2017 Infiniti QX70 AWD Limited
A standout SUV that deserves your attention
When its predecessor and this second-generation model were created in 2002 and 2009 respectively, Infiniti followed all premium “rules” to a tee and then some, while most competitors took the cheaper, easier route of basing their luxury branded SUVs on mainstream mid-size family sedans. The original QX70 was formed on the back of the Q60 sports coupe’s predecessor, which continues to share underpinnings with Nissan’s 370Z sports car, and in essence became the industry’s first sport utility coupe, much to BMW’s disagreement.
On that note I’m a fan of this unusual class of SUV, and still lamenting the loss of Acura’s quirky ZDX while concerned the X6 will soon follow suit if sales remain as poor as they are. BMW sold just 7,117 examples of the current second-gen X6 last year, while Infiniti was close behind with 6,261 QX70s. Unfortunately Mercedes doesn’t separate sales of its new GLE Coupe from the more upright GLE, so we can’t tell you if it’s flying out the door or floundering, but it likely did better last year than Acura’s best-ever 3,259 ZDX sales in 2010, so it’s probably here to stay (for awhile anyway).
If you’re thinking QX70 numbers are low, take a look at the same class of four-door sedan and you’ll quickly see that even these slow-selling SUVs are doing significantly better, with Infiniti’s Q70 luxury sedan finding just 5,872 buyers last year, Lincoln’s Continent a mere 5,261 (although it only came out in September) and the MKS 4,951, Porsche’s Panamera with 4,403 deliveries, all three BMW 6 Series models that could only find 3,947 buyers, Volvo’s new S90 at just 2,756 units after a partial year albeit the outgoing S80 at just 644, and Acura’s RLX a mere 1,478 units, while the QX70 also outsold the new Genesis G80 at 6,166 units and was very close to the Audi A7 at 6,558, and Jaguar at 6,665. I must say the sporty Infiniti SUV is starting to look like a rarified success right about now, isn’t it?
On thing’s for sure, at six years since its mid-cycle update and nine since this second-gen version arrived it’s certainly paid for itself, and being that it’s a relative rarity on the road it still looks new and fresh, at least to my eyes. It helps that Infiniti pushed the styling limits when it debuted, and that it’s first mild makeover made it look even better than new. First makeover?
Yes, few vehicles get two mid-cycle updates within a model lifecycle, but Infiniti has smartly given the QX70 a subtle refresh for 2017. While only the grille and front fascia are affected the changes make a big difference, with the double-arched grille insert going from four chromed strakes to a nice glossy dark gray metallic mesh, and the lower fascia totally renewed with horizontal LED fog lamps replacing the big chrome-ringed ovals, plus a sharp looking metallic undertray spanning the space in between. Together with two of the most uniquely shaped headlamp clusters in the industry, four of the most beautiful pewter-gray multi-spoke 21-inch alloys in existence, stylish dark clear lensed LED taillights, and two fat tailpipes poking out of a matte black diffuser-style rear bumper cap, this QX70 is a formidable looking sport utility, with the emphasis clearly on sport.
The 21-inch wheels, revised front fascia, and dark-tint taillights are actually part of a completely new Limited package, the more basic QX70 models sticking with smaller rims and the old round fogs embedded within a matte black lower fascia panel. Additional Limited upgrades include body-color fender vents on the outside, and absolutely stunning two-tone black and light “stone” gray diamond-quilted upholstery inside. Really, my QX70 Limited tester had me hot and flustered at first sight, a good thing that its perforated hides can be cooled by forced ventilation, while its similarly quilted black leather door inserts and center armrest, stunning open-pore hardwood inlays, and eye-arresting aluminum flake detailing had me in awestruck adoration during the entire test.
Truly, it’s hard to imagine something that looks so aggressively sculpted and overtly muscular from the outside being so luxuriously refined inside, but Infiniti has taken the QX70 Limited to new limits, so to speak. I’m not going to pretend it’s as up-to-date as the Germans when it comes to electronics, this a weak spot that I might as well get out of the way immediately. While the Japanese luxury brand pulls no punches when it comes to Bentley-esque luxury, with most areas not already surfaced in leather, wood, piano black lacquer or metal, finished in high-quality soft synthetics, but it suffers from yesteryear’s primary gauge cluster and infotainment interface.
