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.
The Infiniti QX60 has sweet aerodynamic properties. Its coefficient of drag is 0.34, excellent by SUV standards. Curvy shapes smother the boxy profile. The double-wave hood climbs to the laid-back windshield which sweeps onto a long gentle roofline that slides to a spoiler over the sloping rear hatch with privacy glass and LED taillamps. The sides are defined by the chrome window outline that sweeps like a shiny zigzag down the rear roof pillars.
In front, the large grille is flanked by self-leveling High Intensity Discharge bi-xenon headlights, with foglights below. That big bull nose isn’t exactly pretty, but it’s hard to ignore, and it does say Infiniti.
The good aero shape reduces wind noise inside. It’s exceptionally quiet at freeway speeds, allowing living-room conversation. The materials are naturally high quality, and the surfaces soft-touch. The electroluminescent gauges are a treat to the eye, so easy to read. The interior is spacious, and access to second and third rows is good. The middle bench slides forward 5.5 inches, and its seatbacks flop forward to reach the third row.
Cargo volume is a strong point, more than the Acura MDX (but less than a minivan). There is almost 16 cubic feet behind the third row, 47 cubic feet with the third row down, and more than 76 cubic feet with the second row down.
The leather seats are firm enough but not hard, with good lumbar, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is sweet. The dashboard is huge, yet there are no good cubbies for small stuff. There are nice elbow rests on the front doors, with good handles to pull the heavy doors shut, but small door pockets. The navigation is easy to use, but the touch screen is so bright at night it’s annoying and distracting; you have to shut it off. The radio can be tuned with a dial, hooray. The backup camera shows a good overhead view, but the scene in the rearview mirror is pinched by the second-row headrests and the sloping roofline.
Infiniti has been a leader in so-called driver assist features, intended to respond better than the driver to situations that the car’s sensors perceive as danger. For example Backup Collision Intervention, which uses rear radar to see objects and cross traffic behind the vehicle that are out of the driver’s sight. The system first flashes a warning on the screen, then an audible warning; and if the driver still fails to react, it applies the brakes. If you are parked on a city street diagonally with nose to the curb, when you back out, the audible warning will drive you to distraction and road rage, as it beeps at every car that drives past your rear bumper until a gap appears for you. You want to scream at the audible warning, I know! I can see those cars with my own eyes!
Backup Collision Intervention is included in the Driver Assistance Package that also includes adaptive cruise control, Forward Collision Warning, blind spot warning, Distance Control Assist, active trace control, and Eco Pedal. Other guardian features, including Lane Departure Warning and Intervention, Blind Spot Intervention, and automatic pre-crash front seatbelt tensioners, are part of the more comprehensive Technology Package, which includes all the Driver Assistance Package features.
Many owners have been irritated at one time or another by some, or even most, of these safety features. Lane Departure Warning is another one; it drove us nuts, made us feel like a drunk driver (what’s more, most of the time when it went off, it’s because we were trying to accomplish something on the touch screen). Infiniti has responded by making them selectively defeatable, rather than an off-on setup for the entire system. But they don’t stay defeated, because the default position is on.
The front seatbacks can house a pair of DVD screens, which come with the Theater Package. The package includes wireless headphones, wireless remote control, auxiliary audio and video input jacks, a 120-volt power outlet, and two headphone jacks with individual volume control. An Infiniti distinction is that the two DVD screens can run two different movies.
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.