Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti always emphasized performance and driving pleasure in order to compete with the other protagonists in the aristocratic vehicle segments. In fact, Infiniti uses the expression “inspired performance” as their creed, striving to offer anything but boring cars. It’s somewhat ironic to realise that the brand’s bestselling model for the past two years has been the QX60, the least sporty vehicle of their lineup!
By introducing the QX60 in 2013, previously known as the JX, Infiniti likely didn’t think it would become such a popular model in their portfolio and that it would draw so many new customers to the brand, especially women. The company was simply trying to offer a competitor in the seven-passenger, luxury SUV category and steal some market share away from the Audi Q7 and Acura MDX. What makes the QX60 so successful? Its excellent value in addition to its price that’s way lower than those of its main rivals.
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Subtle changes for 2016
While we attended the media launch of the 2016 Infiniti Q50 sport sedan in Texas, we took some time to revisit the QX60, which benefits from some mild revisions for 2016.
From a styling standpoint, the vehicle has been refreshed and its level of sophistication has been enhanced with the addition of new brand signature visual cues, such as the double-arched grille and the somewhat parabolic shape of the D pillar. The LED fog lamps highlighted with chrome trim are also on the list of new features, as is the shark-fin antenna located at the rear of the vehicle’s roof, which is probably the most noticeable element of the 2016 edition. For the rest, the QX60 continues to look like a high-riding wagon with its streamlined sheetmetal and long overhangs.
First-class treatment on board
Inside, very little has changed besides the new shift lever that’s borrowed from the Q50. In the cockpit, the typical luxury content of the company’s other products is accounted for, while interior room abounds. Passenger space has been optimised, which will be much appreciated by third-row occupants. Two adults can sit back there without suffering too much. Access to that third row is also easy, thanks to the simple mechanism that completely folds the middle-row seat against the front ones.
The dashboard, with its piano-style layout, remains simple and ergonomic. However, it’s not as modern as what’s found in the competition’s more recently introduced products. The element we appreciated less is the steering wheel that feels low-rent and whose grasp isn’t ideal.
Efficiency before performance
Under the hood, we still find the ubiquitous 3.5-litre V6 that develops 265 horsepower and 248 lb.-ft. of torque, managed by a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). With a curb weight of 2050 kg, the QX60 isn’t light and the engine has its work cut out for it, especially when we feel like driving a little more enthusiastically.
We would’ve appreciated the extra muscle provided by the 3.7-litre V6 that’s offered in some of the company’s other products, but Infiniti prefers keeping the price attractive, and especially the fuel economy numbers interesting. As a result, performance takes a back seat to efficiency in the case of the QX60.
Infiniti has proven once again that it masters the art of programming their CVTs to make them more enjoyable. The one in the 2016 QX60 minimises the typical elastic-band effect and performs more like a true automatic transmission. A drive mode switch has even been added to suit the driver’s tastes. The Sport mode almost succeeds in emulating a conventional gearbox with its preprogrammed gear ratios.
Comfortable on the road
The vehicle’s steering seemed a little heavy to us, and while cornering, the QX60’s weight accentuates body roll. We have the impression of driving a large SUV instead of a midsized one. Don’t hesitate to go for the all-wheel drivetrain, an almost essential element to appreciate the vehicle in all driving conditions.
On the road, the driving position is high, a typical minivan trait. Certain customers will appreciate that, but in our opinion, even by lowering the seat cushion as much as possible, some folks might feel that their head is close to the roofliner. At least the large footrest and telescoping steering column help provide a good position so the driver can be at ease. What really stand out in the QX60 are its ride comfort and especially the cabin’s quietness. Ambient noise is well filtered out and that’s even more noticeable this year, thanks to the addition of acoustic glass.
If you’re interested in hybrid vehicles, Infiniti offers a gas/electric version of the QX60 that helps save a few litres of fuel. However, the invoice climbs by nearly $10,000 compared to the base trim level. It’s good to be environmentally responsible, but in this case, some people will likely prefer adding options to the vehicle instead of choosing the hybrid powertrain, such as the dual-screen, rear-seat entertainment system, the kids’ favourite accessory.