With any large-and-in-charge luxury SUV, the question for many buyers is not how much gear you can stash in the rear compartment, how loud the multi-speaker surround system is, or even how many people can cram into the second- and third-row seats. The real question is whether the vehicle can adequately articulate your own wealth and prestige. In that regard, the 2012 Infiniti QX56 is like adding an exclamation point to your bottom line. Only the Cadillac Escalade has a similar bigger-than-life look, one that makes people stop what they are doing and wonder how such a monolith even exists.
And we do mean monolith: The QX56 stands a full 6.3 feet tall, including the roof rack. That’s taller than the cab height on a Ford F-150. The width on this vehicle is almost 7 feet, and the length is over 17 feet. We’re talking massive in every way possible: huge 20-inch tires, a 5.6-liter V8 engine with 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, and a mood-altering 13-speaker Bose surround system. Priced at $75,340 as reviewed, the QX56 for the 2012 model year is also a bit shocking for your pocketbook. Yet, this luxury SUV has all the trimmings and even a few firsts following the 2011 total re-design.
One question that might come up right away, though, is whether the 2012 model can compete with the 2012 Cadillac Escalade. That vehicle also screams prestige and upper-echelon wealth. In a curious specification war, the 2012 version of the Escalade is actually a tenth of an inch taller than the QX56 (hint: no one will notice). The Escalade is not quite as wide, though — 79 inches compared to 80 inches for the QX56. The Escalade has a bigger engine – a 6.2-liter V8 at 403 horsepower and 417 lb-ft of torque. Yet the QX56 beats the 2012 Cadillac Escalade on towing capacity at 8,500 pounds, compared to 8,300.
The QX56 drives like a tank, but that’s actually a good thing if your goal is to lumber along in style. No one buys a full-size SUV so they can take corners at 90 MPH or race the kid down the street in his Dodge Charger. (Although if you do take corners too fast, the QX56 will stay on the road and keep you comfortable, and the V8 engine does have plenty of power off the starting block.) Our experience was exactly as expected: The power is there, but this is a luxury ride meant to entertain you with surround-sound audio and a theatrical dual-LCD screen system for second row passengers. This is a vehicle meant for towing a yacht and transporting family members.
By the way, the rear passengers are also in for a treat: There are seat warmers new for the 2012 version that get hot almost right away. Passengers in the back said the third-row seat was a bit cramped for three teenagers, but the second row was amazingly spacious – albeit for only two people. There is an optional second-row bench seat for the 2012 version, which means seating for eight.
Infiniti went all out on the tech offerings for this full-size SUV. New for the 2012 version is a blind-spot intervention system that monitors the lane next to you for a passing vehicle. If you still hit the turn signal when there is a car approaching, the QX56 will sound a chime as a warning. If you still insist on moving into that lane when there is another car next to you, the brakes will nudge you back into your lane. Unfortunately, as with some of the pre-collision systems, we were not able to experience this last safety measure, but we did hear the chime. When we heard the chime and still nudged over a little, the QX56 did not engage the brakes – presumably because we did not move over enough.
As for the lane departure prevention system, which also nudges you back into your lane if you mistakenly pass over a lane marking, the system worked perfectly. The nudge is not as pronounced as the one used on the Infiniti M, probably because Infiniti wants a softer push for such a large SUV. It is just enough to get your attention, though. The adaptive cruise control worked smoothly, controlling your speed based on the car in front of you. Once slight issue is that, on a very cold day with ice build-up on the car, the sensors stopped working for the blindspot, lane warnings, and cruise control.
Another interesting tech perk: The adaptive headlights worked smoothly on a curvy road, tracking the pavement in way that other luxury cars have not quite matched. The headlights flood the road even without the high-beams on. Oddly, we did not find a setting for automatic high-beams, which dim the lights when another car approaches – a common feature on competing models like the Escalade.
We like how Lexus cars and crossovers add some extra features that go beyond the norm. The QX56 has a few hidden surprises as well. There is a side-view back-up camera that shows you the car sitting to the right, helping you avoid a ding at Walmart – er, we mean at the winery. In the back, no one likes to manually fold seats up or down, so there are buttons for doing both of those actions electronically.
Rear passengers also can control their own heat level, and not just by adjusting a knob – there’s an actual digital read-out that shows the rear interior temp. The seat warmers we mentioned have just two settings – high and low – so you can’t adjust the exact temp for the seat.
Not many vehicles turn heads these days. There are so many crossovers on the road, so many newer sedans, and so many Chevy Suburbans that a full-size SUV is not exactly unique. Yet, if the goal is to draw attention, the QX56 does that in spades. Quite a few gawkers noticed this tank-on-wheels rolling slowly around town with the stereo cranked to near maximum. There’s just something about the extreme size and the unique luxury SUV styling. We came away impressed with just about every aspect of this monster, except maybe the high ticket price. As to whether it beats out the similar 2012 Cadillac Escalade – we’ll find out next week when we test one out.