The Infiniti QX60 has always provided a cushy interior where it was easy to be coddled while taking care of daily chores. However, one knock against it was that it was, well, soft. Infiniti itself is known as a performance brand, but the QX60 wasn't part of that conversation. So how does Infiniti add a little edge to its best-selling SUV without alienating the vehicle's current buyers?

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the QX60. It just didn’t have the same spirit as the sedans and coupes in the Infiniti lineup. The QX60's interior was also quite nice, with crafted leather seats well suited for long drives, a second row that easily slides back and forth, and a third row that's surprisingly easy to access. If you have driven a QX60 -- or the JX before it -- you will already know how to use the controls on the dash, as these are still basically the same. Infiniti made some styling changes to the front and rear, but otherwise left the attractive design intact.

Quieter, Livelier, More Comfortable

Inside, Infiniti added plenty of soft-touch surfaces; that, and new use of laminated side glass make the already comfortable cabin quieter and more welcoming. Other changes in the cabin were the addition of more USB ports, and the removal of vents from the third row. (Before you get horrifying images of passengers roasting in the back row, note that the vehicle actually cools off more quickly without the third-row vents. If that's a deal-breaker, they're still intact in the Hybrid, as they are part of the battery pack's cooling system.) One quirk about the QX60's interior, specifically the cargo area, is that you manually lower the 60/40 third row, but there is a button you push to power it back up.

Also: See the New and Redesigned Cars of 2016

To give the QX60 some performance attitude, Infiniti went to work on the suspension and chassis. They added new shocks and springs front and rear, and a new steering rack, plus the steering ratio went from 18.3:1 in 2015 to a more responsive 16.5:1 now. As we drove the QX60, we appreciated the 265-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine's quickness and the Continuously Variable Transmission's smooth operation -- now harnessed through a new transmission shifter. Getting to curvier roads, the QX60 was tighter, tauter and more responsive to driver input. The QX60 still feels comfortable and compliant on long straights, but certainly is livelier and more of a driver's vehicle on winding roads.

Safety Features Also Help With Rush Hour

Yet we didn’t spend all of our time in the QX60 on wide-open highways and country roads. We met up with rush-hour traffic at the end of the day, and that proved a handy opportunity to see what some of its safety features could do. We were already big fans of the QX's Around View Monitor, a feature that would be welcome on any vehicle. On the QX60's steering wheel, there is a button on the bottom right that looks like a car with rings around it. Push that, and you activate the vehicle's suite of safety features. The settings of these can also be adjusted to the driver's preferences. Lane Departure Warning is a touch hypersensitive, but is a helpful feature that would only need some minor tweaks to perfect it. Lane Departure Prevention was more subtle than expected, and worked well to ensure the QX stayed in the correct lane. There were three technologies we didn’t try out (fortunately), that are new to the QX60 for 2016. The first system "sees" two vehicles ahead and warns the driver if a collision might happen (Predictive Forward Collision Warning). The second will apply brakes, lightly at first and more firmly if the driver doesn’t respond (Forward Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection). The third doesn’t just let you know that there is a vehicle behind you when you back up; it will briefly apply brakes if necessary (Backup Collision Intervention).

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One of the handiest features for daily driving in traffic is Distance Control Assist. While it isn’t new for 2016, this was an ideal opportunity to try it out. As you approach slowing traffic, the vehicle slows down for you, keeping enough distance between you and the car ahead that you won't get nervous, yet not allowing so much space that someone could jump in the lane ahead of you. It makes it less stressful to drive in traffic. All of these systems, plus the QX60's Intelligent Cruise Control, preview the potential of what autonomous driving could be. What's nice, though, is if you want to just drive, without as many safety nannies on (there will always be some safety features to protect you), just press that same button on the steering wheel to turn them off.

Pricing

The 2016 QX60 is already showing up at dealerships. Pricing starts at $43,595 for the 2-wheel-drive model, and $45, 395 with all-wheel drive (including destination). Option packages, such as Premium and Premium Plus, add more cost. Pricing for the Hybrid starts at $53,045, or $54,445 with AWD.


 

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