Ahead of the driver is a classic two-dial gauge package that admittedly still looks good thanks to backlit electroluminescent meters, but its small, monochromatic trip computer won’t win anyone over who’s ever used any sort of smartphone. The infotainment system on the center stack is comparatively well done, with generally appealing graphics, good crisp definition, nice depth of color and contrast, and decent functionality. It features navigation, an excellent backup camera that splits the screen into a rearward view on the left and overhead view on the right, both providing dynamic guidelines for visible parking assist. The system is missing some features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it should suffice for the majority of infotainment requirements, while the controls just below are nicely laid out with large quick-access buttons and a sharp looking knurled metal edged rotating controller at center.
The fact that my eyes more readily landed on the analog clock just below says a lot, however, about my love of horology and the QX70’s link to the past, its unique elliptical case shape reminiscent of Davidoff’s “Very Zino” collection of well-made albeit unorthodox mechanical watches. Really, Infiniti should consider a co-branded effort with Davidoff, as the two brands are comparative startups when placed beside industry stalwarts such as Mercedes-Benz and Rolex, plus their wonderfully individualistic designs and impressive build quality would be a good match.
On that note some of the QX70’s knobs and switches could use an upgrade. Their quality is fine, as is their tightness and general damping, but in a market that’s using ever more jeweled metals like the infotainment controller above, simple round rubberized knobs don’t give off the level of premium pampering expected in the class.
Many of the segment’s expected features are present with the well-priced $45,850 base model, including auto on/off HID headlights, proximity-sensing access, pushbutton ignition, stainless steel treadplates, power-folding heatable side mirrors with courtesy lights, speed-sensitive variable-intermittent flat-blade wipers, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual-zone auto climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated garage door opener, a rearview camera, 11-speaker Bose audio with satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, a powered USB port, leather upholstery, heatable eight-way powered front seats with two-way driver’s lumbar, a powered glass sunroof, a powered liftgate, a retractable cargo cover, a cargo net, and more standard.
A $4,300 Premium package adds a larger 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation and XM NavTraffic, voice recognition, the 360-degree parking monitor with moving object detection, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth streaming audio, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, memory for both front occupants, aluminum roof rails, and more, while the $3,550 Sport package adds a different set of 21-inch wheels, the climate-controlled front seats noted earlier, aluminum foot pedals, a black headliner, and more, all of which are pulled up to the Limited package, although specific to the Sport are cornering headlights with auto-leveling, exclusive front sport seats with manual thigh extensions, four-way powered side bolster-adjustment for the driver’s seat, and plenty of dark exterior trim.
Items unique to $5,000 Limited package include the richer “deep pillow” quilted two-tone upholstery with stone-gray contrast stitching and piping, all the interior and exterior details already noted, a clear-lens high mount stop lamp (CHMSL), a stainless steel rear bumper protector, and more.
Lastly, a $3,350 Technology package for Sport and Limited trims adds cornering headlights with auto-leveling, adaptive cruise control with full-speed range, rain-sensing wipers, intelligent brake assist with forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention, and front pre-crash seatbelts. Still, together with the previously noted electronic omissions a fully loaded QX70 lacks a number of now common top-tier features such as full LED headlamps with auto high beams, rear seat heaters, a nice large panoramic sunroof, and enough active safety kit to earn it Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS.
It’s certainly not missing out on power, however, the QX70’s standard engine a 3.7-liter V6 good for 325 horsepower, although its 267 lb-ft of torque seems a bit low compared to most of the segment’s turbocharged powertrains. Infiniti could remedy this shortcoming with its new twin-turbo 3.0-liter that’s already tuned to achieve 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque in top trim, this potentially silencing QX70 fans missing the 390 horsepower 5.0-liter V8 that was discontinued for the 2015 model year, but so far no news on adapting the new powertrains to this aging model. For this reason the QX70 remains less fuel-efficient than it could be at 16 mpg city, 22 highway and 18 combined.
