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2012 Infiniti QX56 AWD Review & Test Drive

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The Infiniti QX56 luxury performance sport utility has always had the reputation of being one of the best big, full-size premium sport utility vehicles.  Following its total redesign in 2011, the Infiniti QX56 has only become better in every respect that full-size, premium minded sport utility consumers are looking for.  The Infiniti QX56 is designed to attract and hold viewers’ attention, conveying its underlying sense of power and strength.  The new styling is dynamic, its size capable of transporting up to eight adults and their belongings with spacious elegance, and its drivetrain rugged enough to handle tasks such as towing boats or trailers (8,500 pound capacity, when properly equipped), while also offering 14% better fuel economy than before.

Enhancements for the 2012 model year include the addition of Blind Spot Intervention to the Technology Package, the addition of the Bose Cabin Surround sound system with 15 speakers to the Deluxe Touring Package, the addition of heated second row seats and remote tip-up second row seats to the Theater Package, and the addition of headlight washers to the QX56 2WD Deluxe Touring Package.

I’ve tested all of the full-size luxury performance sport utility vehicles and the new QX56 AWD model, fully loaded, stands at the top for a lot of very good reasons.

The 2012 Infiniti QX56 again offers a high-stiffness frame structure that enhances ride comfort while reducing noise, vibration and harshness, a standard 5.6 liter V8 engine rated at 400hp/413lb.ft. of torque that combines the responsive acceleration of Infiniti’s VVEL (variable valve event & lift) technology with the efficiency of Direct Injection Gasoline and a 7-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting.

The QX56 interior remains long on luxury and comfort, including Infiniti’s Hard Drive Navigation system, Around View Monitor for safe backing up, and a special Bose Digital 5.1 Cabin Surround Sound Audio system with 15 speakers, 10-way powered driver/front passenger heated/cooled perforated semi-aniline leather seating and a Theater Package with dual 7 inch color monitors behind the front headrests including two remote headphones and remote control.

Like I said before, the new 2012 Infiniti QX56 is designed to attract and hold viewers’ attention, conveying its underlying sense of power and strength.  The bold front chrome grille is flanked by automatic on/off bi-functional xenon headlamps with windshield wiper interlock and integrated front foglamps.  Adaptive Front Lighting with auto-leveling headlights and headlight washers are part of the Technology Package.  Other exterior features include LED taillights, heated, power-folding sideview mirrors with integrated turn signals, courtesy lights and reverse tilt-down feature, body color running boards, body color integrated front and rear splashguards built into the wheel arches, chrome pull-out door handles, roof rails, power sliding tinted glass moonroof and a power rear liftgate.  A front underbody spoiler, functional rear liftgate spoiler and redesigned side mirrors help provide aerodynamics of 0.36 Cd and zero lift.  The QX56’s strong presence is accented by the powerful 22X8 inch wheel and tire combinations.  All 2012 QX56’s feature a high-stiffness frame structure with large side rail section width, connecting structures between each crossmember and side rails, an integrated rear hitch member, and a special rear body ring structure around the tailgate-all designed to help provide a quiet, comfortable ride.

The second-generation engine and transmission design delivers a combination of power, efficiency and refinement worthy of the Infiniti name.  Quickly moving the new QX56 to speed is a 5.6 liter 32-valve DOHC aluminum-alloy V8 featuring Infiniti’s advanced VVEL (variable valve event & lift) technology and new Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG) system.  The VVEL system combines hydraulic-controlled variable valve timing and electronically controlled variable valve lift on the intake to help improve performance and response.  This high-tech normally aspirated V8 engine pumps out 400hp at 5,800 rpm and 413 lb.ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm.  Throttle response is enhanced by directly controlling the intake valve, rather than using the traditional method of controlling intake with the throttle valve.  The VVEL system also offers improved emissions and fuel efficiency by substantially reducing the intake resistance that occurs when the engine’s throttle valve opening is narrowed and output is low.  The DIG system provides better wide-open throttle performance and improved economy and emissions performance by reducing engine knock, improving combustion stability and offering more precise injection control.  Estimated fuel economy is rated at 14mpg/city and 20mpg/highway.

Helping the 5,855 lb. QX56 achieve those mpg specs is the standard smooth shifting, 7-speed automatic transmission with adaptive shift control (ASC) and manual shift mode with downshift rev matching.  The QX56 is offered in rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, with the 4WD model featuring Infiniti’s proven All-Mode 4WD system with Auto, 4H and 4L modes.  The All-Mode 4WD system is designed to distribute torque to all four wheels when road conditions warrant (up to 50% can go to the front wheels on demand), helping to enhance traction.  My test QX56 came with the 4WD option and I really enjoyed the extra traction, especially on slick roads during rain storms.  Also included is a standard active brake limited slip differential to inhibit excessive wheel spin and help put the power down on the pavement.

All QX56 models come standard with Hill Start Assist that works to stop you from rolling back for a few seconds should you take your foot off the brake pedal when on steep inclines, then switching to the throttle as you drive off.

An advanced Hydraulic Body Motion Control system is available on both 2WD and 4WD models (as part of the Deluxe Touring Package that I had).  The system helps to reduce body lean in turns, resulting in improved ride comfort for passengers in all three rows.  Suspension travel is automatically controlled by hydraulic chambers integrated into each shock absorber.  The chambers are cross-linked with piping, allowing for the transfer of hydraulic fluid, managed seamlessly by nitrogen-charged accumulators, from one side of the vehicle to the other.  This enables the system to vary suspension travel independently on either side of the vehicle, thereby counteracting body lean and creating a luxurious, flat ride previously unavailable to consumers in this segment.  It really works as the QX56 stayed flat driving on the curving cloverleaf’s at more than 60 mph when accessing the freeways.

