New Car/Review

Infiniti QX4

The Infiniti QX4, A Luxury Sport Utility

SEE ALSO: Infiniti Buyer's Guide

by Larry Weitzman

Infiniti has been Nissan's flagship luxury line for ten years. Known for being a little different, they shocked the auto world with the first Q45. It was Japan's first attempt to out do the Germans in luxury sporting sedans.

It was a critical success. The Q45 out BMW'ed the Bimmers and out Mercedes'ed the Mercedes. It was faster, handled as good if not better and to some was even better looking. But oh that advertising campaign. George W. Bush should take note. In the sales war, Lexus out sold it two to one, even though the Q45 was closer at hitting the mark of the perfect automobile.

With the SUV craze in full swing, Infiniti needed a product to satisfy the up scale SUV market place. Instead of building an all new model, Nissan chose to take an existing platform and gussy it up.

For that purpose, Nissan already had the very successful Pathfinder. Infiniti created a new front end, did some other minor body alterations (rear tailgate, fender flares, etc) and installed an interior that would look good in its flagship Q45. Infiniti was successful, as the QX4 has a clean, aggressive appearance that is a definite improvement on its sibling. This midsize unit rides on a 106.3 inch wheelbase with an overall length of 183.9 inches, making it a couple of inches longer than a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Upgrades were made to the four wheel drive system, a top of the line Bose stereo was installed and power seats became standard. In fact about everything is standard in the QX4 (which incidentally means Q by 4). There are only five options, two of which should be ordered, the sports package ($700) and tow package ($390). I could leave everything else at the dealer.

Under the hood is Nissan's 3.3L SOHC, 12 valve 170 horse (at 4,800 rpm) V-6. Torque is a substantial 200 pounds at a very low 2,800 rpm. But this engine is required to motivate 4,320 pounds of curb weight. Needless to say performance isn't neck snapping. 0-60 averaged 10.5 seconds and 50-70 passing times averaged 6.51 seconds. The passing times were accomplished by manually downshifting the tranny into second gear after it automatically downshifted to hold it in second until the rev limiter, otherwise it would shift out to early, degrading performance.

Since these tests were done in the Arizona desert, there were no hills to test the up hill passing performance, but 10 seconds would be a fair estimate for 50-70 while ascending a grade.

In the Q's defense, the tranny was very smooth and responsive. It felt quicker than the numbers would indicate and in normal driving, there was never the feeling of a power outage. Off the line performance was especially strong and satisfying to about 40 mph.

The good news is that sometime this year, the QX4 is going to get a transfusion of steroids. Reliable sources indicate that the new powerplant will be a 3.5L V-6 derived from the Infiniti I30 (227 hp) and Nissan's Maxima (222 hp). Power output will be in the 250 hp range with 240 pounds of torque. That's nearly a 50% horsepower increase with 20% more torque. What a great idea. Expect 0-60 times in the high sevens or low eights and passing times in the fours. It will enter the ranks as a super midsize SUV. Nissan and Infiniti are listening and acting on what they hear with common sense. Kudos. How come politicians can't do that?

The tranny is a four speed electronically controlled automatic that is imperceptible in its operation. The "All-Mode" four wheel drive system is also electronically controlled by a switch on the dash. It provides two wheel drive operation, automatic four wheel drive and a four wheel low position which can be useful when pulling a boat up a ramp.

A wet multi-plate clutch system in the center differential is at the heart of the system. With a computerized control module, the system transfers torque (up to 50%) between the front and rear axle as conditions warrant. It operates in seamlessly in milliseconds providing optimum traction in any situation. If you have dry traction conditions, the rear wheels operate as if in two wheel drive.

Independent front strut suspension is complimented by a five link live axle coil spring set up in the rear with stabilizer bars at both ends. The ride is well controlled, yet forgiving. Steering is vehicle speed sensitive rack and pinion. With a tight 37.4 foot turning circle, it is maneuverable.

I couldn't find a Ponderosa Road in Phoenix, but the QX4 did an admirable job of protecting its passengers from road noise and intrusions. The highway ride was excellent with no chop or minor road irregularities allowed to disturb the passengers.

It could be tossed around in the corners and the steering had perfect on and off center feel with no dead spots. The sporty handling was no doubt helped by great looking 16X7 inch alloys and meaty 255/65 all season radials. Nike, during the Boston Marathon, doesn't put that much rubber on the road (Is there a Kansas Marathon?).

Braking is done by large 11.8 inch ventilated discs in front with 11.6 inch drums in the back. Although they are full ABS and proved to be quite powerful, I am surprised that an upscale SUV from Infiniti would not have four wheel discs.

On the inside is where the QX4 is all Infiniti. With glove soft leather, the front seats are sublimely comfortable. The driver's is 8 way power, the passenger 4 way power. Everything such as the steering wheel, gear shifter and door trim is either in leather or wood tone (its a pretty good imitation, but how about the real thing next time?). The door panelling is soft touch and dense. No hard plastic. Even the dash has a nice touch to it.

The driver's binnacle contains a large speedo and tach with flanking smaller gauges for fuel and coolant temperature. The center section contains electronic controls for the AC and the superb 150 watt Bose stereo with standard CD. There is an outside air temp gauge.

The center console has plenty of storage and cupholders.

The rear seating is quite roomy. Several times three adults occupied that area without complaint. Leg and hip room were plentiful and the seats were large and comfortable. They have the ability to fold in a 60/40 split allowing flexibility in loading cargo and people.

Although this is a midsize SUV, the interior volume is large. With the rear seats folded ( aa snap to do), there is 85 cubic feet of cargo space. With the rear seats up, there is still 38 cubic feet or double the trunk capacity of the largest of sedans.

The QX4 is a likable SUV, especially if you are into comfort and don't want to be bothered by snow chains or what type of road or road conditions you may encountered. The QX4 will just keep on truckin'.

The QX4 bases at $35,550 plus $525 for destination. There are only two options that are necessary, the $700 Premium Sports Package which includes heated seats, limited slip differential and heavy duty battery and the Tow Package which comes with a hitch, harness and ball for $390. The only other option is a sun roof package which sells for $1,250 but comes with a six pack CD changer.

Sacramento Infiniti has a large selection of this upscale SUV that will pamper you as well as give you the confidence to travel anywhere the road or no road may take you.

SPECIFICATIONS: 
Price                         $36,075 to about $38,000

Engine
3.3L SOHC V-6                 170 hp @ 4,800 rpm
                              200 lbs-ft of torque @ 2.800 rpm

Transmission                  Four Speed Electronically
                              Controlled  Automatic

Transfer Case                 Two speed automatic 
                              All Mode 4WD system 

Configuration                 Longitudinal front engine
                              rear wheel drive, four wheel drive

Dimensions:
Wheelbase                     106.3  inches
Length                        183.9  inches
Width                         72.4   inches
Height                        70.7   inches
Weight                        4,320  pounds
Fuel Capacity                 21.1   gallons
Tow Capacity                  5,000  pounds
Turning Circle                37.4   feet
Track (f/r)                   60.6/60.8  inches
Coefficient of Drag           0.48
Cargo Volume (c/f)            38.0/85.0  rear seats up/down

Performance:				
0-60                          10.5   seconds
50-70                         6.51   seconds
Top Speed                     Faster than I ever want to go
Fuel Economy                  EPA rated 15/18 mpg city highway
                              my estimate of 16-17 mpg in El Dorado
                              County and near 20 mpg on the
                              highway

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