The Infiniti QX60 3.5 looks like a big SUV (it's actually midsize), but it is surprisingly easy to drive and to live with, for a three-row crossover.
It helps that the QX60 has just a ton more style than cars of this ilk. The side profile is quite lovely, and both front and rear views aren't the locomotives we've become used to seeing. And it helps that the interior is a beautifully, thoughtfully trimmed luxury palace, even without the $11,000-plus in options, which took our test car from a base price of $43,395 to $54,690.
In addition to the standard features you would expect (heated front seats, a good audio system, all of the necessary ports and jacks for your electronics, and a full complement of front, side and curtain airbags), you'll be pleased to find leather-appointed seats, a power sliding and tilting glass moonroof, and Bluetooth hands-free phone system.
Drivers of smaller stature (and I with my demolition derby-damaged neck) will especially appreciate the standard power tilting and telescoping steering column, the power rear liftgate and a rearview monitor, which together make the QX60 less daunting. All part of the price of entry.
Options? Oh, buddy, are there options! You are on your own there, but bring your checkbook. The Deluxe Touring package is $3,450 (it's where you find the air-conditioned front seats and the power-up folding third row). The Premium package is $1,550, and that's where my beloved heated steering wheel lives. There is also the Premium Plus package ($3,000) with the magic AroundView Monitor with its moving object detection and front and rear sonar. You can sort it and your budget out on Infiniti's online configurator.
Our test car had all of that razzmatazz and, frankly, I liked it, yes I did. But the only must-have in my book is the Technology package ($2,800). That's where most all of the advanced safety resides, those technologies that are the precursors to fully autonomous cars: full-speed-range intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, blind spot warning and intervention, intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning, and backup collision intervention. You'll notice that most of these are more than warnings and alerts; they actually intervene when you're just not cutting it behind the wheel.
And isn't that what autonomous cars are all about?
You'll still be doing the driving in the 2015 QX60, so it's good to know that the 3.5-liter V-6 produces 265 horsepower — not a barnstormer off the line, but it will take you easily to 80 mph. It has a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which Infiniti is very big on, and there are Standard, Sport, Snow and Eco drive modes. The main CVT benefit is that there are no gears to mesh and gnash and make loud noises while straining to up- and downshift. CVTs do a better job of maintaining optimum engine revs. And that pretty much works. The QX60's CVT tends to hem and haw a little at higher speeds, but probably not enough to bother most drivers. You can ameliorate it by changing the drive mode switch to Sport.
More things in life should have a Sport option.
Three-row crossovers attract a specific clientele that are not me. I have no children, I don't have that many friends that need carting around, and the ones I have would rather walk than crawl into the wayback of an SUV.
I tested the QX60's cargo area by bringing everything I owned and my husband's golf clubs for a 1,100-mile trip across Florida. With midsize utility vehicles, you have to give up cargo to get that third row of seats. We did the opposite, accessing maximum cargo space with the power liftgate and power buttons that flipped down the 50/50 split-folding third-row bench. The low-load floor is a boon to women of the world with girly amounts of shoulder strength.
Three rollerboards went in upright, followed by the bag of clubs, four stuffed duffels, a few hatboxes, two garment bags and, yes, more. And you could still see out the rear window from the rearview mirror. Without those clubs, we could have left 50 percent of the bench in the upright position for a passenger.
When you don't need room for antiquing, that third row is pretty plush, with plenty of knee room and backs that recline. Getting back there is made easier by a clever forward flip of the outboard second-row seat behind the driver. This sets it up to slide forward on the same tracks that allow second-row passengers to fine-tune legroom. Even cooler is the ability to leave a child seat attached in place while accessing the third row. You won't have to make your kids crawl in through the rear and scale the back seat from behind.
There's an overhead handhold and an indentation in the sill to give you a boost. I gave it a go, got my 6-foot frame up and through the generous opening, and was impressed. However, getting out of the third seat almost crippled me. I'd recommend calling dibs on that second row with its cushy reclining and sliding seats and its own climate controller, complete with precise temperature settings.
I, meanwhile, will stick to the driving.
Price Range: $43,395-$54,690 (prices include destination charge)
Engine: 3.5-liter four-cylinder, 265 horsepower
EPA Fuel Economy: 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway
2015 Acura MDX $43,685
2015 Audi Q7 $48,300
2015 Buick Enclave $39,050
2015 Lincoln MKT $43,210
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jean Jennings is a veteran automotive journalist with three decades of experience sharing her zany take on the world of cars. She is the former editor in chief of Automobile Magazine and is a frequent on-air commentator. Visit her website at www.jeanknowscars.com.
©2015 Jean Knows Cars, LLC; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC