The 2013 Infiniti QX56 is proof that dinosaurs still roam the earth. It is one of the last of the really big SUVs that features a standard V8 engine, optional all-wheel-drive and seating for up to eight. In an automotive world seemingly obsessed with fuel economy, the QX56 seems like a throwback to an earlier time.
Which is not to say it is old fashioned. Despite its immense size, the QX56 rides more like a car than a truck. It can also be outfitted with every conceivable convenience, entertainment and safety option, including but not limited to second-row captain's chairs, a rear seat dual-screen video system, and an 360-degree camera system that helps with parking.
It is also very quiet, an Infiniti trademark. With the windows up, the world hardly intrudes into the vehicle.
The QX56 can also be equipped to tow up to 8,500 pounds, thanks to a transmission with a tow/haul mode and an automatic-leveling rear suspension.
Not that long ago, there were a lot of full-size SUVs on the market. Now there are relatively few, and they are mostly luxury models. And that is where the QX56 shines. Our test model had a leather interior with heated and cooled front bucket seats, tasteful wood trim, a rear seat climate control system, and a stereo system to rival anything you could buy for your home.
If anything, our QX56 was a little too soft. The suspension sometimes overreacted to road imperfections, causing the entire vehicle to sway going over them. And that was with the Hydraulic Body Motion Control system that comes with the optional Deluxe Touring Package on our test vehicle. That might be better than a teeth-rattling stiff suspension, but something in the middle might be easier to live with.
On the other hand, the 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 provided ample acceleration for entering and passing on freeways. Visibility was also excellent because of the high ride height. Drivers look down on most other vehicles in the QX56, and semi-trucks don't seem as intimidating, either.
The exterior styling might not be for everyone. Like all full-size SUVs, the QX56 is basically a box. But it also features the rounded front end and fenders that characterize all Infiniti vehicles. The look is not completely cohesive, however. The angular headlights and fender vents look like afterthoughts. On the other hand, it's hard to make a box look like anything other than a box. And the driver's view over the hood is very much like other Infiniti models.
Since Infiniti is owned by Nissan, it's easy to assume the QX56 is based on the Titan pickup and Armada crossover. In fact, the current version is based on the Nissan Patrol, which competes against the Toyota Land Cruiser but is not sold in America.
Direct competitors to the QX56 are limited. They include the Mercedes Benz GL-Class and Cadillac Escalade, both of which cost more. The Chevy Suburban will carry as many people and costs less, but it is not as luxurious or refined. If you need to carry a family and tow a boat in comfort, the big Infiniti is hard to beat.
Facts and figures (all models)
Model tested: 2013 QX56.
Class: Full-size SUV.
Layout: Front engine, rear and all-wheel-drive.
Styles: Four-door lift back.
Engine: 5.6-liter V8 (400 hp, 413 ft-lbs).
Transmission: 7-speed automatic with manual shift mode.
EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 14/20/16 (RWD and AWD).
Price: Beginning at approximately $61,350 ($79,000 as tested).