The QX56’s suspension is an independent double-wishbone design front and rear, with Dual-Flow Path twin-tube shock absorbers and an automatic rear leveling system that seeds to maintain uniform ground clearance and departure angle, even when towing or carrying cargo, by automatically adjusting the air pressure in the system’s air bladders.  This big SUV drives more like a full-size luxury sport sedan at high speeds or when tackling curving roads.

Excellent braking power is provided by 4-wheel disc brakes-13.8 in. vented discs up front with dual-piston calipers, and 13.8 in. vented discs in the rear with single-piston calipers.  A hydraulic brake booster helps to generate firm pedal feel with reduced travel for a more linear feel and responsiveness.  Standard ABS, EBD and BA helps keep you in control driving on slick pavement.  You guide the big QX56 with engine-speed sensitive power rack & pinion steering that gives an excellent feel for the road and quick response to your inputs.

While the standard QX56 rides on 20X8 in. wheels and tires, my test vehicle came equipment with 22X8 in. 9-spoke forged aluminum alloy wheels wrapped with 275/50R22 in. all-season radial tires for a smooth, quiet ride with excellent grip.  A tire pressure readout and tire inflation indicator is standard.

The QX56’s world-class inner sanctum offers a comfortable space and personal controls for every occupant.  It features standard 7-passenger seating capacity, with 8-passenger capacity optional with the 2nd row 60/40-split folding bench seat.  There are even grab handles for all three sets of seats including the A-pillars up front.  Leather appointed seating is standard for all three rows, with even more luxurious semi-aniline leather seating surfaces offered in the Deluxe Touring Package that I had aboard.  The driver’s seat is 10-way power adjustable including 2-way power lumbar support.  It features a standard dual occupant memory system for the driver’s seat, steering wheel, and outside mirrors.  The front passenger’s seat is 8-way power adjustable including 2-way lumbar support.  Heated front seats are standard with optional climate-controlled cooling front seats and heated 2nd row seats. Another option is a remote release for the 2nd row seats to activate the tip-up function through a switch on the center stack.  The 3rd row seat is a 60/40-split power folding design.  The 2nd row center console includes two cupholders and two storage bins.

A 16.6 cu.ft. cargo space for luggage is provided with the 3rd row seats up.  When the 3rd row seat is folded the flat load floor offers a wide versatile space for carrying cargo such as home furnishings or recreational gear.

The long list of additional comfort and convenience features include 9-cupholders, and 4-door pocket bottle holders, tri-zone automatic temperature control, Infiniti Intelligent Key with push button start, Fine Vision electroluminescent gauges and Infiniti signature analog clock.  Also part of the Deluxe Touring Package is an Advanced Climate Control System with Plasmacluster air purifier, grape polyphenol filter and auto recirculation.

Among the QX56’s available premium entertainment and technology features are an 8-inch WVGA color touch screen display, Infiniti Controller for use with vehicle information systems and comfort and convenient features, and the Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation system with XM NavTraffic, XM NavWeather and 3-day forecast.    Bluetooth hands-free phone system and the convenient Around View Monitor with front/rear sonar system are also standard.  The Bose 13-speaker Premium audio system includes two subwoofers with rear headliner-mounted 3rd row speakers ensure that sound quality is not compromised by obstructions such as luggage or cargo.  This year a new Bose Cabin Surround sound system with 15-speakers is part of the Deluxe Touring Package.  Other standard equipment includes a single in-dash CD/DVD player with MP3 playback, XM satellite radio, USB connection port for your iPod and streaming audio via Bluetooth.

More standard equipment includes power tilt/telescope/heated/leather-wrapped steering wheel, illuminated entry lighting, dual map lights, dual, lighted vanity mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers/washers, all express up/down windows, power door locks, map pockets behind the front seats, center console with dual cupholders and deep/wide storage bin, thick cut-pile carpeting and front/rear floor mats with a cargo mat.

Standard safety systems include advanced airbags, driver/front passenger seat-mounted side-impact airbags, roof-mounted curtain airbags, 3-point seats belts for all passenger seats with front pretensioners/load limiters, front-seat active headrests, LATCH system for child seats, vehicle dynamic control with traction control, vehicle immobilizer, vehicle security system, front/rear crumple zones plus steel beams in each door.

Optional technology features include Infiniti’s Lane Departure Warning system, Lane Departure Prevention system, Blind Spot Warning system, Infiniti Advanced Intelligent Cruise Control system with Pre-Braking, Forward Collision Warning and Pre-Crash seatbelts.

This is the full-size luxury performance sport utility that leaves nothing behind and only pampers its owner and occupants with the latest in comfort, luxury, convenience and high-technology and safety features not found on any other sport utility vehicle in its class.



  • Price: $61,800.00 base/$75,340.00 loaded including destination charges
  • Engine: 5.6-liter DOHC V8 400hp @ 5,800 rpm / 413 lb.ft. torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 121.1 in.
  • Total length: 208.3 in.
  • Total width: 79.9 in.
  • Total height: 75.8 in.
  • Track: f/r-67.5/67.9 in.
  • Approach angle: 20.9
  • Departure angle: 22.3
  • Ramp angle: 20.7
  • Ground clearance: 9.2 in.
  • Step-in height: 22.4 in.
  • Step-in height: 2nd row-22.8 in.
  • Headroom: f/m/r-39.9/40/36.8 in.
  • Legroom: f/m/r-39.6/41/28.8 in.
  • Fuel tank: 26 gallons
  • Total interior volume: 167.9 cu.ft.
  • Maximum towing: 8,500 lbs.
  • Curb weight: 5,855 lbs.
  • 0-60 mph: 6.1 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 14mpg/city, 20mpg/highway



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