Most people don’t know this, but a top-secret team of engineers and designers founded Infiniti in the 1980s, looking for ways to improve customer service. The creation of a performance luxury brand just so happened to be the most logical test subject: Code-named “Horizon Task Force,” this elite group formed back in 1985 during the peak of a joint venture between Nissan and famed actor and race car driver Paul Newman.
Instead taking the easy road, the Horizon Task Force did away with the common practice of slapping some power leather seats in a re-badged sedan in order to elevate its price tag. A car needed to be overhauled to the point where it set a benchmark for all to follow, and it demanded dealerships offer a purchase and ownership process that was impossible to beat.
Because many of the world’s most recognized luxury brands had already made their mark in the American market, Nissan admitted forming Infiniti was not only ambitious, it was “positively risky.” In order to compete with European and American luxury automakers, they couldn’t just load a Datsun with opulent amounts of leather and the latest cassette tape equalizer options. Infiniti needed an angle, and its super secret task force had a plan.
By 1989, Infiniti sales had officially begun with the Q45 sedan and the driver-oriented M30 coupe as the first two models. A decade later, sales were consistently at about 75,000 units a year. The SUV craze had given birth to a new breed of buyers, and they demanded something smaller, sportier, and more surefooted than the lumbering machines that had come prior. The CUV boom was officially underway, and Infiniti was right at the forefront on the luxury side with its FX crossover.
But times have changed, and the FX is no more. In its place resides the QX70, a V6-powered CUV with a plush interior and a potent drivetrain that offers enough amenities to make driving fun and incredibly comfortable. But it struggles to keep up with the times.
It’s an oddball automobile — a crossover that rests within the cracks formed around performance, luxury, and family-friendly ingenuity. Here’s why we love what the QX70 can offer buyers and the various ways we can see Nissan’s luxury brand bringing CUV appeal back to the forefront with the next major overhaul.
Infiniti has preserved many of the most appealing characteristics of the long-snouted FX for use in the QX70. But for as fetching as some of those lines are, it’s also one of the oldest horses in Infiniti’s stable. It deserves a fresh fascia in order to keep up with the competition. By selecting the $5,000 Limited Package, buyers get a unique front bumper, LED daytime running lights, 21-inch wheels, color-matched and fully functional fender vents, smoked rear taillights, and a clear center high-mounted lamp. It’s a unique-looking vehicle, especially in a Hagane Blue shade. But even with all these package perks, it seems a bit behind the times.
Exterior pros and cons
+ Broad-shouldered, well-stanced, and aggressively lined, the QX70 still strikes an imposing presence after all these years.
+ The rounded automatic liftgate, power-folding mirrors, and integrated roof rails are both pleasing to look at and practical.
+ Those 21-inch, multi-spoke alloy wheels, unique front bumper, integrated dual exhaust, stainless rear bumper protector, and body colored fender vents are all attractive and round out the car nicely.
– Virtually untouched since 2012, the QX70 features carryovers, such as those smoked altezza-style Euro taillights.
This 3.7-liter in the QX70 is the big-block of V6 Nissan options. Although it might not be Nissan’s latest and greatest, it features plenty of grunt both down low and up top and couples beautifully to the rev-matching 7-speed automatic transmission. Sporting Snow mode and Infiniti’s proven all-wheel drive system, it’s a strong and safe system, though it’s just as thirsty as it is throaty sounding. However, with Infiniti’s 400 horsepower, twin-turbo V6 offering considerably better fuel economy and more fun, we doubt this motor will be around when the next generation emerges.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ Strong and raucous, the 3.7-liter V6 generates 325 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of tire-churning twist.
+ Adaptive shift controlling 7-speed automatic mates to Infiniti’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system, which permits down-shift rev-matching for faster cornering.
+ Snow mode settings can be engaged on the fly, and despite some mild exhaust drone sounds, cruising is a smooth experience.
– Guzzling premium fuel to the tune of 18 miles per gallon on average scores the QX70 a 3/10 rating from the government for efficiency and greenhouse gases.
The interior of our loaded QX70 was spot on when it came to plush leather surfaces and spacious seating both front and rear. It offers a nice, if all but slightly peculiar cabin layout, complete with minimalist approach and contrasting colors all woven together with deep pillow quilting and contrast stitching.
Many of these upgrades are a part of the Limited Package, which gives buyers Graphite/Stone colored plush surfaces and high contrast door trim accents. The open-pore wood accents with all of the aluminum flake across the dash was a unique touch that might not be for everyone, whereas the blackened-out headliner is suave and elegant.
