When Infiniti introduced the QX4 in 1996, they were latecomers to an already booming SUV market. But it didn’t take the QX4 long to garner a loyal following and stake its claim to a slice of the premium SUV pie. In fact, last year was a record year for QX4 sales. But Infiniti’s generals knew that while getting quickly up to speed is one thing, staying ahead of the game is quite another. So the QX4 was sent back to the base for a little “specialized” training. The results of which is the new 2001 QX4. Is it a winning plan?
It certainly looks like one to us! Because after a year of record sales and now armed with a powerful new engine, a mild exterior makeover and an elegant new interior, the 2001 Infiniti QX4 has all the momentum and weapons it needs to drive deep into enemy territory.
The big gun in the QX4’s arsenal can be found under the hood in the form of a 3.5 liter, DOHC, 24-valve V-6 engine. Among the mechanicals shared with Nissan’s newest Pathfinder, it churns out 240 horsepower and delivers 265 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. That’s an increase of 70 horsepower over last year’s model, making this V-6 the most powerful on the sport-ute battlefield.
And that extra power is very evident as soon as you hit the accelerator. We shot to 60 in 8.7 seconds. Not blindingly fast, but it is nearly 3 seconds faster then the first QX4 we tested in 1997. The quarter mile improvement was just as dramatic, almost a second and a half faster at 16.5 seconds at 83 mph.
But there’s more than just raw horsepower at work here. Making good use of those extra ponies is Nissan’s Continuous Valve Timing Control System and the Nissan Variable Intake System, which uses an internal valve to vary intake length relative to engine speed.
To handle the QX4’s increased torque, a new 4-speed automatic transmission is in place, controlled by a shift logic system called NEW DUETTE. Shifts are so seamless you might think Nissan slipped in one of their Continuously Variable Transmissions by mistake.
Leaving nothing to chance in this open field skirmish, Infiniti’s commanders also sharpened the QX4’s already brutish exterior appearance. The front end features new high- intensity Xenon headlamps and a new grille. And just below, in the new bumper, the forward facing turn signals are now neatly integrated into the fog lamps. Along the sides you’ll find revised body cladding, and at the rear, a new bumper and tail lights.
Inside the QX4, it’s readily apparent the line of thinking was, “If you’re going to do battle, do it in comfort and style.” And there’s plenty of both.
Front seat occupants are treated to plush heated leather buckets, with the driver getting 8- way power adjustments, and the passenger, 4-way. The tilting optional leather and wood-tone steering wheel is mounted with both stereo and cruise controls.
It’s fronted by a new, ergonomically designed IP, and Infiniti’s trademark quartz clock has found a home at the top of the center stack. Also residing there are the functional climate controls with auto setting and a sweet-sounding 150 watt, 6-speaker Bose stereo with a cassette deck and an in-dash 6-disc CD changer. And if the music doesn’t do it, there are splashes of faux Bird’s Eye maple wood accents to brighten the otherwise dark and somber interior.
Passengers in the rear are also graced with theater style heated leather seats with reclining seatbacks. Keep those seat backs in their upright position and you’ll have 38 cubic feet of space for your gear. Fold ‘em flat and you’re looking at a spacious 85 cubic feet.
But don’t let all this luxury fool you. The QX4 is still one tough soldier. Like the Pathfinder, the QX4 uses MonoFrame construction, a hybrid of unibody and body-on-frame design, providing a solid platform.
And the All-Mode 4X4 system, with four options to choose from, is prepared to handle any conditions, on-road or off. Select the All-Mode position and the QX4 runs in rear-wheel drive until wheel slippage is detected. At that point torque is sent to the front wheels on demand, as much as 50 percent. Four High and Low ranges split and lock in torque in a 50/50 ratio. And it’s all done by way of a dash switch.
4X4s can also be had with an optional limited-slip rear differential. But those not interested in the rough stuff can, for the first time, get their QX4 with just rear-wheel drive.
Holding the driveline in place is an independent strut suspension under the front and a 5- link coil-spring assembly in the rear. And if the QX4 has an Achilles’ heel, it’s the ride quality produced by this suspension. Uneven back roads produced a fair amount of annoying body jiggle, while out on the highway the ride tended to be somewhat choppy.
But in no way does that compromise the QX4’s handling characteristics. Our testers were impressed with how well it handled our low speed slalom exercise. Turn ins are right on the money, with a surprising lack of understeer. Side to side transitions are smooth and balanced. The engine-speed-sensitive steering was light and manageable, more responsive than the Pathfinder we tested earlier.
Braking also received high marks as the ABS-controlled disc-drum system brought us down from 60 in a straight and stable 121 feet.
When it comes to pricing, the QX4 shares equal footing with many of its competitors. Base price on the 4X2 is $34,725, while the 4X4 starts at $36,125.
For that price the 2001 Infiniti QX4 is quite the well-equipped foot soldier. A short list of options like a Navigation System and Infiniti Communicator, an On-Star-like response system, makes it even more capable of sending its lesser rivals into full retreat. So when it comes to entering the sport-ute fray, the Infiniti QX4 is one buddy we don’t mind sharing a foxhole, or a pothole, with.
Engine: 3.5 Liter Dohc 24-valve V-6
Torque: 265 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.7 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.5 Seconds @ 83 MPH
60-0 MPH: 121 Feet