Pathfinding in the 2022 Infiniti QX60
Somewhere along Highway 121, on my way toward Saint Helena, it occurred that I might be driving my friends' next vehicle.
They've been searching for that vehicle for awhile, these friends of mine. With two wonderful, rambunctious, fast-growing young boys to schlep to and from an ever-expanding list of various school- and sports-related activities, the Outback they're driving feels less spacious by the day, especially considering the Subaru serves double-duty as a company car and family-hauler. They've considered several options thus far, including the much sought-after Kia Telluride, the Toyota Highlander, and the BMW X5. Nothing, though, has quite resonated thus far. Vans are out of the question (sigh), so it's three-row SUVs or bust for my friends.
I'd been driving the all-new Infiniti QX60 all day, on wine-country roads, along the coast, and through farmland--all roads on which I've enjoyed driving my MX-5 and FR-S before. A three-row SUV, though? When I looked over the relatively twisty route and itinerary that beautiful morning, I admittedly felt dubious of how the QX60 would fare in terms of driving dynamics. No matter, I thought; I figured I'd simply cruise in luxury and enjoy the views.
The views were indeed spectacular, and the Infiniti could, in fact, cruise in comfort and style. But you know what? The QX60 was no slouch in the corners, either.
Let me get one thing straight: the QX60 is no sports SUV, nor does Infiniti purport it to be. However, with arguably the luxury brand's most important vehicle in years, the engineers at Infiniti have designed an elegant, practical, capable, and eminently drivable SUV that belongs on the test-drive list of anyone in the market for one. Infiniti has, in my opinion, a winner in the QX60.
Ride & Handling
I am not, as I've written here before, all that fond of SUVs. I recently had to rent a car while my FR-S was in the shop, and after one day lumbering around in a "small" SUV from a German luxury brand, I felt compelled to request a different car from the rental company. That SUV was awful to drive, in my opinion, as it felt like a container ship on the road (and yes, I'm also just a big baby who likes his little sports cars). So when presented with the term "three-row SUV," I do not get giddy or excited about driving such a vehicle. I understand why people buy them; I understand why they exist (everyone except for me is buying them); but in no way am I a champion for them. Give me a van, a station-wagon, or a hatch any day over something like a CX3 or RAV-4 or X5.
For those in the market for a three-row SUV, though, the QX60 is compelling, in part because of its solid driving dynamics. The Infiniti's poise around corners is what surprised me the most about this car. Unlike most SUVs I've driven, the QX60 didn't loaf or roll excessively through turns. In fact, despite the Infiniti's extra row and larger size, it drove significantly "smaller" to me than that two-row rental I despised. The Infiniti was responsive and willing as I wound my way along the Russian River. Turn-in was good for a car that size, and though I didn't feel much of the road through the steering wheel, the steering itself was precise; I could place the QX60 where I wanted with ease, and without having to over-correct or will the car through turns. Though I haven't driven the Mazda CX-9 yet, that SUV--which according to Paul and Todd handles well--comes to mind as a possible option to test-drive back-to-back with the QX60.
The QX60's ride was firmer than I expected, too. I would still characterize the suspension (MacPherson strut front and multilink independent rear) as tuned for comfort, but those wanting a cushy or floaty ride might want to test-drive the Infiniti over some rougher pavement before purchasing.
Transmission & Power
Whereas the QX60's handling proved the most surprising characteristic to me, Infiniti's (literal) shift from a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) to a traditional nine-speed automatic proved the most welcome improvement. In my view, there is no greater impact a carmaker can have on a model--from the factory, mind you--than by changing the transmission, which transforms the way a car manages power. And CVTs, as many of us experience, do not manage power well from a driver's point of view. Take the Honda Fit, for example. Equipped with a manual transmission, the little hatchback feels small, zippy, eager to rev, and responsive; with the CVT, though, the Fit loses that small-hatchback magic, and instead drives like a sluggish, underpowered econobox always on the hunt for the right gear (which it will never find because, of course, there are no traditional gears with a CVT).
I would not expect Infiniti to equip their SUVs with a manual, but the QX60's nine-speed transmission is excellent overall. I used the paddles to shift manually for much of the drive, and gears engaged fast enough for a luxury SUV; left in auto, the nine-speed did not bog down or hunt through gears often. This is good, because the QX60's 3.5-liter, naturally-aspirated engine producing 295 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque provides enough power for the big SUV; mated with an inferior transmission, the engine would struggle to propel the Infiniti with adequate aplomb. I do wish the QX60 had slightly quicker throttle response, but otherwise, the Infiniti actually reminded me of Infinitis and Nissans of old, what with their great engines and on-road competence.
