Infiniti QX4 (1999)

 

INFINITI QX4The Infiniti QX4 hasnt gotten any worse over the years; its just that the competition has gotten a lot better. Seven or eight years ago, all sport utilities were built on truck platforms. They drove like trucks...because they were trucks. In the years since, however, manufacturers have considerably redesigned and improved the SUV platform. The QX4, meanwhile, didn't change. It's still just a gussied-up Nissan Pathfinder--which, in turn, is actually just a Nissan truck platform with an SUV body. So it's starting to feel a little bit dated.

Driving Experience

That's not to say the driving experience in the QX4 is poor. In fact, it's fine--for a truck. It's comfortable, and it handles well, particularly at low speeds. The Lexus RX300 and Mercedes ML 320, however, clearly offer a better ride. The noise level is fair to good in the QX4, though we noticed the engine getting a little loud above 50 miles an hour. We also we found the 170-horsepower V6 engine to be underpowered, given the 4,000-pound weight of the vehicle, and that caused the transmission to shift excessively when we accelerated or drove up hills. Infiniti has a new engine coming in the QX4 next spring, a 3.5-liter engine that delivers 240 horsepower. That should help.

The shifting on the QX4 was quite noticeable. Some other manufacturers have eliminated harsh shifts by retarding the timing a bit during shifts, but Infiniti hasnt done that--or at least not enough. Braking is fine, and, like most sport utes, the QX4 has good visibility.

The QX4 has an all-wheel-drive system instead of the more primitive four-wheel-drive system found in the Pathfinder. Nissan took the all-wheel-drive system from their Skyline model, a sports coupe that's available only in Japan. Having all-wheel drive makes this vehicle a lot more useful, in our humble opinion. That means you can leave it in all-wheel drive all the time, which you cant do safely in the Pathfinder. In fact, the QX4 has a three-position switch on the dashboard, which allows you to shift from two-wheel drive to all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. (In the four-wheel-drive mode the center differential is locked, creating the potential for serious handling problems on a dry road. Use this mode only for getting out of a snowbank or a little patch of quicksand.)

Interior

Cargo AreaThe QX4 is nicely styled and has everything in it that you could possibly want. Our test model included comfortable leather seats, an easy-to-operate climate control system, heated seats and Bose stereo system with CD player. For storage, you'll find a small glove box and a decent-sized bin under the armrest between the seats. There's good storage space in the back, and the seat can be folded down for more-serious hauling requirements.

Ergonomics

The ergonomics are well thought out in the QX4, though we found the armrest to be a little in the way of the cup holders, making for a slightly awkward grasp when reaching for a drink. (Okay, we admit it...we're whining. Life could be a whole heck of a lot worse. We could be digging potatoes and driving around in AMC Gremlins.)

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the QX4's safety record. Our Producer, Doug Berman, was looking for an all-wheel-drive sport utility for his veterinary-school-based wife, Linda. They were considering a slightly used QX4...until they checked the safety record. Its crash-test and crash-fatality results were only mediocre. If safety is a serious concern of yours, then you might want to consider a Ford Explorer or a Mercury Mountaineer, which both have all-wheel drive and rate better. Another minorsurprise? The QX4 is a gas hog, getting only 19 miles per gallon on the highway and 15 in the city.

Maintenance

The engine and transmission are well built, so we would expect the QX4 to have excellent long-term reliability. Plus, theres room in the engine compartment, which means the QX4 will be easy to service. "Consumer Reports" rated the Pathfinder first in reliability among sport utilities, which also suggests that this car should not have any significant problems.

Overall comments

Overall, the QX4 still has a number of things going for it. We liked thesize, the addition of all-wheel drive, the proven reliability, the relative comfort and good looks, and the price--relative to other luxury, all-wheel-drive SUVs. We disliked the lack of power, the safety record, the obnoxious fuel consumption and the old-fashioned SUV handling.

The QX4 is being marketed as a high-end sport utility, similar in class to the "Eddie Bauer" version of the Ford Explorer, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, the Lexus RX300 and the Mercedes 320. Priced in the low to mid-30s, the QX4 is still a pretty good deal.

Should you buy a QX4? If you're looking for an all-wheel drive SUV, insist upon Japanese reliability, and want some extra room but don't need a behemoth--sure. In fact, this is pretty much your only choice, unless you want the smaller RAV4 or the much larger Toyota Land Crusher.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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