2018 Infiniti QX60 3.5 (USA)

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Japanese brands Lexus and Infiniti were launched at the same time in 1989, both conceived to help their respective parent companies to try to gain a share of the burgeoning market for so-called premium products. The very first models that both offered were closely related to cars that in their native Japan you could buy with the more humble Toyota and Nissan badging, but which had not been available outside the Domestic Market. As had been the case with all Japanese brands for the preceding twenty or so years, things moved pretty quickly, though these two nameplate newcomers moved in different directions with each successive new model in their respective ranges. Lexus went very much down the luxury route, whereas Infiniti decided that they needed to add sportiness to their interpretation of luxury. Lexus quickly moved beyond their initial market of North America, whereas Infiniti took a long time to decide to try their hand in Europe, and when they did arrive, a product range propelled by large capacity petrols aimed at market sectors that were dominated by diesel models and a very restricted number of dealers doomed them to the inevitable failure that ensued. Not that Lexus fared a whole load better, with sales of their cars in the UK barely reaching in a year what BMW could shift of one of their slower selling models in a month. Not surprisingly, neither has really conceived any of their cars for European tastes, focusing instead on the much larger market in North America. Both have gradually increased the size of their model ranges and they have largely done so by adding additional SUV and Crossover products to their offering portfolio. Infiniti were among the first with truly sporty crossovers that verged on the edge of the current trend for couple-like styling with what started out as the FX35 and EX35 models in the mid-noughties and these were joined by a truly gargantuan top of the range beast the QX56 which found favour in the Gulf States even more than in America. It was perhaps no surprise that they decided to bridge the gap in their range with a product smaller than the QX56 but more capable of accommodating people than their other models with a three-row passenger Crossover in 2013 with a model they called the JX35. It had only been on sale for a year when it was rechristened the QX60 to fit in with Infiniti’s new naming scheme with all SUVs and Crossovers starting QX and the saloon and coupe models just Q. It has remained on sale with surprisingly few changes ever since. Whereas Hertz in the US has never featured Lexus models, they have nearly always had plenty of Infiniti on fleet and the QX60 has been quite numerous at all the locations from which I have rented cars, and yet the model has continued to elude me for years. My chance to test one came when I arrived at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport one evening when they were very low on inventory, which meant that cars that would usually be held back in the reserved area were being put in the Presidents’ Circle line. I saw it and grabbed the keys quickly before being condemned to a day in a small econo-box like I had been the day before. I’ve generally rather like all the Infiniti models I’ve driven, and was keen to see how this one, which would more or less complete the set of the current range, would appeal.

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All 2018 Infiniti QX60 cars are powered by the 3.5 litre V6 unit that has featured in the Infiniti range and some Nissan models for some time now. It develops 295 bhp and is coupled to a continuously variable automatic transmission. In some of the QX60’s stablemates, this engine sounds really quite sporty, rorty even, with a pleasing edge to the exhaust note which reminds you that the same basic engine sees service in the Z sports car. Here it is rather more muted, even compared to the QX70 model, perhaps because Infiniti concluded that a 3-row SUV is more about family practicality than it is about a sporty experience. 295 bhp means that the QX60 is brisk but never feels what you call fast. Instead it concentrates more on smoothness and refinement and in this goal it succeeds well. The engine never really gest noisy and with all noise sources well suppressed, this is a quiet and refined car in which to travel. The CVT transmission is one of the better examples of its type, not suffering from the usual drawbacks of this sort of gearbox, with its brain seemingly well linked to the actions of the driver’s right foot. There is ample acceleration available when called for, with the QX60 well able to keep up with the flow and with plenty of mid-range power available, it was easy to take advantage of those gaps when you want to pull out and pass slower track on the freeway – important on the two-lane section of I10 which was part of the journey that I undertook in this car. I covered a total of 300 miles in my day of testing, with a trip down to the Tucson area, so a significant percentage of that total was undertaken at relatively steady freeway speed. 10.6 gallons were needed to fill the tank before returning the car, which computes to 28.3 mpg US or 33.13 mpg Imperial, a decent result for a large and commodious car. There is an available Eco mode, which would doubtless improve things a bit, though at the expense of responsiveness. I did not sample it.

