New Car/Review

1997 Infiniti QX4

by Nick Hromiak

Infiniti

SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:            3.3-liter V6, cast iron block, aluminum heads 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 168-hp and 196 ft/lbs of torque at 2,800 rpm 
TRANSMISSION:      4-speed electronically controlled automatic 
FUEL ECONOMY:      15 city, 19 highway mpg
WHEELBASE:         106.3 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:    183.9 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:     72.4 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:    70.7 in.
CURB WEIGHT:       4,275 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY:     21.1 gals.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  38/85 cu. ft. (rear seat up/down) 
TIRES:             P245/70R16 Bridgestone Dueler HT 
INSTRUMENTATION:   Uncluttered, easy to read and manipulate
EQUIPMENT:         ABS, 3-spoke alloy wheels, step rails/roof 
                   rack, privacy glass, power heated outside 
                   mirrors, integrated fog lamps, tilt steering 
                   wheel, power front seats, digital 
                   compass/temperature display, retractable 
                   cargo cover, mud flaps, cruise, power 
                   windows/remote entry door locks, security system, 
                   dual air bags, child safety rear door locks, 
                   homelink transmitter, power sunroof, heated 
                   front seats, limited slip rear differential
STICKER PRICE:     $37,695

Not since I tested the Dodge Viper did a test car grab so many eyes and turn so many heads. Such was the case with Infiniti's new QX4 4WD sport utility vehicle.

At first glance you'd never know the QX4 is a clone of Nissan's Pathfinder 4WD sport ute (unless you notice the uniquely mounted rear door handles). To make it more original, Infiniti redesigned the grill into what USA Today called the auto equivalent of a "fat lip." Fishermen may refer to it as the menacing leer of a catfish while others see it as classy. Whatever the description, the grill, with its double stacked fog/signal lights, is what draws the eye to this fine riding vehicle.

To think the QX4 is nothing more than a Pathfinder that costs $9,000 more is a misunderstanding. Sans the woodgrain trim on dash and doors and fancy wheels, the QX4 uses an electronic all-wheel drive system that emanates from the Nissan Skyline GT-R, a coupe sold exclusively in Japan. This 4WD system is not shared with the Pathfinder, nor the latter's five-link coil spring rear suspension. It was totally recalibrated for the QX4. As such, the QX4 rides better than the Pathfinder, itself one of the better riding sport utes on the market.

QX4 is powered by a 3.3L, 168-hp 12 valve V6 engine. With 196 ft/lbs of torque at a low 2,800 rpm, this new SUV entry has a lot of low end grunt that can tow up to 5,000 pounds. But as it has to carry 4,275 pounds around, acceleration both from a standing stop and at passing speeds is mediocre. With this much weight and heft, QX4 could use a V8. As powered, EPA fuel economy is a typical for a 4X4, 15 city, 19 highway mpg.

The 4WD system is a combination electronic rotary knob/manual shift affair. The knob selects 2WD, Automatic and Lock, with the latter locking the center differential. Down on the console, a separate gear shift lever selects 4Lo.

It seems to me both operations could have been consolidated into one rotary switch operation as Ford and Chevy use on most of their 4WD sport utes. Or Infiniti could use a multiple position floor shifter - similar to the one in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Given a choice, I'd prefer the rotary switch.

Cargo space is on par with other SUVs that stow the spare under the chassis. With the seats up the deck measures 38 inches deep, when folded, 61 inches.

To fold the rear seats flat, the rear seat bottoms must be tilted forward, afterwhich the seat backs can then be folded, but only after removing the headrests. This is somewhat of a pain in that you now have to find a place to stow the headrests. That aside, cargo loading height is a comfortable 30 inches to the sill top.

Although the QX4 comes with nifty running boards, I found they're really not needed as the step-up into the cabin is a low 18 inches. It's probably one of the lowest of all SUVs in this class.

With most every convenience option desired, including ABS, powered front seats, A/C, stereo system with CD and cassette players, the QX4 carried a base price of $35,550. To that was added $1,650 for the premium sport package which included power sunroof, heated front seats and limited- slip differential. With a destination charge of $495, QX4s bottom line came in at $37,695. Pricey? Yes, but it's in line with other luxury SUVs.

There is one item that troubled me about the QX4. To provide the finest ride of any 4WD sport ute, Infiniti opted for a docile tire tread design. As such, and in 4WD lock position, the tires spun profusely when negotiating 8-inch deep wet snow. Infiniti, and others, compromise traction for roadability, especially when youconsider that most luxury 4WD SUVs will not be used off-road.

That said, the Infiniti QX4 is, without a doubt, one of the best riding 4WD sport utilities on the market. Overlooking its few shortcomings, the QX4 rates high on comfort, class and roadability.

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