Like much of Infiniti’s lineup, the QX70 SUV is fun to drive but in desperate need of a rethink of its styling, technology and ergonomics.
Versus the competiton:
You wouldn’t think there would be many fast, sporty, athletic and impractical SUVs, but there are. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover — they all make similarly utility-challenged SUVs with more up-to-date aesthetics and technology, though at a significantly higher price.
Editor’s note: This review of the 2016 Infiniti QX70 was written in September 2016, but little has changed for 2017. To see what’s new, click here, or to see a side-by-side comparison of the two model years, click here.
When Infiniti launched the QX70 back in 2003 as the FX35/FX45, the brand referred to it as a “bionic cheetah.” Crossovers were still an unproven idea then, and making one off the company’s rear-wheel-drive performance platform was a bit odd; it was the same chassis that formed the basis of the sporty G35 sport sedan and coupe and the new Nissan 350Z sports car.
That platform continues to form the basis of the QX70, now on its third refresh but featuring the same roofline and style as when it debuted nearly 13 years ago. It received its only major update in 2009, then got a mild facelift in 2011 to bring some new front and rear styling and minor interior tweaks to the party (compare the 2015 and 2016 models here). Suffice it to say, the QX70 is old. But does its combination of speed, style and handling prowess keep it competitive with newer members of this unusual class, such as the BMW X6, Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan?
Exterior & Styling
The “bionic cheetah” tag was created by Infiniti to try to describe what people were looking at when the original FX was introduced, and you can see where they were going with it. The shape is still sleek, low and muscular, with impossibly big wheels and tires filling out massive wheel wells. The front end’s feline look is notable, as are the muscular haunches and ready-to-spring look of the body. The styling is aging well, and Infiniti’s addition of a new Sport Package that adds dark wheels, a dark grille and blacked-out trim helps keep it fresh and interesting. That styling doesn’t help when you’re trying to use the QX70 as an SUV, however, as the low roofline makes getting in and out a contortion act and compromises cargo room.
How It Drives
Dynamically, the QX70 is pretty good despite its age. The car’s performance is one area in which Infiniti dialed in the settings quite well early on; from the powerful 325-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 to the seven-speed automatic transmission that shunts power to all four wheels, the QX70 is not lacking for grunt. Acceleration comes on strong and smooth with the naturally aspirated V-6, accompanied by an excellent exhaust note; Infiniti’s parent brand, Nissan, has always done a great job with the VQ-series V-6 engines, and this one is no exception.
Steering feel is also excellent, with a firm effort and rewarding feedback. The suspension is unsettled by the optional, enormous and undoubtedly heavy 21-inch wheels; it works hard to try and keep calm and order inside the passenger cabin, which it does with mixed results. Smooth pavement is pleasant, but rough asphalt and potholes generate some harsh jolts. The brakes operate with a firm bite and progressive feel. The whole experience feels solid and planted, making the QX70 remarkably fun to drive. That sensation of heft is not surprising given the QX70’s considerable 4,300-pound curb weight. The BMW X6 is portlier still, but the Jaguar and Porsche are both several hundred pounds lighter.
Fuel economy suffers due to this weight disadvantage and the free-breathing nature of the 3.7-liter engine. The QX70 is rated a rather unfortunate 16/22/18 mpg city/highway/combined by the EPA, and my week of testing netted an unimpressive 16.3 mpg combined. Competing vehicles offer comparable six-cylinder engines that deliver comparable fuel economy, but they’re also available with a larger variety of powertrains. The X6’s 3.0-liter, turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine is rated 18/24/20 mpg, while the Jaguar F-Pace’s 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 is rated 18/23/20 mpg (both have eight-speed automatic transmissions). The Porsche Macan’s base engine for 2017 is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder rated 20/25/22 mpg but offering much less horsepower than the QX70.
