New-Car Review: 2013 Infiniti QX56

Vehicle Highlights

2013 Infiniti QX56: What Is It?

This premium-large SUV was introduced for 2004 as the luxury version of Infiniti-parent Nissan’s mainstream-market Armada. The basic powertrain and body-on-frame design were derived from Nissan’s Titan large pickup truck, and all three vehicles were sourced from Nissan’s truck plant in Canton, Mississippi.

A few years later, planners decided that offering gussied-up U.S.-market Nissans was hampering Infiniti’s competitiveness, so brand-specific products were developed to replace them. Because sales considerations gave priority to higher-volume models, the QX56 was the last Infiniti to be separated from a Nissan sibling, being redesigned for 2011.

In one sense, the current QX still isn’t a “pure” Infiniti, as it’s based on the latest iteration of the Nissan Patrol, a large SUV sold primarily in the Middle East. Still, this model was created solely for U.S. consumers, and most shoppers here don’t care much about design kinships with vehicles sold abroad. Moreover, the QX differs markedly from the somewhat utilitarian Patrol in appearance, mechanical makeup, and especially standard content, which is extensive. We should note that the QX is built alongside the Patrol in Japan, mainly for convenience.

The QX56 registered a bit over 15,000 U.S. sales in calendar 2012, up 14 percent from the 2011 tally. That’s about the triple the volume of the Lexus LX 570, but somewhat adrift of the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class (about 26,000) and even further behind the Cadillac Escalade. Those three constitute the QX’s main rivals, though the Audi Q7 and Land Rover’s redesigned 2014 Range Rover are also in this frame as luxury-laden large SUVs with genuine off-road capability.

Readers should note that the 2014 version of this SUV will be retitled QX80. It’s part of Infiniti’s new global naming scheme that’s intended to convey a clearer sense of hierarchy among its various car and truck models. All 2014 Infiniti cars will bear the Q designation (i.e. Q60 is the next generation of the G37 Sedan) while all SUVs will use QX, just like this vehicle.

2013 Infiniti QX56: What’s New

The QX56 is little changed for the second year running, but its lengthy standard-features list adds two new items for 2013: auto-dimming exterior mirrors and a Moving Object Detection (MOD) function. The latter extends the capabilities of the standard Around View Monitor camera system with its integrated front/rear obstacle detection.

2013 Infiniti QX56: Model Lineup, Features, Options

The 2013 Infiniti QX56 reprises a single trim level that’s generously equipped even by premium-class standards and includes three-row seating for up to 8. The normal 7-passenger configuration employs 2nd-row “captain’s chair” buckets and center console, but a three-person bench can be substituted at “no charge.” (More on that shortly.) The 3rd-row seat is a power 60/40 split-fold bench with reclining backrests. Other interior amenities include heated power front seats with position memory, a heated power tilt/telescopic leather-clad steering wheel, driver entry/exit assist, leather upholstery, and tri-zone automatic climate control.

Standard infotainment features begin with a 13-speaker Bose audio system featuring a single-disc CD/DVD player, satellite radio tuner, USB port, digital-media plug-in, and wireless phone link. Also standard is a voice-controlled navigation system with hard-disc file storage, SiriusXM real-time traffic and weather information, even a Zagat Survey restaurant guide.

In addition, the QX56 includes Infiniti’s Around View Monitor with integrated sonar-based front- and rear-obstacle detection. Four cameras provide images that can be displayed individually or as a synthesized “bird’s-eye” view. Added for 2013 is Moving Object Detection (MOD), which provides audio and visual warnings of potential collision hazards within a displayed image when the vehicle is backing up, moving off, or even stationary.

Notable no-cost exterior features include sunroof, power liftgate, front fog lights, rear privacy glass, body-color running boards, roof rails, and heated power-fold door mirrors with courtesy lamps, reverse tilt-down, and now automatic dimming. Keyless entry/engine-start is standard too, as are 20-inch alloy wheels.

As if all this weren’t enough, the QX56 offers a number of optional features arrayed among five packages. But like other premium brands, Infiniti links these groups to one another, so obtaining certain individual features can involve spending far more than the individual package prices suggest.

