After 13 years of rebadged Nissan SUVs, Infiniti took a refreshing turn Wednesday with the 2011 QX56, the second generation of the luxury brand’s forgotten full-size SUV.
Unlike its groundbreaking and popular FX crossover, Infiniti hasn’t understood the finesse behind the traditional SUV segment. Their two efforts in the past 13 years — the Pathfinder-based QX4 from 1997 to 2003, and the first Armada-based QX56 in 2004 — didn’t try to hide the more ordinary Nissans underneath. Buyers who wanted status and size have paid attention to Escalades, Range Rovers, Mercedes GLs, and Toyota’s famous Land Cruiser.
At their stand at the New York International Auto Show, Infiniti hired Cirque du Soleil performers to contort their bodies around the covered QX56, and through the sunroof of the new M sedan nearby. The sheetmetal on the 2011 QX56 also curves uncomfortably in some places, like the back hatch and bubbling hood, a disconnect from the squarish side profile. Fake front fender vents, like those on Buicks, add to the kinks.
The 5.6-liter V-8 engine boosts fuel economy 10 percent and delivers 80 more horsepower for a total of 400. A new active suspension helps the big Q stay flat on hard turns. Like most new Infinitis, the interior is a fine place to relax and receives a thorough dashboard upgrade with standard navigation and Bose audio.