I doubt that even a few years ago folks would have considered buying a luxury vehicle made in Mississippi, but times change.
Nissan built a new plant in Canton, Miss., to make its large sport-utility trucks. So the Nissan Armada and now the luxury-brand Infiniti QX56 are created there. Both look huge, on the scale of Ford’s former Excursion.
But looks can be deceiving.
The QX56 is a full 14 inches shorter than a GMC Yukon Denali XL or its twin, Chevrolet’s Suburban. It’s an inch shorter in height and 219 pounds lighter than the Denali XL AWD.
The QX is much more of a competitor for the GMC Yukon Denali, being roughly 6 inches longer than GM’s most upscale SUV in this size segment. Yet all other dimensions and weights are nearly identical between the QX and Yukon Denali.
Infiniti wins the luxury battle, but the two are nearly identical on power. The QX boasts 400 horsepower from its 5.6-liter V8, while the Denali touts 403 horsepower from its 6.2-liter V8. The towing edge goes to the Infiniti, at 8,500 pounds vs. 8,100 for the Denali. For the record, a standard Yukon or Chevy Tahoe features a 320-horsepower 5.3-liter V8.
Overall, the power and its usefulness seems better in the Infiniti. The truck’s smooth shifting seven-speed automatic transmission makes this feel considerably more luxurious than the GM SUVs.
Ride is great in the QX. Its independent suspension eats up rough roads. Aiding that are 22-inch H-rated tires, part of a $5,800 luxury package that includes a hydraulic body motion control system.
Handling is typical big truck, with such a soft feel to the wheel that, if you’re not attentive, the truck can wander in its lane. That would be more of a problem if not for lane-departure warning systems – part of an $2,850 option package – that beep annoyingly if you approach a lane marker or partially apply the brakes as you wander from your lane.
I found the constant beeping so annoying that I ended up turning the systems off. They are primarily aimed at dozing drivers on longer trips, so if I was cruising across Nebraska, I’d leave the warning system on.
A more intriguing system, also part of the option package, is Distance Control Assist. DCA notices (via sonar, like the intelligent cruise control) if you’re gaining too quickly on a vehicle ahead that is stopped or nearly so. It immediately slows the car, often braking hard, to help the driver avoid an accident. This is helpful in stop-and-go traffic, although it kicked in on me one time when a vehicle in front of me was slow to turn right onto a side street. I was about to move over to avoid the car, but the QX braked heavily just at that instant.
This SUV was full of electronic safety devices, but the most helpful continues to be the blind-spot warning system and rear backup camera. The first helps you avoid an accident; the other, to avoid parking lot dents and dings.
With the Infiniti system, a small light blinks on adjacent to the side mirrors – but inside the car – when a vehicle sneaks into the blind spot. It’s a much more visible site than on the mirrors, where many of these systems are located. And with the system inside, there’s no chance of a fogged or iced window or mirror obstructing your view of the light.
The Infiniti backup camera offers the rear view as well as an overhead bird’s-eye view of your truck as you back up.
Equipped for luxury
Braking is strong in the QX, with four-wheel discs, a stability control program, traction control and a hydraulic body motion control program that helps this big box be less affected by strong winds or tight cornering.
Gas mileage is poor. I got 15.5 mpg while the EPA rates this 400-horsepower vehicle at 14 mpg city and 20 highway. By way of comparison, the Denali is rated 13 mpg city and 18 highway.
Inside, the QX meets all luxury needs and wants.
The dark currant red test truck also added a $2,450 theater package with dual 7-inch monitors on the back of the front headrests, along with two wireless headphones, a wireless remote and 120-volt power outlet, plus auxiliary input jacks. Add to that a power hatch and third-row seats that you can power down for more storage. Two quick-release buttons on the console quickly lower and spring the second-row seats forward so third-row folks can crawl out.
There’s all the usual luxury stuff, like satellite radio, a super sound system, sliding visors, heated and cooled front seats and heated second-row seats, footwell lights in the second row and headlight washers – all part of that $5,800 option package.
Naturally, the interior is especially comfortable. The seats are fairly flat, but well cushioned, and it’s super quiet inside. Additionally, it’s easy for adults to crawl into the third row, although those seats are awfully hard.
The Infiniti is priced barely more than the GMC Yukon Denali, starting at $59,800 vs. $58,900 for the Denali. Yet with all the bells, whistles, sensors and such, the test SUV hit $72,560.
You could buy a nice midsize SUV for 60% of that. You only need to go this big if you need to haul more folks and tow a big trailer, too, all while being coddled and cushioned with a load of luxury extras.