QX50 crossover keeps Infiniti in the game, begs for update

2016 Infiniti QX50
2016 Infiniti QX50

Infiniti has tried hard to get its mojo back.
Introduced the same year as Lexus, the company bolted on the scene with the Q45, a stunning piece that gave Jaguar a serious challenge. It hasn’t had a big sedan that adventurous since, probably because it’s more concerned with trucks and crossovers.
That’s not a big problem since the company’s crossovers and trucks are pretty good.
The QX50 is one of those crossovers. It started as the FX35 back in 2008 and looks pretty much the same. As a 2016 it has gained more backseat room – a generous 4.3 inches – and a few cosmetic changes.
What is carried over is the glorious V6. The engine’s 325 horsepower makes this handsome crossover feel like a sport’s car. Put your foot in the accelerator and you get rewarded with an adrenaline rush. the QX50 scoots. The rear wheel driven vehicle pushes itself around corners with authority. Push a little harder and the QX starts eating up pavement with a quickness. The brakes scrub off speed quickly and the steering is spot on. Infiniti’s knack for building something interesting to drive is in tact.
The ride is surprisingly comfortable considering the vehicle’s sporting prowess. It’s taught, but not jittery. Really rough pavement may upset things, but it never seemed out matched.
The QX50’s star begins to dim once you park. The interior could use a complete redo. The look is still luxury, just not as up to date. Everything feels expensive, but a little dated. The stitching on the leather hood shrouding the gauges is a nice touch.

Understated luxury yet still functional dash
Understated luxury yet still functional dash

The Qx’s best feature isn the engine, which is also its worst. It is powerful, but thirsty. Twenty miles per gallon overall is the best you will get. Even Infiniti says you will spend $3,500 more in fuel over five years than if you bought something similar from another company. Also, the 118 cubic foot trunk doesn’t hold much.
At $34,450, the QX50 isn’t too expensive, if you like the base model. Infiniti offers a bunch of packages to boost your equipment, but that’s not cheap. My test vehicle had technology, premium, premium plus and deluxe touring packages. it also had illuminated kick plates.
All those packages gave the vehicle everything except all-wheel-drive and rear-seat entertainment.
The price jumped as well. With destination, the as-tested price was $43,535. To be fair, that included premium equipment that included navigation, Bose stereo, smart cruise control, 19-inch wheels, wood accents, leather seating surfaces, lane departure warning, adaptive front lighting and Sirius/XM.
There are Acuras, BMWs and Lexi for that price, more or less, and several domestics. The BMW will out drive it and the Acura can haul more stuff. Still, he Infiniti offers a strong engine, good looks and quality craftsmanship. it deserves a very hard look.


QX56 is spacious, comfortable Infiniti offering

2013 Infiniti QX56

There are large luxury SUVs and then there’s the Infiniti QX56 which tips the scales on the gigantic side.

There’s probably bigger. Caddy’s Escalade comes in a Suburban length version but somehow this QX56 comes across more massive. You have to step up into this thing and it feels really wide.

Well, it is really wide. It’s also a very well appointed thing, too.

Family grille adds class to Armada like body

The body is about the size of Nissan’s Armada, which came first. Infiniti added some curvy fenders and its familiar grille and came up with this beast.

Infiniti did a lot more than that. There’s plenty to differentiate the QX from the Armada and I’ll get to most of that.

The interior is one of the most comfortable places I’ve been. Luxury touches abound. The leather seats are butter soft and really gorgeous to look upon. The dash and the majority of the interior is covered, trimmed or touched with wood, leather and metal. Seven adults will find this seating comfortable and easy to access, even the third row.

The front seats are heated, have lumbar support and adjust in several different directions.The leather wrapped steering wheel is heated. The huge moonroof can be opened with a touch. The climate control unit has three independent zones.

Once you have buckled up, push the start button and listen to the faint rumble of a 5.6-liter direct injected V8. I say faint because the cabin is so well isolated you feel the engine more than you hear. Those 400 horses and 417 pounds feet of torque are more than enough to move this big boy with authority. The seven speed transmission can be engaged manually if you like. If not, the automatic mode works just fine. It matches revs with downshifts which makes things go a lot smoother.

Smooth is what you will call the ride, which is surprising considering this is a four wheel drive vehicle. Bumps and thumps are well isolated due in part to the hydraulic body motion control. It isolates the body from bad road surfaces as well as helping the vehicle stay level during cornering. True to the Infiniti hype, the truck does feel more like a sedan.

