2016 Infiniti QX70 S Design Review

Rating: 6.0
$88,900 $90,900 Mrlp
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The Infiniti QX70 S Design is a crossover that turns heads. This special edition features dark exterior accents and purple stitching inside.
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When it comes to true crossovers, few could argue that the Infiniti QX70 fits under that banner. However, in a country full of people that can’t get enough of SUVs and crossovers, the QX70 has struggled to gain traction or popularity. The question is why?

The special edition Infiniti QX70 S Design arrived in the CarAdvice garage and instantly attracted a lot of attention - both positive and negative.

The QX70 competes in the over $70,000 large SUV arena that includes competitors like the BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. There are two engine choices for the QX70 S Design — a 235kW/360Nm 3.7-litre six-cylinder petrol or a 175kW/550Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged diesel, priced respectively at $88,900 and $90,900 before on-road costs.

It's not as expensive as the luxury brands - the Lexus RX350 AWD range being the closest match in engine size and price - but it is certainly more expensive than popular mainstream large SUVs like the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Kluger, Toyota Prado, Holden Captiva, Ford Territory or Subaru Outback.

But then it's not styled to compete at the lower-priced end of the segment either, leaving it hovering somewhere in the middle.

The body shape is more along the lines of a BMW X4 or X6. It’s a bit of a jacked up sedan or coupe – rather than the traditional boxy SUV style.

Technically a crossover involves the body of the car being built separate to, then added to the platform of an existing model, while an SUV is built with the platform and the body as one unit. The theory is that a crossover can have a bigger (SUV style) or more practical body with the underpinnings and performance of a sportier car.

In this case the Infiniti is built on the Nissan 370Z platform - offering a higher driving position and more room in the cabin as well as performance.

The style is outlandish with its exaggerated body shape, and therefore divisive for potential buyers. The bonnet is long and sloped; the rear angular and drawn out, while the low roofline and sharply curved window-line at the rear makes the cabin looked compressed.

Pitched at those looking for a performance crossover with a dash of aggression included in the styling, the QX70 S Design is based on the top-spec S Premium with dark exterior highlights.

Black is back; the S Design features dark chrome accents on the tailgate and around the fog lights, as well as a blackened front grille and vents, black roof rails and 21-inch black alloy wheels.

The styling, though polarising, does a good job of selling the promise of sporty performance.

Inside, the special edition is dark and moody, though the bright purple stitching provides a welcome pop of colour. The 'Graphite' interior colour option means that the violet yarn (possibly from hair of the one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater) that adorns the steering wheel and gearshift lever is also used to accent the seats, doors and centre armrest. Personally I liked it, although the 'grape Hubba Bubba' tone won't be to everyone's liking.

The special edition additions are stylistic, the S Design has the same features as the S Premium.

On paper, it's impressively kitted out with electric seat adjustment, around-view monitor, keyless entry, sunroof, Bose audio system, satellite navigation and an impressive suite of safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and brake assist.

The dash is loaded with buttons, but it felt familiar and easy to learn your way around the controls though at times it's a stretch from the driver's seat.

The infotainment screen is inlaid into the dashboard, and the controls are laid out on a shelf underneath, then below that lies more rows of buttons.

The around-view camera was a bit of a letdown when it came to the quality of the image being relayed to the screen, plus there were massive blind spots at the rear-corners.

Overall the interior is visually interesting but a little dated and seems over complicated with all of the buttons and levels, and lacks the finesse and refinement of some of its premium competitors. For the price tag, you'd expect it to feel more luxurious inside; instead it simply felt like a Nissan.

Out on the road the glaring blunder caused by its outrageous styling is the lack of visibility. The rear-view mirror is around a third of the way down the windscreen (the panel of glass isn't very tall to start with). Even with the seat as low as it could go, seeing far enough ahead involved me leaning forward and craning my neck.

Then there's the issue of the A-pillars. At a pedestrian crossing or right-angled corner, they block the line-of-sight and create a blind spot. And, I'm not finished.

The C-pillars are incredibly chunky, so forget about trying to look to the rear left or right, while the long bonnet slopes down and out-of-sight, making it hard to judge where the nose ends.

The QX70 is not at home navigating through narrow, twisty, multi-story car parks. The steering is quite heavy and this was especially noticeable when the car was asked to tackle low-speed, tight-angled manoeuvres.

For me, the lack of visibility and uncomfortable driving position made it an awkward drive. In fact, despite the size and ride height, I've never felt more vulnerable on the road due to lack of visibility. Perhaps I'm a little long in the body, or have a long neck...

Out on the road however, the drivetrain is extremely capable and I quite enjoyed the peppy engine, particularly around town.

The engine is naturally aspirated so you don't get that on-demand acceleration that you'd get from a turbocharged or supercharged engine, but it's linear, smooth and drivable and shifts gears when you need it to.

It gets up and goes when you ask it to, and feels sporty enough in the urban environment.

The ride is stiff, particularly over dodgy road surfaces and you can hear the bumps, but it wasn't offensive.

Out on the freeway, it seems to have to work hard to accelerate at speed (for example from 80km/h to 100km/h) and there was a bit of road noise, particularly over expansion joints.

The QX70 S Design looks brutish and sporty but there is a bit of a disconnect when it comes to the way it drives. It's almost too polite and doesn't back the looks with performance the way you'd expect. That being said, if visibility were better I could spend quite a bit of time behind the wheel because I like the polarising look.

The battle for Infiniti is that the QX70 looks and feels like it's been designed by Nissan to be a luxury vehicle for the American market, which doesn't resonate in Australia. Infiniti offers a four-year/100,000km warranty, and though it is fun to drive it comes at a cost that is hard to justify.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Mitchell Oke.