Luxury niche labels of larger car makers walk a fine line between satisfying their bosses and living up to their names. Too approachable and they won’t feel special enough to enter the upper echelons; too much luxury and the cost of making them may outweigh the benefits. The Infiniti is one of the few brands that manages to navigate this tricky terrain, and the newest QX60 mid-size SUV is a fine example of this. A spacious cabin, well-tuned ride and diner-sized menu of features make the Infiniti a contender for the near-luxury SUV market, and while they’ve discontinued the hybrid model for 2018 the fuel economy is still admirable and makes the QX60 worth a look.
So what's the difference between a QX60 and a Pathfinder?
It's probably best to think of the QX60 as the Pathfinder's best self, like after it gets a movie style makeover and removes its glasses. It's still got a heart of gold and is whip-smart, but the QX60 gets a bit more refinement both regarding performance and aesthetics. Regarding the exterior, the Pathfinder retains a bit more of the bulbous shape that makes it so easily identifiable as a family-friendly vehicle, and the interior materials veer more towards leather and wood in the QX60 where they opt for plastic in the Pathfinder. Though they've pared down both the QX60 and the pathfinder to a single 3.5 liter V-6 CVT powertrain, there is considerably more torque in the Infiniti, and this does help to make that ride feel smoother and more luxurious. Add to this the drive mode selections that the QX60 offers and you'll feel a difference between the two models beyond the price tag.
So where did the hybrid go?
The simple answer is that the QX60's hybrid option, which was always on order anyhow, never really clicked with the market and sales just couldn't justify continuing production. It's rather a chicken and egg kind of story: did the hybrid not sell well because it wasn't stocked, or was it not stocked because it didn't sell? Regardless of the cause, it did always feel like the QX60 hybrid model was a token offering, to show that Nissan was thinking about the hybrid market and using it as a placeholder to make sure that they remained part of the conversation. It's a shame as well because the hybrid got good reviews from otherwise picky drivers, but it's mileage gains were always smaller than other hybrids which are hard to overlook in a pricey investment. Perhaps this was a test run for a nextgen hybrid?
Is fuel economy still alright?
Mid-size SUV's are not known for their fuel economy, and the QX60 remains competitive within this class. The 3.5 liter V-6 comes in front or all-wheel drive options, and both models have nearly identical scores: 20/27/22 for the front wheel drive, and 19/26/22 for the all-wheel drive. It should be noted by prospective buyers, however, that the QX60 only takes premium fuel and so there may be an additional cost associated with that. Considering this in conjunction with the sometimes too soft ride may make some buyers opt for a diesel SUV or one with a bigger powertrain, but for those who live in places where gas prices don't fluctuate too terribly, this is probably a decent result.
What about cabin and interior features?
In keeping with its luxury rep, the QX60 has a full battery of features available with many of them standard (though those with deeper pockets will find that there are a good deal more options to be had if you're willing to pay for them). The most basic package comes with 18-inch wheels, a moonroof, adjustable heated front seats, keyless entry and ignition, front and rear view cameras, Bluetooth connectivity and an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen. Upgrading to the Platinum package gets you things like Memory driver's seats, and a further hike to the Platinum Plus package includes features like rain-sensing windshield wipers. The cabin itself shares much in common with the Pathfinder, and a keen eye will find the same plastic dashboard in both cars. Still, for the lower end of the luxury set, there's a lot to appreciate in the QX60, and the spaciousness of the interior sets it apart from other vehicles.
Exactly how many safety packages and options are available?
The QX60 is, on its own, a nearly indestructible piece of metal: in overall crash tests, it scored five stars with a Superior rating in front crash prevention. However, safety packages inside the car don't come standard, and they don't come cheap. Getting the top of the line safety features installed can run into the thousands of new car buyers, and many of the features come standard from car makers like Toyota. If you do opt for the Advanced Safety package, look for features like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear parking sensors with brake intervention, blind spot warning and intervention, and predictive frontal collision warning which can actually detect if several cars ahead of you are slowing down. It may not come cheap but it is some of the most interesting safety techs out there, and while the QX60 might not be able to tick all of the boxes for luxury car buyers, there's a lot in there to think about.