EXPERT REVIEW

IndyStar.com's view

The Infiniti QX4 luxury sport-utility vehicle is somewhat like the Q ships of the two World Wars.

Both the seagoing and land-going versions of the Qs were and are equipped with a vast number of surprises designed to ensnare inquisitive enemy sea captains and peace-loving SUV buyers.

In today’s peacetime, the 1998 QX4 lures its customers with a virtually unending list of characteristics that run from plush to brawny.

No candied dandy masquerading as an all-purpose vehicle suitable only for appearance at the country club, Infiniti’s SUV is a rugged piece of equipment clothed in the trappings of premium luxury.

Priced for less than $40,000, the QX4 offers an abundance of standard equipment, an advanced All-Mode 4WD system, a MonoFrame body construction and front-strut suspension, and a luxurious interior cabin.

While the majority of sport-utility vehicles evolved from truck platforms, the QX4 was conceived and created as a true luxury, with the ride, feel, features and performance of Infiniti’s upscale automobiles.

Developed to provide the operating features of a car, the vehicle’s on-road comfort and off-road durability comes courtesy of an independent front-strut system. The struts are designed to offer a long stroke for exceptional wheel travel whether on pavement or off-road terrain.

A five-link, coil-spring beam suspension provides long travel while controlling body roll and enhancing stability.

The base for this is a rigid MonoFrame construction that draws from unibody automotive design and body-on-frame truck design. The MonoFrame body reduces weight and is considerably more resistant to torsional and bending stresses than conventional body-on-frame layouts.

In addition to providing a stable platform, the design also reduces noise and vibration, improves body fit and enhances the handling.

The outstanding mechanical feature of the QX4 is its all-wheel-drive system.

It was developed not only to enhance stability and traction, but also to react to changing conditions more quickly than other four-wheel-drive systems on the market.

The heart of the All-Mode 4WD is a wet (running in oil) multi-plate clutch in the center differential that splits the drive to the front and rear axles. Managed by an advanced computerized electronic control unit, the multi-plate precisely and instantly allots the proper amount of torque, as conditions warrant, to the axles. The unit gathers information from front and rear driveshaft sensors to determine wheel slippage.

Then, there is a throttle position sensor, an engine rpm sensor, an ABS control unit, and a transfer-unit lever selector that all work in conjunction to supply input.

The All-Mode offers drivers a choice of drive mode that is most appropriate to the running surface. Various modes are obtained by using a panel-mounted rotary switch to select automatic or manual operation, or the floor-mounted transfer lever to engage or disengage low range.

The system should be left in Auto range for normal daily operation.

The power to drive all this stuff comes from a 3.3-liter, single-overhead-cam V-6. It’s a two-valves-per-cylinder engine that develops 168-horsepower and a quite respectable 196 foot-pounds of torque.

Maximum torque comes in at 2,800 rpm and remains relatively flat throughout the engine speed range. Maximum engine speed is 5,800 rpm.

This is a Nissan motor that obtains 15 miles per gallon on city streets and 19 on the highway. Being an SUV, the QX4 is no drag racer, but the 0-to-60-miles-per-hour acceleration time still is 11.2 seconds, and top speed is rated at 110 mph. That’s fairly respectable for a five-passenger sport ute.

As is expected with a luxury SUV, the QX4 doesn’t disappoint with its attention to detail and luxury appointments.

An occupant is engulfed in amply padded leather seating complete with a grain pattern and natural-appeari ng wrinkles. Leather is carried further with a wrapped steering wheel, shift levers and parking bra ke.

Wood-tone trim surrounds the interior, and accompanies a Bose sound system that was specifically designed for the QX4’s interior acoustics.

A plethora of standard comfort and convenience items are packaged into 189.3 inches of overall length and 106.3 inches of wheelbase. The main development goal of the QX4 was to create a high-profile vehicle and one worthy of the Infiniti nameplate.

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