The INFINITI QX60 is a luxury crossover SUV with three-row seating that strikes a nice balance between practicality and self-indulgence. It's big, and good for families, but doesn't feel huge underway.
For 2015, the standard electronically controlled continuously variable transmission, or CVT, adds new D-Step Logic Control, which simulates shifts during acceleration, giving a more natural feeling as speed builds. The other changes are cosmetic: an available wheat-and-black leather interior, and three new exterior colors. Launched as the 2013 INFINITI JX, its name was changed to QX60 as part of an overhaul of the INFINITI model nomenclature.
QX60 is quiet, mannerly and competent on the road, if not dynamically exciting to drive. The standard INFINITI QX60 is powered by Nissan's familiar 3.5-liter V6, rated at 265 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, paired with the CVT. Nissan was an early adopter of CVTs and is a leader in this technology. There is also a QX60 Hybrid, using a single 15-kilowatt electric motor/two-clutch system, compact lithium battery pack, and supercharged 2.5-liter engine, yielding a net 250 horsepower.
There are quite a few mid-luxury crossovers with three-row seating. The top player is the Acura MDX with its 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6. It gets about the same fuel mileage as the INFINITI QX60, which is EPA-rated at 21 city/27 highway/23 combined with front-wheel drive, and 1 mpg less with AWD. The QX60 Hybrid gets 26 combined, only 3 mpg more than the V6.
At 196.4 inches, the INFINITI is 4.8 inches longer than the MDX, on a wheelbase that is 5.9 inches longer, so the INFINITI has more passenger and cargo space. Its inherently boxy shape is flattered by a laid-back windshield, curving roofline, and forward-canted rear hatch, set off by a creative zigzag in the rear roof pillar. Its face glitters with a chrome double-arc grille speaking INFINITI's current design language.
Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, heated power front and front passenger seats, six-speaker AM/FM audio with CD and USB connectivity, speed-sensitive volume and Radio Data System (RDS), power windows with automatic up/down, remote keyless entry, pushbutton start, leather-wrapped power tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, trip computer, outside temperature display, interior ambient lighting, four 12-volt outlets, four-mode CVT transmission presets, fog lights, power moonroof, power rear liftgate, 18-inch alloy wheels.
Options include the Premium Package ($1,550) with 13-speaker Bose premium audio, CD/DVD/MP3 playback, driver's seat occupant memory, entry/exit assist, enhanced intelligent key fob, heated steering wheel, driver's power lumbar support, remote engine start. The Hybrid Premium Package ($4,600) adds a hard-drive navigation system with 8-inch touch-screen, Lane Guidance, voice recognition, NavTraffic, NavWeather, Zagat restaurant survey, INFINITI Connection service, Around View monitor with moving object detection, rain-sensing wipers.
The Premium Plus Package ($3,000) includes the hard-drive navigation system with 8-inch touch-screen, voice recognition, NavTraffic, NavWeather, Zagat restaurant survey, INFINITI Connection service, Around View camera monitor system with moving object detection, rain-sensing wipers, reverse tilt-down mirrors. The Deluxe Touring Package ($3,450) includes 15-speaker Bose Surround Sound audio, 20-inch wheels, second- and third-row moonroof, power rear sunshade, advanced climate control system, climate-controlled front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, maple interior accents, third-row seatback power return.
The Technology Package ($2,800) includes Lane Departure Warning and intervention, Blind Spot Intervention, automatic pre-crash front seatbelt tensioners. The Deluxe Technology Package for Hybrid ($6,050) also includes 15-speaker Bose Surround Sound, 20-inch wheels, second- and third-row moonroof, power rear sunshade, advanced climate control with automatic circulation and air purifier, climate-controlled front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, maple interior accents. The Driver Assistance Package ($1,900) includes active trace control, Blind Spot Warning, Eco pedal, Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent cruise control, Distance Control Assist, Backup Collision Intervention, Intelligent Brake Assist. Purchase of Premium and Premium Plus Packages is required.
The Theater Package ($1,700) comes with dual seven-inch color front seatback monitors, two wireless headphones, wireless remote control, auxiliary audio and video input jacks, a 120-volt power outlet, and two headphone jacks with individual volume control. Other options include roof rails ($495), a Tow Package ($510), polished 20-inch forged wheels ($1,605), illuminated kick plates ($440), dual DVD entertainment ($1,870), and a maple accents package ($400). Port-installed accessories include a cargo package ($230), rear bumper protector ($210), splash guards ($205), and crossbars for the roof rails ($300).
Safety features include a comprehensive array of airbags, including roof-mounted side curtain airbags activated by a rollover sensor. Optional safety features include blind spot warning, blind spot intervention, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, brake assist with frontal collision warning, and, perhaps the most compelling, back up collision intervention.
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Competent as the QX60 is, for an enthusiast it's about as exciting to drive as your living room sofa. The 3.5-liter V6 provides fairly lively acceleration in the Nissan Murano, but in this heavier vehicle (by some 350 pounds), not so much; it takes 7.5 seconds to reach 60 mph, adequate for an upscale family SUV. Fuel mileage of 23 mpg combined with FWD is good by the standards of a two-ton SUV designed to carry a small tribe.
The ride is nice and cushy, while handling isn't particularly brisk. Hard cornering brings understeer and body roll, while steering could be better. The electro-hydraulic power steering, with its loose 18.3:1 ratio, lacks feel; when the steering wheel is at center, there is zero tactile information. There's not much more when the driver turns the wheel. While the QX60 competes well against the Acura MDX in many areas, in the fun-to-drive department it gets lapped. However moms might measure fun in how easily a soccer team can climb in the rear two rows of seats.
There are three driving modes, Eco, Sport and Standard. We used Eco a lot, and were satisfied with the power; on a 70-mph uphill freeway, it worked a bit, but there was still enough to maintain the speed. In one week with the QX60 we got 320 miles of seat time, about half of it on the freeway in Eco mode; some of it in Standard mode around town; and the rest of it in Sport mode being zippy. We averaged 19.8 miles per gallon.
The continuously variable transmission is programmed with artificial shift points, to simulate a 6-speed automatic; this succeeds in erasing that weird sensation of rubber-band-like acceleration with early CVTs. However in Standard mode, flooring it will still produce that slipping-clutch sensation. It's tighter in Sport.
The INFINITI QX60 is an attractive and affordable offering in its class. It might be dynamic vanilla, but it is upscale, smooth, quiet, and roomy for passengers and cargo. Standard equipment is comprehensive, while the many options are flavorful, including innovative safety systems.
Tony Swan filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drives of the QX60 in South Carolina and Michigan, with additional reporting by Sam Moses from the Pacific Northwest.