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2013 Infiniti QX56 review

Highs

  • Base and as tested price are more than reasonable for the segment
  • Surprisingly quick acceleration
  • Nice, big cabin with top notch material quality sprinkled throughout
  • Robust advanced safety tech

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 0

Lows

  • Poor fuel economy
  • Rough and tumble handling
  • Size and dimensions inhibit driving character
Sure it’s not a Corvette, but step on the gas and it’s shocking how quick the Infiniti’s SUV is off the line.

The American auto industry has been obsessed with developing over-sized cars for years now, so you’d think the amount of full-size luxury SUVs available would number much higher. However, you don’t need much more than one hand to count their numbers.

Occupying the luxury ute lineup alongside the Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover Range Rover, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz GL, and the Lexus LX 570 is the 2013 Infiniti QX56.

Now I love driving cars but lately I’ve had a slew of SUVs to test out back to back so I’ll admit to being a little jaded when Infiniti’s 2013 QX5 arrived at our office. Sure it’s been great to evaluate these bad boys so close together but truth be told I’d take a sprightly sedan over a bulbous SUV any day of the week.

But after spending some with Infiniti’s behemoth I started to appreciate the towering SUV more and more– funny how $78,000 worth of car will do that.

One cavernous ute

Climb aboard the QX and its clear this is every bit the luxury vehicle your snooty neighbor the accountant’s Audi is. The leather-soaked interior looks and feels fantastic, while the wood and chrome accents sprinkled throughout the cabin add another layer of refinement.

What’s really impressive, however, is the sheer scope of the interior.

Step on the brake, engage the push button start system and the QX’s dash lights up the like the fourth of July. Infiniti’s stylish choice of a black and purple color combo for its instrument cluster makes another welcome appearance – only in the QX it cleverly diverts attention from slightly boring layout.

I’d have like to see a full-on high-res LCD display sandwiched in between the speedo and the tachometer a la the JX35, but I suppose the QX’s slightly low-res version gets the job done as well, displaying information like fuel economy, trip mileage, and all that extra jazz.

What’s really impressive, however, is the sheer scope of the interior; if you’re even the slightest bit claustrophobic this is your Graceland. The center armrest is simply ginormous and swallowed up virtually everything I placed in it; keys, phone, wallet, small child, you name it. There’s even an equally large center console in the second row.

Whether seated up front, piloting this mammoth SUV, or lounging around in the back two rows contemplating the finer things in life, the QX’s quality leather and large seats ensured I remained comfortable no matter how long I sat there. There’s even a button to pop the second row forward and the third row is fully electric – just push a button and down they go. Just make sure to reserve the third row for small children or people you don’t like.

But the big doesn’t end there. Both the driver and passenger side are divided by large center console that houses the QX’s navigation display. And while I’m all for mixing old-school knobs with more contemporary touchscreen displays, Infiniti’s gone a little overboard with seven, that’s right, seven dials for mastering functions like volume control, heated and cooled seats, and climate control. The piece de resistance, however, is the nav and entertainment systems master dial, which sits just below the LCD display.

The problem here isn’t just the location of controller, which was located frustratingly far from my grasp. But once I leaned over enough to use it, the control feels stiff and unresponsive, especially when shuffling through the infotainment system’s menus. But I suppose the car’s cliché analogue clock makes up for that. Right, Infiniti?

Another interior aspect that left me a little perplexed, however, was the size of the sunroof. In comparison to everything else it’s tiny. Why Infiniti chose not to add a panoramic option and stretch towards the back, alleviating the slightly tomb-like vibe of the cabin is beyond me.

No matter, I’ve no doubt you’ll love fall in the love with the cabin: it’s big, it’s beautiful, and works on so many levels. But more than anything else, there’s a lot of passenger and cargo space to enjoy, which is why you’re looking for a three-rowed SUV in the first place.

Big ol’ brain

We’re at a point where we’re rapidly relinquishing control of the car to computers. This isn’t anything new really, with innovations like electronic stability control and electronic power steering introduced in the late 1980s, the car’s been getting “smarter” for over 20 years now.

