2011 Infiniti QX56 improves driver awareness

2011 Infiniti QX56 2011 Infiniti QX56

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The 2011 Infiniti QX56 has been redesigned and is now something to behold. It looks better than ever and comes equipped with a stable full of safety, technology and convenience features that make this a superb family-hauler. It also has a knack for the nag.

I often wonder if my husband knows that my own nagging is simply my way of trying to improve him. I figure he sticks with me, despite any nagging, because he knows that he's got the cream of the crop with me (she writes with a self-deprecating smirk). And so it goes with the 2011 Infiniti QX56. This SUV is a nag, but it only nags because it's trying to improve your driving and awareness. You'll put up with it because you know this is the cream of the large family-hauler crop. Besides, we all know we could use some improvement in our driving.

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    The nagging comes in the form of beeps. The QX56 beeps when you're closing in on an obstacle while backing up or moving forward. Should you even slightly veer out of your lane, it beeps. The SUV thankfully doesn't beep when a car is in your blind spot or passing you, but it does have an indicator light on both side mirrors that illuminate in this instance. Basically, the QX56 has your back.

    If you ever crashed this SUV, I imagine it'd start yelling at you in droid-like beeps because you clearly ignored its blind spot, forward collision, lane departure and distance control warning systems. Once it was done yelling, though, I'm certain it would alert the authorities, get you an ambulance and probably even visit you in the hospital. Lest you think I'm complaining, I'm not. By the end of my week with this SUV, I had become a better driver; the QX's noisy nagging simply served to make me much more attentive.

    When it was gone, I missed the nagging and the QX. The QX's V-8 engine is a quiet, smooth workhorse. Even though this engine could power a sizable truck, there is nothing truck-like about this driving experience. The gears shift effortlessly and its 400 horsepower help you tackle any mountain or breeze past any slowpokes on the road. This engine also gives you the option to tow up to 8,500 pounds.

    Before I continue, it's important to note that this seven-passenger SUV is not for the faint of wallet. My all-wheel-drive test car cost a substantial $71,850. The rear-wheel-drive base model has an MSRP of $59,800. However, if you're in the market for a luxury family car, you should definitely check out the 2011 QX56.

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    Exterior

    The redesigned QX56 now stands out in the crowded three-row family-hauler segment. The Infiniti is wider and longer but also a little bit shorter. The QX56 has cache and certainly won't be mistaken for a Toyota Land Cruiser, Lexus LX or any other Japanese-made large, luxurious family-hauler.

    My test car had upgraded 22-inch nine-spoke wheels, which were about as tall as my 4-year-old. Twenty-inch wheels are standard. My children had trouble getting in and out of the QX56 since it has a significant step-in height. This was mitigated by the standard running boards, however; by the end of the weeklong test drive, my two older children -- ages 4 and 2 -- were able to climb in on their own. Finally, it's worth mentioning that the doors weren't too heavy, which makes it easier to manage for people with small children.

    The QX has only one engine, a 400-hp, 5.6-liter V-8 that's mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. It gets an EPA-estimated 14/20 mpg city/highway. I averaged 16 mpg during my test week. As you would expect for a luxury hauler like this, it takes premium fuel only.

    SENSE AND STYLE

    Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

    Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times

    Interior

    This SUV's interior is posh. Infiniti calls it elegant; I think it looks like the interior of someone's fancy private jet.

    The leather is soft, and the dark wood accents are lovely. Seating is comfortable and spacious, and there's plenty of room for everyone -- up to seven passengers -- and their cargo. It was such a nice interior that initially I barred my children from eating or drinking in it. This was impractical and I quickly gave in, but it made me sad to see such beauty sullied by sippy cups and graham crackers.

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    My test car had the standard second-row captain's chairs, but a second-row bench is available and it bumps passenger capacity up to eight. For my family's purpose, the captain's chairs were ideal as they allowed my son to easily get into the third row where his car seat was installed. He had to step on the second row's center console -- mucking up the beautiful leather and wood trim -- because I had car seats installed in the captain's chairs. I bit my tongue and enjoyed the fact that I didn't have to help him.

    Overall legroom, headroom and shoulder room were ample for everyone across all three rows. The power-folding third row made it easy to put the seats up or down. When the third row is up, there's enough space for adults back there. The ample space doesn't stop with the passengers, however. Even with passengers in all three rows, the QX still manages to have enough cargo space. The 60/40-split third row is convenient, and the flat-folding second row creates a whopping 95.1 cubic feet of cargo space.

    My other favs in the QX include the crystal-clear 8-inch navigation system's touch-screen with Around View monitor; XM NavTraffic and NavWeather; and tri-zone climate control. The Around View Monitor uses four exterior cameras to give a bird's-eye view of the SUV, and when in Reverse, it gives a dual view of what's behind this SUV. With the XM nav features, I was in the know about pile-ups, detours and snow storms, and I was able to change my route or driving accordingly.

    The front seats are heated and cooled. In the second row, heated seats are optional. There are cupholders a-plenty, all placed conveniently for the many coffees, sippy cups and water bottles needed to get through any family trip in the car.

    Last but not least, the center control stack's usability deserves some love. I'm always a little intimidated by new cars because they're often so high-tech. The 2011 QX56 was filled with high-tech features, but using them was seamlessly intuitive. I was rarely stumped and forced to refer to the owner's manual. My test car was equipped with the $2,450 Theater Package, which gave us dual 7-inch monitors on the backs of the front headrests, and included wireless headphones and a remote. It was all easy to operate, and I loved the headrest-mounted screens since those that descend from the ceiling often block the driver's rear visibility. However, my 4-year-old son who sat in the third row wasn't as keen on them since his view of the screens was partial at best because of the two child-safety seats in the second row.

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    IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

    Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

    Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

    Safety

    The QX56, a three-row SUV, only has two sets of lower Latch anchors, which are found in the second-row captain's chairs. A car this size should have at least three sets of anchors. The third row should have had a set of Latch anchors somewhere. At least the second row's Latch anchors were easy to access and use. Find out how the 2011 QX56 fared in MotherProof.com's Car Seat Check.

    Because there weren't any anchors in the third row, I used the seat belt to secure my son's convertible child-safety seat. However, the seat belt was almost too small to use with his forward-facing convertible. Translation: I grunted, I pulled, I struggled and it took more sweat equity than I'd like to install his seat in the third row. It seems the seat belt should be just another inch or two longer and that would solve this problem.

    The QX56 hasn't been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    It has the following standard safety features: antilock brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, rear-wheel drive and six airbags, including side curtains for three rows. All-wheel drive, Around View Monitor, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning system and a lane departure warning system are optional safety features.

    The standard tire pressure monitoring system includes an individual display for each tire and an inflation indicator, which are fancy pluses from this fancy car. I've already mentioned the nagging this car does, but it's worth mentioning again. It's nagging that's meant to keep you alert and a better driver. These features are about safety, and nagging about safety issues is perfectly acceptable.

    © 2011, Cars.com

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