Seven seating arrangement can be stretched to eight with bench option

You’ll always be reminded this is a truck. The commanding driving position, the towering step up entrance and the panoramic view of the road is not available in any sedan. This is an imposing truck that is relatively easy to drive.

This vehicle is also easy to love. My test vehicle included a theater package with video screens in the middle seat headrests and heated second row seats. The technology package featured blind spot warning, lane departure warning and prevention, forward collision warning, intelligent brake assist, distance control, intelligent cruise control and adaptive front lighting with auto leveling. The deluxe touring package included a 15-speaker digital Bose stereo system, hydraulic body motion control, climate controlled front seats, headlight washers and upgraded leather seats. The standard 20-inch wheel package was upgraded to 22-inch, 9-spoke alloy wheels with all-season tires.

With destination, my as-tested price came to $78,140. Costly, but luxury vehicles don’t come cheap these days. This vehicle is also aimed at the well-heeled crowd. They should like it a great deal.



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2013 Escalade offers luxury; new model prepped

I didn’t know Cadillac still made an Escalade so imagine my delight when rolled up for review at alldaytech.com.

2013 Cadillac Escalade

Yes, the Escalade was once the luxury item to have. Athletes, actors, rappers and anyone who wanted to be seen as chic drove an Escalade. It wasn’t the first, but it eventually snatched the premium SUV title from Lincoln’s Navigator (it’s still around).

You can also argue that the Escalade is the vehicle that put Caddy on its current path. It was now hip to drive a Cadillac, which inspired the company to turn out more hip vehicles.

It’s not that the current Escalade is a dinosaur, there’s so much more competition. Every   luxury brand has a big, comfy premium SUV. The Caddy is unchanged from last year while others have been updated or radically changed.

There are still many reasons to buy an Escalade. It’s certainly still iconic. Nothing looks like an Escalade. That big shield of a grille put the b in bling. The body has a few of the character lines of the some of Caddy’s current lineup but it essentially a Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon.

The interior is certainly more high end that its sister trucks. Leather, wood and premium knobs and switches help make this upscale. The gauge cluster is a bit dated, but still tasteful. The leather is soft and the wood is real.

There’s a huge amount of room for driver and second row passengers. The big seats are comfortable on long trips, offering the kind of comfort you expect. The third row of seats is cramped even for kids. If you need the space for storage, the seats have to come out.

Interior a little dated but still elegant.

Performance specs for the Escalade are not bad. The 6.2-liter V8 makes 403 horsepower and 417 pounds-feet of torque. Zero to sixty is in the high six-second range but you pay a price with poor fuel economy. The Escalade gets 14 mil city and 18 mpg highway.

The ride is smooth and controlled. The standard magnetic ride control really soaks up bumps but balances that with solid cornering and handling, It’s no sport’s sedan but this big truck is no slouch.

My test model was a premium, one step up from the luxury model. There is a long list of standard equipment but the premium distinguishes itself from the luxury model by making rear seat entertainment, retractable running boards and body colored trim, painted wheels and dual exhaust tips.

At $72,670, this SUV offers a lot. Lexus, Mercedes, Infinity and Porsche offer more modern beasts, but Caddy isn’t worried. There will be no 2014 Escalade but a new one debuts in 2015 sometime next year. That’s going to be a very interesting year for big trucks.




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Caddy’s ATS is one special sports sedan

Well, well, what’s this? Cadillac makes a serious push into the luxury compact sedan segment.

Yes, that’s right. If you haven’t heard, the ATS is the real deal. It’s done so right that Audi, BMW Lexus and Infiniti need to take notice.

The ATS is so strong it was voted automobile of the year at the North American Auto show a few months back. After sampling a couple of these beauties I have to say the folks in Detroit got it right.

The ATS is a striking design in its interior and exterior execution. The car’s front is exceptionally aggressive, with a massive grille, sleek headlamps and a long, slopped hood. The body is a wicked wedge shape that flows into a square back that’s neatly finished.

2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Cadillac ATS

The interior is elegant and ultra modern. The gauge cluster is bright and can be configured to display several different functions. The steering wheel has a plethora of buttons which duplicate controls from the center stack. It’s also heated.

Let’s talk about that center stack. Both cars I drove had the CUE system (Cadillac User Experience). It replaces most of the car’s function buttons with a touch screen that acts like a tablet. It responds to swipes, pinches, pokes and any other thing you do to an iPad or Surface. Not a bad idea because many people have such devices, but the response time is a tad slow and, well, I prefer buttons. In time I think the system will be fine.

