Taking a long family trip with car full of kids can be a challenge if you don't have the right vehicle. But that's not a problem when your chariot is a big luxury SUV, like our tester for the week: the 2013 Infiniti QX56.
This cavernous vehicle, whose name will be changing to QX80 under Infiniti's new nomenclature scheme for 2014, is among the few remaining truck-style sport utilities on the market. But there's still a market for the QX56, especially among people with big families and those with big trailers to pull.
Just two versions are offered, in a single trim, with either two- or four-wheel drive. Prices for 2013 start at $61,350 (plus $995 freight) for the rear-wheel-drive model, and $63,750 for the go-anywhere four-wheel-drive version, which we tested for this report.
This year Nissan added its advanced Moving Object Detection system as a standard feature on the QX. It works in conjunction with the vehicle's Around View Monitor, one of the coolest features available on Infiniti vehicles.
The object-detection system uses front and rear sonar to provide audible and visual warnings to the driver if, when starting to go forward or backward, there is a moving object in front or behind the vehicle.
Moving objects are visible on the dash screen through the Around View Monitor, which combines the views from four super-wide-angle cameras — front, rear and both sides — to project a 360-degree view of the area around the vehicle, seemingly from overhead.
Self-dimming outside mirrors are new this year, along with the Smoky Quartz exterior color.
Eight people can ride in a QX, unless it's configured like the one we tested, which came with the optional seven-passenger seating arrangement. There were two comfortable captain's chairs in the middle row rather than a three-person bench, which is a no-cost option.
Optional safety features include the Blind Spot Intervention system that comes in the Technology Package ($3,000), which was included on our tester. It's designed to alert the driver if there is a vehicle in the adjacent lane, and tries to prevent the vehicle from changing lanes if there is another car in the way.
The package also includes intelligent cruise control, lane-departure warning and prevention, intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning, and adaptive bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights with automatic leveling
Our vehicle also came with the Deluxe Touring Package ($4,650), which added a hydraulic body-motion-control system, cooled front seats, upgraded leather interior, a 15-speaker Bose Cabin Surround Sound audio system, mocha burl wood interior trim, an advanced automatic climate control system, headlight washers, and illuminated vehicle entry.
We had kids onboard, and they were kept entertained by the Theater Package ($3,100), which added a rear DVD player with two seven-inch screens in the backs of the front headrests, two pairs of wireless headphones, a remote control, a 120-volt power outlet, auxiliary audio/visual input jacks, second-row heated seats, and remote tip-up second seats.
To dress the QX up a bit, we had the Tire and Wheel Package ($2,450). It brought nine-spoke, 22-inch wheels and all-season tires. The only other option (couldn't have been much left on the list) on our tester was a cargo mat/first aid kit ($200).
All of this added up to $78,145, but we could have done without most of the extras and we still would have had a well-equipped and quite functional vehicle. Although I prefer four-wheel drive, f you can do without it, you can cut the price down even more.
With its first complete redesign two years ago, the QX56 no longer shares its chassis with the Nissan Armada, and it's now made in Japan, rather than in Canton, Miss., where the original model was assembled. But there still are a lot of similarities between the two vehicles, although the QX is fancier.
Both QX56 models are powered by a 5.6-liter V-8 engine with 400 horsepower and 413 foot-pounds of torque, connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission. That's plenty of power, even as loaded as we had ours. We gave it good workout, even driving though some pretty serious mountains.
It's a heavy vehicle — 5,595 pounds for the two-wheel-drive model, and 5,855 pounds for the four-wheel drive — but the ride is smooth and quiet, and the engine never seemed to strain, even on the mountain grades.
The QX handles easily, too, considering its size. I don't recommend it for serious trail-driving though, because it's just too big to go through tight spots that can accommodate smaller off-roaders such as a Jeep Wrangler.
Our QX came with the Black Obsidian exterior color, and a very nice Wheat colored leather interior. There is comfortable seating for everyone on board, even in the third row. I was amazed that I was never uncomfortable during 11 hours in the driver's seat. The dual front captain's chairs were living-room quality.
Teenagers rode without complaint in the middle-row captain's chairs, which can be quickly folded forward to allow access to the third row. While we didn't use the third row on the trip to and from our destination, it was convenient at our vacation spot when we took other people with us out to dine or explore.
Not using the third row for seating during the long drive freed up cargo space. There's 16.5 cubic feet of space behind the third seat, which wasn't enough for us with beach supplies and other necessities for a long family trip. With the third seat folded (60/40 split, power fold), the cargo area opens up to cavernous size.
EPA ratings are typical for this vehicle class — 14 mpg city/20 highway (with either rear- or four-wheel drive). On our trip, which was mostly highway driving, we averaged only about 15 mpg, though.
For those with RVs, boats or horses, the QX is capable of pulling trailers weighing up to 8,500 pounds.
We tortured the kids in the back with our selection of music from an iPhone connected to the outstanding Bose audio system, which includes 15 speakers strategically place throughout the vehicle. The iPod music functions of the iPhone can be controlled through the audio system, with playlists showing on the in-dash color monitor.
For aerodynamics, the QX has a front chin spoiler, rear liftgate spoiler and streamlined outside mirrors. It has a 0.37 coefficient of drag, and there is “zero lift” from air passing underneath, Nissan says.
Among the standard features are 20-inch alloy wheels; LED taillights; heated/power-folding outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, courtesy lights and reverse tilt-down feature; body-color running boards and integrated front and rear splash guards in the wheel arches; roof rails; a power/sliding/tinted glass moon roof; and a power rear liftgate.
Optional adaptive self-leveling adaptive headlights are designed to move slightly in the same direction as the vehicle to provide illumination of the area into which the car is turning.
The standard Infiniti Hard Drive Navigation System includes a backup-camera along with the Around View Monitor system. While leather upholstery is standard, premium semi-aniline leather is included in the Deluxe Touring Package.
The off-road-capable four-wheel-drive system has low-range gearing for hills, sand and mud on the trail. In automatic mode (high range only), the system can send up to half of the power to the front wheels; in normal mode, the rear wheels get the power. Both models come with Hill Start Assist, which prevents rollback when the vehicle is stopped on a hill and the driver releases the foot brake.
Safety features include four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution; electronic stability control; roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for all three rows; seat-mounted front side air bags; and tire-pressure monitoring.