind the third-row seat for a couple of overnight bags or a set of golf clubs, those wanting more room must endure painfully slow power rear-seat backs. Conversely, the second-row seats fold quite quickly. Once stowed, there's lots of room and fairly flat floor. However, the second-row center console sticks up and gets in the way when loading bulky items. There are lots of storage cubbies throughout and a covered bin behind the rear seats.

Bottom Line  After nearly 20 years of driving and evaluating new vehicles, I've seen it all and rarely come away from a test surprised. I have to say that the 2011 Infiniti QX56 is so much better than the vehicle it replaces that it's hard to imaging that they came from the same automaker.

So much better is the new QX that it leaps to the top of the class in terms of refinement, comfort and east of use. In addition it offers pricing that undercuts many rivals. Still, at more than $55,000 it's an expensive vehicle and considerably more expensive than a Buick Enclave, that's nearly as refined and spacious.

Kudos to Infiniti making such a drastic jump in overall refinement power. The new QX56 is a vehicle that's more than a match for its competitors.

Specifications, 2011 Infiniti QX56 4WD
4-door wagon
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
5.6 / 341
Length, in.
Horsepower @ rpm
400 @ 5800
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
413 @ 4000
Height, in.
7-Speed Automatic
Weight, lbs.
5850EPA Estimates, mpg
14 city / 20 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.
Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
4 years / 60,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
6 years / 70,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
7 years / Unlimited miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
4 years / Unlimited miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.