The rest of the interior is full of wood, metal and copious amounts of leather crafted as well as any of the competition. Space is a premium, but you can fit five adults in relative comfort. It would be best that each likes the other a lot, especially in the rear.

All occupants will appreciate the car’s driving dynamics. Steering, handling and braking are excellent. You feel this car and you love what it’s doing.

If you opt for the turbocharged four cylinder engine you’ll the car feels a bit lighter on its feet. The 272 horsepower engine makes the car seem to react quicker – as if its had a few energy drinks.

Go for the six-cylinder performance model and the car feels completely different. Power is increased to 321 horses and torque jumps to 274 pounds-feet. The car feels more planted and bullish. The car’s view on life seems to be it’s a hammer and the rest of the world’s a nail. It’s not brutish, just beastly.

A six-speed transmission is mated to either engine. It slices through its gears with precision and finesse. You can shift manually, but it does its job so well that you may never bother sampling the option.

The rear is nicely finished
The rear is nicely finished

Speaking of options, both models were well equipped. The CUE system, navigation, Bose surround audio, Sirius and HD radio, power package, heated steering wheel, anti lock brakes, remote start, head-up display and premium paint jobs are part of a long list of standard and optional equipment.

The biggest difference between the two cars is that the six-cylinder was all-wheel drive and the turbo was rear-wheel. Both cars were north of $50,000, which is about average with the competition. The Caddy does seem to deliver more bang for the buck and it is one of the most handsome cars on the road. I don’t have a preference over engines. The turbo is more fuel efficient, but uses premium gas. Ironically, the V-6 can get by on regular.

The ATS is certainly something Cadillac should be proud. This car puts the company squarely back in the game, possibly even ahead of the game. All other makes have reason to rethink current and coming product.

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Infiniti JX35 SUV is well crafted, balanced effort

2013 Infiniti JX35
2013 Infiniti JX35

The luxury SUV market is saturated with good product. Big behemoths filled with leather, wood, fancy entertainment systems and big engines that whisk you down the road with very little fanfare.

So how do you make your product stand out among the crowd? Add a bit more polish, little more leather, more horsepower? That works, but what works even better is to make the overall package feel so integrated and satisfying that, well,  just works.

That’s what Infiniti has done with the JX35. It also helps that it doesn’t look like anything else.

That may be the most controversial element of the JX35 – the styling. Some have scoffed at its crossover looks. The JX is slimmer than most SUVs and looks a bit longer. It’s not quite mini van proportions but certainly not a wide body. Well, it is technically a crossover, sitting on a modified Nissan Murano platform.

It certainly is roomy. The JX seats seven comfortably. The middle and rear row of seats recline. The second row will recline an impressive six inches. Getting in the rear is easier than most vehicles of this type and the room is good for medium to tall folks.

The interior is lavish, especially if you doll the thing up with almost every option. The pillowy leather seats are comfy and can be heated and cooled in front and middle. The front seats feel great and give you a great view. The dash is modern and appealing with some touches from the M sedan. The video screens in the front headrests are not only cool, but the picture is really sharp.

Cabin is roomy
Cabin is roomy

There is a lot more to be desired in the JX. Wood, leather and metal are used in such an artistic manner that it nearly puts other Infiniti’s to shame. There is much standard equipment but options will give you nearly the kitchen sink.

Some may be disappointed with the JX’s performance. The engine is a a 3.5-liter V6 which produces 265 and 248 pounds-feet of torque. That is enough to get the slippery vehicle to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds. There are plenty of V8 powered vehicles that can zip past the JX but it will at least get better fuel economy while getting beaten. I didn’t find the performance sluggish, but the continuously variable transmission wasn’t perfect. It could be set to react like a regular gearbox but a genuine 7-speed transmission would be neat.

Dash borrows from M sedan
Dash borrows from M sedan

The JX’s handling abilities were OK, but it’s ride quality was exceptional. There is a slight trade off – it could handle better if the suspension wasn’t so soft – but for me it feels right. I like being carried about in limo style sometimes.

Once past the middling performance you have to deal with the options. They are plentiful, but vexing. Some packages require other packages, which may not be compatible with the package you really want. Warning: Once you experience this thing nearly optioned out, it will be hard to want something less. Try a couple of vehicles with lesser equipment before going for the top dog.

