San Antonio, Texas ― A starker contrast between two products under the same banner is difficult to imagine, especially for a smaller-scale manufacturer such as Infiniti.
The Q50S Red Sport 400 is a super luxury sports sedan, while the QX60 is none of those things. In fact, I had all but forgotten that the QX60 even existed simply because I had not driven one since it was introduced as the JX35 in 2013. I then found out that it was the best-selling Infiniti product (something I should have known…), and once I was given the keys to the CUV, I wanted to understand why.
Infiniti CUV club
Before I explain what’s going on with the QX60, consider that Infiniti has quite an extensive offering of CUVs and SUVs. The new QX30 is highly anticipated and will be the next big draw to showrooms. The QX50 and QX70 both fill gaps, and the QX80 casts a large shadow. Perhaps I’m being facetious, but the fact of the matter is that only the QX60 generates proper sales.
The question then begs to be asked: Who buys the QX60 and why? The majority are women, new to Infiniti, and of a younger age than would be expected for a luxury brand. They are certainly not buying it for the driving experience, so I can only surmise that they’re looking for something larger and more luxurious to haul the kids around in. Essentially, the QX60 is a minivan alternative. And the thing is that it’s good at it.
The minivan alternative
In this segment, the Infiniti QX60 dukes it out with the popular Acura MDX, the Buick Enclave, and the Toyota Highlander. The MDX is a huge seller and arguably the most interesting to drive of the lot ― a complete revamp is expected for this upcoming New York Auto Show.
With that in mind, let’s go over the “why” this is a first drive story. If you know the QX60, you’ll likely notice that little seems to have changed as you peruse the gallery, and you’d not be wrong. The exterior has been updated as the revised front fascia, with new headlights and grille, now matches that of the current line of Infiniti cars. The same goes for the taillights.
Almost perfect cabin
What hasn’t changed is the cabin’s user-friendly layout. Some of the materials are improved over the previous model, trims are revised, and the shifter is borrowed from the upcoming, all-new Q60 coupe. Accessing and making use of the cavernous quarters is still top-notch.
Elements that give away the 2016 Infiniti QX60’s true age are the location of some of the controls and the layout of the centre stack. The cluster of buttons to the left and below the steering wheel is out of the way and requires some serious shoulder/neck movements in order to be legible. It still proves functional, but the generation gap between this and the Q50’s ergonomics is huge.
Access to the third row remains one of the easiest thanks to the forward-sliding and flipping second-row seats. Said middle row is far from being comfortable as the cushions are very firm, mind you. Up front, the perches are not very welcoming, either, and the large centre console lacks storage room for wallets and phones. The trunk, however, is enormous. With the third row stowed away, there’s plenty of room for a weeklong camping trip.
CVT at work
Another item that is carried over from the 2015 QX60 is Infiniti’s VQ35 3.5L V6. It produces 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. A hybrid version with the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine is still available, in case you were wondering. Power from the V6 is still sent to all four wheels via a CVT. Despite the latter performing programmed “shifts,” it still suffers from rubbery responses. In fact, after stopping abruptly and reapplying pressure on the throttle, the engine droned while the transmission did little to provide forward momentum ― it’s as though it was slipping. The vehicle eventually moved forward after a few seconds.
The 2016 Infiniti QX60 has been gifted a new steering rack for sharper turn-in and some chassis tuning. However, I didn’t really notice anything that hinted at inspired performance and handling. Ride quality is good, well isolated from nasty road intrusions, and the cabin is now quieter thanks to extra sound-deadening measures such as laminated side glass. The level of overall comfort is undeniable.
Technology at work
The updated QX60 boasts numerous driver-assist technologies including lane departure warning and prevention along with predictive forward collision warning. Another important feature for families is backup collision intervention where the brakes can be applied automatically in order to avoid hitting something, or worse, someone.
A good option
As it stands for 2016, the Infiniti QX60 is far better looking, but no more eye-catching. Its competences are untouched, and revised styling should maintain its level of popularity. As mentioned earlier, the 2017 Acura MDX will break cover at this month’s New York Auto Show, and if Honda keeps it up (they’ve done very good with the MDX since the beginning, unlike many other products), it might be the one to beat in this category.
Pricing for the 2016 Infiniti QX60 will likely have been announced by the time you read these lines.