FIRST DRIVE: 2016 Infiniti QX60 3.5 AWD
Here’s the short version of this Infiniti QX60 review.
The 2016 Infiniti QX60 makes a strong case for itself in its competitive segment. If you’ve got heart eyes for a premium crossover, the QX60 stands tall among great competitors like the Acura MDX, Volvo XC90 and Lexus RX. Even if you’re more enthusiast-minded than practical-minded, you can still have fun with a QX60. If you take turns fast, it won’t trip over its own tires, and even when you’re driving on a boring straight road, you can pretend you’re at some EDM festival with the QX60’s impressive Bose Cabin Surround 15-speaker, 5.1-channel audio system with Acoustic Waveguide subwoofer.
If you want proof crossovers can be fun, simply look at all the fun my mate Jonathon Klein and I are having with it during Infiniti’s recent media drive in San Antonio, Texas.
While fun for Klein and I usually involves tire smoke and sideways shenanigans, it was quite satisfying to be dazzled by the QX60’s immersive cabin audio. For the 15 seconds of childishness you witnessed above, the QX60 is worth a look.
And now for the long version of this review.
The Infiniti QX60 was first introduced to the world for the 2013 model year as the JX35. One year into its product cycle, the seven-passenger, front- or all-wheel-drive premium crossover got its name changed to QX60 to fall in line with Infiniti’s reinvented naming strategy. For 2016, the QX60 gets a mid-cycle update with a freshened exterior design, a retuned chassis, some interior enhancements, and new available safety technology like Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and Forward Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection.
The QX60 is Infiniti’s second best-selling product; only the Q50 sports sedan outsells it. With the premium crossover market getting more competitive every year, Infiniti’s updates to this vehicle (as well as the Q50 that you can read about here) should keep Infiniti showroom traffic steady in the coming years.
Upon first impressions, the Infiniti QX60 speaks kindly to family folk with its spacious and inviting interior, quiet and comfortable ride, as well as its capable (for a crossover) handling. Family buyers will really appreciate the QX60’s second row multi-mode seat function, which allows access to the 3rd row without having to endure the emotional trauma of removing a child seat.
I don’t plan on having kids for quite a while, especially the amount of kids that necessitates a three-row crossover, but thanks to my fear of becoming a soccer dad, the existence of the second row multi-mode seat function reduces my blood pressure. Via this review I promise you I’ll never become a soccer dad. Even if I have a second child, the day after it’s born, my privates are going under the knife.
If you compare the updated 2016 Infiniti QX60 with its 2015 predecessor, it’ll look like this year’s model put some makeup on, and dressed up for a night on the town. In contrast, last year’s more conservatively styled QX60 looked like it was ready for a job interview. The 2016’s front fascia is more detailed than before. It looks as though more time was spent crafting the vehicle’s look. I’ve got to give Infiniti credit for sexing up a vehicle with such family car roots. On aesthetics alone, this should make trips to Bed Bath & Beyond a little more interesting.
I think this updated and dressed-up QX60 will speak to people who believe they should dress in actual clothes instead of pajamas or sweat pants when they’re running errands. By the way, I’ve got a message for the daily sweatpanters: you guys are one step away from being featured on People of Walmart. Watch out.
When those respectably dressed people drive the 2016 Infiniti QX60, they’ll sense the vehicle spent more time in the engineering department, too. The QX60 demonstrates its extra engineering hours on long, sweeping turns. It’s a crossover, so it’s not going to devour sweepers like a mid-engine supercar, but if you’re in a hurry, and you ask the QX60 to corner 20 miles per hour faster than is recommended for a turn, the crossover won’t look at you like you’ve got two heads. I didn’t get a chance to test this vehicle in limit-handling situations, but at 8/10ths, it feels confident.
Overall this is a good premium crossover, but it’s not without its issues. Interior quality is at a level you’d expect for a vehicle that starts at $42,600 (or about $55,000 as tested) except for the steering wheel materials. How hard could it be to upgrade the horn pad to a higher-quality plastic? I understand when automakers skimp on footwell plastic quality, and other areas of the interior that are less-traveled by eyes and fingers, but the steering wheel’s airbag pad is staring you right in the face, and Infiniti decided to use cheap, higher-gloss plastic for that pad? That’s a head-scratcher to me.
Also, the quality of leather for the steering wheel rim is subpar for an Infiniti product. Audi, for instance, uses a silky, high-grain hide for its steering wheel rims. The QX60 uses a low-grain, sticky-feeling hide. I realize I’m nerding-out on interior quality here, but the steering wheel is the number-one contact point between the vehicle and driver, and it’s a contact point that has an immense impact on the perception of vehicle quality. The Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 I drove a day later did not have this interior quality issue, so really, how hard could it be to upgrade the QX60’s steering wheel trim?
I will note, we were testing a pre-production vehicle, so perhaps for that reason the materials quality wasn’t up to snuff, but if pre-production wasn’t the cause behind the steering wheel’s lack of quality, then that is something that needs to be changed immediately.
Speaking of immediately, the QX60’s engine is less immediate than I’d prefer. An exciting-looking premium crossover, with upgraded-for-2016 chassis dynamics should have an equally exciting powertrain to round out the package. The 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that powers this 4,515-pound vehicle is adequate, but adequate isn’t enough in the premium luxury crossover segment. There are currently no plans to put the new VR-series of twin-turbocharged engines underneath the QX60’s hood, but it would be awesome if this crossover were to come in 300- and 400-horsepower flavors. Chances are, however, the Infiniti QX60 will ride out the rest of its product cycle with a maximum of 265 horsepower. In reality, most buyers will be fine with that.
At the end of the day, the majority of luxury crossover buyers want practicality infused with a splash of style. The QX60 delivers to these potential customers with its innovative interior features and fancy looks, and then it goes an extra few yards with its agreeable driving dynamics and head-bumping audio system.
If you see families headbanging to some hard tunes while driving down the highway, don’t get freaked out. Just blame it on the Bose.