Little Tweaks Add Up to Big Changes in the 2017 Infiniti QX60

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Infiniti, never one for being loud or ostentatious, has been quietly collecting feedback from customers and critics over the years while keeping an eye on what the competition has on deck. Take the twin-turbo Q50 Red Sport sedan we drove last spring for instance: With its sleek styling, adjustable on-the-fly tuning capabilities, and 400 horsepower powertrain, the brand has answered the high-performance luxury call to arms with the right kind of weaponry that makes for one hell of a fun daily driver.

Over on the SUV side, where Infiniti makes most of its money, the Nissan-owned brand has been attentively focusing its priorities on taking vehicles like the QX60 and upgrading them on every level. When we last drove this mid-size machine, it was still the old 2015 generation, and for as comfortable and family-oriented as it was, we were left indifferent. Styling, tech, drivetrain, steering, and everything else outside of those sumptuous leather seats seemed to miss the mark to some degree, and every time we found something nice to say, we’d find something negating the positive point.

It may still have the same profile as the old model, but the 2017 QX60 has some stylish fascia upgrades

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones left feeling a bit nonplussed with the old model. Infiniti claims it has made a lot of amendments to its lavish Pathfinder-derived SUV in order to do right by its critics and customers. We recently put the 2017 QX60 through its paces carting kids to school, transporting Christmas gifts, and navigating icy roadways, and came away impressed with the updates. Aesthetically, mechanically, internally, technologically, and physically this model stands head and shoulders above its former self.

Having driven and reviewed the new Pathfinder briefly out in California this past summer, we can see where the QX60 pulls many of its new positives from, and how Infiniti has thus made its own unique improvements to the chassis. Here is what works, what doesn’t, and what’s a bit odd about this SUV.

Exterior

The sharper, hooked LED running light craze has produced a lot of attractive refreshes, with Nissan/Infiniti making some of the more notable updates

Even though the rounded styling of the old QX60 was attractive, it certainly left something to be desired. For 2017, the SUV gets a refreshed front fascia that is more angular and European-looking, and with hooked LED eyelids and brake lamps aglow, the Infiniti stands out with its own unique personality. Proportionally, it’s almost the exact same SUV as before, and retains the hooked quarter glass touches, roof and belt lines, and rear hatch styling points that we liked on the old model.

Proportionally, making an SUV that is not too big but offers excellent interior space is often the trick to attracting buyers

Exterior pros and cons

+ The re-sculpted front fascia looks stylish and stern, with LED lighting and splashes of color contrasts making marks.

+ Integrated roof rails, courtesy approach lamps, motion activated liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, and reverse tilt-down mirrors are all helpful.

+ Big but not bullish, the proportions of the QX60 are right on the money, making it both appealing and easy to command and climb into.

– No keyless entry on rear doors, and the motion-sensing power liftgate seemed overly sensitive, randomly engaging when someone with a key walked by even if well away from the sensor.

– The rear end still is somewhat minivan-ish, and outside of some nice LED tail lamps, it looks pretty ho-hum compared to SUV options from Mazda, Audi, and Lexus.

The updated 3.5-liter V6 in the 2017 QX60 gets more power while retaining the same fuel averages as the old powertrain

Powertrain

Mildly massaged to 295 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, this revised 3.5-liter V6 delivers more power and towing capacity (now at 3,500 pounds) and offers smooth acceleration. While in sport mode, drivers get a noticeably sharper throttle, as the CVT automates shift points for a more natural feel. We dig that Standard, Sport, Snow, and Eco modes all deliver different results. While we wish there had been some heavy snow to trudge through, on icy surfaces, the lower gearing and reduced wheel spin were both noticeable, and in Eco mode, the accelerator pedal firms up to prevent overzealous acceleration.

Infiniti

Powertrain pros and cons

+ Revised but not over-sized, this 3.5-liter V6 out of the new Pathfinder generates 295 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, which equals out to 30 fresh ponies and 22 more pounds of twist over the old engine.

+ Despite being more powerful, the revised engine doesn’t get any greedier at the pump, receiving 19 city/26 highway MPG averages from the EPA.

+ AWD is always great, but Normal, Sport, Snow, and Eco settings that work well are a much appreciated perk.

– The QX60 requires Premium pump gas and only can tow up to 3,500 pounds, as opposed to SUVs like the V6 Pilot and Highlander, which can haul up to 5,000 pounds if properly equipped.

– No specialized locking differentials or terrain settings outside of Snow, though the QX60’s core market likely doesn’t need anything more.

The front section of the QX60's cabin comes loaded with heated/vented leather and all kinds of controls

Interior

Once again, the cabin of the QX60 continues to carry plush leather surfaces and many automatic amenities, and though its third row is not the roomiest, it does feature power seat-folding switches and is plenty spacious for the prepubescent set. The second row receives plenty of head and legroom, along with center console controls and additional vent ducts, but it’s the driver and front passenger who get all the good stuff. Infiniti continues to offer some of the nicest heated/vented captain’s chairs on the planet, and once coupled with things like a heated steering wheel, sequential welcome lights, and one-touch controls, you really won’t want to climb out.