2013 Infiniti QX56 review front section angle

The QX is no different; in fact, it’s one of the smartest cars on the road today thanks to a slew of driver’s aids that help co-pilot this mini Semi. Now I’ve already detailed in length Infiniti’s safety suite in my review of the 2013 JX35 that you can read in full here, but for those not up to speed here is a little recap.

In addition to features like Forward Collision Warning (tightens the QX’s seatbelts if approaching a vehicle too quickly), Lane Departure Warning system (alerts you when you’ve drifted out of a marked lane) and Blind Spot Warning (monitors your blindspot and alerts you if you try to switch lanes with a car there) the bulk of the QX’s brains come from its Distance Control Assist system (DCA)

DCA is sort of an imaginary force field around the QX. Engaging it causes the car to maintain a certain distance between the QX and the car ahead by automatically applying the brakes for you. DCA can even bring the QX to a complete stop, which is incredibly handy during stop and go traffic. However, it will only remain stopped for a few seconds before an audible tone comes on warning you that the car will resume moving again.

Truthfully, I really enjoy DCA. Maybe I’m just getting to be incredibly lazy, but who among you really enjoys braking every five seconds while stuck in traffic?

Of course DCA isn’t perfect; the calibration seems off, taking too long to initiate braking or braking too soon on more several occasions. But as the technology grows (and it will) these types of semi-autonomous features will continue to relieve the more laborious aspects of day to day driving.

After all, aren’t luxury vehicles about making driving more pleasurable?

Speaking of making things more pleasurable, the QX doesn’t stop there. The car employs a nifty 360 degree camera system, a top-down bird’s eye view, and proximity sensors around the car to help navigate in tighter spaces, so I figured the concrete hell that is the parking garage across from the DT offices would be the perfect place to test it all out.

QX in tow I pull into the garage, drive up the curved ramp, and proceed to grab a ticket. Shortly after the gate lifts I spiral on up to the seventh floor where the same jerk who always parks his Audi A7 at the end of row of cars, you know, the one that says compact only, is parked. (I know it’s a guy because I’ve mean mugged him before – not my proudest moment.) Getting by his car is hard enough in a sedan and I’m already dreading it in the QX. Thankfully I manage to snake by but not without the QX’s sensors relaying an audibl and visual cue warning me how close I was to scratching this dude’s pride and joy.

2013 Infiniti QX56 review trunk

I continue to ascend the 13-level structure, getting more nervous every time I squeeze by tight corners greeting every subsequent level. The QX’s size doesn’t help matters but having the sensors do. I finally find a parking spot on the 11th floor, nestled nicely between a new Ford Fusion (gorgeous) and a Cadillac Catera (bad choice, fella).

Pulling into the spot was never a concern but backing out is. Thanks to the backup camera I’m fully aware of what’s behind me and where the car’s massive rump is headed. What’s even more awesome is the bird’s eye view. I’ll say again, every car needs this function. Pulling out of the space was made (no pun intended) infinitely easier because of it. And truthfully, I’m thankful I never had to drive the QXs of yore that didn’t have these features.

The QX is still a pain in the butt to drive, but we can at least point to it as proof of how new technologies can improve the driving experience.

Raucous or refined?

Sure we can all agree on how big the 2013 Infiniti QX56 is (hint: it’s BIG) but trust me when I say our opinions will diverge when deciding whether it’s good looking or not. For those that prefer their cars big and busty, the QX56 is your gal. For those that want an imposing SUV that’ll scare the crap out of the Prius ahead, the QX gets the job done.

Up front, the hood seems to stretch for miles, tapering down towards the grille and flaring out below, a quality that lends the QX a truckzilla meets Frankenstein sort of look. Normally I’m all for a bold design, my issue with the QX, however, is how the hood’s design affects driving visibility (another hint: it impedes it). This is already a tough car to drive and the layer upon layer of sheetmetal doesn’t do it any favors.

A triple-beamed headlamp array adds some much needed spice, though it kinda gives the big ‘ute’ a startled look, while the side panels sport two vents just below the beltline. The wheel arches swell nicely too, giving the SUV an even brawnier gate and the car’s retro-inspired silhouette give is a clean look for drivers in the next lane. Those nine-spoke 22s are pretty snazzy, too.

