2013 Infiniti QX56 Road Test

Big, comfortable, and weird-looking, the 2013 Infiniti QX56 is the most luxurious Infiniti you can buy.

What It Is
A supremely luxurious full-size SUV for blazing new trails at the country club.
Best Thing
Luxurious beyond its price.
Worst Thing
Downright weird front-end styling.
Snap Judgment
Get past the funky exterior styling, and you'll find the 2013 Infiniti QX56 is a luxurious high-end family hauler.


The 2013 Infiniti QX56--and by extension, the identical 2014 Infiniti QX80--is the best luxury vehicle the company currently makes.

It's unlikely that Infiniti really wants it that way. The company is busy promoting itself as a purveyor of fine sporty luxury sedans, and we admit cars like the new 2014 Infiniti Q50 are pretty sweet. But if you're looking for a pure luxury experience from Infiniti--not luxury-sport, not sport-luxury, not sport-sport--you will do no better than this big, hulking, seven-passenger off-road beast.

So what makes it so special? Well, that's sort of the hard part. It's comfortable, quiet, and laden with technology. Its styling makes a statement, even if that statement's "I'm ugly and proud of it." The interior is sumptuous, even better than the near-$79,000 price demands. But that goes for a lot of vehicles. What makes this one so special is what makes every luxury vehicle special: an undefinable je ne sais quoi that makes you step back from your time behind the wheel and think, yeah, that was sweet. Without that quality, a car is just a bunch of nice features in a (hopefully) pretty package. This Infiniti goes beyond its features though, and makes you feel special when driving it.

What We Drove

The 2013 Infiniti QX56 starts at the somewhat modest sounding base price of $64,450. That gets you the V-8 engine, the all-wheel drive, leather, a great sound system, and a bunch of other standard features. However, our Infiniti came equipped with the Mocha Burl wood trim, which for some reason is inextricably tied to a bunch of other options: a $3,100 Theater Package; a $2,450 tire and wheel package; and a $4,650 Deluxe Touring Package. Put it together, and it adds up to more than $10,200, so hopefully you really like that Mocha Burl wood trim. Our test Infiniti also had the $3,250 Technology Package, adding active cruise control, distance control assist, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and blind spot warning and intervention. Total price: $78,895, including the $995 destination charge.

On the safety front there's obviously the safety-oriented Technology Package. If you don't want to spend an extra $3,250 on high-tech safety watchdogs, the QX comes standard with front, side and curtain airbags. Standard stability and traction control make it harder to get into an accident in the first place. If you do smash up your QX56, there's no official word on how well the QX will do, since neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has tested this big beast. Generally speaking though, large vehicles tend to score pretty well.

The Commute

Depending on your point of view, a $79,000 luxury SUV is either the perfect commuter, or the worst one imaginable.

If you like luxury stuff, you'll love it. The seats are a fantastic blend of soft and supportive. Infiniti's parent company Nissan has been hitting it out of the park with its seating technology in recent years, and these leather-covered thrones are a prime example. They're heated and cooled as well, wide enough for comfort, but supportive enough on the sides to keep you in place for anything you're likely to do in a big truck like this. The ride is creamy as well, which is especially surprising considering that other body-on-frame vehicles suffer jitters and jounces over bumps. And quiet? You want quiet? The QX has your quiet right here, broken only by the excellent audio system. If you carpool, your rear seat riders will be almost equally as comfortable as the pair in front, as long as they avoid the cramped, kids-only third row.

The big Infiniti even tries to help you commute thanks to the active safety systems. A button on the steering wheel turns on the active cruise control, "distance control assist," and blind-spot intervention. It all translates to a vehicle that does a lot of the paying attention for you by discouraging you from changing lanes into another car, applying the brakes as traffic slows down in front of you, and maintaining a safe distance with the cruise control engaged. It all worked as advertised, but system's engagement was often abrupt, as if an over-cautious beginner was at the controls. Come to think of it, that isn't too far from the truth.

The downside to this luxury-wrapped, coddling, technological transportation is fuel economy. With a 400-horsepower V-8 engine lugging 5,855-lb. of luxury SUV around town, you can't expect good fuel economy. Even with that in mind though, QX's average was in the mid-13 mpg range, which is pretty terrible by anybody's reckoning. The upside is that despite the bulk, the QX is reasonably quick for a vehicle this size.