Let’s start with the “no-charge” Split Bench Seat Package. It refurnishes the 2nd-row with the aforementioned captain’s chairs, but requires ordering the $ 3,100 dual-screen rear-DVD Theater Package that includes outboard heated seats and a 2nd-row “tip-up” feature for 3rd-row access. The Theater Package is also required if you fancy the 22-inch Tire and Wheel Package, which lists for $ 2,450, making the actual cost $ 5,550.

Splurging for the larger rolling stock entitles you to spend another $ 4,650 for the Deluxe Touring Package. This adds a 15-speaker Bose Cabin Surround audio system, heated/cooled front seats, premium semi-aniline leather upholstery, and an Infiniti Advanced Climate Control System with dual air filtration and automatic recirculation mode. Also included is Infiniti’s Hydraulic Body Motion Control system. This replaces the suspension stabilizer bars with hydraulic chambers in the shock absorbers that are cross-linked (left front to right rear, left rear to right front). Electronic controls vary pressure in each chamber to counteract body lean and fore/aft pitch.

Last but definitely not least is the $ 3,000 Technology Package that requires ordering all the above option groups, making its true cost an eye-watering $ 13,200. As you might guess, this group is about driver-assistance features. They include steering-linked bi-xenon headlamps, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and prevention (a wandering vehicle gently nudges itself back between the lines), blind-spot warning and intervention (the vehicle moves itself away from detected adjacent-lane hazards), Distance Control Assist (maintains a set following distance in low-speed traffic), and Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning (low-speed automatic obstacle alert and braking). The Tech option also adds front “pre-crash” seatbelts that automatically cinch up in the event a collision is unavoidable.

Also available are several port-installed accessories, each sold separately. These comprise roof-rail crossbars, a stainless-steel rear-bumper protector, sunroof wind deflector, carpeted floor mats and first-aid kit, and illuminated door-sill plates. Some Infiniti dealers may also stock “aftermarket” add-ons such as body moldings, brush guards, and the like.

2013 Infiniti QX56: Engines, Transmissions, Drive Wheels

As before, the 2013 Infiniti QX56 offers a single powerteam with a choice of rear-wheel drive or Infiniti’s All-Mode 4-wheel drive. The engine is an all-aluminum 5.6-liter V8 with variable valve timing and direct fuel injection. Also used for Infiniti’s M56 premium-large sedan, it’s tuned to produce an even 400 horsepower in the QX. The only transmission is a 7-speed automatic with steering-wheel shift paddles and a rev-matching feature that automatically “blips” the engine for smoother downshifts in manual mode.

The 4WD includes separate low-range gearing and an Auto mode. The latter normally sends all power to the rear wheels, but can direct up 50 percent forward to maintain or restore traction. A “4H” setting allows locking in a 50/50 power split. In addition, all QXs come with Hill Start Assist, which briefly applies the brakes to prevent rolling backward when starting from rest on a steep up-slope.

Maximum towing capacity is 8,500 pounds for all models. A Class IV hitch, 7-pin wiring harness, and automatic-leveling rear suspension are standard, as is a driver-selectable tow mode that alters shift points to optimize performance and fuel economy when trailering.

2013 Infiniti QX56: Fuel Economy

Rear-drive or 4WD, the 2013 Infiniti QX56 earns EPA fuel economy ratings of 14 mpg in city driving and 20 mpg on the highway, unchanged from last year.

In Consumer Guide testing, 4WD models averaged averaged 14.4-16.3 mpg in city/highway driving. Another 4WD example averaged just 12.1 mpg in mostly city use. Infiniti recommends premium-grade gas.

2013 Infiniti QX56: Safety Features

The 2013 Infiniti QX56 offers a bevy of expected and federally mandated safety features. Standard items include antilock brakes (ABS), stability system, traction control, front-side airbags, and curtain-side airbags with rollover deployment sensors and 3-row coverage. Second- and 3rd-row side airbags are not available. The standard Around View camera system with obstacle detection can be regarded as a safety-related plus. So, too, the available blind-spot-warning and -intervention systems, lane-departure warning and prevention, Distance Control Assist, and the low-speed obstacle-detection/automatic-braking system.

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