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Infiniti's QX4 has finally become more than a gussied up Nissan Pathfinder. A new, more powerful engine absolutely transforms the QX4 for 2001. While the 2000 QX4 struggled to get up to freeway merge speed and demanded drivers plan way ahead on two-lane passing maneuvers, the robust 2001 makes on-ramps fun instead of stressful and two-lane roads playgrounds instead of torture chambers.
The 2001 QX4 also features aggressive new exterior styling, a plush new interior and an optional feature or two the competition doesn't yet offer.
In spite of all that, Infiniti didn't raise the price over the 2000 model.
Despite all its luxury features and adornments, the QX4 is still a sport-utility vehicle. Although much of the roughness normally associated with truck-based utility vehicles has been squelched and upholstered over, the QX4's center of gravity is immutably higher than a car's. So it leans more when turning, no matter the speed or road surface.
But otherwise, the QX4 delivers a comfortable ride. It absorbs potholes and other bumps well. Very little wind noise intrudes, although the standard roof rack generates a modicum of whistle.
It's also capable, if not overwhelmingly competent, when driven off-road. It has an ultra-low transfer gear, essential not only for safe descents of unpaved tracks but also for walking-speed ascents of rock-strewn trails, which attests at least to an intent by its designers and engineers that the QX4 be perceived as more than merely a pretending dirt-tracker.
The QX4 comes with disc brakes in front and drum brakes in the rear, rather than the superior four-wheel disc brakes.
The new 24-valve 3.5-liter V6 is far more sophisticated than last year's 12-valve 3.3-liter V6 and power is up dramatically. This year's QX4 boasts a whopping 240 horsepower, compared with 170 last year. Torque has been raised from 200 foot-pounds to 265 foot-pounds at 3,200 rpm. This gives the QX4 the best horsepower in its class, and only the Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 4.7-liter engine tops the QX4's torque rating (with 295 foot-pounds). Anybody who drove an earlier QX4 will appreciate the improvement.
Buyers choosing the 2001 4WD model get the same power-distribution system as in the 2000. Adapted from a high-performance sport coupe available only in Japan, the QX4's four-wheel-drive system is fully automatic; when road conditions change the driver doesn't have to do a thing except drive. A collection of electronic sensors monitor what's happening at each axle and direct power where it can best be used. For the miniscule percentage of owners who dare to try something truly radical, as in treading where vehicles aren't intended to go, there's a manually selected, ultra-low set of gears permitting the optimal application of horsepower and torque at walking speeds. The 2WD model boasts the same ground clearance as the 4WD model, a quite respectable 8.3 inches (unchanged from the 2000 model).
With an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 15/19 miles per gallon city/highway, fuel economy is on a par with or better than the competition, equaling the Grand Cherokee V8 model's and exceeding the Discovery's 13/17 mpg.
Getting a much better dealer may be one of the best reasons for buying an Infiniti QX4 over a Nissan Pathfinder. Infiniti has worked hard at continuing and improving the relationship buyers have with its dealers, and generally with success. Among the Infiniti benefits: Free loaner cars or drop-offs and pick-ups are offered while service is being performed.
Despite sharing so much with the Nissan Pathfinder, the Infiniti QX4 isn't a Pathfinder; that's truer this year than before. It looks like a luxury vehicle, both outside and inside. It coddles, physically and visually, in ways the Pathfinder doesn't.
Overall, the QX4 delivers a luxury experience.