The Infiniti QX56 is all new for 2011 and comes very close to being the best of the best in the large, luxury SUV class. The new look is subdued and elegant, with standard seating for 7, which can be easily expanded to 8. Many reviewers have compared the cabin to the level of a private jet. It's loaded with tech, and cutting-edge safety systems like Intelligent Cruise Control. With an opening MSRP of $54,169, this is not a cheap SUV, but you definitely get what you pay for, and what you pay for in this case is excellence.
The major competitors in this genre are the Cadillac Escalade and the Mercedes Benz GL. Both, however, are more expensive. The Escalade starts for $6K more, the Mercedes ups the ante by $3,000. Arguably, if you're test driving the big boys anyway, take the Land Rover Range Rover for a spin as well. All of these machines are huge, beautiful, and packed with opulence. There's no question you're going to drop serious change on any of them, it's just a matter of which one. The QX56 paired up against any other offering in the class makes for a very difficult choice.
Under the hood, you'll find a 5.6-liter V8 producing 400 hp and delivering 413 lb. ft. of torque. For 2011, direct injection is now included, as is a seven-speed automatic transmission. The result is slightly better fuel efficiency without a cut in power. But it's inside the cabin where the QX56 really shines, with what well may be the nicest interior for the genre. The seats are roomy and comfortable, and even the third row is far better than just about any other SUV on the market today. Standard configuration for seven includes first and second row captain's chairs with a bench in the back. The second row can, however, be outfitted with a bench for no extra cost.
Standard features include tri-zone climate control, 10-level power driver's seat adjustment, Bose premium audio, 9.3 gb hard drive, streaming Bluetooth audio and connectivity for mobile phones, and a USB port. Additionally, there's a nav unit with real-time traffic data and Infiniti's Around View system, which affords the driver a 360-degree view of the vehicle. With all that standard, it almost seems silly that the DVD entertainment system is optional. Cargo space behind the third row totals 19.3 cubic feet. With that row folded, you get 52.6; and when the second row is also down, 112 cubic feet.
Safety systems include an advanced array of airbags across all rows with side-impact units, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, and traction control. Optional systems include an auto-adjusting distance-aware intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning. Most of these features are contained in the Technology Package, which adds approximately $3,000 to the base QX56 sticker.
Most reviewers are in agreement that the only large, luxury SUV that stands ahead of the 2011 Infiniti QX56 is the Cadillac Escalade. Deciding between the two, however, may boil down to a coin toss since both are gorgeous, high-value, high-tech offerings. Given that both SUVS are the class leaders, drive them both and then choose. You really can't go wrong with either one.