The Grocery Run

Sport utility vehicles were once all the rage in the U.S., replacing wagons and minivans as the family hauler of choice. Their stars have dimmed though, and part of the eclipse is due to the difficulty of just maneuvering the big beasts around a parking lot. Yet the Infiniti QX56 manages to be surprisingly nimble in parking lots, thanks to its off-road pedigree. Yes, under the soft leather and high-tech features is a pure off-road monster known as the Nissan Patrol in the rest of the world. You've seen it if you've ever watched any news footage shot in the Middle East: Patrols are everywhere there, popular due to their off-road ability and ruggedness, features which translate in interesting ways to our nicey-nice QX56 version. That tight turning circle, for example, is handy on narrow off-road trails AND when navigating tight parking spaces. Then there's Infiniti's "All Around View" camera system, which uses four cameras and some computer wizardry to create a bird's-eye view of the vehicle as you maneuver around. If you can't park right in this vehicle, you should just give up your license now.

Unfortunately, like most SUVs, the Infiniti QX56's cargo capacity is surprisingly limited behind the rear seats. The 16.6 cubic feet sounds good on paper, but the narrow compartment means you can only fit a few grocery bags back there; we had to fold one seat down just to get a week's worth. Our Infiniti QX56 also came with twin captain's chairs in the second row, meaning that it was reduced to six passengers; a second-row bench is a no-cost option. Getting to the third row was easy though, thanks to a quick-fold seat that flipped forward with the tug of a lever. The third row folds via a power mechanism that's actually less convenient than a simple strap or lever: You have to hold the button the whole time, and it takes a good 15 seconds to completely fold flat. The power hatch is equally sloth-like, and has no manual override. On the other hand, two child seats fit easily in the second row chairs, although you may want to use a pad to prevent the leather from getting scuffed. The third row doesn't have lower anchors, but the seatbelts work just fine.

The Weekend Fun

We didn't test the QX's off-road ability, because seriously, how often will these go off road? It's highly unlikely a Infiniti QX56 will ever face anything more challenging than accidentally backing over a well-manicured lawn.

Instead, we did what any self-respecting QX56 owners would do in Southern California: We went to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert. Navigating the broken asphalt and concrete canyons of Los Angeles and Hollywood weren't exactly taxing for the big bruiser, and its built-for-much-worse suspension absorbed potholes and expansion joints with barely a shudder. On the freeways, we became less enamored with the QX56's active safety systems. For example, the QX's traffic monitoring system not only acted abruptly, as we noticed in our commuting, but it started slowing down much earlier than necessary, and was slow to react if another vehicle suddenly cut off the QX56. In other words, this won't save you from being brake-checked into an insurance scam, so keep your eyes open, even when you have the system on.

Nonetheless, the 2013 Infiniti QX56 has all the makings of a great long-distance hauler outside the city. The audio system is excellent, and the video screens--despite being divided between the two front headrests--would offer up plenty of rear seat entertainment. More than that was the quiet and comfort of the overall driving experience. While the rest of the Infiniti lineup concentrates more on sport, sometimes at the expense of coddling luxury, the Infiniti QX56 has its priorities strictly on making you feel comfortable and serene behind the wheel

Summary

There's one barrier to all-out love for the big Infiniti QX56, and it's as plain as the nose on its face. This is not an attractive vehicle, and while the profile is better than the Quasimodo-like hunch of the previous QX, this model's nose is just...wrong. The side vents look silly, the grille is oversized, and the headlights are too small. It's as if Infiniti simply grabbed an M37 sedan's nose and stretched it over the big truck's face.

It's a shame, because behind that ugly mug is a truly nice luxury SUV. It's as comfortable, quiet, feature-packed, and plush as anything available at its price, and even at prices starting considerably higher. If the styling doesn't bother you--or you can at least overlook it--then this big Infiniti should definitely be on your short list.

2013 Infiniti QX56 Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $78,895
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 14
EPA Highway: 20
EPA Combined: 16
Estimated Combined Range: 416 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Below Average

Notebook Quotes

"Perhaps my biggest complaint is fuel economy. I somehow knocked it down from 14.1 mpg to 13.8 mpg in a matter of fewer than 20 miles. I don't know how that's even possible with all in-city driving. Otherwise, it's luxury at its finest: effortless power, craftsman-like construction, amenities galore, space aplenty, and heaps of refinement. " -Jacob Brown, Associate Editor

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view
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