It’s inside the QX70 that the SUV’s age becomes immediately apparent. The shapes, materials, gauges, buttons — even the seating position feels outdated. The seats in my Sport Package-equipped model came with contrasting piping in the leather, which serves only to solidify the outdated interior theme. The seating position is awkward; it’s like Infiniti took a Q50 sedan and raised the seat 4 inches while keeping all the controls low. You feel like you’re sitting on the QX70, not in it.
It’s easy to bang your head on the sloping A-pillar when getting in and out because of the combination of high seat and low roofline. Outward visibility also suffers from this high seating position, both to the front and rear. The backseat isn’t much better, with a high bench and cramped legroom. Compared with the much more modern packaging and designs of the X6, F-Pace and even the slightly smaller Macan, the Infiniti’s older cabin styling really makes it feel out of place.
Ergonomics & Electronics
A big part of the QX70’s dated feeling comes from its interior electronics. The multimedia system in particular is old and still looks like it has for multiple generations — well off the state-of-the-art systems seen in competing vehicles. This despite the fact that my test vehicle came loaded with every conceivable option, including navigation with live traffic and weather updates, a powered tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated and cooled front memory seats with driver-side easy exit assist, tilt-with-reverse side mirrors and more.
Cargo & Storage
As an SUV, the QX70 doesn’t really work that well. Like the BMW X6, the Mercedes-Benz GLE, the defunct Acura ZDX and even the Range Rover Evoque, the Infiniti is a bit of a category-buster when it comes to classification. It’s meant to have both the high-riding feel of an SUV and the tight handling and performance of a sport sedan, plus a bit of SUV utility thrown in — but not too much. Cargo room for the QX70 is listed at 24.8 cubic feet behind the backseat, expandable to a more respectable 62.0 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The X6’s marginal utility is comparable, totaling 26.6 cubic feet in the back, expandable to 59.7 cubic feet. The Macan is smaller — more of a compact than a midsize — and its cargo space is sized accordingly: 17.7 cubic feet, expandable to 53.0 cubic feet. The F-Pace is more traditionally sized, with a cargo area of 23.0 cubic feet that’s expandable to 61.5 cubic feet.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has subjected the Infiniti QX70 to only two of its five crashworthiness tests, rating it good in both the moderate overlap front test and the head restraints and seats test. It has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. See results here.
My test car featured a number of options to bring the QX70’s electronic safety content fully up to date. The Technology Package includes full-speed intelligent cruise control with automatic stop and go, lane departure warning and prevention, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive front auto-leveling headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and more. IIHS rated the QX70’s front crash prevention advanced — the middle rating between basic and superior — for reducing a high-speed impact by 5 mph (a 2-mph decrease in low-speed testing contributed zero points).
The Premium Package includes an Around View Monitor. It’s more than a backup camera; it provides a top-down, 360-degree view around the whole car. See all the QX70’s standard and optional features here.
Value in Its Class
The QX70’s price has kept pace with the market, starting at $46,845 with rear-wheel drive and $48,295 with all-wheel drive. Start adding options like the Technology Package, Premium Package or Sport Package, plus individual accessories like illuminated sill plates and a cargo net, and you’ll arrive at my test car’s cringe-worthy $59,630 sticker price. That’s a lot of coin for a vehicle that feels this out of date.
Since the QX70 first appeared, a bunch of other automakers — particularly German brands — have tried similar concepts: SUVs they describe as “coupes.” The BMW X6 is a good match for the QX70 on everything except price, as the Bimmer is considerably pricier. It also offers an optional V-8 engine and even an M performance model. The Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe is a similar idea, but as of now it’s not offered as anything other than a high-powered AMG that’s a lot more expensive than the Infiniti.
From the British, Land Rover’s Evoque is a bit small to compete with the QX70 and the Range Rover Sport is a bit too pricey, but the new Jaguar F-Pace is quite competitive with the QX70. It features a 340-hp V-6 and style that doesn’t look all that different from the QX70 on the outside. Another German alternative is the slightly smaller Porsche Macan, which lines up well price-wise, offers a variety of powertrains and is more in keeping with the Infiniti’s sporting mission. Compare all four here.