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You would not really call the QX60 a sporty car to drive, unlike the sister QX70 which certainly felt that way, with far softer suspension featuring on the QX60 than you find in its stablemates. The steering is relatively light, though it is precise enough. The QX60 felt all of its height in the bends with a centre of gravity raised enough to discourage you from going into the twisties with undue gusto. There is a fair amount of body lean and evident understeer when you do so. That said, grip seemed good and driven in normal conditions, there will not be issues with how this car drives. More importantly, perhaps, the ride seemed pliant, coping well with the various surfaces of Arizona’s roads. The test car came on 235/65 R18 wheels, Larger units up to 20″ do features on some versions of the car. I also had no concern over the brakes which did their job just as you would want them to do. There is a foot operated parking brake. Visibility was generally good, though it has to be noted that the third row headrests do block rear visibility somewhat. Not a problem when parking up as there is a standard rear-view camera, but they do feature rather prominently in the rear-view mirrors. There was not much of a blind spot in the door mirrors. the QX60 felt quite manoeuvrable, even though it is quite a large vehicle.

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There is a clear Infiniti family link to the interior of the QX60, though it does lack the characteristic ovoid shaped clock in the centre of the dash that features in almost all the other models. Everything here is of good quality, with lots of leather on the dash and door casings and a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel which was good to hold. There is also an odd grey-hued inlay that I guess is supposed to look like wood (?). Fit and finish is excellent and the controls had a quality feel to them. The single instrument binnacle houses two large dials for speedometer and rev counter with fuel level and water temperature dials inset within them. There are a lot of markings, especially in the speedo, but it still proved quite easy to read at a glance. A digital display area features between the two dials and you can select what is shown here with buttons on the steering wheel spokes, with more data available via the infotainment screen. There are two column stalks for indicators, wipers and lights that are stalk items from the Infiniti parts bin, as are the numerous buttons on the steering wheel hub for cruise control and audio repeaters. There is an 8″ colour touch screen for the infotainment functions set high and deep in the centre of the dash between a pair of air vents. It proved a bit of a stretch to reach it. Fortunately, there are still plenty of physical buttons under the unit which made it easier to operate. The audio system still includes a CD slot – evidence, perhaps of the age of the basic QX60 design – as well as XM Satellite radio and the sound quality from the 6 speakers was good. There was no navigation on the car, a slightly surprising omission. Beneath the buttons for this unit are another set that are used for the tri-zone climate control. One of the unusual features of the car was the inclusion of a G-Meter.

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In keeping with the QX60’s premium positioning, adjustment of the leather-trimmed seats is all electric, with movement in all the usual directions, 10 of them in all. The steering column is also electrically adjustable. It was not difficult to get the driving position that suited me. The seats themselves proved comfortable, with shaping and support in all the right places. Heated seats feature, though in a warm place like Arizona this feature is unlikely to get used very often. There was a sizeable glass sunroof in the car, but thanks to the crossover styling, there is still more than enough headroom and indeed there is an overall feeling from the front of the cabin of this car of spaciousness.

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Those in the second row will probably have a similar feeling. There is  plenty of space here. The seats are on sliders and the backrest angle is adjustable. There is a nice flat floor, and of course there is plenty of headroom, so three occupants could easily fit in here and feel comfortable. There is a drop-down central armrest which includes cupholders in the upper surface. Provision for odds and ends comes from the pockets on the doors and map pockets on the back of the front seats.

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There are usually two challenges with a 3-row car. How easy is it get into the third row? And once in, is there actually enough space to be able to sit there in comfort? The QX60 does decently well on both counts. The cushion of the middle row of seats lifts up towards the backrest then the whole unit slides well forward leaving a good size gap through which you need to clamber. Once installed there is enough space for most adults. For sure the seat cushion is quite low and it is shorter than ideal, though with my short-length thighs, it was not bad for me, but there is plenty of headroom, so whilst adults might not relish a long journey in here, they certainly need not rule these seats out saying they are only fit for children. Occupants here get a pair of cupholders set in the side panels on both side of the car.

