First off, let's get the obvious out of the way. For those of you wondering why this photo looks suspiciously like the Nissan Pathfinder Armada, it's because it's essentially the same car. Infiniti is an upscale division of Nissan. The difference is quite obvious in both the price tag and the upgraded standard equipment.
Some of the upgrades that come standard on the QX56 are mom-friendly leather seats and a navigation system. The navigation is bit tricky at first, but basically functional after a few weeks of practice.
The 2005 model year will add a standard rear view monitor display (visual) and rear proximity sensor (audio). This is something that I feel strongly should be added to every vehicle on the road. When the car is in reverse, a tiny camera eye, mounted above the license plate, transmits the image to a center dash monitor for a full and clear view behind the car. Color coded guide lines on the screen indicate the vehicle's clearance, while an audible beep also lets you know when an object is in the way. I live next to our neighborhood school bus stop, and found this monitor a literal lifesaver when a child dashed behind the car on her way to the bus.
The QX56 seats either seven or eight people. My test car is a seven-seater with second row captain's chairs and room for three little people (or two forward-facing car seats) in the third row. The captain's chairs are great for child car seat installation. The seatback angle of each one can be adjusted independently. This is wonderful for my 4-year-old who recently graduated to a booster seat but still occasionally falls asleep in the car. I'm able to recline the seat just enough so that she doesn't suffer from sleepy-bobble-head-syndrome. The high stance of the captain's chairs makes it easy for my kids to see out the window.
Speaking of windows, the Infiniti QX56 4X4 has automatic up-and-down power windows. Although the recessed "pull up to close" switches follow NHTSA's new safety guidelines for power windows, they are not equipped with pinch protection. This means that it's still possible for a child (or adult for that matter) to get a head or limb accidentally closed in the window. According to NHTSA, an average of three fatalities every two years can be attributed to power windows. It seems to me that that's three too many. Numerous cars offer power windows with pinch protection; this just isn't one of them.
For a "luxury SUV" I'm surprised by how truck-y the QX56 feels. The engine makes a loud and hefty vroom noise (that must be the technical explanation for why it eats so much gas). It also has its fair share of tilt and sway around corners, which makes me wonder about its rollover resistance (not yet rated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration).
The 2004 Infiniti QX56 4X4 lives up to part of its claim as being "Luxury on a Grand Scale." The scale of this SUV certainly is grand (as in large), and it does offer plenty of standard luxury amenities. For those of you who really want to drive something big, go for it. For the rest of you, do a bit more research and you'll discover numerous cars (most in the cross-over category) with similar features, similar seating configurations that are smaller in their overall package deliverance, and more judicious with their fuel consumption. After all, the last thing we want to do is wake up a sleeping baby (or husband) by stopping at the gas station.
*For more information on the 2004 Infiniti QX56 4X4 and its safety features visit Cars.com.