Interior pros and cons
+ Deeply quilted leather surfaces, heated and ventilated climate controlled seats, aluminum sport pedals, and two-tone interior accents all serve as luxurious selling points.
+ The power memory settings for steering column for two different drivers, one touch switches for sunroof and windows, sequential welcome lighting, 10-way power adjustable driver and 8-way passenger seats, and dual zone auto temp controls all add luxury cred.
+ The reclining backseat has multiple angles of adjustability, rear passengers get lots of legroom, and the front row offers plenty of space.
– Storage is an issue here. Rear cargo space is just 25 cubic feet (a Prius V offers close to 35), the center console is neither deep nor long, stow pockets are limited, and there are no cup holders in the doors.
– After some searching, we were able to determine that there is only one USB port in the entire vehicle, leaving the rear bench devoid of connectivity and charging options.
– If you have a small child and need to haul something long like skis at the same time, the QX70’s 60/40 split won’t be of much help. Because the split favors the passenger’s side, one must remove the car seat and then buckle the baby in behind the driver, thus making it more difficult to tend to them.
Tech and safety
The QX70 hits many of the right notes in the safety department, but like other Infiniti models that are long overdue for an update, it falters heavily when it comes to tech. Dated display graphics, small screens, infuriating input methods, and spotty connectivity tend to overshadow a lot of the potential this tech-heavy beast harbors. That’s especially true when compared to modern systems in competing models.
The 360-degree camera views and wheel-angle vantage points are great selling features. But outside of these features and moving object detection with sonar, the QX70 falls well short of modern expectations for autonomous safety technologies.
Tech and safety pros and cons
+ Wheel angle cameras and 360-degree views make a world of difference in tight parking spaces and when backing up.
+ Traffic, weather, Bluetooth streaming, an integrated CD/DVD player, Bose 11-speaker sound system, and vehicle schematics all make their mark.
+ Safety features include moving object detection, front and rear sonar, active head restraints, and a plethora of advanced airbags.
– That dated driver display doesn’t come close to offering the information or graphics being utilized nowadays by, well, everyone.
– The touchscreen controls are jumpy and frustrating to command, the center stack graphics look dated, and integrated apps are practically non-existent.
– QX70 does not come with blind spot monitoring, variable cruise control, collision warnings, or other common tech safety features.
– There’s no keyless rear entry, so you must either pull out your key fob or grab the front handle first and then the rear.
On the open road, the QX70 continues its win some, lose some approach by offering plenty of performance prowess on the powertrain end. But it skips town when it’s time to provide the same level of feedback from the steering column and brakes. The torque-vectoring drivetrain, thundering V6, and intelligent all-wheel drive inspire confidence all the way up. That’s until a tight turn appears, at which point both overly dainty electronic steering calibrations and brake responses leave you sweating.
It’s not an unnerving level of disconnect. But neither does it inspire one to take winding back roads in place of the interstate. There’s still plenty of fun to be had under full throttle, but handling and braking don’t match the level of connectivity and directness found in something like the Jaguar F-Pace.
As for cruising and calm commuting, the QX70 does a great job of playing the role of well-designed luxury machine. Road noise is muffled, bumps are notable but not jarring, and threading one’s way through traffic is right up there with the agility of vehicles a fraction of its size. It might occasionally take a moment for the 7-speed automatic to decide which gear it wants, but outside of needing some more effective brake compounds and more steering feedback, the QX70 still drives like a CUV with purpose.
After driving the QX70 for a week, we were left with sentiments that ran parallel to how we felt about the QX50 and QX60. All three of these vehicles offer many of the opulent amenities and V6 voraciousness that luxury buyers desire. But outside of a few updates, they’re all rather dated examples of what Infiniti is truly capable.
In order to compete with automakers, such as Jaguar, Audi, Lexus, and Land Rover, the powers that be over at Infiniti are already hard at work updating the entire lineup. This means all models will more than likely receive either the twin-turbo VR six-cylinder found in the Q50, or Nissan’s forthcoming adaptive four-cylinder, which tweaks compression ratios in order to offer V6 power with four-banger efficiency.
While we have difficulty imagining luxury buyers tripping over themselves to purchase the current QX70 (especially when it costs almost $60,000), we’re confident Infiniti will be armed with one heck of an overhaul in mind for the next generation. Buyers can opt for a more modern, complete luxury crossover from another brand now — or wait for the QX70 to hit its renaissance moment. It’s the age-old question often posed to children: Have this now, or something better later?
Maybe the guy behind the Nissan family curtain, Mr. Carlos Ghosn, was right all along when he decreed, “We will not try to be all things to all people, but everything to some people.”