On the Road Review: Infiniti QX60 AWD

Infiniti now makes four crossover/SUV models — one more vehicle than it features in its car lineup. The QX60 is a midsize to large-size seven-passenger model slightly smaller than the Ford Explorer/GMC Acadia crowd, yet a couple of inches larger than its sibling Nissan Pathfinder — the vehicle with which it shares mechanicals as well as its basic design. For further reference, an Audi Q7 is 4 inches larger than the QX60, while Infiniti’s truck-based QX80 (also three rows of seating) is 12 inches longer and 1,400 pounds heavier.

These family wagons are top sellers now — the QX60 is Infiniti’s number two seller overall. Crossovers of all sizes are commanding the sales gains from virtually every automaker as the buying public is selecting vehicles that suit their lifestyle needs as well as their image visions. Crossovers and SUVs fit both criteria, for now.

While the Infiniti shares its basic bones with the Pathfinder, the QX60 has received more contemporary styling that supports its premium mission, and higher price. Embracing the front facial stance shared with the rest of the crossover lineup — particularly the sportier QX70 (formerly the FX series) — the Infiniti hides its plebian roots with fancy wheels, distinctive lighting, plus a sharp return on the rearmost “D” pillar.

Power comes from a 3.5-liter corporate V-6 engine, 265 hp, mated to a CVT automatic transmission — just like in the Pathfinder. The CVT does its job commendably; it doesn’t intrude on the driving experience like some CVTs do, and the resulting fuel economy of our experience beat the combined mileage rating from the EPA, 19/26/22 mpg. The tow rating is 3,500 pounds — much less than the Pathfinder, which may reflect the higher weight/equipment of the Infiniti as well as a conservative torque rating on the engine.

With AWD included, the front-drive biased chassis exhibits some steering wheel torque steer under heavy throttle, but otherwise, the chassis is buttoned-down and stable. Cornering attitudes and agility levels could be higher, but this is essentially a station wagon/crossover/minivan with people moving objectives displacing track performance priorities. Handling is secure, driving comfort is high and the QX proved to be a road warrior when pressed to travel.

Our QX60 encountered many obstacles during its summer visit, like messages from above that we should not use the Infiniti. One day’s trip included multiple massive thunderstorms with pelting hail that forced me to the side of the road to wait out the blinding storms. The mercury dropped a full 25 degrees during one storm as the roads turned into rivers.

A day later, the QX60’s information panel stated that one tire was low on air. Topping the tire off at night left me feeling that things would be good by morning. They were not. The Infiniti’s sensors reset after you drive a few miles. The sensor did not reset. The tire pressure gauge did not climb as expected either. Off to the tire store for further inspection, where they found a long finish-screw strategically inserted into the outer edge of the 20-inch tire — at a place they deemed unrepairable. Slipping the donut-spare onto the Infiniti, we headed back home to park the QX60 while another tire would arrive in two days — no one had the right size and brand of tire in stock for the premium wagon.

While piloting the Infiniti, you are assisted by numerous driving aids as part of the plethora of optional packages. Lane departure warning, blind spot detection, intelligent laser cruise, collision avoidance assist and back-up assist with surround view cameras are all on the menu with the Infiniti. The surround view is great — if you hit anything with this package, perhaps you should stay home. On the other hand, the lane departure warning system activates every time you start the car; meander over the painted lines — either side of the road without using your turn signals, and you get an alarm that soon becomes quite annoying. Unfortunately, the deactivation button, along with seven other switches, is low on the left side of the dash, out of your line of sight.

Stocked to the gills with heated and cooled front seats, power rear liftgate, power sunroof, automatic headlamps (didn’t detect fog) automatic wipers, plus power folding third row seats and the usual sound system upgrades and entertainment options, our QX60 added $11,000 worth of options to the base $44,795 sticker. Second row seating is amply sufficient, with heated leather and manual side curtains for privacy, while providing easy access to the smaller third row split-bench. Rear doors are larger than what owners used to experience, making access convenient for all.

Base line features include a power tilt-telescoping steering column, plus a 60/40 center bench seat so you can maximize your people cargo options. Both front seats are powered and proved to be supple perches for extended travel excursions.

Other than the hail, and the flat tire, our Infiniti experience revealed some frustration with the electronic aids either not performing as expected, or over-performing in a frustrating manner — the automatic lights not coming on in heavy fog, the intelligent cruise being overly sensitive to other traffic. Overall driving situations resulted in a more favorable impression as the Infiniti’s comfort and composure outweighed these slights.

Infiniti also builds a hybrid version of the QX60, with modest sales. Using a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a battery pack, this 4,500-pound wagon would be heavier, slower and less likely to offer the same space inside for a higher price and a small advantage in fuel economy.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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