One of the more interesting options is lane departure warning and prevention. Just as a number of vehicles this feature warns if you cross over into the next lane. Unlike other vehicles the JX will apply the brakes. It does the same in the blind spot warning and intervention option. If it senses a car (or person, I think) while backing up you get a warning and the brakes.

My vehicle had five packages (technology, theatre, deluxe touring, premium and tow) and roof rails which totaled nearly $14,000.

My $40,450 vehicle mushroomed to $54,700 which included destination.

Yes, that’s on the expensive side but your money will be well spent. This is a rolling tour de force of technology and luxury that will please the seven folks you carry beyond words.


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Stealthy Maxima still Nissan’s top offering

Nissan Maxima

I once thought Nissan should drop the Maxima. What’s the point? The Altima is nearly the same size, is cheaper and is nearly identical in look.

So I thought.

I changed my mind when I drove a Maxima recently. The Altima is a very good family sedan. The Maxima is a nearly great four door sports car.

Nissan still markets the Maxima as such. The 4DSC stickers are still on the rear windows, nearly hidden though. I guess to keep the car’s stealth demeanor.

Once you press the gas pedal the stealth attitude disappears. The Maxima snaps to life with brisk take off and just a hint of torque steer. The steering is light and precise and the chassis seems willing to take whatever you want to give.

Take it on the highway and the car is whisper quiet. It will eat up a great deal of pavement quickly. You can get to 60 mph in a scant 6.2 seconds, which will just about dust every entry level luxury sedan out there. Those 290 horses are ready to run. Find stretches of road which switch from straight to curvy and the Maxima will put a big grin on your face. Braking, steering, accelerating – the Maxima does all this adroitly while delivering 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway.

Not bad for something that passes itself off as a near luxury sedan. Heck, It would be easy to throw the Maxima into the Infiniti mix were it not for the delicious G37. It’s about the size of a Maxima but is built better, is driven by its rear wheels and has a longer warranty.

This may be the Maxima’s biggest problem – its identity. What is it, really? Should it be an Infiniti or should it stay Nissan’s top offering? It certainly seems it could handle both.

OK, back to reality. This is a Nissan, no question. Infiniti has what it needs. Nissan needs this comely sedan, if nothing else to remind us why so many people bought Nissans in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Maxima’s and Z cars gave the company its heritage as well as those fuel-frugal Sentras. The Maxima is fine where it is.

Spacious interior a plus for Maxima

It’s still a looker. The wide body and sculpted fenders make the car look fast. The interior is tasteful and offers luxury car touches. The top Maxima, the SV, starts at $34,450. There is a plethora of standard equipment, including the venerable 3.5-liter V6, but my test car was loaded to the gills with extra stuff. The Monitor package gives you a lovely 7-inch color touch screen with a backup camera and iPod connectivity. The Sports package adds the 19-inch smoke grey wheels, firmer suspension, rear bucket seats, driver’s side seat memory, heated leather steering wheel, paddle shifters and heated leather seats. The Sport Technology package adds voice activated navigation and XM radio with data services.

Throw all that into your calculator and you get an as-tested price of $40,055. You can get into many entry level cars from almost every big luxury name plate at that price. True, but that’s not stopping the Maxima from being worth this cash if that’s what you are looking for.


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Infiniti M37 sedan balances sport, comfort

2012 Infiniti M37 Sedan

Combining sporty handling and a luxurious ride is a difficult thing. The idea is to establish a balance that will please those looking for both in their automotive choice.

It is nearly impossible to do, however. You either get something that’s too cushy or too stiff. Can’t please everyone, right?

No, you can’t. But there are a few who will live with a moderately stiff ride for a car that isn’t afraid to carve up the road.

If you are that breed of driving enthusiast, I introduce to you the Infiniti M37. Your search for such a car is over.

Personally I don’t think the M37 rides hard, which is probably why I like BMWs so much. If you’re looking for a Lincoln Town Car-style float, walk past the M37 briskly. You won’t get that here.

What you will get is a vehicle with finely tuned braking, handling, steering and accelerating. This is a beast that offers a taut and firm ride sure to put a huge grin on your face as you attack whatever road you approach. Twists and turns? Not a problem. Long stretches of empty, straight road? You. Will. Love. It.

The M37 puts its 420 horsepower V8 to good use. Sixty miles per hour is easily reached in 5.2 seconds. Getting to more than twice that speed and cruising is effortless, thanks to a superbly geared six-speed automatic that slices through its settings with the accuracy of a surgeon. There are four settings: sport, normal, snow and eco. When you want to conserve fuel, the eco setting gives you feedback at the pedal, which cause you to back off the gas a bit.