Things are less crazy around back, although the outline of the taillamps look almost like an eagle guarding the contents of the rear hatch.

It’s hard to really put my finger on it but the QX just looks like an SUV straight outta the 1990’s – only a little less boxy. While I see some being just fine with that, it’s a far cry from some of its more elegantly styled competitors.

Too much motion, not enough control

Driving on a snaking costal road far from the city, it’s clear what the QX wasn’t designed for.

Since the 2011 model year, Nissan added its patented Hydraulic Body Motion Control system to the QX. The system was designed to combat body lean by counterbalancing the motion generated by the car while cornering. Imagine filling a rectangular dish full of water and then shifting it from left to right. That shift causes the weight to be unevenly distributed making one side heavier than the other. HBMC is designed to correct that weight discrepancy by automatically shifting hydraulic fluid to stiffen the outer suspension, which is designed to give the QX a more leveled, and balanced ride.

Sure it’s not a Corvette, but step on the gas and it’s shocking how quick the Infiniti’s SUV is off the line.

In theory it all sounds great, but I never really felt the tech made much of a difference. Tackling a corner was always chore, and the amount of lean and body roll felt during moderate to heavy corners was still very noticeable, mucking up the QX’s handling way too much and sucking away a lot of the driving joy.

On straightaways, however, the QX is a champ thanks to its automatic rear leveling suspension, which manages to bat away bumps and bruises like a 3-ton fly swatter.

Pumping the automotive lifeblood into the QX56 is a 5.6-liter V8 engine capable of pushing out 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard but ours came equipped with the optional four-wheel drive, which can tow up to 8,500 pounds thanks to a tow/haul mode.

Does having a stable of 400 ponies at your beckon call feel empowering? Why yes. Yes it does. Sure it’s not a Corvette, but step on the gas and it’s shocking how quick the Infiniti’s SUV is off the line. I managed to hustle the car from 0-60 in swift 6.7 seconds. For reference, the 5467-pound 2013 Mercedes GL 350 BlueTec I reviewed the other week achieved the same run in 8.4 seconds. At this point there is nothing left for me to do other than give a respectful bow to Infinti’s engineers for slapping a tracksuit on its 5595 pound Godzilla.

Impressive as those numbers may be, it comes at a price. Fuel economy is abysmal, and if this were feudal Japan the QX should be required to commit seppuku. EPA-estimates peg the QX 56 at 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, and 16 mpg combined, which is about right. During my week with the car I average about 13.1 mpg doing a decent mix of highway and city driving.

2013 Infiniti QX562013 exterior motion

I can’t be the only person who finds it a little ironic (I am from Portland after all, where we find everything ironic and uncool) that Nissan, champions of the EV with the Leaf, can still build a car so insatiably thirsty, and yet here the Infiniti QX stands in all its gas-guzzling glory.

Not even the QX’s Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL), which is supposed to help air flow into the intake more efficiently by easing airflow through the engine’s cylinders, helps with the QX’s horrid fuel economy.

But that’s alright, because I’m buying a three-rowed luxury SUV for the stellar fuel economy, says no one ever.

Conclusion

With a base price of $64,000, the 2013 Infiniti QX56 represents excellent value when stacked against the pricier Range Rovers and Escalades. And even with all of its goodies thrown in that sees its price ratchet up to $78,000, it’s cheaper than the fully decked out GL350 BlueTec ($98,000) I drove a few weeks back and just as luxurious.

Truthfully I really thought I was going to like it less but the QX56 ended up winning me over thanks to its lush cabin, excellent onboard tech, and reasonable price point. It’s still not the most competent full-sized luxury SUV because of its poor fuel economy, sloppy handling, and rough ride, but if you need to seat eight comfortably and want something imposing and safe on the road with surprisingly spirited acceleration, the 2013 Infiniti QX56 is worth exploring.

Score: 8

Highs

  • Base and as tested price are more than reasonable for the segment
  • Surprisingly quick acceleration
  • Nice, big cabin with top notch material quality sprinkled throughout
  • Robust advanced safety tech

Lows

  • Poor fuel economy
  • Rough and tumble handling
  • Size and dimensions inhibit driving character 

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