If you're one of the many who love the coddling that goes with any visit to an INFINITI dealership, but you're in the market for a sport-utility, take heart. With the arrival of the new INFINITI QX4 you can have both.
And you can probably thank your INFINITI dealer for this addition to the lineup. In recent years the purveyors of Nissan's luxury cars have been wistfully watching the steady growth of the luxury sport-utility market, particularly the sales that were lost to the new entries from Acura and Lexus.
In particular, the incremental uptick in sales that went to Honda's Acura division, when it added a rebadged version of the Isuzu Trooper to its lineup, provoked a howl from the INFINITI dealer body.
The dealer outcry, obviously, did not go unheeded. During the development of the popular Pathfinder, Nissan also worked out a parallel plan for an upscale version to wear an INFINITI badge. And here it is.
Generally speaking, the more luxurious the vehicle, the less likely it is to ever venture off the pavement, a sport-utility axiom that's reflected in the QX4's ride quality and handling. While there's enough muscle in the springs and shocks to handle the possibility of off-road use, the tuning is skewed in favor of keeping all the occupants comfy on paved roads, be they smooth or be they gnarly.
We were impressed with the QX4's ability to smooth out small bumps and potholes. It's very close to the kind of ride quality you'd associate with, say, INFINITI's Q45 luxury sedan--firm, controlled and quiet. There's hardly a trace of road noise filtering up through the suspension, and engine sounds are generally subdued, at least until you put the pedal right to the floor.
Considering its imposing mass, the QX4 is surprisingly handy in quick maneuvers, a function, perhaps, of its relatively low roofline and ride height, which helps to keep the center of gravity low, at least by sport-utility standards.
We liked the precise response of the power rack and pinion steering system--another car-like attribute--while braking performance is better than average for a vehicle in this size and weight class.
However, car-like acceleration isn't part of the deal here. The Pathfinder/ QX4 V6 is willing enough, but it's hitched up to too much mass to produce zippy getaways. Yes, that's true of most sport-utilities, but even in this deliberate world the QX4's straight ahead performance stacks up as only average.
On the other hand, the sturdy V6 has decent low-end grunt, which is what you want if you're trundling around out in the woods somewhere. And even though the QX4 isn't really cut out for really tough terrain, it has enough ground clearance--8.3 inches--to handle Forest Service trails and the like. A skidplate under the rear differential--part of the QX4's standard equipment--helps out for this kind of work, too.
It's also capable of towing a good-sized trailer, although we think testing the 5000-pound upper limit would require patience.
There's an intangible involved with the QX4 that we haven't discussed, and that's what goes with ownership of any vehicle wearing an INFINITI emblem. INFINITI has earned exceptionally high marks for taking extra good care of its customers, a policy that's paid high loyalty dividends and a significant factor to be weighed in your purchase decision.
Beyond that, the QX4 delivers all the luxury features you'd expect of a vehicle in this price class. Aside from the optional power moonroof, there's really not much to add to the standard equipment.
It's beautifully appointed and finished, inside and out, and it's a very smooth operator on all kinds of surfaces.
There are probably better choices if you're in a hurry, or have lots of passengers on a regular basis. But in the world of classy, quiet, luxurious sport-utility vehicles, the QX4 is worthy of its brand name.