What's New for 1997
A version of Nissan's wonderful four-wheeler is introduced by Infiniti, aiming to compete with the Mercury Mountaineer, Acura SLX and Land Rover Discovery. Differences between the QX4 and the Pathfinder include the Q's full-time four-wheel-drive system, a more luxurious interior and some different sheet metal.
It was only a matter of time. Acura jumped on the luxury SUV bandwagon in early 1996, closely followed by Lexus. Land Rover sales have been shooting up steadily, and even Mercedes-Benz is close to production on its version of an off-road luxury vehicle. It's no surprise, then, that Nissan has decided to release a super-luxury version of its capable Pathfinder as an Infiniti.
Nissan took this same course when they decided to introduce a new entry-level sedan to the Infiniti lineup. Like the I30, which is mechanically identical to the Nissan Maxima, the QX4 has little under the skin to distinguish it from its down-market brethren. The QX4 is powered by the same 3.3-liter V6 found in the lowly Pathfinder XE, but in the Q it is teamed to a four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Although we haven't yet driven the QX4, we are happy with how this powertrain has performed in the Pathfinder. The QX4 does have one item that stands out, however, and that is the Q's all-mode four-wheel drive which functions continuously without any input from the driver; a must for those who can't be bothered with locking hubs or shifting gears.
Most driver's won't care that the QX4 is so similar to the Pathfinder. For one thing, the Pathfinder rides on one of the best SUV chassis and suspension systems that we've ever experienced. Although most QX4 driver's won't venture for from civilization, it is nice to know that if they do they will be treated to a stable, sure-footed off-road experience. In addition, we must point out that the QX4's steering and on-road manners are unmatched by any other SUV on the market, even the vaunted Toyota 4Runner.
The other reason that drivers won't care about the QX4's mechanical similarities to the Pathfinder is because the QX4 doesn't look at all similar to the truck that it's based on. Dramatically different front and rear end styling render this SUV unique among a segment famous for look-alike products. Our staff has had mixed reviews about the QX4's styling, but none of us are would call it conventional. This may be good or bad, depending on the amount of attention that you like to draw to yourself, but at least you can rest assured that you won't see the freeways cluttered with them on your daily commute.
The QX4's interior is quite comfortable, with supportive seats, excellent ergonomics (for a truck), good visibility, and an easy step in. As befits a $36,000 vehicle, the materials are first-rate and the fit and finish is excellent. Additionally, Infiniti has made optioning the vehicle easy; there are only three non-standard equipment items to choose from the order sheet.
We haven't driven the QX4 yet, but we anticipate getting our hands on one soon. Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed; hopefully we can have a full road test before camping season is upon us.