Infiniti QX56 has good traits, but it's ugly

Bottom line: Just like lobster, the Infiniti QX56

Bottom line: Just like lobster, the Infiniti QX56 is odd outside, wonderful inside. (Credit: Infiniti)

The good, the bad and the ugly. It's trite - and exactly how to describe Infiniti's 2011 QX56.

The "good" includes this full-size luxury sport utility vehicle's interior, its drivetrain and its (relative) maneuverability. The "bad" describes its gas mileage, its aversion to getting dirty and some practical elements of the vehicle's design. And the "ugly" describes . . . well, look at it.

In short, the QX looks weird. Which is unfortunate because if you're in the market for this type of vehicle, and you can get past the styling, it has a lot to offer.

This QX is a rebadged version of the newest Nissan Patrol, a capable body-on-frame SUV offered elsewhere in the world.

The good aspects of the QX are the ones Infiniti didn't change from the donor Nissan.

We'll start inside first. Infiniti has hit its stride when it comes to its interiors, and the QX is no exception. Everywhere you look you'll find high-grade leathers (semi-aniline if you spring for the $5,800 Deluxe Touring Package), wood trim and chrome accents mixed together tastefully. The navigation, audio system and HVAC controls cultivate the need for a fair number of buttons and switches, but they're laid out logically.

This makes it easier to access the impressive navigation system and Bose stereo, each with a laundry list of features you'd expect on a $72,000 (as tested) SUV. Not content with merely sounding nice, the system also includes a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive and iPod integration.

The touch-screen navigation system can be controlled via the steering wheel and features XM traffic and weather info and a Zagat Survey restaurant guide.

Seats are thickly bolstered and comfortable. Head room and legroom for front- and middle-row passengers are generous. Access to rear seats is surprisingly easy because the middle seats flip and fold quickly out of the way. Space is tight back there, though, so leave that third row to the kids. Seven-passenger seating is standard, with large captain's chairs in the middle row flanking a wide armrest. A 60/40 folding bench seat is available if you need to seat eight. Power-folding rear seats are also standard.

Another key item in the "good" column is the powertrain. At the heart of the QX is its 5.6-liter V-8, paired to a 7-speed automatic transmission. The engine hints of a sports car as you accelerate. It puts out 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, up from 320 hp. and 393 pound-feet of torque in the previous QX.

The "bad" list for the QX starts with the gas mileage. At three tons and 400 horsepower, the QX is rated at 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, but after 600 miles of mostly highway driving, I averaged 13.6 mpg.

And then there are the QX's looks. It's like someone left it out in the sun and it began to melt.

Apparently Infiniti was too wed to the idea of instilling the QX with the design language of the rest of its line. This is admirable with most vehicles, but applying it to a 6,000-pound full-size SUV is risky. Clearly. It's unduly bulbous, inflated and rotund.

Perhaps the worst element is the tacky side vents on the front quarter panels. They look as if they were designed by "The Situation" from "Jersey Shore."

There's plenty of good, some bad and a whole mess of ugly. But the latter is subjective. And if full-size SUV customers don't care about the looks, there's really a lot to like.

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