This car loves to run, but it will not beat you up in the process. Yes, the balance is more toward sport than comfort but that’s not to say this car isn’t comfortable. It is–and it’s quiet, too. The air conditioner cools in eerie silence. The advanced A/C also even includes a forest setting that simulates a breeze blowing through the trees. There is much more, including an active lane departure which nudges you back onto your side of the road if you start to drift.

Infiniti didn’t skimp on any aspect of this car. The exterior is muscular, to the point of being ripped. An optional interior package gets you get enough metal and silver-infused real wood in the interior to please the most opulent buyer. There is plenty of room for five and the trunk can hold nearly 15 cubic feet of stuff.

The mix of standard equipment and options is dizzying. My test car had everything but all wheel drive. Buttery soft leather, power rear sunshade, moonroof, 16 – speaker Bose system, navigation, satellite radio, adaptive cruise control, 20-inch chrome wheels and active lane departure were among the major features.

There are other similarly sporty cars on the market. A few cost less (Hyundai Genesis R.Spec) but a lot cost more (take your pick from Asia or Europe). None  strike this balance at this price, which is well past $60,000.

I think Infiniti got it right. This car makes no apologies to any of its rivals for being what it is.

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Genesis R-Spec Sedan Is Special Indeed

Genesis R-Spec at Charleston Place hotel

Charleston, SC — My, how the fallen have become mighty. Hyundai’s also-ran status from the ‘90s has quickly turned into try to keep up with us in this century.

The company has turned out one success after another and isn’t slowing down. Even with new product in the pipeline it has had time to revise and refine offerings that are barely in mid-life status.

Yep, the Genesis — a luxury sedan that competes with cars far more expensive — has been tweaked. It’s also added a new model, the R-Spec, which adds revs and speed to a classy sedan.

There are now three Genesis Sedan models. There’s the base 3.8-liter V6 model that has three trim levels. There are two V8s: A 4.6 liter which is a carry-over from last year. The 5.0-liter has 429 horses and a revised suspension for a sportier feel.

All Genesis sedans get a slight facelift. The front grill and bumper are revised and the bumper gets new chrome treatment. The headlamps are more squinty with daytime running lights and LED accents. The outside mirrors are more elegant and have a motorized fold feature.

The rear is more square and elegant, looking very BMWish. The taillights are combination units and the rear bumper is stubbier with integrated dual exhaust tips.d Both 17-inch and 19-inch wheels are new as well.

It’s the R-Spec that got my attention. Hyundai has crafted a 5.0-liter engine that’s smooth and responsive, yet can return 16 city and 25 miles p

er gallon on the highway. Impressive for a 429 horsepower engine with 376 pounds-feet of torque. Hyundai achieves this in par

Spacious and luxurious interior is inviting

t by direct injection which it uses in all it’s engines. This beauty can scoot to 60 in 5.1 seconds, according to Hyundai.

I don’t doubt that claim. Riding around Charleston over hill and dale (and lots and lots of bridges) was exhilarating. A light tap of the gas and the car whisks off without much drama. The transmission slices through its eight (8) gears with precision and authority. The Shiftronic feature allows you pick your own gears. Kick downs seemed drama free and the cabin was absent of all noise.

Handling of the R-Spec is far much more aggressive than the 4.6 I also drove. It gets a lightweight 19 mm hollow-type rear stabilizer bar and higher front and rear spring rates. The shocks have been upgraded to Sachs ASDs that give a 25-30 percentage higher damping rate. This reduces body roll, increases stability, improves front and rear balance and allows faster turn-ins.

Does all that make this a sports car? Depends on who’s sport’s car you compare it with. I don’t think it’s quite an Audi or a BMW, but it’s more aggressive than the aging Lexus GS and ES sedans and maybe the Infiniti M sedan. It is certainly sporty on challenging roads. Steering, braking and handling never seem to come undone.

What this car has all over those is that it’s close enough in performance but nowhere near the price. The R-Spec cost $47,350. That includes destination and everything else. There’s no optional equipment. If the company has left out something major I didn’t notice.

People who buy the Genesis may first go after it for the bargain that it is but will quickly realize that Hyundai has got it right. It’s not just the price, it’s the performance. The Genesis sedan deserves its own second channel much like Acura and Lexus but the cost would be a lot for the company and would probably erase the price advantage it has over the competition.

That said, get one of these before the company realizes it can raise the price by thousands and still sell many them.



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