As it is the QX70 feels plenty energetic out on the road, with its $1,800 optional ATTESA ET-S (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain with Electronic Torque Split) all-wheel drive system, first developed for the Skyline GT-R that has since transformed into the all-conquering Godzilla (aka GT-R), also a Nissan FM (front-midships) rear-wheel drive platform like the QX70. ATTESA ET-S apportions torque to the wheels with the best traction, with up to 50-percent of twist going to the front wheels when needed. Thanks to not locking torque to the front wheels, so-equipped QX70s perform like the rear-wheel drive sports utes they inherently are, so therefore it’s very entertaining through the corners.
That’s where its impressive seven-speed automatic comes into play, the only transmission of its type to incorporate Adaptive Shift Control (ASC) and Drive Sport (DS) mode with Downshift Rev Matching (DRM), the latter technology automatically synchronizing engine revs to a chosen lower gear in order to ideally mesh the two together, similar to how a driving pro blips the throttle while downshifting a manual gearbox ahead of a curve. The result is superior control that doesn’t need much if any direct engagement by the driver, a good thing as Infiniti neglected to include the solid magnesium paddle shifters from the Sport package on this Limited version. Just put it in Drive and the gearbox selects the engine’s ideal sweet spot every time, the rewarding driveline nicely supported by the rest of the QX70’s fully independent double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension hardware, with stabilizer bars at both ends, electronic traction and stability systems, highly reactive vehicle-speed-sensitive power steering, big 12.6-inch front and 12.1-inch rear ventilated discs, and of course those big 265/45R21 V-rated all-seasons at each corner that do as much for handling as they do for braking.
This is an SUV that sport sedan fans will feel right at home in, the seating position even finding a happy medium between taller utes and lower-slung cars resulting in outward visibility that’s similar to the former and road-holding that’s more akin to the latter. OK, rear visibility is more sports coupe-like due to narrow tapering rear quarter windows and relatively small black glass, but it’s an SUC after all, the QX70 providing better all-round visibility than others in this class.
It’s a bit short on rear cargo space, mind you, but once again only when compared to conventional five-passenger SUVs. The numbers read 24.8 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split second row, which is a helluvalot more capacity than a Q60 or any other type of sports coupe, and nearly twice as much as an equivalent sport sedan, while none of the above can hope to measure up to the QX70’s 62.0 cubic feet of available hauling space when those seats are laid flat. The X6, for instance, provides just 20.5 cubic feet behind its more versatile 40/20/40-split rear seats and 53.8 cubic feet when they’re tumbled forward, and the newer GLE Coupe only does slightly better with 23.0 cubic feet and 60.7 cubic feet respectively, so the QX70 is the clear winner here.
The rear seating area plays out in a similar scenario, being slightly smaller than conventional SUVs and similar if not larger than its more coupe-like competitors, especially when it comes to rear headroom. When the driver’s seat was positioned for my five-foot-eight frame I had about five inches in front of my knees and a good five-to-six above my head, while there was plenty of space from side to side. Additionally there was easily enough room for three across, because the center position wasn’t raised too high, the QX70 being a true five-seater. There’s still a tunnel down the middle of the floor due to the central driveshaft, but it’s not too wide and was therefore plenty comfortable in back no matter the seating position.
As you can probably tell I love this iconic road warrior, and I really like what Infiniti has done with this top-line Limited edition. I think they should have included some of the features standard with the Sport package, particularly the paddle shifters, but as noted the transmission does an excellent job of picking the right shift points all on its own and the shift lever offers manual control if you prefer taking over, while combining Sport and Limited upgrades would increase the asking price beyond its very reasonable starting point. In comparison the X6 and GLE Coupe start at $15,550 and $23,800 more respectively and quickly grow much higher when adding similar features to the QX70, making this Infiniti a much better value.
Of course, that’s nothing new, the Japanese brand normally priced much more competitively than its German and even Japanese competitors. If you want something truly different and plenty exclusive, that’ll make peoples’ heads turn as you drive by, the new QX70 Limited is a standout SUV that deserves your attention.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press