Looking at the engine bay, there does appear to be plenty of room for Infiniti to equip the QX60 with larger-displacement or, most likely, hybrid engines in the future. And as far as towing is concerned, the QX60 is capable of pulling up to a more-than-respectable 6,000 pounds (braked) and 3,500 pounds (not braked).
Ventilated Seats > Heated Seats
I have, thus far, neglected to comment on the QX60's comfort, practicality, and luxury, which is where most reviews of this vehicle probably start and on which they focus most of their attention. In a sentence, the Infiniti QX60's cabin is a refined, comfortable, and welcoming place in which to sit for driver and passengers alike. And speaking of seats, they're comfortable, supportive, and beautifully-quilted in the "Autograph" edition I drove. The front seats are also heated and ventilated. Allow me to opine for a moment: after experiencing this feature in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan and now the QX60, ventilated seats are my favorite "luxury" interior option. I'd take ventilated seats over heated seats, massage seats (standard on Sensory and Autograph-equipped QX60s), and leather-appointed seats. Ventilated seats make driving all day through hot weather pleasant. Automakers, take note: ventilated seats are the new must-have luxury feature.
Though I only sat in them briefly, the second-row seats are also comfortable and adjustable. I'd be happy sitting in them during long road-trips. The third row, meanwhile, is perfectly suitable for children, but I wouldn't want to sit there for more than short trips.
The cabin overall is spacious and welcoming, with a standard panoramic moonroof, available second-row manual sunshades, and three-zone climate control with vents at each row. Visibility through the front windshield is excellent, and the optional Smart (electronic) rear-view mirror provides sharp rear visibility, though the mirror/screen itself is prone to glare. Side visibility is fair, and would be much better were it not for the massive side-mirrors blocking much of my view. Why the designers didn't place the side-mirrors further forward is a mystery to me, but I'm sure I would grow used to them after a couple of days behind the wheel.
I'm not usually impressed with the way SUVs manage interior space, but for a luxury, three-row vehicle, the QX60 is supremely practical. The second- and third rows fold flat, providing a capacious and usable 75.4 cubic-feet of cargo space (41.6 with the third row folded). The QX60 remains luxurious even in my preferred "hatchback" configuration; for half of the day, I drove the QX60 with both rows folded, which did not increase road noise or adversely-affect the decent Bose seventeen-speaker sound system (standard in the Autograph trim and optional on Sensory).
Styling (Mostly) On-Point
For a decade, Infiniti SUVs had been plagued by bulbous, chrome-heavy, and overall conflicted exterior design. With the newly-designed QX60, Infiniti appears to be finally finding their way to a visual aesthetic approaching the Japanese minimalism to which they aspire. The new SUV's styling is much crisper than on its predecessors, and though I am not a fan of all the chrome accents (particularly at the rear, in place of exhaust tips), I am impressed overall. Proportions look right to me from every angle, and I do think the contrasting black roof balances the SUV visually. I love the folded pattern on the grill and the crease along the middle of the hood.
The QX60 Is Just About Right for My Friends--and Maybe for You
Overall, Infiniti has found its way back to the right path with the QX60, back to the blend of style, performance, and comfort that defined the brand when Infiniti introduced the iconic Q45 in 1989. If the QX60 is an indication of where the brand is headed, I'm excited to drive their other cars (especially the Q60). And as Infiniti goes, so too does Nissan. The new Nissan Pathfinder, according to fellow journalists at the QX60's press-launch, benefits from many of the same improvements (transmission especially) featured in the luxury-brand sibling.
The world might not need yet another three-row SUV, but I welcome one that's as capable, comfortable, and practical as the 2022 QX60. I will whole-heartedly recommend my friends drive the Infiniti as soon as it hits showroom floors this Fall. Unlike the other models they've considered, I think the 2022 Infiniti QX60 will resonate with them--and with your family, should you be on the lookout for a three-row SUV.
Erik JP Drobey lives in San Francisco. He chronicles some of his culinary and vehicular adventures on Instagram as @zjpd.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.