I guess you could say what's going on here is that Infiniti is finding their path to bigger profits. Wink wink, nudge nudge, ka-ching ka-ching, etc.
“Hey, there are little TV screens right there [in the headrests]! I like TV! I think this car is cool now, as cool as the Mustang.”
Just cast your eye over the range of the company that aspires to be the Japanese BMW. We've got a tech-laden sport sedan that's available with a 400 hp twin-turbo V6. Interesting. We've got a schnozz-tastic crossover with genuine sporting appeal. Neat, but getting a bit old. We've got a lux-o-fied version of the tough overseas-only Nissan Patrol, albeit with some pretty questionable styling. Ugh, fender vents; but at least it's fast.
And which of them sells the best? None! Instead, the volume leader is a softly sprung seven-seater with a CVT. To-date this year, one-third of all Infinitis sold are QX60s. That's beyond a bread-and-butter model: that's the spinal column of a brand.
At the end of a long and glorious week with the Shelby GT350, one which left me with a permanent grin and tinnitus, I pulled the child seat out of the back of the Mustang and plonked it into the middle-row of the QX. The look on my face was not one of deep and lasting satisfaction.
My kid, on the other hand, climbed in and said, “Hey, there are little TV screens right there [in the headrests]! I like TV! I think this car is cool now, as cool as the Mustang.”
Naturally, I immediately sold her to a passing circus. Sad, of course, but it had to be done.
Anyway, the point is that while sporting intent makes great marketing material, the vast majority of people would prefer soft composure. Effortlessness. Parents want their kids to be quiet and happy in the car (especially the quiet part). Passengers don't care about cornering grip or steering feedback, they'd just prefer the seats were comfy and the stereo at least half-decent.
Just as Nissan's softening of the Pathfinder from body-on-frame SUV into crossover has resulted in a favourable reaction from the buying public, so too has Infiniti's least-sporty offering become a sales success. The similarity should be no surprise either, as they're essentially the same vehicle. The Infiniti version comes with more luxury, more styling, and a less comprehensible name. A win for the sales department. Call it the PathNicer.
That's more styling, by the way, not better styling. While the curving sheetmetal of the Infiniti design language works pretty well on the nose of this thing, I'm not so sure about the tail end. I like the way the dipsy-doodle rear window squiggle mirrors the spoiler in profile, but trying to inject curviness into the Pathfinder's blunt buttocks hasn't really worked. The dark navy – Hermosa Blue, if you're interested – smooths things out.
18-inch wheels are standard on the car, though this one came with the larger 20s of the Deluxe Touring Package. Tire width is the same 235mm in either case. If you don't like the idea of shelling out for replacement 20-inch wheels, or for 20-inch snow tires, Infiniti's packaging lets you option up the car with quite a bit of gear before they add the larger-diameter wheels on. You can have navigation, front and rear sonar, automatic cruise control, a 13-speaker Bose audio system, and the excellent top-down around-view camera system, all while still riding on 18s.
We'll get to why that might be the smart thing to do in a moment. For now, slip into the interior of this all-boxes-checked top model and luxuriate in a rather nice cabin. The cream colour is of course not something I'd recommend to anyone who has kids, but it really brightens things up in here, and the carpets are dark enough to deal with the everyday. Even with just 1,500 km on the clock, the driver's seat-bottom was beginning to look a little grubby.
Still, this is a well-executed interior, and the maple wood finish is a nice touch. There are a number of subtle enhancements in here over the old JX models, with extra padding in the armrests and the like. The front-to-back moonroofs really brighten things up too.
Space-wise, the QX benefits from all the goodness of the Pathfinder. Thus, the middle-row seats fold and slide easily, and the third-row seats are decently-sized. There are also a trio of USB chargers in the back now, one on either side for the third row, and one for the second row to share. The second row also gets a proper plug-in power jack.
Add in the technology package's in-headrest screens and you've got a lot of entertainment going on in here. Yep, load the QX60 up with seven people, and there's plenty of fun – for everyone except the driver, anyway.
Despite claimed improvements to dynamics and steering feel, driving the QX60 is quite dull. Infiniti's tagline is “Inspired Performance”, and here the inspiration was clearly Lexus' sales results. It's got a CVT, a transverse-mounted V6, soft suspension, and a front-wheel-drive-biased platform. It is about as much related to the 400 hp Q50 Red Sport as I am to Conan the Barbarian.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. I took the PathNicer up the Sea-to-Sky to pick up a new set of rims for my own car. It was certainly competent enough in the corners, but favoured a very relaxed driving style. My youngest snoozed away in the back.
The 3.5L V6 makes 265 hp at 6,400 rpm and 248 lb-ft at 4,400. These numbers are pretty far off what Infiniti's 3.7L V6 makes, let alone the new 3.0L turbo-six; and (surprise!) they're also essentially identical to those found in the Pathfinder.
But would you really want any more power? Perhaps a little more low-end torque to help the CVT keep a leash on the revs. Still, Nissan's been refining the V6 ’n’ CVT formula since the first Murano, and the package works here. For most of the drive, the QX60 was happy to chug along, drawing on power when climbing or passing. It is adequate to the task.
Then, happily, the QX60 proved easily adequate to the task of swallowing up four large boxes without issue. It proved adequate to the task when I took it to get groceries. It proved adequate to the task when I had to drive the kids across town.
What's the standout feature here? Possibly the value that the QX60 represents. Yes, a fully-loaded Pathfinder would be cheaper, but a lease on a mid-level QX60 is a very reasonable prospect. The fuel economy was livable, with official ratings at 12.2 L/100 km city and 8.9 L/100 km on the highway. Mixed-use over the week skewed a little more towards the city rating, but there's little advantage to be gained in opting for the hybrid.
The amount of technology you get, when compared to a similar Lexus RX, is very good. The around-view camera makes parking extremely easy in small spaces, and driver assists like automatic cruise control are accessible in mid-grade packages and up. Good value then, though it should be noted that Infiniti's Pathfinder-based three-rower has only rated average in reliability in the past.
As such, I expect the QX60 to continue to provide the foundation for Infiniti sales for the foreseeable future. What'll the next one be like? I get the sense you shouldn't so much look towards what kind of tech is starting to show up in Infiniti sedans and the like. Instead, keep a close eye on what the next Pathfinder will be.
4 years/100,000 km; 6 years/110,000 km powertrain; 7 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/100,000 km roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2016 Infiniti QX60|
|Price as Tested||$63,880|
$14,383 (Premium Package [Navigation, remote start, driver seat memory] - $5,000; Deluxe Touring Package [20” alloys, Bose 15-speaker audio, climate controlled front seats] - $4,500; Technology Package [rear seat entertainment, intelligent brake assist, lane departure warning] - $1,850)