The third row in this Infiniti can be folded flat electronically with the push of a button

Interior pros and cons

+ Plush front seats are heated, cooled, and once programmed, have power adjusting memory settings that work properly every time. Power steering adjustments also have their own memory functions.

+ The roomy, heated rear bench can be outfitted with a headrest-ensconced Theater Package, and slides out of the way to allow easy access to the third row, which can be folded with the push of a button and even permits reclining.

+ The power liftgate, multi-stage lighting, soft touches, minimalist accent striping, a rear panoramic roof, and a sizable under tray storage area are all right on the money.

– The steering wheel won’t telescope very far, center storage space is minimal, there’s a lot of unattractive fake wood trim, and there are a few fit and finish issues under the seats and in the door panels.

Nissan/Infiniti has gone to great lengths to be the premier Japanese specialists in 360-degree camera views

Tech and safety

Infiniti answers the call once again in the tech department, revising many of the infuriating issues we noted in the old 2015 model. Those changes were supplemented by additional features like a premium Bose 15-speaker surround audio system, safety systems galore, and a theater package with wireless headphones. While almost all of the notable tech came from a quintet of package upgrades, with some of them running north of $7,000, almost everything tech-wise worked well.

Sonar sensing safety features can be toggled on/off with a button, along with variable cruise control and many other features

Tech pros and cons

+ With the appropriate tech packages added, safety-focused buyers get everything from intelligent cruise control and lane keep assistance, to 360-degree Around View monitoring and sonar systems for sensing the unseen.

+ Theater Package includes dual 8-inch screens in the front headrests, wireless remotes, headphones, and more, while the 15-speaker Bose audio upgrade offers outstanding sound.

+ Voice recognizing navigation, six months of complimentary Infiniti InTouch services, and three charging USB ports and two audio-focused USB ports are solid tech selling points.

– Popping in a fresh DVD for the kids requires putting the car in park, so the passenger can’t juggle movies while three interstate lanes deep. The accompanying wireless headphones also feel flimsy.

– The new 3D maps are better but still lag others like Audi. Also, the Around View cameras muddy easily, and the driver info display looks like it’s from 2007.

Memory focused seats, steering wheel setups, and side mirrors make swapping drivers a breeze in the 2017 QX60

The drive

Driving the new QX60 is like having a pillow fight with a dandelion and a kiddie pool full of Jello: There’s nothing here that will jar or scar you. Although its 20-inch alloys absorb bumps nicely and its independent front/multi-link rear suspension cause you to float around corners in a billowy manner, it’s by no means disconnected or overly twitchy. Infiniti has reportedly tweaked the QX60’s suspension to make it feel more planted than the old configuration, and while steering is definitely over-assisted, that should not be an issue for the kind of buyer this car is looking to entice.

Bored with plodding across parking lots in Normal mode? Click Sport setting and you’ll soon see why Infiniti opted to throw the latest Pathfinder’s powertrain at the equation. It launches off the line with more urgency than its 2.5-ton curb weight would have you believe, and at higher speeds, we noted that the comfy cabin almost felt like it was standing still due to ample amounts of sound deadening and the revised suspension setup.

This is a very cushy, practical, and pedestrian-friendly family car. Even though its lack of a more direct road feel will leave some buyers wanting, it handles far better than the previous generation. While Honda’s redesigned Pilot features terrain-specific traction settings, and the turbocharged Mazda CX-9 corners with nearly unparalleled acuteness, we find that the new QX60 plays a nice alternative, as it confidently supports driver enthusiasm while keeping the kids asleep. It may not be the final say in balanced SUV performance, but it certainly offers one hell of a comfortable ride and is an absolute breeze to drive.

With its resculpted body lines, fresh tech updates, and more potent V6, Infiniti's midsize SUV is better than ever before

Wrap up and review

Stepping out of the new QX60, it’s easy to see the direction in which the three-row SUV is headed, and despite a misstep or two, the 2017 QX60 seems to be on the path to becoming an outstanding SUV. It may not be as piercing to drive or as technologically advanced as the redesigned Audi Q7, but it certainly is more attractive and authoritative in its approach to drive-feel than ever before.

Nevertheless, this SUV still does have its obvious weaknesses, and with our QX60 costing over $10,000 more than its loaded and closely-related Pathfinder counterpart, we can foresee it being a bit of a tough sell regardless of how good it has gotten. It’s not hard to imagine buyers either leaning toward a fully optioned-out non-luxury alternative from Nissan or another automaker, or going all-out and dropping $70,000 on a top of the line Audi.

The QX60, despite its improvements, exists in a sort of awkward space that is being muscled in on by its own relatives and competition that is stronger than ever. Acura’s MDX has long reigned in the luxury three-row segment, and has kept it on the top of its game instead of resting on its laurels. To stand out, the QX60 needs to be ruthlessly engaging and cutting-edge by every measure, and it just isn’t. The good news is that it won’t disappoint. The bad? That there are many “what-ifs.”

(cheatsheet.com, https://goo.gl/GzA9DW)

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