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There is more boot space available with the third row erect than you find in most 3-row cars, even ones that are larger than this Infiniti and there is also a useful well under the boot floor which will help for a few smaller items. The load bay floor is flush with the base of the tailgate and the boot is wide, with no real restriction from the rear wheel arches, again unlike most rivals. A lot more cargo room is created by folding down the rear seats. The third row is split 50/50 and the second row 60/40. Drop these down, a simple operation. and the load bay grows to an area which it would be quite hard to fill. The floor area is flat. The tailgate is large, and heavy, but thankfully it is electrically-assisted. Inside the cabin there is ample provision for stowage of odds and ends. The QX60 has one of the largest gloveboxes I have ever seen, with a useful bi-level split in it and there are pockets in the doors, a deep cubby under the central armrest and there is a recess in front of the gearlever.

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With the QX60 Hybrid having been discontinued for the 2018 model year, there is really only one model now available, just called the QX60, though there is a choice of front wheel drive or all-wheel drive to contemplate and there are a number of option packages which can be specified They had not been by Hertz, so the test car was a standard model with front wheel drive. The standard trim level is outfitted with a fair number of standard tech features though some will bemoan the absence of support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and navigation does not feature as standard, either, a surprising omission in what is presented as a premium offering. What you do get as standard is the V6 engine providing 295 bhp, auto operating xenon lights, 18″ alloys, and 8-inch infotainment screen, six speakers, Bluetooth, XM satellite radio, a CD player, a USB port, a rearview camera, remote keyless entry, push-button start, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a moonroof, a power liftgate, heated side mirrors. The option packages to option packages. They include Premium, Premium Plus, Driver Assistance, Theater, Deluxe Technology, and the 20-inch Wheel and Tyre packages. The Premium package includes roof rails, remote ignition, driver-seat memory settings, a heated steering wheel, a 13-speaker Bose sound system, and an enhanced keyless entry and ignition system that can remember the most recent driver’s audio, climate and navigation preferences. The Premium Plus package includes front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree parking camera system, automatic wipers, an 8-inch touchscreen display, a navigation system, voice controls, Bluetooth audio connectivity, and the Infiniti InTouch electronics interface with the brand’s Connection telematics service. The Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning system with automatic braking, a rear cross-traffic alert and backup collision intervention system (automatically applies the brakes if the driver doesn’t take action), a blind-spot monitoring system, Active Trace Control (automatically adjusts engine output and braking to enhance cornering feel) and the Eco Pedal (the accelerator pedal automatically pushes back if the driver is driving in a fuel-wasting fashion). The Theater package adds a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system as well as a 120-volt power outlet. The Deluxe Technology package bundles the contents of the Driver Assistance package and adds automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning/lane keeping assist. Other upgrades include 20-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a powered third-row seat, upgraded climate control with air filtration, and a 15-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system. Twenty-inch wheels and an in-car Wi-Fi package are available separately.

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Despite the age of the design, the QX60 is still a very competitive vehicle. It drives nicely, albeit feeling rather less sporty than other Infiniti models, is well finished and offers plenty of room for up to 7 people. It has a good level of equipment and the list price is not as high as you might expect. So not a bad choice at all. Of course, it has plenty of rivals. The two most equivalent, perhaps, are from the other Japanese premium brands, the Lexus RX and the Acura MDX. I’ve not driven either, as these do not appear in rental fleets, but all the reviews I have read say these are also both very competent in all the ways that the Infiniti is. Picking between them may come down to personal taste, and whether you can get on with the rather polarising styling of the Lexus. Cast your net a little wider and there are plenty of US domestic alternatives, with or without premium badges, though many of these with the third row – such as the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Chevy Traverse and Dodge Durango – are larger cars and the slightly smaller ones, such as the Ford Edge don’t have the third row. The same is true for the Korean options such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. The smaller cars are generally better to drive, but if they just are not roomy enough for everything and everybody you need to carry, then this Infiniti QX60 is still a good choice, whether that is at the rental car counter or in the dealership.

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